WHITE HOUSE — President Donald Trump demanded in a tweet Wednesday night that The New York Times immediately turn over an anonymous official of his administration for prosecution:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
The demand came shortly after Trump published a one-word message on Twitter: “TREASON?”
The president and the White House reacted with anger to the Times opinion piece, written by a person — identified by the paper as a senior Trump administration official — who asserted that the president’s worst impulses have been frequently foiled by his own staff.
Trump, asked about the article following an afternoon event in the East Room, called it “gutless” and launched into an extended criticism of the newspaper.
“They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them because they’re very dishonest people,” the president told reporters.
A ‘failing’ staffer
He characterized the writer of the opinion piece as someone “probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons.”
The author called Trump “amoral,” as well as “generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.”
“Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back,” according to the article.
The author, saying “it may be cold comfort in this chaotic era,” wanted Americans to know that “there are adults in the room.”
One surprising revelation in the commentary concerned “early whispers” of invoking the 25th Amendment, but “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution spells out measures that can be taken to remove a sitting president.
Just after Trump’s impromptu remarks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement calling the article “pathetic, reckless and selfish,” and describing the action as “a new low for the so-called paper of record.”
Sanders said the Times should issue an apology, calling the article’s publication “another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president.”
As for the anonymous author, the press secretary accused the person of “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.”
Support for agenda
The piece does not entirely condemn Trump’s presidency, giving rise to speculation in the capital that the author is someone who generally supports the Republican administration’s agenda.
“There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more,” the author wrote.
The article plays into anecdotes released Tuesday from reporter Bob Woodward’s new book Fear, which alleges Trump’s own staff has stolen important documents off his desk.
Trump on Wednesday repeatedly referred to the book as “fiction.”
Steve Herman is VOA’s White House Bureau Chief.