In a Washington that seems to thrive on daily political missile attacks, a scathing op-ed piece published by The New York Times Wednesday may well be the mother of all bombs when it comes to Donald Trump’s White House.
The piece, written by an anonymous author, blasts Trump for his “amorality,” and claims that “anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”
According to the piece, he or she, along with others in the White House, has "vowed to thwart parts of [the president's] agenda and his worst inclinations."
It goes on to say Trump “engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”
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Trump, for his part, called the author “gutless,” and told the Times that it should reveal the person’s name for “national security purposes.”
A Times op-ed page editor, Jim Dao, said in an interview with CNN Wednesday, that the author had reached out to the Times through a “go-between” to float the idea of running the op-ed. Dao said he had not spoken to the person directly, and did not say how “senior” in the Trump administration the op-ed’s author is.
A tweet late Wednesday night from Bloomberg senior national political reporter Jennifer Jacobs questioned just how “senior’ the author of the piece is, saying, “Several sources now saying they have doubts the anonymous senior admin official works in the West Wing — more probably works elsewhere, in one of the departments.”
No matter the person’s position in the administration, speculation about who wrote the piece – from media outlets and those on social media – has run the gamut from Vice President Mike Pence to Defense Secretary James Mattis to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.
As of Thursday morning, here is a look at who the media, social media and even odds-makers think maybe the author.
CNN offered a list of 13 suspects that includes the soon to be ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, Conway, the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and even his wife, Melania.
USA Today quoted former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s book "Unhinged: An insider's account of the Trump White House” as also suggesting that the op-ed’s author could be someone in the president’s family.
"Rest assured that there is an army of people who oppose him and his policies," the former reality TV star writes in her book. "They are working silently and tirelessly to make sure he does not cause harm to the republic. Many in this silent army are in his party, his administration, and even in his own family."
On Wednesday, Manigault-Newman tweeted another clue, suggesting it was one of four people in the West Wing: John DeStefano, an assistant to the president, Bill Stepien, White House political director, Nick Ayers, chief of staff to vice president Mike Pence, and Andrew Bremberg, an assistant to the president.
Nick Ayers was leading the poll early Thursday morning.
The conservative Weekly Standard offered a list of four likely authors of the op-ed, all senior White House officials: Larry Kudlow, chairman of the National Economic Council, Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Coats and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The article pointed out that Kudlow had struggled since recently coming to the administration, and that he had used a phrase that appears in the op-ed that includes the words “first principles” in a book he wrote in 1998.
“If we stick with what I call first principles, which is morality and ethics, some spiritual guideline which was present at the creation with the founders . . . then this country is unstoppable,” Kudlow wrote.
The Weekly Standard article also suggests Coats would try to get back at Trump after he spoke dismissively of him and the intelligence community following the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin.
The more liberal Huffington Post pointed to the word “lodestar” as a clue to the author’s identity and suggests the op-ed was written by Vice President Mike Pence.
The author singles out the late Arizona Sen. John McCain as “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.” Pence has been known to use the word which means “a star that leads or guides” or a person who “serves as an inspiration.”
If this Twitter mashup from BuzzFeed is any indication, Pence is particularly fond of the word.
If you are a betting person, oddsmakers are already lining up with their picks for who wrote the op-ed.
“What tipped us off was ‘lodestar,’ MyBookie head oddsmaker David Strauss told the New York Post of his bet that Pence was the one who wrote the piece.
“When you search members of the administration (who have used that word) only one name comes up – and that name is Mike Pence. He’s used in multiple speeches this year,” Strauss told the New York Post.
Pence was listed at 2-to-3 odds on MyBookie.