As was no doubt their intent, the mainstream media has succeeded in overshadowing the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing with a flurry of stories about a mutiny allegedly brewing inside the West Wing that has set more than a few tongues wagging about the possibility of Trump's cabinet invoking the 25th amendment (an eventuality that was once reportedly discussed by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon). But while White House officials have already vehemently denied the quotes gathered by Bob Woodward in the strategically leaked (to his own newspaper) excerpts from the Watergate reporter's upcoming book, speculation is shifting to who might be the mystery author of a scathing NYT op-ed reportedly penned by a "senior administration official" that portrays Trump as unfit for office.
Fortunately for Trump, several voices of moderation have come forward to condemn the attacks (amid speculation that the Times' "senior" source may not be so senior after all). But this incipient backlash didn't deter Axios (a media org that, like the Times, is notoriously critical of Trump) from piling on with a story about President Trump's intensifying distrust of those in his inner circle. Trump, Axios claims, is "deeply suspicious of much of the government he oversees" from federal agency grunts all the way up to those privileged few with unfettered access to the Oval Office. The piece even goes so far as to quote yet another anonymous "senior administration official" as saying that "a lot of us are wishing we'd been the writer."
"I find the reaction to the NYT op-ed fascinating - that people seem so shocked that there is a resistance from the inside," one senior official said. "A lot of us [were] wishing we’d been the writer, I suspect ... I hope he [Trump] knows - maybe he does? - that there are dozens and dozens of us."
And in case you couldn't figure out why this is important, allow Axios to elaborate:
Why it matters: Several senior White House officials have described their roles to us as saving America and the world from this president.
A good number of current White House officials have privately admitted to us they consider Trump unstable, and at times dangerously slow.
But the really deep concern and contempt, from our experience, has been at the agencies — and particularly in the foreign policy arena.
In what was perhaps the most bombastic claim included in the piece, Trump reportedly once carried around with him a list of suspected leakers. "The snakes are everywhere but we're getting rid of them," he reportedly told Axios.
For some time last year, Trump even carried with him a handwritten list of people suspected to be leakers undermining his agenda.
"He would basically be like, 'We’ve gotta get rid of them. The snakes are everywhere but we’re getting rid of them,'" said a source close to Trump.
Trump would often ask staff whom they thought could be trusted. He often asks the people who work for him what they think about their colleagues, which can be not only be uncomfortable but confusing to Trump: Rival staffers shoot at each other and Trump is left not knowing who to believe.
And just in case you haven't read enough about Trump's purported obsession with "snakes" - here's some more.
"When he was super frustrated about the leaks, he would rail about the 'snakes' in the White House," said a source who has discussed administration leakers with the president.
"Especially early on, when we would be in Roosevelt Room meetings, he would sit down at the table, and get to talking, then turn around to see who was sitting along the walls behind him."
"One day, after one of those meetings, he said, 'Everything that just happened is going to leak. I don’t know any of those people in the room.' ... He was very paranoid about this."
All of this reinforces the idea that Trump truly believes that there is an organized "deep state" conspiracy to take him down. Of course, what Axios neglects to say, is that he's not wrong.