Politics & Government

Should Congress investigate the anonymous Trump op-ed? Maybe, one NC Republican says.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a key member of the group, walk through Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a key member of the group, walk through Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. AP

One of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress is North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who now wants to get Congress to consider investigating which White House official might have written a critical op-ed about the president.

Meadows told Politico some Democrats will back him — although of his three fellow North Carolina representatives on the Democratic side of the aisle, two denied it was them and one couldn’t be reached for comment.

“We’re evaluating options on how to get to the truth of what happened here, mainly in the interest of protecting national security,” Meadows told Politico on Thursday. “We’ve had congressional Democrats reach out to our office about this issue as well — and while we may disagree politically, what many of us do agree on is that efforts within the White House to anonymously sabotage a duly elected president is an act of cowardice and does not serve American taxpayers well.”

Democratic Reps. David Price and G.K. Butterfield told The News & Observer they did not reach out to Meadows. The office of North Carolina’s only other Democratic representative, Alma Adams, did not comment on Meadows’ claim.

Meadows serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is the chairman of the Government Oversight subcommittee. He also is the leader of a group of about 30 far-right representatives who call themselves the Freedom Caucus. The group has wielded increased power since Trump became president.

Meadows’ spokesman, Ben Williamson, told The News & Observer that it’s too early to say if Meadows will definitely push for an investigation of the op-ed in The New York Times.

“This is in the very early stages of discussion and exploration,” Williamson said.

A spokesman for Price, who represents parts of the Triangle in Congress, said any such investigation would be a waste of the federal government’s resources.

“Rep. Price believes Congress should be using its oversight authority to investigate the numerous ethical violations and failures of leadership in this administration, not wasting time and money exposing one of the many Trump staffers who feel he is not fit for office,” said Price’s spokesman, Sawyer Hackett.

Butterfield said he appreciates that a senior official wrote the op-ed.

“The anonymous source revealed what most Americans know — President Trump’s words and actions are not only discrediting his presidency, but are also damaging the image of our precious democracy,” said Butterfield, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Durham and northeastern North Carolina.

The controversy began Wednesday when an anonymous person, listed only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” published an opinion article for The New York Times describing the efforts he or she — and other presidential aides — have used to thwart Trump. It also references debate among Trump’s highest-ranking subordinates about whether to remove him from office.

“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” the anonymous official wrote. “But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”

Williamson said Meadows has some ideas already about who might have been behind the article, but doesn’t want to say just yet.

“He does have opinions, but we’re not going to publicly speculate on who it might be,” he said.

Meadows was also in the news this week as part of a soon-to-be-published book on Trump written by Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who broke the Watergate story in the 1970s. Woodward focuses on Meadows’ well-known friendship with Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart chief and one of Trump’s campaign leaders, and a plot between them to oust House Speaker Paul Ryan.

An excerpt from Woodward’s book posted on Twitter by Esquire and CNN reporter Ryan Lizza says that during the election Meadows handed Bannon a folder and told him, “Read this. Some 24 hours after Trump wins, we call the question on Ryan and he’s finished. We take over the House of Representatives. And then we have a real revolution.”

Williamson denied that, tweeting back, “Lol. Not true.”

Woodward’s book isn’t the only source of similar reporting.

Nearly a year ago, in December 2017, Politico reported that “at a secret meeting at Meadows’ downtown D.C. apartment, days before the election, Freedom Caucus board members devised a plan to deny Ryan the 218 votes needed to retain his speakership.”

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran