It is not just Democrats and a few Republicans who are defying President Donald Trump.
Senior administration officials are among those who are defying him or deviating from the Trump line. An occasional drip of defiance has become a regular river over the last few days.
Some are expressing concern about this defiance. Trump’s right-wing supporters claim that there is a coup underway.
Others see the situation less as a conventional coup and more as a soft coup, where the generals have more influence than the civilians. Even sober voices worry about the impact on Presidential executive power by senior advisers defying Trump publicly.
Presidents have often had fractious relationships with some of their advisers. But it is rare to see both senior White House advisers and Cabinet Secretaries deviating from Presidential directives and statements.
Defying Trump in the White House
As soon as Trump began his term, the White House became a “leak machine.” Senior advisers often leaked stories about their rivals.
Every time Trump announced a controversial action or statement, it seemed as if senior White House advisers like his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump daughter Ivanka were far away. They then tried to contain the damage.
For example, Ivanka tried to mollify the outrage after Trump’s Charlottesville remarks. Trump, of course, could not fire his daughter.
Another senior adviser, Gary Cohn, publicly expressed his disquiet over Trump’s Charlottesville remarks. Still, he did not get fired or resign.
Defying Trump in the Cabinet
Some Trump cabinet officials have also been notable for defying Trump, and yet not resigning.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been defying Trump on matters ranging from the Russia investigations to the Arpaio pardon recently. Trump has hesitated to utter his famous catchphrase “You’re fired.” Nor has Sessions quit.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson startled observers when he said: “Trump speaks for himself.” He was responding to a question about Trump’s Charlottesville remarks reflecting US values.
Also, a recent video showed Secretary of Defense James Mattis telling US troops this.
Our country, right now, it’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.
It is hard to see this as anything other than Mattis chiding Trump’s divisiveness.
The Defense Department also appears to be defying, through delay, the Trump transgender order.
Defying Trump: Troubling?
Unlike others, I am not worried by officials defying Trump.
We are a nation of laws and values. Defying Trump when he issues orders that skirt the law are responsible acts by officials. All those who serve Trump may not share his values.
Even if Trump wants to fire and replace those who defy him, he will not find it easy. He has a shallow and narrow bench of replacements. And Senate confirmation would be hard.
The above facts help me sleep at night.