'Extraordinary' confession from White House official working against Donald Trump

Trump advised a friend facing allegations from women to never show weakness

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 US president as impetuous, petty and ineffective.

The Times' only clue was calling the author a "senior administration official".

US President Donald Trump is seeking to replace defence secretary Jim Mattis mainly because of the sharp differences between them, a report in The Washington Post has claimed.

The Times defended the choice to grant anonymity to the author because he or she is "a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure". Who has denied it already?

In a Wednesday night tweet, Trump lashed out at the Times over the article's publication, questioning whether the author even existed and citing national security as a reason for the newspaper to disclose the person's name.

The president had not commented beyond a tweet Thursday morning after expressing his outrage at the "gutless editorial" Wednesday but was headed to a campaign rally in Montana later in the day.

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Robert Leonard, a linguist at New York's Hofstra University, who is often retained by defendants and prosecutors in criminal cases involving threats, plagiarism and libel, told the Washington Post: "A problem with public people is that a lot of their published work is edited, so it's like mixing fingerprints or DNA".

First lady Melania Trump issued a statement backing her husband. The former reality TV star has had an unusually high level of staff turnover, and has sometimes been publicly critical of his top aides.

In the end, they decided not to set off a constitutional crisis, and instead "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", the person wrote.

White House aides have reportedly launched their own witch hunt for the senior official, with some resorting to contacting reporters to find out who knows what.

Hotly debated on Twitter was the author's use of the word "lodestar", which pops up frequently in speeches by Vice President Mike Pence.

Marjorie Pritchard, op-ed page editor at the Boston Globe, said her paper "would have handled the situation similarly to the Times".

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McMahon isn't the only one to deny that she wrote the article either.

Trump had condemned the op-ed nearly as soon as it was published, in person and on Twitter.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "feels it was irresponsible for @nytimes to print this". Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's spokesman, Tony Sayegh, said on Twitter it was "laughable to think this could come from the secretary".

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said through a spokesman that he was not the author, either. Implying there could eventually be a digital investigation into who authored the op-ed, one senior administration official said, "I hope they used a typewriter".

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. Media critic Dan Gainor said the national news media is all too willing to believe any source that slings dirt on the president.

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