The noose around the neck of the anonymous author of the infamous NYT op-ed is growing tighter...or at least that's what the Trump administration wants us to think.
After all the furor over Rand Paul's suggestion that everybody in the West Wing with a security clearance should be made to take a lie-detector test, the White House may not need to go to the trouble, if recent stories in CNN and the New York Times are to be believed (which...we'll get to that later). According to these stories, the hunt to expose the anonymous
author saboteur behind the NYT op-ed detailing the internal "resistance" to President Trump is closing in on a suspect. In just two days, the administration has narrowed down the list of suspects from a list of 18 names to just "a few individuals."
By his own admission, Trump is still "obsessed" with smoking out the author of the op-ed and has mostly ignored pleas from Chief of Staff John Kelly and others to abandon it (Kelly allegedly believes that any more headlines about the op-ed will do little good and only remind the public of its contents). According to CNN, senior administration figures including Kellyanne Conway believe the author handles duties pertaining to national security.
So far, more than 25 senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence (who was one of the earliest suspects) , have publicly denied being the author. Still, suspicions persist that either Pence, or a member of his staff, was the source. During comments to reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, and later during a rally in Montana, Trump has made it clear that he's determined to uncover the source and considers the issue a matter of national security (or possibly an act of treason).
For what it's worth, CNN has said it doesn't know the identity of the report's author.
CNN is not aware of the identity of the individuals White House aides have zeroed in on. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump believes the individual is someone from the national security sector of the government.
The op-ed published Wednesday afternoon, just a day after excerpts from veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," were published. The book passages published in The Washington Post and by CNN showed a White House consumed by chaos and disarray, including stories of aides insulting Trump behind his back and going so far as to steal documents off his desk in order to keep him from signing them.
The anonymous writer of the op-ed said the resistance inside Trump's administration is not the same as the resistance from the political left. The author wrote that the resistance inside the government wants "the administration to succeed ... But 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."
"That is why 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."
While these reports could be genuine, it's interesting that Conway and others had initially suggested that the author's "senior" status might've been an exaggeration, and that the author may instead be a relatively high-ranking staffer from inside one of the federal agencies. If that were the case, the author could be one of potentially hundreds of individuals, Conway had said. This begs the question: Are these leaks merely a preamble for the administration setting up a patsy, perhaps Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who will be made to take the fall for the op-ed as an excuse to clean house during one of the most sensitive periods of the Trump presidency?
Whatever the reason, we imagine the White House will produce the "culprit" in short order.