US Vice-President Mike Pence has dismissed speculation he is the author of a damning anonymous editorial that attacks President Donald Trump.
The New York Times article, said to be written by a White House official, says Mr Trump’s own appointees are trying to stifle his agenda.
Fierce speculation surrounds who was responsible but a spokesman for Mr Pence denied it was him.
Mr Trump described the writer as “gutless” and the newspaper as “phony”.
“The vice president puts his name on his op-eds,” tweeted Jarron Agen, Mr Pence’s communications director and deputy chief of staff.
“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.”
The theory that Mr Pence wrote the article largely stems from the use of the word “lodestar”, a term meaning “star that leads or guides” and one which the vice-president has frequently used.
In the New York Times piece, published on Wednesday, the author refers to the late Republican Senator John McCain as a “lodestar for restoring honour to public life and our national dialogue”.
What’s in the editorial?
The article – entitled I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration – is written by someone the New York Times describes as a senior official in the Trump administration. The paper says the author requested anonymity and that this was essential to deliver an “important perspective” to its reader.
“Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the article says.
“I would know. I am one of them.”
Although the writer says they support the administration’s objectives, they say that its successes have come in spite of the president, who is described as impulsive, erratic and amoral, someone whose “misguided impulses” need to be controlled for the good of the US.
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t,” it says.
How has the White House responded?
Angrily. One of Mr Trump’s tweets simply said “TREASON?”. Another said the “Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do”, pointing to the growing US economy as an achievement.
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
On top of Mr Pence’s comments, another senior White House appointee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also fiercely denied writing the editorial, attacking the writer as a “disgruntled deceptive bad actor”.
“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,” he said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the author was “not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people”.
Why does it matter?
The White House is already on the defensive amid questions over Mr Trump’s suitability for office raised in a book by revered political journalist Bob Woodward.
Fear: Trump in the White House also describes staff deliberately undermining the president, with some hiding sensitive documents from him to prevent him signing them, and other aides calling him an “idiot” and a “liar”. Mr Trump has called the book a “con”.
One of the most explosive passages in the New York Times article says there were “early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment”, which would allow Mr Trump to be forced out of office.
That top officials are reportedly working against the elected US leader has raised some alarm and not just from the White House. In the Atlantic, David Frum, who said he voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, called it “constitutional crisis”.