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

Members of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Graham knocks South Korea over summit with North Shrapnel in Yemen strikes links US-made bombs to 63 civilian deaths: report 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 CoatsDem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal 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 MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Mattis dismisses reports of his exit: 'I love it here' Publisher says Woodward book sales largest in its history MORE did not write the op-ed.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenInvestigation into FEMA head referred to prosecutors: report Gowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil 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 Terner MnuchinTrump announces tariffs on 0B in Chinese goods Trump: China tariff announcement to come Monday afternoon Trump could hit China with tariffs of 0 billion as soon as Monday 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 AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaFederal mine safety official accused Trump of illegally putting miners in danger Here are the administration officials who have denied they wrote the anonymous NYT op-ed Trump Cabinet officials rush to distance themselves from anonymous op-ed MORE, Secretary of Energy Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team MORE, Veterans' Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly The Hill's 12:30 Report — East coast braces for Florence | Trump, Pence mark 9/11 anniversary MORE and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Conway: Kavanaugh accuser 'should not be ignored’ George Conway rips Trump over tweet about Obama's '57 states' gaffe 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.