In Washington and beyond, a compelling game of White House Cluedo has begun. Whodunnit?
Who wrote the scathing article in the New York Times, which, depending on your point of view, is either treasonous or a brave piece of whistleblowing.
Who is Mr Trump’s Colonel Mustard, wielding a mighty pen – or, more likely, plotting on a keyboard?
Ever since the op-ed dropped on to the Times’ website, there’s been fevered speculation over the identity of the author.
The newspaper took the unusual step of granting the senior White House official anonymity because naming him or her would result in their immediate dismissal for disloyalty.
Only the Times’ editorial board knows the true identity, but thousands of amateur sleuths are piecing together clues to come up with a suspect.
These are some of the names being put forward.
MIKE PENCE – VICE-PRESIDENT
Who stands to gain the most if Mr Trump was to have his presidency curtailed? The man who would take his place of course.
But there’s another reason why Mike Pence’s name is on the list. One word leaps out from the text as a word which is seldom used in everyday conversation: lodestar.
As in this line: “A lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.”
Lodestar is a word which Mr Pence regularly deploys in both scripted speeches and off-the-cuff interviews.
CNN mashed together five clips of him using the word to prove the point.
Not surprisingly, the vice-president’s office has denied he was the author, and it would he a huge political gamble for the VP to wield the knife, risking the fury of Mr Trump’s base.
Mr Pence needs to keep loyal Trump supporters on his side if he ever wants to run for the office himself. Treachery is not a big vote winner in Trump country.
Colonel Mustard rating ++
MIKE POMPEO – SECRETARY OF STATE
The former head of the CIA who is now America’s chief diplomat is the first senior official to publicly deny being the author.
Asked about the article during a visit to India, he replied: “I come from a place where if you’re not in a position to execute the commander’s intent, you have a singular option, that is to leave.”
The anonymous author reserves his most detailed criticisms for Trump’s foreign policy, accusing him of preferring autocrats and dictators to traditional allies.
That has led some to conclude that the author works in national security or foreign policy.
Mr Pompeo is a former senator, and many of those speculating on who wrote the article say it reads like political speech.
But like Mr Pence, Mr Pompeo may harbour electoral ambitions to hold higher office and would consider stabbing his boss in the back to be a risky gamble.
Colonel Mustard rating +
DAN COATS – DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Of all the informed guesses – and that’s all they are, guesses – this may be the most plausible.
Dan Coats is the man who was on a stage being interviewed when news came through that Mr Trump had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House.
His stunned look, laughter and comment – “That is going to be special” – went viral.
He would have been angry that Mr Trump was dismissive of the intelligence pointing at Russian interference in the US election.
Mr Coats is another former senator and, crucially, a friend of John McCain, whose example is lauded in the article. And at 75, he no longer has to worry about his political future.
But he too has issued a terse denial, describing the suggestion that it was written by either him or his principal deputy as “patently false”.
Colonel Mustard rating ++++
NIKKI HALEY – AMERICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UN
Nikki Haley, who spends more time engaging with foreign diplomats than anyone else on Mr Trump’s senior team, has clashed with her boss over Russian sanctions.
She has been more enthusiastic about punishing Mr Putin, and the article specifically raises Mr Trump’s tepid response to the Salisbury poisoning.
But she’s not a Washington insider. She is based in New York and outside the loop of the daily White House chaos portrayed in the article.
Colonel Mustard rating +
JEFF SESSIONS – ATTORNEY GENERAL
Mr Sessions doesn’t fit the profile of an official engaged in international relations, but he does have motive.
He has been repeatedly insulted and criticised by Mr Trump in public, in private and on Twitter, after recusing himself from the Russia collusion investigation.
Last weekend, Mr Trump tweeted comments which suggested he would prefer it if Mr Sessions’s justice department acted on behalf of the Republican Party rather than an independent body upholding the law.
Colonel Mustard rating ++
Of course it may be none of these people, and the official could be someone with a lower public profile, unknown outside Washington political circles. But it’s unlikely that the New York Times would have granted anonymity to a junior official.
It took four decades to uncover the identity of the Deep Throat insider who helped the Washington Post uncover the Watergate scandal.
But this mystery may be solved more quickly – especially if Donald Trump leaves the White House prematurely.