REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON — President Trump lashed out at an unknown "gutless" advisor and at the New York Times after the publication Wednesday of an opinion piece from the anonymous aide alleging that officials throughout the administration are working to thwart the president's "ill-informed," "impulsive" and "erratic" instincts and "amorality."
According to the author, members of Trump's Cabinet were concerned enough about his "instability" that early on they discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to start off a complex process to remove him from office.
Trump's angry tirade over the piece, and his later suggestion that the author is treasonous, came amid increasing frustrations for the president, who has been fuming publicly about a forthcoming book, "Fear," by journalist Bob Woodward. Using hundreds of recorded interviews, including of anonymous administration officials, Woodward paints a detailed portrait of Trump's White House as a dysfunctional "Crazytown," a pejorative he attributes to Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.
The latest attack on his fitness for office offered twin targets to Trump, a man who is prone to telling supporters he is a victim of a conspiracy between a "deep state" and media "enemies of the people" to destroy his presidency. Yet the published indictment from an official within his administration was an all but unprecedented act against an incumbent president.
In an essay titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," the author wrote of the president: "The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."
"We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous," it continued. "But 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 writer said that the early talk of invoking the 25th Amendment had been abandoned because "no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis."
The New York Times posted a special editor's note explaining why it took the "rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay." It said the editorial page editors know the author's identity but withheld it to protect the author's job and to "deliver an important perspective to our readers."
Trump did not see it that way.
"Can you believe it? Anonymous," Trump said at the White House, with sheriffs from around the country gathered behind him. "Meaning gutless. A gutless editorial."
Later he sent out a one-word tweet in capital letters: "TREASON?"
Just after receiving an award from the group of sheriffs, Trump, prompted by a reporter's question, launched into defiant remarks that veered between exaggerated boasts of unmatched economic success and angry denunciations of the "failing New York Times" and the unnamed official.
"Nobody has ever done, in less than a two-year period, what we've done," Trump said. "So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who's failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons."
"Someday, when I'm not president, which hopefully will be in about six and a half years from now, the New York Times and CNN and all of these phony media outlets will be out of business, folks," he said, to applause from some sheriffs.
"They'll be out of the business, because there will be nothing to write and there will be nothing of interest," Trump continued.
He then asserted that the media has a different agenda than him, saying, "It's about disaster in crime for our country."
"So they don't like Donald Trump and I don't like them, because they're very dishonest people," he added, to more scattered applause and laughter from the sheriffs.
Minutes after delivering the broadside, Trump posted a video of his impromptu comments for his 54.2 million Twitter followers under the headline "The Failing New York Times!"
A bit later he tweeted, "If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put out an additional statement, denouncing the paper's decision to publish "this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed" and calling it "a new low for the so-called 'paper of record.'"
"The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States," she said. Assuming the person is male, Sanders added, "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."
The forceful response came at the end of a two-day stretch in which Trump repeatedly denounced Woodward's book, pointing to rebuttals from Kelly and Cabinet members including Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, who are depicted as denigrating Trump as an idiot with the policy understanding of a child. Rather than let publicity over the book die quietly, Trump, as he often does, sought to confront it.
CNN reported that Trump ordered "a real witch hunt" throughout the administration to identify the aides who cooperated with Woodward. Early speculation, however, focuses on former aides as primary sources, including fired national security advisor H.R. McMaster, former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, who left in March, and former staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned in February amid allegations of spousal abuse.
"The book is a work of fiction," Trump said, countering journalists and public officials in both parties who came to Woodward's defense. "If you look back at Woodward's past, he had the same problem with other presidents. He likes to get publicity. He sells some books."