It wasn’t me: Top US officials deny writing Trump ‘resistance’ article

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Donald Trump has lashed out at the anonymous senior official who wrote a New York Times article claiming to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart the US president’s most dangerous impulses.

Washington was consumed by a guessing game as to the identity of the piece’s author, and swift denials of involvement came from top administration officials including vice president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats, the US director of national intelligence.

On Wednesday night, the US leader tweeted a demand that if “the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called on the “coward” who wrote the piece to “do the right thing and resign”.

Mr Trump has demanded that aides identify the leaker, according to two insiders.

Allies of the president and political insiders have scrambled to unmask the writer. But the article also brought to light questions that have been whispered in Washington for more than a year: Is Mr Trump truly in charge? And could a divided executive branch pose a danger to the country?

Former CIA director John Brennan, a fierce Trump critic, called the article “active insubordination … born out of loyalty to the country”.

He told NBC: “This is not sustainable to have an executive branch where individuals are not following the orders of the chief executive.

“I do think things will get worse before they get better. I don’t know how Donald Trump is going to react to this. A wounded lion is a very dangerous animal, and I think Donald Trump is wounded.”

The anonymous author wrote: “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.

Mike Pompeo
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo denied he was the mystery author (AP)

“We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

Mr Trump raged about the piece in the White House, calling confidants to vent about the disloyalty of the author and fuming that the so-called Deep State within the federal government had conspired against him, according to an insider.

The text of the article has been pulled apart for possible clues over the author’s identity:

– The writer is identified as an “administration official”; does that mean a person who works outside the White House?

– The references to Russia and the late senator John McCain – do they suggest someone working in national security?

– Does the writing style sound like someone who worked at a think tank?

– In a tweet, the Times used the pronoun “he” to refer to the writer; does that rule out all women?

Mike Pence
The US vice president’s office has issued a denial (AP)

For many in Mr Trump’s orbit, it is stunning to realise just how many people could have been the author of the piece. Some of the most senior members of the Trump administration were forced to deny they were the author of the attack on their boss.

The author’s use of the word “lodestar,” which pops up frequently in speeches by Mr Pence, sparked much debate on social media. Could the anonymous figure be someone in Pence’s orbit? Others argued that the word “lodestar” could have been included in order to lay a false trail.

In a rare step, Mr Pence’s communications director Jarrod Agen tweeted: “The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.”

Mr Pompeo, who was in India, denied writing the anonymous opinion piece, saying: “It’s not mine.”

He accused the media of trying to undermine the Trump administration, and said he found that “incredibly disturbing”.

Mr Coats later issued his own denial; and with three prominent administration members delivering on-the-record denials, the focus could now fall on other senior aides to do the same, with questions raised about those who stay silent.

Mr Trump, appearing at an unrelated event Wednesday at the White House, lashed out at the Times for publishing the article

“They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them,” he said of the newspaper.

The op-ed pages of the newspaper are managed separately from its news department.

The anonymous author wrote in the Times that where Mr Trump has had successes, they have come “despite – not because of – the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”.

The writer of the Times article said Mr Trump’s aides are aware of the president’s faults and “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”

The writer also alleged “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” because of the “instability” witnessed in the president.

The 25th Amendment allows the vice president to take over if the commander-in-chief is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.

It requires that the vice president and a majority of the cabinet back relieving the president.

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