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.
As Trump flew to Billings, Montana, for a rally where he was likely to rip into the article, more of his top advisers joined the crowd denying any responsibility for its authorship.
The unsigned column drew disavowals from at least 11 advisers to Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Trump seethed about the piece and framed it as a jab from critics in denial about his successes, while Washington was consumed with speculation about who wrote the opinion piece.
First lady Melania Trump said in a statement on Twitter: “To the writer of the oped - you are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”
Published on Wednesday, the column appeared days after the release of excerpts from a book by famed reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Trump as prone to impulsive decision-making. The excerpts said aides sometimes tried to limit what they saw as damaging behavior by disregarding his instructions.
The Times op-ed, and Woodward’s book, which is to be published next week, followed many news articles during Trump’s 19-month presidency that have depicted turbulence inside the White House under his leadership.
The former New York businessman and reality TV star has had an unusually high level of staff turnover and has sometimes publicly criticized his top aides.
The critical spotlight on Trump’s leadership comes two months before elections in which his fellow Republicans will try to hold their majorities in both chambers of Congress. The November vote will be widely seen as a referendum on Trump.
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