Published 12:59 p.m. UTC Sep 6, 2018
WASHINGTON — It's a true whodunit case and it seems like the entire nation is hot on the trail.
Social media has awoken and is after the identity of the "senior official in the Trump administration" who authored a scathing and anonymous rebuke of the president in The New York Times.
Online sleuths are pointing to phrases and particular words in the essay, hoping to narrow down who the author could be, while some former Trump officials are offering clues.
"All of official Washington has become a giant game of Clue: 'Colonel Mustard, in the Cabinet Room ...'" wrote Eamon Javers, a reporter for CNBC.
Indeed, social media was filled with people across the nation casting names into the deep-dark web, hoping one could be a winner.
The New York Times, 25th Amendment and Anonymous were the top trends on Twitter because of the unprecedented essay. Names such as James Mattis, secretary of defense, John Kelly, chief of staff, and Jeff Sessions, attorney general, were cast out as possibilities but of course — no one has claimed the words as their own.
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The piece described President Donald Trump as erratic and amoral and said his aides were actively working to thwart him on decisions that are detrimental to the nation. The person claimed they were part of a "quiet resistance" to the president to "frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."
"It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t," the unnamed official wrote.
Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the former reality star who served as a top White House aide, claimed she knew who authored the piece and offered tiny clues to her followers on social media. She offered no proof to her clues.
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At first, Manigault-Newman pointed to her book, which she is currently on a quest to sell copies of, and included an excerpt that seemed to point that it could have been authored by a member of Trump's family.
"Rest assured that there is an army of people who oppose him and his policies," she writes in her book, "Unhinged: An insider's account of the Trump White House."
"They are working silently and tirelessly to make sure he does not cause harm to the republic. Many in this silent army are in his part, his administration, and even in his own family."
Later, she posted a poll on Twitter with four names on it. "The Author of the @nytimes OP-Ed about Trump? Hint: Chose the one who is looking to exit the WH soon," she wrote.
The names John DeStefano, an assistant to the president, Bill Stepien, White House political director, Nick Ayers, chief of staff to vice president Mike Pence, and Andrew Bremberg, another assistant to the president, were listed.
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Ayers was winning the poll after getting 37 percent of votes.
Ayers was likely the primary suspect just because of his ties to Pence. Social media was quick to pick up on the word "lodestar," which means an inspiration, model or guide.
The word is used once in the piece and sleuths found that Pence had used it multiple times over the years in speeches and in general remarks.
It all seems to have started with @danbl00m, a Twitter user who lists he lives in Washington. He wrote that the word stuck out to him and noticed it was included in a graph talking about the late Sen. John McCain.
"'Lodestar just seems like an unusual word to use in general, not to mention in an op-ed that's going to be widely read," he wrote. "It has this whiff of sanctimony. So I search for John Kelly and James Mattis ever having used the word 'lodestar'. Nothing."
Then he searched Pence and found a treasure trove of speeches of him using the word.
Of course, there have been pieces detailing White House officials changing their verbiage and grammar to disguise their comments when giving quotes to the media. Sometimes, officials even use words of their colleagues to make it sound like someone else, thus putting the blame on a coworker.
A story in Axios went into detail about the practice of leaking in the White House.
But that didn't stop people like David Mack, a deputy director for breaking news at Buzzfeed, from compiling a nice montage of all the times Pence has used the word.
Some, including the president, have pondered whether the unnamed official even exists.
Trump, in a tweet Wednesday evening, questioned whether the official was just another "phony source" by the "Failing New York Times."
"If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" the president posted.
It looks like for now, social media users — and the president — will be stuck with pondering who the unnamed Trump official could be and why he or she decided to publicize their views now.