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September 07, 2018 08:20 AM UTC

Who Did It?

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE (FRIDAY): Officials at the White House are reportedly looking at 12 potential authors of the Op-Ed.

The anonymous Op-Ed published by the New York Times on Wednesday afternoon — you know, the one that absolutely demolishes President Trump — has people buzzing about the identity of the author (“who wrote the op ed” is a top suggested search on Google). We know the person responsible is a “senior official in the Trump administration,” as described by the Times…and that’s about all we know.

The list of suspects is immense and hard to narrow down, so we took to the Internet tubes to find the names being mentioned most often. Our sources include Chris Cillizza of CNNTaylor Telford of the Washington Post; Andrew Prokop at; and even the betting site OddsShark (which listed Vice President Mike Pence — who purportedly likes the word “lodestar” — as the early favorite on Wednesday).

Here is that list, which is by no means exhaustive:

  1. Don McGahn, White House counsel
  2. Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
  3. Kellyanne Conway, White House adviser/counselor
  4. John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff
  5. Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security
  6. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
  7. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
  8. Fiona Hill, White House Russia expert
  9. Mike Pence, Vice President
  10. Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations
  11. Jared Kushner, “first son-in-law”
  12. Ivanka Trump, “first daughter”
  13. Melania Trump, First Lady
  14. Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
  15. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary
  16. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
  17. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
  18. Stephen Miller, Senior White House adviser
  19. Gina Haspel, CIA Director
  20. Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary

Many of these “suspects” have already publicly denied writing the Op-Ed, but we wouldn’t assume that anyone would cop to being the author already. Among oddsmakers, the names generally getting top billing are Pence, Coats, Mattis, Haley, Kelly, McGahn, Conway, and “Javanka” (Kushner/Ivanka).

So, who did it? You tell us. Cast your vote in our poll after the jump…


Who wrote the already-infamous anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times? Pick from our list or suggest other suspects in the comments section below.


Who Wrote the Anonymous Editorial?


42 thoughts on “Who Did It?

  1. It was someone that works for Pence. Pence authorized it but has maintained plausible deniability. When Trump is gone, Pence takes over. This speeds the process. Pence can't have his fingerprints on it directly, but there is not much down side if one of his lieutenants is id'ed as the author. That person will get canned, but they will have a very soft landing. 

  2. Linguistic evidence points to Pence. Not just a key word used frequently by him and rarely by others (lodestar), but also other stylistic traits unique to Pence.

    Also, probably Pence personally and not a staffer. It tracks his writing patterns from his days in radio prior to being a politician. These include sentence length and use of the passive voice.

    This Op-Ed is like Pence announcing “check” but not yet “check-mate” in a chess game, particularly given its mention of the 25th Amendment which he would lead in the execution of. The saying it while claiming it is off the table is a threat.

    1. "Ayo, lesson here, Bey. You come at the king, you best not miss." Omar Little, The Wire.

      I really do not think that Pence is the author. If this does not take Trump down (and Trump's history tells us it won't), Pence does not want to be in the line of fire. 

    2. Fun guessing game —

      Pence / Pence staffer seems reasonable. Easy enough for someone who has helped Pence craft speeches to access what has been said before and how it was said, edit to replace words with equivalents appropriate for the topic, and keep "hints" in place to deflect attention.

      Only downside on that — I don't know if anyone in the Pence circle is bright enough to do the negotiation for anonymity with the NY Times.

    1. Don McGahn, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    2. Dan Coats, most likely culprit, given mention of former colleague McCain.
    3. Kellyanne Conway, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    4. John Kelly, likely culprit, but perhaps too far removed from the administration.
    5. Kirstjen Nielsen, solid Trump crony, has too much money to make off of their position.
    6. Jeff Sessions, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    7. James Mattis, unlikely culprit, given lack of cursing in the Op-Ed.
    8. Fiona Hill, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    9. Mike Pence, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    10. Nikki Haley, likely culprit, but perhaps too far removed from the administration.
    11. Jared Kushner, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    12. Ivanka Trump, wouldn't risk attacking her lover father cash-cow before putting them out to rest.
    13. Melania Trump, wouldn't risk attacking her lover husband cash-cow before putting them out to rest.
    14. Steve Mnuchin, solid Trump crony, has too much money to make off of their position.
    15. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, would be hilarious, but doubtful given they haven't been indicted yet. 
    16. Mike Pompeo, likely culprit, though doubtful given his short term.
    17. Betsy DeVos, solid Trump crony, has too much money to make off of their position.
    18. Stephen Miller, normally he'd be a suspect, simply for the undermining of American democracy aspect. The Op-Ed suggests otherwise.
    19. Gina Haspel, likely culprit, though doubtful given her short term.
    20. Wilbur Ross, solid Trump crony, has too much money to make off of their position.
      1. George Conway isn't a Trump Administration official, so NYT description leaves him out. He wouldn't have been able to grab papers from Trump's desk, either.

  3. As I posted in another thread, I believe it is a zealot among Pence's staff.  I differ with Early Worm and ohwilleke in that I suspect the zealot is protecting Pence by not consulting or informing his boss (willingness to fall on your sword for your champion is the key attribute of zealotry).

    Trump's usefulness to the GOP is nearing its end, thus the continuation of their quest to fully implement their right-wing agenda necessitates ditching Trump in favor of the Anointed One (in their Holy Roller view).

      1. God is calling him…but Mother is helping it along.  'God-time' may be just a little slow for the couple-in-wating. Seriously, when does God or #WhiteProsperityJesus have time to devote to this crisis at 1600 when they're busy counting their tax windfall?

        Biographer: Pence thinks God ‘calling him’ to be president

        "His decision to accept Donald Trump's offer to be his running mate — it even goes back much further,” D'Antonio claimed. “By the time he had left high school, he had decided that he was going to be president of the United States. … He thought God was calling him to, now, be vice president and function as a president-in-waiting." 

  4. This will only strengthen the support of Trumps base with the notion that the deep state is out to get him. The revelation just turned conspiracy theory into conspiracy fact for the tin foil hatters who presumed all along that unelected officials were plotting to derail the Trump train. 

    Could really legitimize politically a Night of  Long Knives to consolidate a little….Trump may have written it himself. 


    1. The DEEP state………

      This isn't some petty bureaucrat with civil service protection. This is someone Trump himself selected for his inner circle. 

      I do agree with you that his base is stupid enough to believe it if he yells "Deep State."

    2. You may not have noticed, Negev, focused as you are on your "precious", but the Night of Long Knives has been going on for the last year and a half.

      Here's more than a dozen just in the cabinet and inner circle: Michael Flynn, Rex Tillerson, David Shulkin, HR McMaster, John McEntee, Hope Hicks, Omarosa Manigault, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Rob Porter, Dina Powell, Tom Price, Anthony Scaramucci, Sean Spicer, Reince Preibus, Mike Dubke, James Comey, Sally Yates, and more:

      • Steven Goldstein: Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
      • Josh Raffel: Deputy communications director
      • Rick Dearborn: deputy chief of staff
      • George Sifakis: director, Office of Public Liaison
      • Ezra Cohen-Watnick: senior director for intelligence programs, National Security Council
      • Michael Short: senior press assistant
      • Walter Shaub: director, Office of Government Ethics
      • Vivek Murthy: surgeon general
      • Angella Reid: chief usher, White House
      • Katie Walsh: deputy chief of staff
      • Preet Bharara: U.S. attorney, Southern District of New York
      1. Add in the coming departure of Don McGahn as White House counsel — plus 4 of the 5 Deputy WH counsel.

        In other administrations, the WH counsel would have a group of 35-40 attorneys working. In the Clinton impeachment days, there were more, as staff needed to be advised in more detail about how to do their jobs without running afoul of the investigation. Trump Sad!-ministration briefly touched the mid-thirties, but with the departure of Deputy #4 last week, is apparently down to about 25.

          1. I went to look … Washington Post has a database for positions needing Senate Confirmation. Of the 705 positions tracked, 49 have failed, the nominations were returned to the President, or the person has already resigned. Another 154 have not had nominees.

            Apparently, there is a distinct shortage of "the best people."

  5. It's not Pence unless the Times lied.  It said the author was in Trump's administration and could be fired if his\her name were known.

    Pence has an independent constitutional office and can't be fired by Trump, at least not until 2020.

  6. It's someone who wants to be able to claim afterwards they were there to protect the country. And at the same time is a strong believer in the classic Republican view on national security.

    They're also national security focused and don't even mention immigration – either way. So again, someone focused on national security.

    So my guess is Dan Coats.

    1. He's not a coward.  He'd sign it if he wrote it.  And he's smart enough to know it'll make his job (and everyone else's) almost impossible in reining in Trump's worst impulses.  But this whole episode just shows the depths to which the GOP has fallen.

      Even some of Trump’s most public critics said they didn’t understand the value of the op-ed, other than to state publicly what’s been discussed privately among Washington Republicans since Trump was elected nearly two years ago.

      “I’m not a fan of people doing things in an anonymous way. If you’ve got something to say, look the camera in the eye and say it. Talk to people directly. When I read it, to me there was nothing new,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a frequent Trump critic. “Any of us who have dealt with the White House understand the situation that’s there.”

      I think it was an attempt to push Trump over the edge into self-detonating.  But as the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  So if Trump doesn't go completely crackers, he'll just get more of his loose-cannon directives implemented by a terrorized staff.

      1. Illness weakens rather than strengthens. The old saying is wrong.

        Dictators and kings get stronger after a rebellion if they put it down successfully. They eliminate their most ardent critics and get the minor ones on side by handing out generous pardons. Presidents can fire, but they cannot cause their disloyal party members to be executed or even killed in an mysterious traffic accidents (cough, Putin).

        In the past a political exile was possible. Someone ejected from politics by the leader of the party would find it near impossible to even get elected County Property Assessor. Now they just become pundits and sit on corporate boards or do "consulting". The corruption is a doubled edged sword. It makes being in politics so much more lucrative with more to offer, but it also takes away a lot of the tools to threaten political operatives. If anything the letter writer may be rewarded by the Republican oligarchs who dislike Trump.

        Would being fired for trying to prevent fuck ups actually be a threat?

        1. A couple of points:

          Actually, there is some evidence Nietzche was right.  Stressful experiences do toughen you up (I know from personal experience).  

          As for the author of the Op-Ed's future, he might get fired or decide to resign if s/he is outed, but as one pundit in the New York Times put it, they will be assured of a lucrative book deal, besides being hailed as a hero in some quarters.  So deserved or not, they will be fine and could wind up working in a Pence administration in the end.

          1. More research shows Nietzche was wrong.

            "But the bulk of psychological research on the topic shows that, as a rule, if you are stronger after hardship, it is probably despite, not because of the hardship. The school of hard knocks does little more than knock you down, hard. Nietzschian–and country song–wisdom notwithstanding, we are not stronger in the broken places. What doesn't kill us in fact makes us weaker."

            Though the replication crisis in the social and psychological sciences makes me want to lick a salt block anytime any study is reported in the popular press. Especially the Daily Mail, which is well known for misrepresenting studies. After their infamous "one joint can cause schizophrenia and damages memory" article neuroscientist Dorothy Bishop suggested they be given the, "Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation".

              1. Resiliency (growing stronger under stress and bouncing back from traumatic experiences) is a field much under study in education.

                Why do some kids withdraw, some become aggressive jerks, and some become compassionate helpers?

                Mental health pros like HD15s Brenda Krause may have more insight, but to me it looks like the quality of support and role models in a child’s life is critical. If they see people crumble and become passive or escape into addictions under stress, they’ll be likely to imitate that behavior, or identify as a victim, they’ll do that. 

                If they see people reaching out to help one another, that will be their response, too. 

                I think that this  modeling and imitation can extend to the public sphere, too. For years now, the Republican modeling has been subtly shifting to be claiming victim hood against changing demographics, while the Democratic mode has mostly been to adapt to and embrace the changes. 

  7. MAGA…

    Bookies place odds on identity of anonymous author of NY Times op-ed

    Vice President Mike Pence – and “the field” – lead offshore bookmaking picks as the White House mole behind the anonymous bombshell New York Times op-ed blasting President Trump.

    The other 17 named potential moles, listed by MyBookie, are: Education Secretary Betsy Devos (2-to-1), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (4-to-1), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (4-to-1), chief of staff John F. Kelly (4-to-1), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (5-to-1), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (5-to-1), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (6-to-1), Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (6-to-1), Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (7-to-1) Labor Secretary Alex Acosta (7-to-1), HHS Secretary Alex Azar (8-to-1), HUD Secretary Ben Carson (8-to-1), VA Secretary Robert Wilkie (8-to-1), Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (10-to-1), Ivanka Trump (12-to-1) and Jared Kushner (12-to-1).

    1. He has insulted numerous cabinet secretaries over time…..

      He has told Wilbur Ross is too old and beyond his prime for deal making

      His nickname for secretary of education is Ditsy Devos (on that one, I agree with him)

      He once compared Ben Carson to a child molester (albeit while they were still running against one another)

      There are plenty of things Trump has called General Beauregard Sessions 

      He has browbeat Kirstjen Nielsen

      What is the magic number to invoke the 25th Amendment?

      1. What is the magic number to invoke the 25th Amendment?

        The VP and a majority of the Cabinet.  If the president objects, then 2/3rds of both the House and the Senate.  In other words, it ain't gonna happen unless Trump is found yelling incoherently on top of the White House naked and with underwear on his head (ok, give him another few months, and we'll see)

  8. Interesting speculation  by William Saletan with supporting factoids – Jon Huntsman, ambassador to Russia:

    Maybe these resemblances are just coincidental, and somebody else will confess to writing the op-ed. Given the sheer number of people who could have written it—those who work with Trump soon learn to despise him—even the best guess is likely to be wrong. But the central mystery of the piece—why anyone would speak so loudly about serving in a “quiet resistance”—is a big clue. This is a carefully prepared diary of principle and courage that the author can use in a post-Trump world to gloss his legacy. Exactly the sort of thing Jon Huntsman would write

  9. The entire purpose of writing and releasing this thing was to reassure Republican voters. As things are going, Trump is going to drag the GOP corporate mafia into a historic drubbing. The conservative hitmen hiding in the White House are trying to settle the nerves of Trumplican© Party members who may be considering staying at home come election day….simply from embarrassment, if for no other reason.

    They know the opportunity for presenting President Pence with an invincible Christian, White, Patriarchal Congress and a compliant..nay, supportive..SCOTUS will drown in a Big Blue Wave come November.

    Don't think for a moment they give a fuck about you.

    Take back Congress!!  


  10. The lol beans game contains different rounds. In each round, the players who can't reach the end in time will be eliminated. Each level features a wide range of tricky obstacles that can kick you off, from hammers, balls, to slippy hills. You need to stay focused and move around carefully to avoid obstacles and try not to fall into the void. 

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