An anonymous op-ed detailing President Donald Trump's erratic behavior, printed in the New York Times last week, set off speculation regarding which Trump administration senior official may have penned the piece—but a government watchdog on Monday said the op-ed is mainly noteworthy not for the palace intrigue described within but because it gives lawmakers more than enough reason to investigate Trump's alleged abdication of his duty to preside over the country.
Common Cause Calls for Immediate Hearings on Reports of White House Turmoilhttps://t.co/EKDTu14No4— Common Cause (@CommonCause) September 10, 2018
The author of the op-ed described him- or herself as one of several high-level government officials who "are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations"—combating the president's "amorality" and "erratic behavior" in order to promote a conservative agenda like the one many in Trump's cabinet have spent their careers working to advance. Some officials, the author wrote, had discussed the 25th amendment, which can be invoked to remove a president from office if the vice president and cabinet declare he or she is unfit to hold the office.
The op-ed was published a day after excerpts from Fear: Trump in the White House, an upcoming exposé by veteran journalist Bob Woodward, began circulating—detailing similar concerns raised by top officials including Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
"Whistleblowers have been important throughout history...But the fact that 'Anonymous' proudly proclaims there are 'adults in the room' holding the line against the president's worst impulses moves us from whistleblower to an unelected and unaccountable shadow presidency by committee." —Common CauseWhile the op-ed argued that Americans should feel secure in the fact that there are "adults in the room," Common Cause argued that nothing in the piece should be comforting to the public.
"Americans deserve to know the truth behind these accusations that the president poses a severe enough threat to our nation that the cabinet weighed invoking the 25th Amendment in order to remove him from office, and that those same unelected officials are in effect running the nation to mitigate the damage that would be done by the president," said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn in a statement.
A transparent exchange of information about what is taking place behind the scenes at the White House could be extremely useful to the public, the group wrote in its letter to the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight Committee—but not if details of a chaotic presidency are only hinted at in an anonymous letter.
"Whistleblowers have been important throughout history," wrote Hobert Flynn. "They are often the only way that the public learns about fraud or abuse, and they serve an important watchdog function...But the fact that 'Anonymous' proudly proclaims there are 'adults in the room' holding the line against the president's worst impulses moves us from whistleblower to an unelected and unaccountable shadow presidency by committee."
Holding White House officials accountable for continuing to participate in an administration whose leader is "detrimental to the health of our republic" would require Commitee chairmen Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to subpoena cabinet members including Mattis, Kelly, and Vice President Mike Pence.
"A shadow presidency is not among the constitutional mechanisms to address a president unable to discharge their powers and duties," said Hobert Flynn. "It is past time for the Republicans in the majority in Congress to put their country before their party and provide investigatory oversight, because no legislation nor nominee is worth the potential threat to our democracy outlined in recent accounts of the Trump White House."