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Trump plumbs new low
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 19 - 09 - 2018

US President Donald Trump sought to overcome arguably his worst week ever in office by boasting about his economic achievements. But the latest opinion polls suggest that economic successes are unlikely to assuage the heavy blows Trump received, topped with an anonymous op-ed written by a “senior administration official” for The New York Times, claiming that his irrational style in running the White House has led some of his senior aides to discuss a constitutional mechanism to remove him from office.
As usual, Trump responded to the unprecedented editorial with charges of treason and demands that the Department of Justice to find out the identity of the author. Meanwhile, he ordered a witch hunt within the administration to reveal the same, even suggesting that hundreds of senior administration officials should submit to a lie detector test.
US Vice President Mike Pence was among the first senior officials to express readiness to go through what practically amounts to a Trump loyalty test. More than 25 senior Trump administration officials have come out publicly denying having penned the op-ed, including Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Pence said he would submit to a lie detector test “in a heartbeat” to prove he was not the author of the anonymous op-ed that claimed some of Trump's top aides were leading a “resistance” movement within the White House to protect the United States from the possible harmful consequences of Trump's reckless decisions.
Calling the article an “assault on our democracy,” Pence dismissed a theory he was the author of the piece because it used the word “lodestar” — a word he has repeatedly used in speeches — as a mere effort to “distract attention” from the Trump administration's achievements.
“This individual [needs] to recognise that they are literally violating an oath,” he told Fox News. “If they are a senior administration official, that they are violating an oath, not to the president, but to the constitution.”
“To have an individual who took that oath literally say that they work everyday to frustrate the president advancing the agenda he was elected to advance is undemocratic. It's not just deceitful, but it's really an assault on our democracy. And that person should do the honourable thing, step forward and resign,” the vice president added.
Pence said that the op-ed posed a risk to national security, and that the author was “un-American”.
The author of the New York Times op-ed wrote that executive branch officials were “working to insulate their operations from [the president's] whims,” and that his “impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back”. It also alleged that senior staffers had spoken about the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution as a mechanism for removing Trump.
The 25th Amendment provides for a sitting president's removal if the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries pronounce him or her unfit to discharge the duties of office. However, Pence denied that he or others in the administration had spoken about it.
CNN reported that aides to Trump believed they have the search for the author of the New York Times op-ed down to a few individuals. Trump was reportedly still “obsessed” with finding the person, though he is being counselled by White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly to let it pass, to avoid bringing more attention to the claims in the op-ed, CNN added.
The op-ed writer said that the “resistance” inside Trump's administration is not the same as the resistance from the political left. The author wrote that the resistance inside the government wants “the administration to succeed... 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”. He added: “That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
The op-ed was published Wednesday, 5 September, just a day after excerpts from veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, were published. The passages published in The Washington Post and by CNN showed a White House consumed by chaos and disarray, including stories of aides insulting Trump behind his back and going so far as to steal documents off his desk in order to keep him from signing them.
The publisher of Woodward's book, Simon & Schuster, said Monday that it was printing one million copies to keep up with reader demand. The book officially came out Tuesday in both hardcover and e-book form.
On Monday, the White House sought to stress normalcy after a wild week of claims of administration dysfunction. The White House spokeswoman held a briefing on the improving US economy, claiming that this was what American voters were looking for ahead of upcoming Congressional elections in November.
This came a few hours after Trump tweeted that the economy was what counted. “The Economy is soooo good, perhaps the best in our country's history (remember, it's the economy stupid!), that the Democrats are flailing & lying like CRAZY! Phony books, articles and TV ‘hits' like no other poll has had to endure-and they are losing big,” he tweeted Monday.
Nevertheless, the questions White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders received at the briefing Monday, supposedly devoted to the economy, hardly had to do with the figures, and remained focused on the anonymous op-ed, and the contents of Woodward's book.
Moreover, a new CNN poll released Tuesday revealed that the president who claims he is responsible for the best economy in American history is sitting on historically low and worsening approval ratings. A new CNN/SSRS poll put him at 36 per cent approval, down six points in a month. Democrats appear to have a better than even chance of winning the House of Representatives, and some pundits think the Senate might even be in play.
Among independents, the drop in approval rates of Trump has been sharper, from 47 per cent last month to 31 per cent now.
Trump clearly is not yet getting the credit for healthy economic growth. The survey shows that 69 per cent of voters describe the nation's economy as good. But only 49 per cent say they approve of the way Trump is managing the economy.
The president is also taking hits in other areas of performance.
Only 32 per cent feel Trump is honest and trustworthy. A similar proportion of voters are proud to have him as president, and only 30 per cent think he will unite the country.
The drop in Trump's approval rating in the CNN poll is mirrored in other recent major opinion surveys and therefore should worry Republicans who hope that a strong economy can halt a Democratic charge in November's mid-term elections.

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