The New York Times dropped a bombshell yesterday with an anonymous op-ed from “a senior official” within the Trump administration. The author detailed the efforts from the “adults in the room” who regularly push back against the president’s “impetuous, adversarial, petty, and ineffective” leadership. As everyone conjectures as to who this anonymous official is (“lodestar” being a clue many are running with–we see you, Mike Pence), news from the Department of Justice and an almost prescient tweet from Trump makes this op-ed feel like it’s playing out in real time.
The DOJ announced today that it will formally charge North Korea for the 2014 cyber hack against Sony Pictures. The hack, which many believed to be retaliation on North Korea’s part for Sony’s then-upcoming film The Interview, laid bare damning emails that led to the departure of many top executives at Sony. Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted, “Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!”
Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
It’s almost as if the anonymous author anticipated this when speaking of a “two-track presidency”:
Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.
Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.
Trump has yet to acknowledge the DOJ’s charges against North Korea directly, but of course he’s had plenty to say about the Times‘ “gutless editorial.”