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Fallout Continues Over Anonymous White House 'New York Times' Op-Ed


Top officials in the Trump administration are scrambling today to deny they were behind that bombshell op-ed published yesterday in The New York Times. That column, which the Times said was written by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, described an environment in which officials were actively working to protect the country from the president's worst impulses. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now from the White House. Hi, Mara.


SHAPIRO: Who's denying what? It's a long list.

LIASSON: Well, that is the headline today from the White House. It wasn't me. Everyone is coming out and saying that. We've got denials from the vice president's office, secretary of state, director of National Intelligence, Ben Carson, Jim Mattis, Steve Mnuchin, Rick Perry, Nikki Haley, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Sessions.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

LIASSON: It's almost comical.

SHAPIRO: You're going to read the whole list, huh?

LIASSON: Kind of like those fawning dear-leader style Cabinet meetings. Also, Sarah Sanders is - the White House press secretary - is continuing to push back against this op-ed. She posted to President Trump's supporters that they should call the failing New York Times. And she published The New York Times' phone number.

SHAPIRO: Her words - failing New York Times.

LIASSON: Her words - failing New York Times.

SHAPIRO: What's the mood at the White House beyond the parade of letters going in to President Trump?

LIASSON: Well, first of all, the White House was determined to make the point that even though the op-ed writer says there are many people like him or her inside the administration, that view is not widespread at the White House. Here is Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, talking to Morning Edition.


RAJ SHAH: You have an op-ed signed by one anonymous senior administration official making a series of allegations or claims that are really just his own opinion or his or her own opinion.

LIASSON: Another White House official told me this person could've already been the anonymous source for a dozen articles about the White House in The New York Times. So this is not completely new. In general, I would say, today the White House is - seems tense and unhappy, but that's not that different from the way it often is around here.

White House aides are taking pains to say they are not in a meltdown. That was the way The Washington Post described it. And another White House aide said that in one way, the op-ed boomeranged. In other words, he said you can't call the president paranoid anymore. You've heard that phrase, even paranoids have enemies. Well, it now seems to prove Trump's feeling that Washington is out to get him.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. In the last day since this op-ed was published, there has been a lot of criticism from both Trump supporters and critics. Can you explain that?

LIASSON: Yes. Anti-Trumpers feel that the op-ed is just going to exacerbate all the behavior that the writer said he or she was trying to protect the country against. It'll just make Trump more paranoid, more isolated, less trusting. They're saying, why not go public? Why not resign? Why not talk to Congress? In other words, use constitutional channels. Don't just publicize the fact that you, an unelected official, are trying to thwart the president. The other thing that this op-ed piece has done is just reinforce everything we already knew. The White House is a dysfunctional, chaotic place where many administration officials think their boss is unfit for office.

SHAPIRO: Is this going to make any difference? Will anything change?

LIASSON: Well, one thing that's going to happen is there's going to be this hunt for deep state throat. And eventually - I think what happens next is the identity of this person who wrote this op-ed piece will be revealed because unlike a reporter's source, this person's identity is only protected by the op-ed page editor of the Times. And every reporter in Washington, including New York Times reporters, are now motivated to find out who this person is.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson - thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.