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On one key point, however, Ms. Haley is correct: If Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Kelly believed that Mr. Trump posed a serious threat to the national interest, they should have refused to continue enabling him, resigned and gone public with their concerns.

The same could be said of the other self-styled “adults in the room” who have told themselves that they serve the public by moderating Mr. Trump’s worst impulses.

It’s not as though Ms. Haley is the first person to tell of Trump aides working to contain their boss. In 2017, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Tillerson to help drop a criminal investigation of a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Mr. Tillerson refused to interfere with a criminal probe and immediately conveyed his concerns to Mr. Kelly, according to multiple news reports.

Apparently this was not a first for Mr. Tillerson. “So often,” he said at a public appearance in December, “the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it.’ And I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.’”

In his 2018 book “Fear,” Bob Woodward detailed how Gary Cohn, then the president’s top economic adviser, removed a letter from Mr. Trump’s desk to prevent the president from pulling the United States out of a trade agreement with South Korea. Mr. Cohn later plotted a similar theft to prevent Mr. Trump from withdrawing from Nafta.


Mr. Woodward also wrote of an episode from April 2017 in which Mr. Trump called Jim Mattis, then the secretary of defense, and ordered the assassination of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, in retaliation for Mr. Assad’s chemical attack on his own people. Mr. Mattis ignored the president’s order and had the Pentagon draw up options for airstrikes — which is what Mr. Trump eventually went with.

Mr. Woodward termed such efforts “an administrative coup d’état.”

Then there’s Anonymous, the White House insider who wrote an Op-Ed for The Times in September 2018, followed by a book to be released later this month, positioning the author as part of a noble “resistance” within the administration. These officials supported many of the president’s policies, Anonymous wrote in the op-ed:

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

This kind of thinking may help the Tillersons and Kellys sleep better at night. But it is a weak excuse for propping up a president who continues to erode democratic norms and the rule of law.

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