President Trump is a threat to America: that is the thrust of "A Warning," on sale Tuesday, and written by "Anonymous," an author described only as "a senior Trump administration official."
Or at the president described him or her, "really an anonymous, gutless coward."
That cloak of anonymity is the same one the writer wore in a New York Times column last fall which argued the president is amoral.
- I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration by Anonymous (New York Times, 9/05/18)
Mr. Trump's response to that op-ed? --- this tweet:
CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett asked Reince Priebus, President Trump's first chief of staff, "Do you have any idea who it is?"
"No," he replied.
"Do you think this writer is a coward?"
Because? "I think it's improper," Priebus said. "I think it's dishonorable."
The White House agrees; press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the book "a work of fiction."
CBS News has not confirmed the identity of the author, nor the claims he or she makes.
Priebus said, "Nobody really knows whether these quotes or these accusations are true because we don't know who it is. There's no way to judge the veracity of what this person is saying."
In the book, Anonymous writes that cabinet officials considered resigning en masse, a so-called "midnight self-massacre," in order "to call attention to Mr. Trump's misconduct and erratic leadership."
Also on the chopping block: the vice president. "On more than one occasion, Trump has discussed with staff the possibility of dropping Vice President Pence in advance of the 2020 election," Anonymous writes.
Priebus said, "No. That's the part of this that I think is the most out-of-touch part of the book."
Garrett thought Priebus would know most about this passage, in which Anonymous writes: "Everyone is the chief of staff but the chief of staff."
"Donald Trump is the chief of staff," Priebus replied. "The kids aren't the chief of staff. All the rest of the folks …"
"Random Fox News hosts are not the chief of staff?" asked Garrett.
"No, Trump is the chief of staff. He fears nothing and nobody."
"Is that a good quality for a president?"
"I think in some cases it is – I guess in some other cases maybe it's a challenge. But he is the person in charge. And I think any assertion otherwise is just pure fiction. The president's the quarterback, he's the center, and the running back. He plays every role!"
"That's unusual, though, is it not?"
"It is," he replied. "But he's a force of nature."
Anonymous appears to confirm the outlines of the Ukraine controversy at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry. "American presidents don't implore foreign leaders to open investigations into domestic political opponents," Anonymous writes. "We learned that, given enough time and space, Donald J. Trump will seek to abuse any power he is given."
Priebus said, "That's quite an accusation."
"That's heavy," said Garrett.
"Well, it's also loaded. The president's the fulcrum. He's got the authority to be the director of the orchestra, and that's how I think he views the presidency. And I think in most cases he has the authority."
The author claims Mr. Trump considered naming undocumented migrants "enemy combatants," and even sending some to Guantanamo Bay. Anonymous writes that Mr. Trump is a bully who lacks presidential judgment and a basic understanding of government.
But Priebus says President Trump's instincts got him where he is: "What makes him who he is, is also what makes him electable to the American people. Donald Trump's strength comes from being Donald Trump. And I think he knows that."
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Story produced by Arden Farhi and David Rothman.