EVER since President Donald Trump entered the White House, his courtiers have been scrutinised for clues to their true feelings about the man they serve. John Kelly’s furrowed brow, Melania Trump’s sartorial slogans—such giveaways, real and imagined, have been pored over by those anxious to know how any right-minded person could work for the tweeter-in-chief. In an astonishing column published in the New York Times on September 5th, a “senior official in the Trump administration” provided an answer. It was not reassuring.
The official, later referred to by the Times as a “he”, suggests that Mr Trump is as unfit to be president as his detractors allege. He describes an administration riven by scheming and fearful of calamity. “The root of the problem is the president’s amorality,” he writes. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision-making.” Mr Trump’s inability to remember or stick with the decisions he randomly makes may be even worse. “There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next”. The anonymous writer suggests he, like “many Trump appointees”, is motivated to defend the country by “thwarting Mr Trump’s more misguided impulses”.
While it would be helpful to know Anonymous’s identity—which was still under wraps as The Economist went to press—there is little doubt about the veracity of his claims. They echo the many credible accounts of the Trump administration published in newspapers and books, including a forthcoming tome by Bob Woodward. This describes an administration suffering a “nervous breakdown” over the president’s impulsiveness and ignorance. It also details the drastic steps Mr Trump’s aides take to foil him. Mr Woodward claims Gary Cohn, the former chief economic adviser, prevented Mr Trump from withdrawing America from a trade agreement with South Korea by swiping the relevant document from his desk. The president forgot he was due to sign it.
It is easy to see why Trump staffers such as Anonymous want more credit for their escapades. Serving Mr Trump is a thankless task. But it is hard to imagine what he hoped to achieve with his allegations. The president’s opponents believed them already—and have little sympathy for those who, by covering for Mr Trump, empower him. The president’s supporters will see the article as evidence for his claim to be opposed by a shadowy “deep state”. And saving America from Mr Trump has presumably just got harder. The president is liable to treat the next person who advises him against leaving the WTO or castigating an ally with suspicion. Anonymous should have put his name to his claims, to bolster their credibility, or stayed silent.
Which course would be better? The answer will depend on who is asking the question. Barely 20 months into Mr Trump’s term, it is important that his few competent and admirable cabinet members, including James Mattis, the defence secretary, hunker down. Mr Trump cannot be trusted with the levers of America’s awesome power untutored and unrestrained. But for the rest of his staff, the onus to speak out is much stronger.
There are three ways to oust a president, and all are daunting. Anonymous says Mr Trump’s aides briefly discussed, then dismissed, removing him via the 25th Amendment, which allows a majority of the cabinet to instigate the removal of a leader who is incapacitated. Proving incapacity would be hard: Mr Trump’s supporters think he sounds authentic, not lunatic. And the other emergency measure, removal through an impeachment trial by the Senate, looks no easier. Partisanship suggests a two-thirds majority would probably not be forthcoming, almost no matter what Robert Mueller, the special counsel, may unearth. Yet the unlikelihood of removing Mr Trump by such means makes it no less important that the truth of his administration should be heard.
The only plausible way to remove Mr Trump is through an election, and partisanship will also make that hard. Outside carping against Mr Trump will not diminish his tribal support. But accounts of his administration from the conservatives who have worked inside it might have some effect. Anonymous and others should step forward and speak out.