One of the most pointed and poignant attacks on the Trump presidency so far has been revealed this week thanks to an anonymous New York Times op-ed piece.
In the article, a supposed “senior” White House official spilled the alleged beans about a plan to disrupt the agenda of the elected President, and undermine the work of the Commander in Chief. This still unknown rabble rouser has been espoused as “cowardly” by First Lady Melania Trump, and called “gutless” by the President himself.
Meanwhile, a frantic search continues inside the West Wing, where the President’s staff is sure to be combed over, again and again, in search of the saboteur.
Slate, however, has a fairly cogent guess already.
Who wrote the anonymous op-ed against President Trump in Wednesday’s New York Times? All we know for certain is what the Times disclosed: that it’s a “senior official in the Trump administration.” But the most likely author, based on the op-ed’s content and style, is the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman is an obvious suspect for several reasons. The article’s themes are classic Huntsman: effusive about conservative policies, blunt about low character. In 2016, he made the same points for and against Trump. The topic that gets the most space and detail in the piece is Huntsman’s current area, Russia. (As Slate’s Fred Kaplan points out, Trump has been circumventing and undermining Huntsman.) The prose, as in Huntsman’s speeches and interviews, is flamboyantly erudite. The tone, like Huntsman’s, is pious. And the article’s stated motive—“Americans should know that there are adults in the room”—matches a letter that Huntsman wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune in July. In the letter, Huntsman, responding to a columnist who thought the ambassador should resign rather than keep working for Trump, explained that public servants such as himself were dutifully attending to the nation’s business.
But what about the statement of denial being credited to Huntsman?
Like other suspects, Huntsman has issued a statement to deflect accusations that he wrote the Times op-ed. But the statement—actually just a tweet—doesn’t come from Huntsman. It comes from the spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The full text reads, “Amb Huntsman: Come to find, when you’re serving as the U.S. envoy in Moscow, you’re an easy target on all sides. Anything sent out by me would have carried my name. An early political lesson I learned: never send an anonymous op-ed.”
This argument is as good as any, but will the President’s faithful staff be able to root out the rat before it’s too late?