Columns Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

In search of Trump’s Deep Throat

There hasn’t been such a Washington whodunit since the spring of 1974, when All the President’s Men revealed that Bob Woodward had relied for his Watergate reporting on a secret source inside the Nixon Administration. Now the question is: Who wrote the anonymous op-ed in Thursday’s New York Times?

Herewith the case for thinking that it’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. And yes, dear RNS readers, there’s a religion angle.

Before he joined the Trump Administration, Coats was a congressman and senator from Indiana. Along the way, he served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Germany, where he befriended soon-to-be chancellor Angela Merkel. As Director of National Intelligence, he has been the Administration’s most outspoken critic of Russia, most recently warning in July that the “red lights are blinking red again” on cyberattacks.

Did I mention that he and John McCain were buddies, and that, unlike his boss, he issued a statement praising McCain after he died?

What we know about the provenance of the op-ed comes from James Dao, the Times op-ed editor, in an interview on The Daily, the Times podcast, Thursday.

“It began with an intermediary, who I trust, and know well,” said Dao. “And they told me that there was this individual in the Trump Administration who was very interested in writing an op-ed.”

My surmise is that the intermediary was Michael Gerson, the former top speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is now a columnist for the Washington Post. Previously, Gerson had served as a speechwriter for Coats. Both are graduates of Wheaton College, the Illinois college that likes to style itself the “evangelical Harvard.”

Gerson has made himself into Trump’s most prominent evangelical critic. Column after column has assailed the President’s moral character and the concomitant moral culpability of the those who support him, not least his fellow evangelicals.

It hardly strains credulity to think that Gerson has stayed in close touch with Coats. Indeed, just as he once worked with Coats on his speeches, so he would likely have helped him with the op-ed.

The piece revolves around this central point:

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.

Shortly after Trump took office, Gerson described Trump as having “an amoral, counterpunching ethic.” Coincidence?

Here’s how never-Trump GOP insider Bill Kristol weighed the evidence in a tweet Thursday morning:

Coats (plus Gerson) fits this to a T.

As for the chain of evidence, after Bush was declared the president-elect at the end of 2000, Dao, then a Times Washington correspondent, co-authored an article about the pending selection of a secretary of Defense. Though he did not end up getting the job, Coats was a leading contender, and the article ends:

But Mr. Coats has his own network of supporters within the Bush camp. Mr. Cheney’s top Congressional aide, David J. Gribbin, was Mr. Coats’s chief of staff in the Senate. And Mr. Bush’s top speechwriter, Michael Gerson, was also a speechwriter for Mr. Coats.

Bottom line: Gerson approaches his old acquaintance Dao about the possibility of Coats doing an op-ed. Dao tells him to go for it. Coats and Gerson collaborate on the writing. The rest is history.

Coats has, unsurprisingly, denied being the author. In 1974, Mark Felt, the FBI associate director, denied being Deep Throat, ‘fessing up only 30 years later. I suspect the reveal won’t take as long this time.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

109 Comments

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  • Frankly I am finding the story looks less than it appears to be. Rather than someone with a legitimate gripe about the president, it looks like someone who is largely complicit in Trump’s bad behavior but seeking to CYA.

    An “Albert Speer” type who waits until things start going to hell to announce suddenly, “I am really part of the opposition”.

    Also none of the revelations here are particularly novel. Everyone from former cabinet members to attorneys to contractors for his businesses attest to the kind of moral sewer Trump is. His infantile conduct, inability to listen to experts, blatant dishonesty, lack of attention span….

    If anything its more on the lines of “Trump’s staff are incompetent, corrupt and immoral. But somehow I am different! Look at how badly I am doing my job for him!”

    Someone with actual integrity and professionalism would have just resigned in protest in a public manner than something like this.

  • I agree. Here’s Frank Rich’s two cents:

    For once Trump is right: the “anonymous” Times op-ed is “gutless.” The anonymity allows its author to do what every other cowering administration figure and Republican leader has done since Inauguration Day — duck any responsibility for what is happening and retreat from any real pushback against Trump.

  • More of the silent coup d’etat perpetrated by the clinton campaign, former white house, MSM and high ranking government officials against a legitimately elected president.
    I hope they find him/her and march them out to Lafayette Park and hang them for treason.

  • LMAO!

    So Hillary has become the “Trotsky” to your Cheeto-Skinned “Stalin” (or “Emmanuel Goldstein” to the literary minded). The person who to blame all the troubles, mismanagement, bad press on.

    That is just plain funny.

  • I actually agree with your last sentence: “Someone with actual integrity and professionalism would have just resigned…”. Probably a disgruntled Conservative Inc. Neocon.

  • Pootie Baby, getting hot in the swamp but I have little Bobby Arnzen to Deep Throat me here when I need to cool down.

    Luv ya,
    DonnyBoy,

    Donny, soon we build great Russamerica together on backs of deep throating peasants like your Bobby Arnzen and we send pesky Mueller and other honesties and pressers to Siberia yes. Trump Towers pretty leaky though ha ha watch out those showers. You look cute tho in orange jumpsuit ha ha.
    -Vlady

  • Pootie Baby, getting hot in the swamp but I have little Bobby Arnzen to Deep Throat me here when I need to cool down.

    Luv ya,
    DonnyBoy,

    Donny, soon we build great Russamerica together on backs of deep throating peasants like your Bobby Arnzen and we send pesky Mueller and other honesties and pressers to Siberia yes. Trump Towers pretty leaky though ha ha watch out those showers. You look cute tho in orange jumpsuit ha.
    -Vlady

  • So if the “Deep Throat” turns out to be Secretary of Energy and former Governor of Texas Rick Perry, would that make him a “Debbie Does Dallas” instead?

    (No, I just can’t take this story seriously at all(

  • “Religion News Service”

    Hmmm, zero religion in this particular whatever-the-hell-it-is.

    Says a lot about Mark Silk and zero about religion.

  • Good drama. But lets look at the facts. President Trump has used the check from Mexico and has built the wall. President Trump has gotten all nuclear weapons out of North Korea. And President Trump has won the trade wars, soundly defeating Europe and China, who are begging to surrender to him. And best of all, within a few months, America Will Be White Again. What’s not to like?

  • I know conservatives hate law enforcement and our court system, but please try to explain how the author committed treason.

  • How about comparing and contrasting him with eight years of Barack Obama?

    His accomplishments were to blow a shitload of dough on a make work program that accomplished nothing at all – the bullet train to nowhere in California is still a decade away and the budget is now over $100 billion – and as promised get Hillary nominated.

    End of accomplishments.

  • The author of the piece is attempting to destroy the president or make ineffective his administration. I remind you and the other liberals who take pleasure in this that trump is a duly elected president and any attempt to overthrow him by a soft coup is criminal and treasonous.
    For your benefit, treason is defined as a betrayal of trust or confidence; breach of faith; or violation of allegiance to ones sovereign [president] or state.
    For someone in a government position; appointed by the president, a member of his staff or a high ranking government official or employee to anonymously write something something to discredit and destabilize the president of the United States is dangerous and treasonous.
    Everyone American (whether you agree or disagree with trump) should be indignant at the attack not only on the president, but on our constitutional rights to select our leader.

  • Before you correspondent points it out, treason under the Constitution is defined thus:

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiii

    Article III

    Section 1.

    The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. Section 2.

    The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; – to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; – to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; – to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; – to controversies between two or more states; – between a state and citizens of another state; – between citizens of different states; – between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

    In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

    The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.

    Section 3.

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

    The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

    ***

    I have no problem with your comment, but technically it is not treason under American law.

  • Ok. I’ll go with aid and comfort to ones enemy. Or, I’ll go with mutiny. We can still hang people for that.
    Thanks.

  • If you really want to know who wrote this find out what color of spray paint they used and then check everyone’s fingertips.

  • I am finding it funny that “The Deep State” is now includes the president’s cabinet. The excuse making for incompetence from the white house knows no bounds. But anyway….

    Embarrassing or discrediting the president is not treason.

    What we have is someone making a ridiculous claim of doing a lousy job in service of the president and claiming it is rightful opposition. Someone’s bad idea of CYA or excuses for doing a job badly and for being too feckless to do something actually in opposition, like resignation under protest.

    Its not a coup or even an attempted coup, its fantasy fiction by a feckless weenie trying to cover up their own complicity in the quagmire of the Trump White House*.

    * I would suspect Trump did it as an excuse to purge his cabinet and strengthen the nonsense “Deep State” memes of government insiders as the cause of WH incompetence. But I don’t think he is intellectually capable of it.

    ++ Please let it be Mike Pence. 🙂

  • When Obama was elected, McConnell announced that his overriding priority was to make Obama a one term president. So it is ok for Republicans to deliberately sabotage a black Democrat President, but an attack on a white Republican President is treason. Glad to know you are a man of principle.

  • If you are working on behalf of a president you owe him or her your loyalty – do you not?
    Whatever your view of trump, as the duly elected president he is owed that at a minimum. If you don’t like his policies, morality or other; and you are an appointed official or “regular” 9-5 government drone – then resign.
    If he commits a crime, then congress can address that. Trump to this point has not been charged with any crime.
    If government employees are only going to follow the orders of those presidents that they like, they are infringing on my right to vote;?and we as Americans are in deep trouble.
    Thoughts?

  • You are the biggest racist I know.
    There is a difference between being the opposition party and attempting to destroy an administration.
    I did not like obama or his policies; but I voted.
    Also, not only do you have the Democratic Party attacking Trump, but you have the media attacking Trump and you have government workers actively working against his agenda while holding government jobs where they are supposed to act on behalf of the president

  • “You are the biggest racist I know. ”

    LOL! Aside from the outright neo nazis who lurk here, and pretty much anyone with a mild conservative bent. 🙂

    I doubt this is a concerted effort to destroy Trump. It looks more like someone making excuses for their own complicity and cooperation in working for him. “Look I am a good guy, I was just doing my job badly on purpose”

    “..but you have the media attacking Trump ”

    No you have a free press reporting things the president doesn’t like to hear. You have Trump demonizing the press and acting boorishly in public. If anything

    “you have government workers actively working against his agenda while holding government jobs where they are supposed to act on behalf of the president”

    No, you have Trump actively attacking people in government jobs where people have experience, expertise and a modicum of professional ethics.

    Blaming them for his own incompetence as a political leader. Showing annoyance that many would follow rule of law, honest disclosure, the law and professional ethics over rubber stamping his whims.

    They aren’t there to act on behalf of the president, they are acting on behalf of the nation. The two are not the same thing.

    (I do not take this op-ed seriously at all.)

  • https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/5/3331

    U.S. Code › Title 5 › Part III › Subpart B › Chapter 33 › Subchapter II › § 3331

    5 U.S. Code § 3331 – Oath of office

    An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

    (Pub. L. 89–554, Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 424.)

    There are other oaths in addition to this oath depending on the office of honor or profit.

  • lol! I did indeed. Just not as eagerly as you, given your desire to actually deep throat any guy you can, the Donald included. Come on, don’t deny it.

  • Just as an aside, the New York Times definitely committed treason — journalistic treason. You’re NOT supposed to publish hit-piece trash from Benedict Arnold types, unless the writer publicly signs his or her or its slimy name to it.

    You can’t even post simple comments in my hometown newspaper, let alone any actual articles, unless you use your real name (which the newspaper will then use Facebook to confirm, and it better be you.) Being totally upfront with the public, showing your public accountability by letting folks see exactly WHO is writing what, is **just that important.**

    So why would the NY Times publish some cowardly grade-Z bum who seeks to keep his juicy government Administration perks while doing an anonymous slo-mo coup attempt on our Prez? Simple. NYT loves treason. Journalistic treason at minimum, possibly other kinds. If I ever become President for any reason, the entire NYT staff, top suite to bottom basement, gets shipped to ADX Federal Supermax before breakfast on Inauguration Day!!

  • No. You do not. You owe a duty of loyalty to the country and its laws. Trump does nothing to inspire loyalty in anyone who work for or with him. He couldn’t do it in his businesses, he certainly doesn’t do it as a political leader. He has shown utter disdain for rule of law, the Constitution and basic notions of propriety.

    Its telling his staff is mostly comprised of 1) people grateful for failing upward or 2) outright thieves whose loyalty is a function of their ability to plunder public resources.

    Lets cut through the nonsense here. There is no silent coup here. Whomever wrote this op ed willingly worked for Trump knowing what he is and what he wanted to do. Someone complicit in the administration and all of its bad behavior. This is simply saving face. Someone with actual integrity or professionalism would have resigned in protest.

    “Trump to this point has not been charged with any crime. ”

    I love the weaselwording of “to this point” acknowledging such things appear likely.

    “If government employees are only going to follow the orders of those presidents that they like, they are infringing on my right to vote;?”

    Sorry Sparky, but “we were only following orders” is still never going to be an excuse for doing terrible and illegal things. One has a duty to disobey illegal orders. But they also have a duty to make it clear they are doing so. So you are right there, but only slightly. You are still pushing a rather fascist bullcrap view here and disregarding why we have rule of law as opposed to rule of person.

  • FYII (For Your Insult to the Intelligence): Very much like “who[ever] wrote the anonymous op-ed in Thursday’s New York Times … Mark Felt” was a Very Bad Guy, according to:

    (1) James DiEugenio, “Rearranging the Watergate Myth: A Washington axiom holds that that when power and truth clash, power usually wins, but the contest can be complicated by competing personal agendas”, Consortium News, November 1, 2017.

    (2) Jimmy Falls, “Carl Bernstein on the Deep State and Surveillance”, Who.What.Why, March 16, 2017.

    (3) Frederick Nagel, “It is ‘Deep State’ Time Again: Whenever there are obvious conflicts within the ruling class, the concept of a Deep State is brought out to explain why our government seems to be coming apart at the seams; when the tired rhetoric of our two party system can’t bring us to a satisfying catharsis, there is always the deus ex machina of grand conspiracies and hidden rulers”, Global Research, April 21, 2017.

  • You’re White yourself. There’s a word for that. Self-loathing. Unbleaching. Progressive. Along that line.

  • I hear you & upvote you, but hey, you may wanna redact that H-word there. We have to remain cool, calm & collected all the time, my friend.

  • According to Oxford University Dictionary, “treason [is] the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government … [or] the action of betraying someone or something.”

    The Clinton Dynasty and the Deep State do it all the time, and Airbusted here knows that throughout her lifetime in Planet Bubble. Her favorite pastime is the game, PlayDumb.

  • Frank Rich is nothing but a fake news pundit for also having said: “The anonymous author … adds an intriguing guessing game but no news to what we already know about this White House from Woodward and even Omarosa, not to mention the stalwart work of reporters at the Times and Post since Inauguration Day.”

    “Stalwart”?! New York Times & Washington Post?!

  • There is no such thing as a free press in this country. Journalism as it may have existed is dead. Journalists these days are no better than Jerry Springer. They have failed in their role as a check on the government because they lack independence.

  • Of course! But honestly, the NYT has openly d.e.f.e.c.a.t.e.d on journalistic ethics. Never seen anything like it. “Anything goes” has become the new standard with those NYT clowns. Unbelievable.

    NYT is worse than CNN and WaPo. You are supposed to have the ethical guts to tell the masses your real name. Give them a clear opportunity to examine & critique YOU in return. Especially if your essay is a hit-piece on a sitting Prez, and you’re bragging like a foolio that you work for the man you’re traitoring out.

    I’ve been through the feedback. I posted a controversial article one week; somebody snitched to my pastor the very same week. “Have you seen what Mr. Lee wrote about Obama? We’re verrrrry concerned…” Okay, I accept that outcome, because saying one’s real name out loud is both justifiable and ethical. (Hello NYT?)

  • It’s hilarious that you would even mention the word “ethics” given the current administration.

  • Exposing the President for incompetency and mental instability is an act of patriotism, not treason.

  • What’s immoral and racist about it? Enforcing the law?
    Not sure I’ve seen “colored” signs posted at the water fountains yet.
    Maybe your not a fan of the constitution.

  • No such thing as a free press? At least not when they’re receiving death threats from the President.

  • Maybe when they report the news honestly instead as if they were the opposition party; that wouldn’t occur (if it did).

  • Yeah – you never answer anything. You just lob innuendos and then hide. Better yet, you get mad and storm off.

  • Just as “exposing [CanisPulchrae a.k.a. FemaleDingo likewise] is an act of patriotism, not treason”? Right you are.

  • Incoherent.

    According to Lindsey Graham, “Impeachment is not a punishment, but a cleansing of the office”. That’s what America needs now — to cleanse the filth and the stink from our White House.

  • Hello, homophobe.

    Why have black people not yet figured out that lynching minorities is wrong?

  • Trump and his zombie sycophants demand that the news be positive at all times. It’s not, especially when we have a sociopath in the White House. The press’ job is to represent what is happening in the White House. What is happening in the White House isn’t pretty. It’s chaotic, with a revolving door of staff, and we still have the shadow of Mueller’s investigation, which will probably end with Trump’s resignation. You can’t handle the news.

  • The “president” doesn’t need any help from the author of this post to make his administration ineffective.

  • Yet you expect everyone, including the media, to be loyal to the “president”? You are the one who lacks independence.

  • You see “no trans allowed” signs in Trump’s unconstitutional ban on trans people serving in the military.

  • Travel ban.
    24 federal judges
    2 Supreme Court justices
    Tax cut
    Reduction of regulations
    Increase in military spending
    4.2% GDP
    Lowest unemployment ever
    NATO paying their fair share
    Possible end of Korean War
    New trade deals with Mexico and Canada.

    I will take that all day long.

  • I don’t think there’s a trans ban is there?
    I don’t agree with any change therapy or hormone “stuff” while in the military.

  • 90% of news about trump is negative. I don’t think the 50% of the American people that voted for him would agree that everything is negative.

  • More than 90% is negative, because that’s the way it is. We are lied to routinely, on a daily basis. He has damaged America’s reputation and influence around the world, while sucking up to dictators — because that’s what he aspires to be.

  • No, there is a free press. Its just Trump and his delusional fans don’t like that facts and events make them look bad. Just because you have no regard for freedom of the press doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Your reaction is as childish as the leader you take your cues from.

    Negative news apparently is always the fault of others. Incompetence and failure the fault of “hidden saboteurs”, experts, analysts, and failed election candidates who have been retired for a couple of years. Its laughable.

    Funny how you took a mulligan on the “racist” part. Given we have at least 2 regular posters here who are unambiguous neo-nazis. 🙂

  • Abducting and detaining children for the purposes of holding them ransom comes to mind.

    We already had military leaders telling Trump to “get stuffed” when he tried a Transgender military ban (the Courts agreed and blocked it).

    There was the aborted first travel ban where immigration and border officials were ordered to break various laws. It lasted 2 days before the courts blocked it and was rescinded.

    The efforts to remove citizenship of natural born US citizens living in border areas violates various parts of the 14th Amendment

    The illegal policy attacks on Sanctuary Cities

    Then there is the obvious graft coming from every Cabinet post so far.

    I can go on and on from there.

    Lets face it, illegal orders seem to come out of that presidency like clockwork.

  • Good to see you admitting rule of law and a free democratic society mean nothing to you.

    Saves me the trouble of pretending you should be taken seriously.

  • DonnyBoy here good joke for you. Now we rename Trump Towers Moscow to Trump Showers he he he. Then is what Bobby Arnzen is underneath golden with mouth open yes!
    -Vlad

    Pootie Baby, good one. We get together in Moscow to watch soon and you ride bareback.
    -DT

  • Getting “admitting rule of law and a free democratic society mean nothing to you” from someone who advocates(ed) giving the nation’s immigration laws the one-finger salute and claiming amending the Constitution to end abortion and same sex marriage violated some sort of rights is really quite amusing.

  • Funny, I thought you ‘progressives’ considered being obsessed with gay sex a good thing. You all can never seem to make up your mind about anything these days, can you?
    And once again, you hurl accusations of alleged homophobia around at others while capping off your comment (“Go hit on someone else”) with the inadvertent acknowledgement that you agree it’s a shameful thing.
    Seems to me like you’ve got some unresolved, internal bigotry going on yourself.
    Perhaps you can get your bud Spuddie to give you a shoulder massage while you talk it out.

  • I’m hardly a progressive, but there’s nothing wrong with gay sex. You’re spending a lot of time thinking up gay sex scenarios concerning complete strangers. Sounds like you’re the one that has unresolved issues.

  • By all means criticize their ethics, but “journalistic treason” is not a thing (nor was it anything close to what Parker wants to see people hanged for). It reminds me of after 9/11 when people attached the word “terrorism” to things that had nothing to do with it.

  • Not that I would expect you to know anything about the US Constitution, but the text of Article 3, Section 3, paragraph 1, defines treason as consisting of ONLY (a) waging war against the United States, or (b) adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.

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