Some of the highest-ranking officials in the Trump administration are taking the extraordinary step of publicly denying they or their offices authored the infamous anonymous op-ed in The New York Times.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis issued public denials, an indication of the nerve the op-ed has struck within the Trump administration and the need by President Donald Trump’s top people to quell suspicions that they are behind it.
The op-ed is written by a “senior Trump administration official” who says they are part of an internal “resistance” working to thwart parts of Trump’s agenda and block his worst impulses.
“The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The (New York Times) should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts,” Pence’s deputy chief of staff and communications director Jarrod Agen tweeted Thursday.
Speculation arose online that it could be someone in Pence’s office — or Pence himself — given the op-ed’s inclusion of the word “lodestar” and several speeches Pence gave using the unusual term. In the op-ed, the official also claimed there were “early whispers within” Trump’s Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would require a majority of Cabinet officials to declare to Congress they believe the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and thus leave the vice president in charge.
Taking questions from reporters in India, Pompeo said the op-ed is “not mine.” He also suggested that the author should quit their job instead of staying to “undermine what President Trump and this administration are trying to do.”
Coats, a former Republican senator, clashed with Trump over the threat from Russia and Trump’s news conference with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, over the summer.
Coats said in a statement that speculation either he or his principal deputy Sue Gordon wrote the op-ed is “patently false.”
“From the beginning of our tenure, we have insisted that the entire (intelligence community) remain focused on our mission to provide the President and policymakers with the best intelligence possible,” Coats said.
The op-ed coincided with details being reported from legendary reporter Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” in which Mattis is quoted as saying Trump has the understanding of a “fifth- or sixth-grader.” Mattis personally denied the quotes attributed to him, saying they were “a product of someone’s rich imagination.”
Asked if Mattis wrote the essay, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told CNN, “It was not his op-ed.”
Through her press office, Nielsen also denied writing the Times op-ed.
“Secretary Nielsen is focused on leading the men and women of DHS and protecting the homeland – not writing anonymous and false opinion pieces for the New York Times,” the agency’s press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement. “These types of political attacks are beneath the Secretary and the Department’s mission.”
In a rare move Wednesday, the Times chose to publish the piece anonymously, saying that disclosing the name of the official would jeopardize the official’s job and it is the only way to deliver an important perspective to its readers.
The essay prompted a hunt in the White House, with the President intent on knowing who wrote the words he suggested could be treasonous, one administration official told CNN.
Aides are following leads based on the way the op-ed is written, looking at key words used in the editorial that stand out, according to a source close to the White House.