Washington, DC has been a lot of things. Now it is the scene of a political whodunit.
Bob Woodward got the game going with his new book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which chronicles audacious and embarrassing incidents during the Trump presidency, based on anonymous sources with good memories and a few purloined documents.
As shockwaves from Woodward’s book began to reverberate, The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed from a reputed “senior official” in the Trump administration who described the “resistance from within.”
News media sources, quoting anonymous administration sources, reported that President Trump’s reaction to the book and op-ed was “volcanic.” Trump called Woodward’s book “fiction” and a “joke.” He called the op-ed author a coward.
In was the perfect first act of a whodunit. The rest of the play presumably will center on finding some or all of Woodward’s sources and identifying who wrote the damning op-ed.
Trump demanded the Department of Justice, which seems to be his new “fixer” since his old fixer pleaded guilty to fraud, to conduct an investigation in the name of “national Security.” Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the op-ed as “gutless” and the Woodward book as bad journalism. According to Donald Trump Jr., the White House circle of trust just got a lot smaller.
Talk show hosts grilled talking heads for names or clues. Woodward was asked if he knew who wrote the NYT op-ed. “I don’t have any suspects,” he said. Stephen Colbert did an entire opening monologue speculating on the person Trump is “obsessed” with discovering.
A parade of Trump senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, released statements saying it wasn’t them. Pence even volunteered to take a lie detector test.
Trump supporters floated the idea the Times “concocted” the anonymous op-ed. Steve Bannon said the op-ed had multiple authors and represented a “soft coup.”
Chaos is no stranger to the Trump White House, and Woodward is not a stranger to harsh criticism of his coverage of previous presidents. Woodward isn’t the first – and probably not the last – to paint a picture of dysfunction and indulgence. Though, he might be the first to describe specific incidents in which aides spirited away documents from their boss before he could sign them to avoid even more chaos.
Efforts by the Trump team to downplay or deflect from the back-to-back bombshells may not be successful. As Anderson Cooper noted, “It’s not every day or every month or every year, or certainly every administration for that matter, that someone in the administration publishes a scathing criticism of the president of the United States. It’s not every day that someone in the administration claims that many officials in that administration are working to frustrate parts of the president’s agenda and his worse inclinations.”
It didn’t help that US intelligence sources revealed North Korea is expanding its nuclear weapons capability and that reports surfaced about US officials flirting with involvement in a potential coup to unseat Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Or former Clinton-era special prosecutor Ken Starr’s suggestion in an interview on NPR that Congress has another, cleaner weapon to express displeasure with a President – censure.
And all this on the heels of news that White House counsel Don McGahn gave 30 hours of sworn testimony to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, “sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice,” according to The New York Times.
Even memorials for 9/11 are unlikely to stop the inevitable blame game or interrupt the DC chase for whodunit. The hunt is already afoot.