Excerpts from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” in addition to a recent Op-Ed published in the New York Times, paint a White House in complete disarray and highlight the increasing threat President Trump represents to U.S. national security. The unprecedented behaviors highlighted in both pieces should be of concern to all Americans. It appears that the only thing preventing this president from acting on his “misguided impulses” are the machinations of a few Cabinet officials, the so-called “two-track presidency.”
Multiple senior officials, including several Cabinet members, suggest the President, if left to his own devices, represents a clear and present danger to our country. The op-ed’s author, an anonymous senior Trump official, said, “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” The official also said, “President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.” Further, it was stated the President “shows a preference for autocrats and dictators…and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.”
Woodward reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, following a National Security Council meeting in January on North Korean military capabilities, “was exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — a fifth-or-sixth-grader.” He also reported that Mattis ignored a direct order from Trump in April 2017 to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mattis is quoted as telling a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”
Regrettably, there are countless other examples that illuminate the president’s inability to serve as the chief executive of the United States and leader of the free world. For instance, former Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn is alleged to have on two occasions stolen letters from the Resolute Desk that would have formally withdrawn the United States from both NAFTA and a free-trade agreement with South Korea. In fact, the op-ed said, “There were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment,” which, if implemented, would have initiated the president’s removal from office.
The wall-to-wall coverage of these revelations in the press is encouraging, as Americans have a right to know that the president’s “amorality”, in addition to his proclivity to engage in destructive, anti-democratic policies, has paralyzed the White House and nurtured what Woodward describes as “an administrative coup d’état” at the highest levels of government. That said, the scandalous disclosures outlined in these articles reverberate well beyond the borders of this country, as America’s allies — as well as its enemies — recalibrate their respective foreign policies with the United States.
The implications are profound, as America’s ability to advance its foreign policy and national security interests around the globe are largely based on the president’s ability to project strength within the international community of states. For example, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, in response to Trump’s request to release an imprisoned American charity worker, replied: “Are you going to be around?” In the past, some have argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea in 2014 was in part because of what he perceived as the Obama administration’s weakness.
Moving forward, it is hard to imagine that officials like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whom a belligerent Trump told that the was “past your prime. . . I don’t trust you. . . . I don’t want you doing more negotiations,” will be capable of effectively influencing his foreign counterparts.
Donald Trump’s fitness to hold office undoubtedly is in question; in a healthy democracy, bipartisan support for his removal would be a fait accompli. The time has long since past for the GOP — as it did with Nixon in 1972 — to compel Trump to resign.
However, it’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are inclined to do so. As it stands, Republicans seem content to let our democracy rot from its head.
Keith E. Noble, Ph.D., is a former CIA Open Source Center Bureau Chief. He led collection and analytical operations for the agency in more than 30 countries, and is the author of numerous classified reports and analyses.