US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has denied writing an anonymous New York Times opinion piece which claimed an internal “resistance” is working to thwart some of President Donald Trump’s efforts.
Mr Pompeo said of the article: “It’s not mine.”
Speaking after a meeting in New Delhi with Indian officials, Mr Pompeo added that “it shouldn’t surprise anyone” that the New York Times chose to print “such a piece”.
He said that if the piece actually was written by a top US official, “they should not well have chosen to take a disgruntled, deceptive, bad actor’s word for anything”.
Mr Pompeo has accused the media of trying to undermine the Trump administration, and says he finds it “incredibly disturbing”.
The New York Times said publishing the essay anonymously is “the only way to deliver an important perspective” to its readers.
The piece, written by an anonymous senior administration official claiming to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart Mr Trump’s “worst inclinations”, has set off a guessing game over the author’s identity.
Mr Trump tweeted that if “the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called on the “coward” who wrote the piece to “do the right thing and resign”.
Two insiders have said that Mr Trump has demanded that presidential aides should identify the leaker.
The author of the article wrote: “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.
“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.”
The text of the article was pulled apart for clues:
– The writer is identified as an “administration official”; does that mean a person who works outside the White House?
– It contains references to Russia and the late Senator John McCain — do they suggest someone working in national security?
– Does the writing style sound like someone who worked at a think tank?
– In a tweet, the Times used the pronoun “he” to refer to the writer; does that rule out all women?
The newspaper later said the tweet referring to “he” had been “drafted by someone who is not aware of the author’s identity, including the gender, so the use of ‘he’ was an error”.
Hotly debated on Twitter was the author’s use of the word “lodestar”, which pops up frequently in speeches by US vice president Mike Pence. Others argued that the word “lodestar” could have been included deliberately to lay a false trail.
Mr Trump, appearing at an unrelated event at the White House, lashed out at the Times for publishing the article.
He said of the newspaper: “They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them.”
The op-ed pages of the newspaper are managed separately from its news department.
In a blistering statement, Ms Sanders accused the author of choosing to “deceive” the president by remaining in the administration and putting himself or herself “ahead of the will of the American people. The coward should do the right thing and resign”.
The White House press secretary also called on the Times to “issue an apology” for publishing the piece, calling it a “pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed”.