There’s leaks, and there’s leaks. And then there’s the leak the New York Times got.
It was splashed across last Wednesday’s paper, to the extent that the Old Gray Lady “splashes” anything on its front page: “I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.”
Wow. Like, wow.
To ensure that no one missed the significance of the piece, the Times’ editorial board – who are the only ones who reportedly know the identity of the leaker – topped the resister’s tale with this:
“The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.”
You don’t get onto the front page of the most influential newspaper on the planet by being the West Wing janitor. While we don’t presently know the author’s name, we can be reasonably assured that he or she holds a position of power.
And his or her essay spilled the proverbial beans, and then some. Here are some of the juicier bits:
“Senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”
“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 root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”
“The president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective. From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.”
It was the biggest White House leak since Watergate, pretty much. And its significance was underlined by the reaction of no less than the Mango Mussolini himself. On his cherished Twitter, Donald Trump screeched: “Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
There was time when it would be news for a President of the United States to invoke “National Security” to justify “turning in” an American citizen who had exercised their First Amendment free speech rights. We are in those times no longer. President Pisstape has violated so many political conventions – he has moved so far from the most basic societal and legal norms – no one is surprised anymore.
But the White House resistance leak? That should surprise us all.
Not because a senior official is the source: senior officials leak all the time (some would say that’s all they do, along with planning their next junket). Not because it was on front page of the august New York Times (leaks have made their way onto that coveted piece of news real estate before). And not because the leak contained salacious, get-even stuff (that’s what leaks are, most of the time: the bleatings and screechings of someone who lost a political fight). Not because of any of that.
No, the I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION story was shocking for this reason: it details a high-level mutiny against a sitting President of the United States. It describes what can only be fairly regarded as a constitutional crisis, one that will shake the world’s most powerful democracy to its foundations.
As a leak of Bob Woodward’s book Fear detailed the day before the resister’s tale was told, senior officials are now actively and regularly bypassing and overruling the decisions of the President. They are even snatching documents off the top of his desk in the Oval Office, so he doesn’t see them.
The ramifications of the New York Times’ bombshell will be felt beyond the United States. With the mid-terms just weeks away, with the Democrats maintaining a double-digit lead over Republicans, and with the Trump Administration falling apart at the seams, the resisrtance story will oblige Donald Trump to mostly give Canada what it wants in the byzantine NAFTA negotiations.
Ten days ago, Donald Trump was promising to exclude Canada from a trade deal, and mocking us. Ten days later – and after the revelation in Woodward’s book, and the Times’ account of the resister’s palace coup – Trump cannot afford to lose the few Republican allies he has left in Congress. The moment that leak was published, Canada’s trade ambitions were rescued.
There’s leaks, and there’s leaks like the one the Times had. And it’s a leak that has helped Canada, big time.