WASHINGTON • The New York Times has set off an international guessing game by publishing an explosive opinion column - written by someone described only as a "senior official" in the Trump administration - that said top government officials are actively working to "frustrate" President Donald Trump's agenda and "worst inclinations".
"We believe our first duty is to this country, and the President continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic," wrote the unnamed author.
"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."
The column on Wednesday drew immediate and extraordinary attention from the news media and a public rebuke from the President, who posted a message on Twitter that said simply: "TREASON?"
In another tweet, he said that the Times published "an anonymous editorial - can you believe it? - anonymous, meaning gutless.
"If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"
A statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the column "just another example of the liberal media's concerted effort to discredit the President".
Notably, neither Mr Trump nor Mrs Sanders denied that the essay was written by someone in his administration.
NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED ARTICLE
From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander-in-chief's comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.
THE AUTHOR, described only as a "senior official" in the Trump administration.
U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, who posted this message on Twitter.
It marked the second consecutive day in which Mr Trump was on the defensive over a critical piece of writing. He spent part of Tuesday and early Wednesday on Twitter trashing a new book by author Bob Woodward, excerpts of which made claims similar to those made by the anonymous Times op-ed writer.
The Times column - headlined "I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration" - was unusual both because of its insider perspective and because the newspaper published it anonymously.
The article said, among other things, that there were "early whispers" among Cabinet officials of invoking the 25th Amendment, a complex, never-before-used process for removing the president because he is deemed impaired and unable to fulfil his duties.
The notion was rejected, wrote the author, because "no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until - one way or another - it's over".
The author claimed: "From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander-in-chief's comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims."
Newspapers, and the Times in particular, rarely allow people to write opinion pieces without attaching their names.
The primary issue is transparency; readers are entitled to know who is opining, so that they can more fully judge the author's motives, intentions and possible vested interests.
In an unsigned note attached to the column, the Times said it took "the rare step" of publishing the essay at the author's request.
It said his or her identity is known to the editors, but that the writer's job would be jeopardised by its disclosure.
The note added: "We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers."
The anonymous column immediately raised memories of "Deep Throat", the high-ranking government source who helped Mr Woodward in his reporting on President Richard Nixon's Watergate crimes in 1972 and 1973.
Speculation about Deep Throat's identity persisted for decades until Deep Throat himself - former FBI official Mark Felt - unmasked himself in an article in Vanity Fair in 2005.
WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES
SEE OPINION: 'Resistance' to the US President is not a crisis