Time to get the lawyers involved…
A clearly fuming President Trump has escalated his fight with The New York Times following tonight’s anonymous White-House-insider op-ed.
Trump begins by questioning whether a source actually exists: “Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?”
And then comes over the top by playing the “Nation Security” threat card, demanding they hand over the source: “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
While we are waiting for NYTimes’ response, CNN has put together the Top 12 potential sources of the op-ed based on what we know about the various factions, likes, dislikes, motivations and ambitions within the Trump administration. These are in no particular order.
We know the White House counsel is a short-timer — planning to leave in the fall. We also know that McGahn has clashed with Trump repeatedly in the past — refusing Trump’s order to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. And McGahn has already shown a willingness to look out for the broader public good, sitting down for more than 30 hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to aid their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Director of National Intelligence is very much a part of the long-term Washington establishment, having spent not one but two stints in the nation’s capital as a senator from Indiana. Coats has also shown a tendency to veer from the Trump songbook. Informed of Trump’s plans to invite Russian president Vladimir Putin for a summit in the United States this fall, Coats said “That is going to be special” — a line that drew the ire of the President.
I think it is uniquely possible that someone willing to pen an op-ed this bold and critical of Trump — and in the paper he hate-loves more than any other — might take significant measures to cover their tracks. And Conway is someone who has survived for a very long time in the political game. And not by being dumb or not understanding which way the wind blows. Plus, there is the X-factor of her husband — George — whose Twitter feed regularly trolls Trump.
The chief of staff has clashed repeatedly with the President and seems to be on borrowed time. Kelly sees his time in the job as serving his country in the only way left to him. Might he view exposing Trump in this way as a last way to be of service?
Sessions sticks out as a possibility for a simple reason: He’s got motive. No one has been more publicly maligned by Trump than his attorney general. Trump has repeatedly urged Sessions to use the Justice Department for his own pet political concerns. And this week, Sessions found out that Trump has referred to him as “mentally retarded” and mocked his southern accent, according to a new book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Sessions is also someone who spent two decades in the Senate prior to being named attorney general by Trump after the 2016 election.
The defense secretary has been Trump’s favorite Cabinet member. But the quotes attributed to Mattis in Woodward’s book are VERY rough on Trump, though Mattis quickly denied that he ever said them. And if anyone has less to lose than Mattis — he is a decorated military man serving his country again — it’s hard to figure out who that would be. Plus, Mattis is an ally of John Kelly (see above) and Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state that Trump ran out on a rail.
Hill, a Russian expert who joined the Trump administration from the Brookings Institute, a DC think tank, might have reason to so publicly clash with Trump. She is far more skeptical about Russia’s motives than Trump — and was notably left out when Trump and Putin huddled on the sides of the G20 meeting in Germany in 2017. She was a close adviser to national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who was removed from the White House. And, she was also reportedly mistaken for a clerk by Trump in one of her earliest meetings with him on Russia.
The vice president is all smiles, nods and quiet, deferential loyalty in public. Which of course means that he has the perfect cover to write something like this in The New York Times. Pence is also ambitious — and there’s no question he wants to be president. But would taking such a risk as writing this scathing op-ed be a better path to the White House than just waiting Trump out?
The United Nations ambassador is, like Pence, one of Trump’s favorites. She is also, however, someone deeply engaged on the world stage and a voice of concern when it comes to how the President views Russia and Putin. Haley, again like Pence, is ambitious and has her eye on national office. Would this service that goal?
The combination of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump — Javanka! — writing this op-ed would be right out of a soap opera. But that is sort of a perfect way to describe the Trump administration, right? Ivanka Trump said she would work to make her voice heard to her father, but there’s little evidence he’s listened much to her or her husband. Might this be a bit of revenge?
To be clear, I don’t think the first lady did this. But her willingness to send messages when she is unhappy with her husband or his administration is unmistakable. (“I really don’t care. Do U?”) And, if you believe this administration and Trump are governed by reality shows rules, then Melania writing the op-ed is the most reality TV thing EVER.