Donald Trump has reacted with fury to an anonymous account written by a current Trump administration official claiming an internal White House resistance is working to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” until he leaves – or can be removed from – office.
The op-ed, published in the New York Times on Wednesday, represents a shocking critique of Trump and is without precedent in modern American history. The anonymous author describes Trump as amoral, “anti-trade and anti-democratic” and prone to making “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions”.
The writer claims aides had explored the possibility of removing Trump from office via the 25th amendment, a complex constitutional mechanism to allow for the replacement of a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, but had decided against it.
“So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until – one way or another – it’s over,” the author writes.
Trump responded to the article at the White House late on Wednesday, deriding it as “anonymous, meaning gutless” and describing the author as “some anonymous source within the administration probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons”.
He went on to call the New York Times “failing” and insisted “they don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them because they’re very dishonest people”.
In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Trump went further and simply asked “TREASON?” In a follow up tweet, he insisted: “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
Writing an op-ed for the New York Times does not violate any statute in the United States legal code.
In contrast to Trump’s Democratic critics, the author makes clear that “ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left”, but a coalition that wants the administration to flourish.
“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” the author writes. However, they describe a cabal of “Trump appointees [who] have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office”.
The author praises their efforts as “heroic” as they attempt to “keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing” and thwart Trump’s “erratic behavior”. They also claimed the administration’s achievements had included some “bright spots” such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more”.
An official statement from the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said: “Nearly 62 million people voted for president Donald J Trump in 2016, earning him 306 Electoral College votes – versus 232 for his opponent. None of them voted for a gutless, anonymous source to the failing New York Times. We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the paper chose to publish this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed … This is just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president.”
Sanders went on to add: “The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States. He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign.”
One former White House official said they were flabbergasted by the op-ed. “I used to laugh when certain Trump supporters would fret about anti-Trump ‘sleeper cells’ within the government,” said the former White House aide. “But I can’t come up with a better term than that to describe the author of the NYT op-ed.”
Sebastian Gorka, the controversial former White House aide, told the Guardian: “If this were 1917 or 1944 this would count as treason of the highest order.”
In an interview on CNN, John Kasich, governor of Ohio, said of Trump and his administration: “It’s just chaos all the time. And he’s the commander of the chaos … I’m concerned that things aren’t getting done.”
The op-ed comes only a day after excerpts from the veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s book Fear were published in the Washington Post, detailing stinging criticisms from a number of current and former senior administration officials against Trump.
However, in contrast to Woodward, whose books peeling back the curtain into White House decisions have been a fixture of American politics for decades, the op-ed represents a direct challenge to Trump from within his own administration.
The op-ed was unusually published as an anonymous submission by the New York Times, which described the author as “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure”.
A spokesperson for the New York Times referred the Guardian to the editor’s note published with the piece and declined to comment further.