White House aides have reportedly launched their own witch hunt for an anonymous senior Trump administration official who wrote a scathing New York Times op-ed about President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the anonymous official within the Trump administration upended political norms with the opinion article titled, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." In it, the author criticises Trump's moral compass and claimed that members of the administration were working to "frustrate parts of [Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations."
After the column was published on Wednesday, senior officials reportedly cancelled afternoon meetings to brainstorm ways to identify the whistleblower, and some resorted to contacting reporters to find out who knows what, according to White House officials cited in a Wall Street Journal report.
But the speculation over the author's identity was not limited to the White House — much of Washington was also buzzing with rumours and speculation.
A single mention of the word "lodestar" in the op-ed prompted theories that the senior official in question was Vice President Mike Pence, who used the term in previous speeches.
But other people downplayed the significance, as evidenced by one White House official who previously told Axios that they "usually pay attention to other staffers' idioms" and use their language when talking to reporters on background so the comments can't be traced back to them.
The anonymous "senior" official's title and their experience working "in the Trump administration" allows for a wide range of people to scrutinise.
Anonymous officials who have been quoted in previous news reports have often been identified as "a senior White House official," which narrows the scope to people working specifically for the White House — instead of the broad number of agencies within the Trump administration, such as the Department of Education.
The Times has not revealed who the author is, and refused to disclose any identifiable information, including the person's gender. According to The Times' op-ed page editor Jim Dao, the source contacted him through "an intermediary" several days ago, CNN Money reported on Wednesday.
A "very small number of people within the Times who know this person's identity," Dao reportedly said, adding that the company had spoken with the senior official directly.
Trump lambasted The Times and the op-ed's author, whom he described as someone "who's failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons," during a speech at the White House on Wednesday.
"Now, and The New York Times is failing," Trump said. "If I weren't here, I'd believe The New York Times probably wouldn't even exist. And someday, when I'm not president ... The New York Times and CNN and all of these phony media outlets will be out of business, folks."
"So if the failing New York Times has an anonymous editorial, can you believe it," Trump added. "Anonymous, meaning gutless. A gutless editorial."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Trump's remarks in an official statement, saying voters in 2016 did not choose a "gutless, anonymous source to the failing New York Times."
"We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the paper chose to publish this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed," Sanders said.
Receive a single WhatsApp every morning with all our latest news: click here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa: