Senior aides to Donald Trump scrambled on Thursday to disown a New York Times column written by an unnamed administration official that slammed the leadership style of the USA president as impetuous, petty and ineffective.
The names on that list include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She then encouraged those who are curious to "call the opinion desk of the failing NYT", and then proceeded to give out the phone number for the publication.
The piece, in which the unnamed official described an internal "resistance" being waged against President Trump, has become a test of newsroom policies governing anonymous sources.
The writer describes the president as "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective".
The Times defended the editorial in a statement, saying: "We are incredibly proud to have published this piece, which adds significant value to the public's understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration".
The mystery writer has sparked wild speculation, similar to the frenzy to learn the identity of Woodward and Carl Bernstein's mysterious Watergate source, Deep Throat, who was later to be revealed to be Federal Bureau of Investigation associate director Mark Felt.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a trip to India, told reporters "it's not mine", and denounced the Times for publishing the anonymous article that indicates Trump may be facing the prospect of revolt within his own administration.
In an extraordinary move, Trump tweeted Wednesday that if "the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"
The demand came shortly after Trump published a one-word message on Twitter: "TREASON?" He called it "gutless" and launched into an extended criticism of the newspaper.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that whoever wrote the article is "living in dishonesty" and shouldn't work for Trump. The person was identified only as a "senior administration official", although a tweet about the story used the pronoun "he". That measure defines methods to legally remove a president from office. "I don't know and neither do you, but it doesn't seem likely".
"But let's also understand how much harm is being done right now: We have a global trade war".
Marjorie Pritchard, op-ed page editor at the Boston Globe, said her paper "would have handled the situation similarly to the Times". "All I thought when I first saw it is it actually has the effect of helping the president". "He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people".
His press secretary said the mystery writer was a "coward" who should quit.
U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed a new attack Wednesday on a book depicting his presidency and White House as chaotic and dysfunctional, suggesting libel laws ought to be changed to protect against what he sees as false reports.
Some of what was written in the Times column, in fact, echoes material from Woodward's book.
White House officials didn't immediately respond to a request to elaborate on Trump's call for the writer to be turned over to the government.