Trump Administration Continues Search For Anonymous Op-Ed Author President Trump ends this week closer to having a second Supreme Court justice confirmed and more strong jobs numbers. But this week also saw dysfunction inside his administration dominate headlines.
NPR logo

Trump Administration Continues Search For Anonymous Op-Ed Author

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/645665342/645665346" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Trump Administration Continues Search For Anonymous Op-Ed Author

Trump Administration Continues Search For Anonymous Op-Ed Author

Trump Administration Continues Search For Anonymous Op-Ed Author

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/645665342/645665346" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President Trump ends this week closer to having a second Supreme Court justice confirmed and more strong jobs numbers. But this week also saw dysfunction inside his administration dominate headlines.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The hunt continues today for the Trump administration insider who wrote a scathing op-ed about the president in The New York Times this week. President Trump responded to a reporter's question on Air Force One today, saying he'd like Attorney General Jeff Sessions to help identify the anonymous critic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was 'cause I really believe it's national security.

SHAPIRO: The Justice Department declined to comment, saying it does not confirm or deny investigations. But the op-ed, along with an upcoming book from journalist Bob Woodward, have cast a shadow over what could have been a triumphant week for the president. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The Trump administration got a sterling economic report card this morning from the Labor Department which says U.S. employers added 201,000 jobs in August. That's better than expected. And the unemployment rate held steady at a low 3.9 percent. Employers are finally having to pay a bit more to find and keep good workers. White House economist Kevin Hassett says average wages grew over the last year at their fastest pace in nine years.

KEVIN HASSETT: I think that we're looking at about the best economy that I've ever seen. You know, for the rest of the year, there's so much momentum that we're going to be talking about good news.

HORSLEY: The president also took a big step this week towards filling a second seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. His nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, weathered two long days of questioning by Senator Chuck Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK GRASSLEY: Judge, I'm very pleased that the American people have finally had an opportunity to listen to you - and seems to me that you made a powerful and convincing case for Senate confirmation.

HORSLEY: But any cheering at the White House was drowned out by two damning new portraits of the president which grabbed the headlines and dominated cable news channels.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Going to start with that chaos in the White House. President Trump is on defense this morning after that scathing op-ed in The New York Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The first details are emerging from a widely anticipated book, the product of Bob Woodward.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Now from the country's top investigative reporter comes the charge that the U.S. presidency is in the midst of a nervous breakdown.

HORSLEY: Bob Woodward's upcoming book and an unsigned op-ed in The New York Times offer similar accounts of life in the Trump White House. They describe a president who's ill-informed, erratic and barely kept in check by members of his own staff. Those Trump insiders tell a story that's scathing but hardly surprising to those who've been following the news since Trump took office.

DAN DREZNER: I have a thread on Twitter which I've dubbed the toddler in chief thread.

HORSLEY: Dan Drezner is a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. For almost a year and a half, he's been collecting mainstream news accounts that show Trump as immature, impulsive and barely under control not from Democrats or political antagonists but people in Trump's own circle. So far, his tally stands at 496 examples.

DREZNER: The fact that so many people who have a legitimate rooting interest in Donald Trump succeeding as president nonetheless describe him in this kind of language is truly a sort of damning indictment of Trump's emotional stability.

HORSLEY: Trump himself disputes that idea. And to be sure, he still has plenty of defenders in the administration. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told ABC this week, don't listen to the carping; watch the results.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The things that I see coming out of this White House are the president delivering on historic tax cuts, delivering on building a booming economy, delivering on rebuilding our military, delivering on remaking the judiciary, delivering on cutting regulation after regulation. What I see come out of this building is pure and total success.

HORSLEY: The midterm elections will offer the first broad measure of how the public views Trump's performance. Meantime, the growing bookshelf of insider accounts has inspired Drezner to turn his toddler in chief Twitter collection into a book of his own - perhaps, he says, a picture book. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.