Senior aide attacks 'amoral' and 'erratic' Donald Trump

Ian Woods, senior news correspondent, in Washington DC

One of Donald Trump's senior officials has written an astonishing account of how staff try to act as a brake on the president's impulsive behaviour, and how he tried to limit sanctions on Russia after the Salisbury poisoning.

The anonymous official said "the erratic behaviour would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House".

"It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room," the official wrote in The New York Times.

"We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't."

The White House said the author of op-ed was a "coward" who should "do the right thing and resign".

The New York Times said that it took the unusual step of publishing the account without revealing the identity of the author.

"We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardised by its disclosure," it said.

"We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers."

The official wrote that "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations".

"I would know - I am one of them," the aide said.

"To be clear, ours is not the popular 'resistance' of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

"But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

"The root of the problem is the president's amorality.

"Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making."

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The official claimed there have been successes which have come despite - not because of - the president's leadership style, which is described as "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective".

The aide added: "From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander-in-chief's comments and actions.

"Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

"Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back."

The official said that Mr Trump has shown a preference for autocrats and dictators over allies, and opposed a strong reaction to the Salisbury poisoning .

"On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin's spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain," they said.

"He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behaviour.

"But his national security team knew better - such actions had to be taken to hold Moscow accountable.

"This isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."

The official claimed that many staff have decided it is better to avoid a constitutional crisis by trying to steer government in the right direction until Mr Trump is no longer president.

"There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first."

Mr Trump's press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the author had chosen to "deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States".

She also accused the person responsible of putting himself or herself ahead of the will of the American people.

Referring to the New York Times article, Mr Trump tweeted: "TREASON?"

He added: "Does the so-called "Senior Administration Official" really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?

"If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!

"I'm draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don't worry, we will win!"

The article comes the day after excerpts from a new book by the respected Washington Post reporter and author Bob Woodward described in detail some furious rows inside the White House, in which some of Mr Trump's closest officials criticised and ridiculed his behaviour .

Mr Trump called that book "a work of fiction" and defence secretary James Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly were among those who denied conversations attributed to them.