The real White House 'witch hunt' gets underway

Morning breaks over the White House and the offices of the West Wing (R) in Washington January 20, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Morning breaks over the White House and the offices of the West Wing (R) in Washington January 20, 2015.

Yesterday morning, the apparent topic of conversation inside the White House was Bob Woodward's damning new book on Donald Trump's presidency. CNN reported that Trump had already ordered "a real witch hunt in the West Wing and throughout his administration, asking loyal aides to help determine who cooperated with the book."

The president, the report added, was "privately on a mission" to uncover Woodward's many sources.

That, of course, was before the New York Times published its anonymous op-ed from a senior member of the administration. The Washington Post  reported that Team Trump "launched a frantic hunt for the author."

The column, which published midafternoon Wednesday, sent tremors through the West Wing and launched a frantic guessing game. Startled aides canceled meetings and huddled behind closed doors to strategize a response. Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern the author's identity or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works. [...]Both inside the White House and in Trump's broader orbit, aides and confidants scrambled to identify the anonymous official, windmilling in all directions; within just hours of publication, they privately offered up roughly a dozen different theories and suggested traitors.

A Politico  report added, "One senior administration official described a White House in 'total meltdown' by Wednesday evening."

But as the president and his team come to grips with these extraordinary circumstances, it's worth pausing to note that the unnamed author of that op-ed doesn't appear to be some frustrated lone wolf.

Take a look at the piece again and look specifically for the word "we." "We believe our first duty is to this country." "We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right even when Donald Trump won't." "That is why many Trump appointees have 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."

"We will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another -- it's over."

As Rachel noted on the show last night, "All the focus on who the author might be ignores the fact that this op-ed "purports to be from, effectively, the spokesperson for a group within the White House."

I have no idea whether the op-ed's author will be identified, but even if the "frantic hunt" succeeds, finding his or her compatriots is a different kind of challenge.