WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence and other top Trump administration officials came out Thursday to deny being the writer of an anonymous New York Times opinion piece that described an internal “resistance” effort aimed at reining in President Donald Trump.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson were among the president's high-ranking advisers who issued statements denying involvement in writing the explosive piece. The op-ed, published Wednesday, portrays senior level officials working “to insulate” government operations from Trump’s “whims.”
Pence’s spokesman Jarrod Agen, in a Thursday morning tweet, pushed back against rampant social media speculation that the vice president was the source of the piece, which casts Trump as an “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” leader.
Hours after the Times published the anonymous account on Wednesday, several social media users speculated Pence penned the piece because of its use of the word “lodestar,” a word he has used in previous speeches.
“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,” Agen said.
Pompeo, speaking to reporters while in India on government business, said the piece was “not mine,” and went on to condemn the Times for publishing the piece.
“If it's accurate, they should not have chosen to take a disgruntled, deceptive, bad actor's word for anything and put it in their newspaper,” Pompeo told reporters. “I come from a place where if you're not in a position to execute the commander's intent, you have a singular option, that is to leave.”
Director of National Intelligence Coats, who has publicly been at odds with the president in the past over Trump’s friendly posture toward Russian president Vladmir Putin, issued a statement that called speculation he was the author “patently false.”
“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 possible intelligence,” Coats said.
Mnuchin's spokesman Tony Sayegh, in a tweet said: "It is laughable to think this could come from the Secretary."
Carson, Nielsen and Mattis in statements to reporters, also denied being behind the piece.
First lady Melania Trump issued a direct message to the writer: “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions."
“People with no names are writing our nation's history. Words are important, and accusations can lead to severe consequences,” she wrote in a statement released by her spokeswoman. "If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves."
The president, who on Wednesday called the writer “gutless” and questioned if the piece amounted to an act of treason, continued to rail against the article on Thursday.
“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy — & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted.
New York Times op-ed page editor James Dao, in an interview with CNN, said he first came in contact with the senior official who wrote the piece a few days ago, via an intermediary that he has known and trusted. Dao refused to disclose any identifying details about the author such as gender or rank in the administration.
“We have taken a number of special precautions to protect the person's identity,” Dao said.