iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Some members of the president’s Cabinet took the extraordinary step Thursday of issuing public denials to having authored the bombshell New York Times op-ed attributed to an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence's office was among the first to publicly deny any role, with communications director Jarrod Agen taking to Twitter to declare that “the vice president puts his name on his op-eds” and that his entire office is “above such amateur acts.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is traveling in India, also issued a firm denial through chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White, who said plainly: "It was not his op-ed."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also overseas, directly denied that he was the author and blasted the New York Times for publishing what he said was "a disgruntled deceptive bad actor's word," and calling on the author, "if it's accurate" that they are a senior administration official, to take their "singular option — that is, to leave."
“I know someone will say, 'Gosh, he didn’t answer the question. It’s not mine,'” Pompeo said.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also put his name on the record in denying that neither he nor his most senior staffer were behind the essay, calling such speculation “patently false.”
“Speculation that The New York Times op-ed was written by me or my principal deputy is patently false. We did not,” Coats said in a statement. “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.”
The head spokesman at the Department of Treasury also issued a firm denial, calling the prospect laughable that Secretary Steven Mnuchin would have been behind the essay.
A denial from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen came through press secretary Tyler Houlton.
“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. These types of political attacks are beneath the secretary and the department’s mission," Houlton said.
A spokesman for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson denied that he was the author. Spokesman Raffi Williams said in an email: “The secretary didn’t write the op-ed.”
Office of Management and Budget spokesman Coalter Baker also emailed a denial that Director Mick Mulvaney played any role, saying, “Director Mulvaney did not write the op-ed.”
A Department of Justice official also issued a denial on Attorney General Jeff Session’s behalf, saying he did not write the essay.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders expressed outrage at the media for what she called a “wild obsession” to find out the identity of the “anonymous coward,” and also lashed out at The New York Times, calling the publication “complicit in this deceitful act.”
"The media's wild obsession with the identity of the anonymous coward is recklessly tarnishing the reputation of thousands of great Americans who proudly serve our country and work for President Trump. Stop. If you want to know who the gutless loser is, call the opinion desk of the failing NYT," Sanders said, adding, "They are the only ones complicit in this deceitful act. We stand united together and fully support our President Donald J. Trump."
In the essay first published online by The New York Times on Wednesday afternoon, the unnamed official painted a grim picture of a presidency in crisis, with senior members of the president's team actively working to undermine the president when officials believe his desired actions pose a risk to the nation's national security and unconditional governing principles.
“I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the anonymous individual writes, adding, "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. It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t."
Speculation abounds within the administration about who may have authored the brazen op-ed, with the White House launching a fact-finding mission to try and track down the individual now being viewed as a traitor internally. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday calling for the individual to resign. She called for the Times to apologize as well.
"The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States. He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign,” Sanders said in the statement.
President Trump has labeled the op-ed writer "gutless," called for The New York Times to turn the individual over to the government, and raised the question — in a one-word tweet — whether the essay amounted to treason.
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