Remember when The New York Times published an opinion article in 2018 by an anonymous member of the Trump administration who claimed to be part of the “resistance”? Yeah, it’s been one whole year, and we still don’t know who wrote it.
On Sept. 5, 2018, the Times published a scathing essay written anonymously by someone whom the paper identified only as a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration. The op-ed, titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” detailed a White House in which high-level officials were allegedly actively working against the president’s erratic, destructive agenda in order to prevent the country from spiraling downward.
While the anonymous writer commended Trump’s policies of “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military,” the op-ed said senior Trump aides were aware that the president’s decisions are rooted in anti-democratic ideas and that many of his plans must be contained by those in his administration who secretly identify with the so-called resistance.
The op-ed also alleged that Cabinet members discussed ― but never followed through with ― invoking a section of the 25th Amendment that provides a process for removing a president who is deemed unfit to serve.
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the op-ed said. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”
The op-ed quickly gained traction among the public, with people on both sides of the aisle wondering who was behind the article. The Times said it received a wave of calls from readers either thanking or denouncing the editors for publishing the article, and it increased security in the newsroom due to the backlash at the time.
In the article’s immediate aftermath, Trump called it a “gutless editorial” and demanded that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions investigate who wrote the article because, the president said, it was a “national security” threat.
Then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted the Times’ phone number and encouraged people to call the newspaper to complain about the op-ed, though many used the number to praise the Times for its decision to publish the article.
The Times wrote at the top of the article that it was highly unusual for the newspaper to run an anonymous op-ed. Even the Times newsroom, which is separate from the opinion section, didn’t know who wrote the article.
People spent lots of time speculating who the anonymous Trump official was: Sanders? White House counselor Kellyanne Conway? Vice President Mike Pence? Since the article’s publication, some officials suspected of being the writer have vehemently denied it, the Times has continued to hide the writer’s identity and nobody has come forward identifying themselves as the writer.
Tracking who the writer is, and whether the person is still part of the internal anti-Trump resistance, is difficult when the administration has a revolving door of aides. Since the beginning of Trump’s tenure, several high-ranking officials have either resigned or were pushed out of the administration: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, chief of staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, presidential assistant Omarosa Manigault Newman, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sessions, press secretary Sean Spicer and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci are just a handful.
While these departed officials haven’t said whether they were part of the so-called resistance within the administration, some have spoken out against Trump or have been critical of the administration’s decisions since leaving.
Kelly, who also had served as Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, reportedly called Trump an “idiot” in front of aides and painted himself as the man responsible for protecting the country from some of Trump’s impulses, according to NBC.
Scaramucci, who served for 10 days as Trump’s communications director, has repeatedly gone on TV to disparage the president, saying Trump’s own aides “absolutely hate the guy’s guts” and that the GOP should replace the president in 2020.
Rex Tillerson, who served as Trump’s secretary of state until he was fired over foreign policy clashes, has alleged that the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, went behind his back several times to hold meetings with foreign leaders. Tillerson has also said that he had to be “very concise” when speaking with Trump to keep the president’s attention while they worked together.
Mattis, who has remained tight-lipped about criticizing the president despite their differences, said Tuesday that he will speak out “when the time’s right.” Mattis appeared to disagree with Trump’s military judgment in his December resignation letter.
Regardless of who wrote the anonymous op-ed, it appears that any sort of resistance within the administration has had little effect on Trump’s divisive rhetoric and risky policy decisions. Since the op-ed, the president has thrown migrant families in unsanitary cages, inspired white supremacist violence, sparked a trade war and been accused of potentially obstructing an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.