Top members of Donald Trump's administration are so alarmed by the president's "erratic" and "amoral" behavior that they are actively working to undermine him, an anonymous "senior official" wrote in The New York Times Wednesday.
Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, said: "Speculation that The New York Times op-ed was written by me or my principal deputy is patently false".
It is, in other words, the type of story pretty much any editor would dream of having fall into his lap - which is essentially what happened to Times op-ed page editor Jim Dao, who was approached by the unnamed official through an intermediary several days ago.
"This means, this whole time, we've been dealing with the watered-down version of Trump?" he said.
Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact-checker, seized on Dao's explanation of how the New York Times chose to describe the author.
However, she lamented that the author of the op-ed would not stand by their words if they leveled such grievous accusations against the president.
The article was a coup for the Times in its endless fight for supremacy with The Washington Post, coming a day after the Post published excerpts from an upcoming book on the Trump administration by Post legend Bob Woodward.
"This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes", Kelly said.
A spokesman for Mr Pence said the vice-president does not write anonymous opinion columns.
Under its editorial guidelines, the Washington Post - the Times' chief rival and perhaps one of the only other newspapers that could have landed the anonymous official's op-ed - might well have passed.
The nearly 1,000-word opinion piece released Wednesday afternoon described "many senior officials' at high levels of the administration working to "frustrate parts of [President Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations".
Calling the author an "anonymous coward" and a "gutless loser", Sanders tweeted the opinion desk's phone number, urging Trump supporters to ask about the identity of the writer, who criticized Trump's "amorality" and poor management skills.
"We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers", the paper said.
Trump, speaking at the White House last night, blasted the anonymous report as "gutless" and "really a disgrace".
"President Trump has laid out a bold and ambitious agenda".
Despite the Times citing the author of the op-ed as a senior official in Trumpland, STC isn't buying it. saying everyone in Washington considers themselves "senior" officials.
Some of the guess-the-author game centred on whether the author worked in the White House or a federal agency. "Dont worry, we will win!" he said earlier on Twitter.
Sanders tweeted that the media's "wild obsession" with the identity is "recklessly tarnishing" the reputation of thousands of "great Americans".