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Trump Cabinet officials rush to distance themselves from anonymous op-ed

Members of President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE's Cabinet rushed on Thursday to deny they were the "senior administration official" behind a New York Times op-ed bashing the president and describing widespread internal efforts to blunt his decisions.

More than a half-dozen high-ranking officials issued statements before noon distancing themselves from the op-ed, titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." By mid-afternoon, the list had grown to roughly 20 administration officials.

The author remained anonymous, prompting furious speculation over who penned the piece and forcing officials otherwise out of the spotlight to issue public denials.

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"The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed," said Jarrod Agen, communications director for Vice President Pence.

"Our office is above such amateur acts," he added.

Internet sleuths zeroed in on the use of the word "lodestar" in the op-ed, highlighting multiple instances over the past few years in which the vice president has used the uncommon descriptor in his speeches.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPompeo on CIA recruitment: We can't risk national security to appease 'liberal, woke agenda' DNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates Dozens of scientists call for deeper investigation into origins of COVID-19, including the lab theory MORE issued a similarly sharp denial to reporters during a trip to India, blasting the Times for publishing the words of a "disgruntled, deceptive bad actor."

"It shouldn’t surprise anyone that The New York Times, a liberal newspaper that has attacked this administration relentlessly, chose to print such a piece," he said.

"And I’ll answer your other question directly, because I know someone will say, gosh, he didn’t answer the question," Pompeo added. "It’s not mine."

Pompeo suggested the individual behind the piece should leave their job if they're unwilling to follow through on Trump's agenda and accused the Times of taking part in an effort to "undermine" the administration.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about whether officials were encouraged to issue denials, or whether staffers were actively looking to determine the author's identity, but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement ripping the media for its "wild obsession" with the identity of the author.

The search, she said, is "recklessly tarnishing the reputation of thousands of great Americans who proudly serve our country and work for President Trump." Sanders urged reporters to contact the Times's opinion desk instead of the White House, adding the Times's phone number to a tweeted statement.

In the face of rampant speculation, a steady stream of denials came forth throughout Thursday morning into the afternoon.

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsExperts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows MORE, who has had public differences with Trump over the severity of foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, quashed speculation that he was behind the piece.

“From the beginning of our tenure, we have insisted that the entire [intelligence community] remain focused on our mission to provide the President and policymakers with the best intelligence possible," Coats said in a statement.

Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson told The Hill that Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE did not write the op-ed.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE, who has reportedly endured harsh criticism from Trump during Cabinet meetings, also distanced herself from the op-ed through a spokesman.

"Secretary Nielsen is focused on leading the men & women of DHS and protecting the homeland — not writing anonymous & false opinion pieces for the New York Times," Tyler Houlton, press secretary for the the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. "These types of political attacks are beneath the Secretary & the Department's mission."

A spokesman for Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE called it "laughable" that Mnuchin would write the op-ed.

"He feels it was irresponsible for @nytimes to print this anonymous piece. Now, dignified public servants are forced to deny being the source," Tony Sayegh Jr. tweeted.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice referred The Hill to Sanders's statement on Thursday.

Secretary of Labor Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaOn The Money: Trump slams relief bill, calls on Congress to increase stimulus money | Biden faces new critical deadlines after relief package | Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority MORE, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryRick PerryTomorrow's special election in Texas is the Democrats' best House hope in 2021 Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute MORE, Veterans' Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpJill Biden a key figure in push to pitch White House plans Petition calls for Jill Biden to undo Trump-era changes to White House Rose Garden Fox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie MORE and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayPence urges 'positive' agenda to counter Biden in first speech since leaving office Kellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign Mark Zuckerberg, meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau? MORE were among those who denied they were behind the op-ed as the day progressed.

The op-ed provides few hints as to the author's identity, and a Times opinion editor has said a "very small number of people" know the writer's identity. The Times's decision to grant the individual anonymity is uncommon and suggests they are a high-ranking official.

The author wrote that they are part of a "steady state" of administration officials who "thwart" Trump's worst inclinations. The op-ed was fiercely critical of the president, calling out his "amorality" and labeling his impulses "anti-democratic."

“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” he wrote.

The author praised the “unsung heroes” inside the administration, explaining that the group has “gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing.”

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author wrote. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

--Updated at 2:06 p.m.