Donald Trump has responded to the news a former staffer admitted writing an anonymous New York Times op-ed that criticised the US President
Speaking during a campaign rally in Arizona, Mr Trump said Miles Taylor, the author of the piece, “should be prosecuted”.
“You know Anonymous? You know this Anonymous, that everyone’s been looking for? That law enforcement could have found early if they wanted to? But everybody was looking for Anonymous,” Mr Trump said.
“It turned out to be a low-level staffer, a sleazebag, who’s never worked in the White House. Anonymous was a nobody, a disgruntled employee who was quickly removed from his job a long time ago, for they tell me incompetence.
“He wrote a phony book. If you heard about Anonymous, it was like somebody that was right next to me. I thought it might have been Hope Hicks, I thought it might have been Jared (Kushner), I thought it might have been Mike Lee! I was extremely worried about Rand Paul.
“This guy’s a low-level lowlife, that I don’t know. I have no idea who he is, other than I got to see him a little while ago on television. And I think they threw him out a long time ago.
“His phony book was just based on fake articles and left-wing outlets. He worked with … the fake news New York Times. And he’s an employee of Google, he works for Google … isn’t that nice?
“The whole thing was just one more giant hoax from the Washington swamp and a corrupt special interest group.
“I tell you what; this guy, in my opinion, he should be prosecuted. He should be prosecuted.”
Mr Trump’s broadside came after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued her own searing rebuke.
“This low-level, disgruntled former staffer is a liar and a coward who chose anonymity over action and leaking over leading,” Ms McEnany said.
Mr Taylor, who worked for the Department of Homeland Security from 2017-2019, revealed himself as the anonymous author of the scathing 2018 article on Wednesday (local time).
In it, he described a chaotic White House and an unhinged commander in chief showing little regard for constitutional or political norms that posed a danger to the US and world.
- Read Miles Taylor’s full NY Times piece here
In an essay on published on the online platform Medium, Mr Taylor explained his decision to write the essay and a subsequent book called A Warning.
“I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives,” he wrote.
“When I left the administration I wrote A Warning, a character study of the current commander in chief and a caution to voters that it wasn’t as bad as it looked inside the Trump administration – it was worse.”
In the anonymous NY Times piece, which drew widespread attention after claims its author was a senior administration official, Mr Taylor said some political appointees were actively working to undermine Mr Trump’s worst impulses.
The 2018 essay riled the President, who ordered his team to begin looking for leakers in the White House.
Mr Taylor has subsequently endorsed Democrat candidate Joe Biden for the November 3 election.
On Wednesday, Ms McEnany also criticised the NY Times for running the 2018 article.
“It is appalling a low-ranking official would be granted anonymity and it is clear the New York Times is doing the bidding of never-Trumpers and Democrats,” she said.
For part of his time at DHS, Mr Taylor was chief of staff for former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She was widely criticised for overseeing a policy at the US southern border that allowed immigrant children to be separated from their parents.
“He was ineffective and incompetent during his time as DHS chief of staff,” Ms McEnany said.
For his part, Mr Trump denied knowing Mr Taylor – to which Mr Taylor responded by tweeting a picture of himself with the President in the White House Oval Office.
“That’s too bad. I remember you all too well,” he wrote.
Mr Taylor has also been openly critical of the Trump administration while working as a contributor for CNN in the lead up to the election.
Trump campaign picking its battles carefully
As the candidates were out campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s vote, it emerged that the financial woes of Mr Trump’s campaign have forced him to scale back TV advertising in Florida, Iowa and Nevada just as Mr Biden pours huge sums into a burst of spots across battleground states.
The former vice-president has bought $US54.1 million ($A76.6 million) in TV ads for the eight days before the election, more than double Mr Trump’s $US26.9 million, according to ad tracker Advertising Analytics.
There has been pointed criticism at the manner in which Trump’s campaign finances have been handled, particularly during the early part.
“They spent their money on unnecessary overhead, lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous activity by the campaign staff and vanity ads,” Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant told AP.
“You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly.”
The playing field for TV ads will tilt further toward the Democratic nominee on Wednesday as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg starts spending $US15 million on Texas and Ohio spots to attack Mr Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2016, Mr Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points and Ohio by 8 but recent polls show the race now virtually tied in both.
Mr Biden’s ad spending spans the entire map of election battlegrounds.
For the campaign’s final week, he has increased his TV ad buys in Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, Minnesota, Texas and New Hampshire.
In every state, he is outspending Mr Trump.
Mr Trump, who has lagged far behind Mr Biden in fundraising, is allocating his money to a shrinking set of states and he’s relying heavily on the Republican National Committee to buttress his spending in the final stretch.
No getting away from the pandemic
Meanwhile, Mr Trump held an in-person campaign rally in Arizona despite a US surge in COVID-19 cases and claims he is prioritising re-election above the health of supporters.
The pandemic that has killed more than 227,000 Americans is roaring back in the days leading up to Tuesday’s contest between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
At a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, on Wednesday Mr Trump said again a vaccine would be available soon.
“If I weren’t President, if you had Sleepy Joe as your president, it would have taken you four years to have a vaccine. You would have never had a vaccine,” he said.
A number of drug makers are competing to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market but one is not expected to be ready before next week.
After a briefing from public health officials on Wednesday, Mr Biden slammed what he called the Trump administration’s disregard for safety and failure to develop a plan to contain COVID-19.
Polls show Americans trust Mr Biden more than Mr Trump to contain the virus.
“The longer he’s in charge the more reckless he gets,” Mr Biden told reporters, before casting his own vote in Wilmington, Delaware.
Mr Trump will hold a rally in Goodyear, outside Phoenix, Arizona’s biggest city, later on Wednesday.
In all, Mr Trump plans to visit 10 states in the last week of the campaign and will host 11 rallies in the final 48 hours.
New battleground state polls show Mr Biden and Mr Trump in a statistical dead heat in Arizona and in Florida, another key battleground state.
More than 75 million people have cast early in-person and mail ballots, according to data compiled by the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.
That is a record-setting pace and more than 53 per cent of the total 2016 turnout.