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'New York Times' Publishes Anonymous Op-Ed From Within The Trump Administration

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The New York Times published a stunning op-ed this afternoon. It is anonymous, written by a senior Trump administration official. The headline - "I Am Part Of The Resistance Inside The Trump Administration." The writer reveals a series of steps that the president's senior aides are taking to, quote, "frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations." The anonymous writer describes the president as amoral, petty, impulsive and more. President Trump reacted to the piece at the White House this afternoon during an event with law enforcement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Somebody in what I call the failing New York Times that's talking about he's part of the resistance within the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This person works for the administration.

TRUMP: This is what we have to deal with and, you know, the dishonest media 'cause you people deal with it as well as I do. But it's really a disgrace.

SHAPIRO: We have reached out to The Times' editorial board, but its members are not giving interviews at this point. For some reaction, we turn to Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. Welcome.

TOM ROSENSTIEL: Good to be here.

SHAPIRO: How unprecedented is this sort of admission coming from inside an administration?

ROSENSTIEL: Well, in one sense, it's unprecedented and because it's an unsigned op-ed in The New York Times. In another sense, it's what we see in the newspaper every day from anonymous sources talking about events inside the White House, tantrums by the president, the palace intrigue inside not only this White House but any White House.

SHAPIRO: Palace intrigue inside any White House is a little different from what this op-ed describes, which is a discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment and ultimately deciding to just subvert the president's authority. In The Atlantic this afternoon, David Frum writes that mass resignation, impeachment, testimony before Congress are all constitutional, but overt defiance of presidential authority, he says, is a constitutional crisis. Do you agree?

ROSENSTIEL: Well, I'm not a constitutional scholar. But we know that there are always policy differences inside White Houses, tantrums by presidents. What we're seeing in this White House is - and it's contextual. I mean, this essay really contextualizes Bob Woodward's book "Fear." Had this op-ed run a month ago, I think it wouldn't have had the reaction that it's had almost instantaneously.

What in effect we're having in this op-ed is an explanation for why so many people would talk to authors like Bob Woodward and why people - why we would see the machinations inside the Oval Office that normally we don't hear about for years afterwards coming out in real time. It's because there are people who work for the president who believe he is incapable of being president.

SHAPIRO: Knowing President Trump, isn't this likely to make him more angry, make his team work harder to prove their loyalty and to undermine the very effort that the writer describes?

ROSENSTIEL: Well, it's quite possible. But I also think this writer - the writer of this piece is clearly trying to raise a higher level of awareness about just how bad this - he or she thinks things have become and, you know, to push us as a nation closer to a constitutional crisis. That's clearly what's going on here. And the author, whoever this is, thinks that the country needs to be more aware than presumably we are from the...

SHAPIRO: All right.

ROSENSTIEL: ...Daily newspaper stories about how bad things really are.

SHAPIRO: Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, thanks very much.

ROSENSTIEL: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.