We don’t yet know which senior administration official authored today’s astounding New York Times op-ed suggesting that President Donald Trump’s aides are actively thwarting him in an attempt to protect the country. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter. Indirectly, the op-ed’s real authors are the Republicans of the United States Congress.
In theory, in America’s constitutional system, the different branches of the federal government check one another. When a president acts in corrupt, authoritarian, or reckless ways, the legislative branch holds hearings, blocks his agenda, refuses to confirm his nominees, and even impeaches him. That’s how America’s government is supposed to work. But it no longer does. Instead, for the past year and a half, congressional Republicans have acted, for the most part, as Trump’s agents. Not only have they refused to seriously investigate or limit him, they have assaulted those within the federal bureaucracy—the Justice Department and the FBI, in particular—who have.
So in the absence of this public, constitutional system of checks and balances, a secret, unauthorized system has emerged to replace it. Because Congress won’t check the president, the president’s own appointees are doing so instead. Evidence of such behavior has been leaking out since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Defense Secretary James Mattis thwarted the president’s directives on torture and transgendered Americans serving in the military. John Bolton rushed through a joint-summit declaration reaffirming NATO before Trump had a chance to muck it up. Bob Woodward has just reported that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn stole papers off Trump’s desk to prevent him from undoing America’s trade deal with South Korea. Now a senior Trump aide has told the world: “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”