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For weeks now, there has been a steady drumbeat of warnings — from former government officials, academics, legal experts and journalists — about the chaos and hijacking of democracy that could occur in the election’s aftermath. It turns out those alarm bells are being rung inside the Trump administration as well.
This morning we published an opinion essay by Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has covered national security and the presidency for more than three decades, on what could happen in the hours and days after the polls close Tuesday. He takes us into Donald Trump’s White House, where top officials he spoke with “are worried that the president could use the power of the government — the one they all serve or served within — to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit.”
Ron’s essay is based on conversations he had with some two dozen current and former aides to President Trump. “The central sources in this story are or were senior officials, mainly in jobs that require Senate confirmation,” Ron writes. “They have had regular access to the president and to briefings at the highest level.” Though his sources are known to me, we have agreed to grant these men and women anonymity for the purposes of Ron’s Op-Ed.
That’s never an easy call to make, especially when so many other officials have attached their names to critiques of the White House. Readers may see asking for anonymity as a way to make personal attacks without consequence, a means for reputation laundering or even a sign of cowardice.
We worried about these things, too. Generations of journalists who work for The Times’s newsroom and Opinion have made promises to sources about the confidentiality of their identities, a practice that is used on occasion and with oversight from editors and managers. “Sources often fear for their jobs or business relationships — sometimes even for their safety,” as our standards editor, Phillip Corbett, wrote in this 2018 explainer.
We rarely use anonymous sourcing in our opinion pages, but when we do, it is only after thoughtful consideration of the value of the information that would otherwise be lost to our audience. Given the importance of showing that even the people whom the president has chosen as some of his closest advisers are worried about how the election will unfold, we decided that Ron’s reporting rose far above that bar.
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