Any former White House aide’s opinion about the op-ed will be slightly more interesting than the average joe’s, just because there’s a chance they really do have some insider insight into the author’s identity.

But even so: This is so, so stupid.

The only real news angle here is what Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, could have possibly done to Omarosa to make himself the subject of this vindictive whispering campaign.

“I took some time and went back and looked through all of my emails, particularly emails out of the vice president’s office, because the first time I read the op-ed, it just seemed kind of familiar to me,” Manigault Newman told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday. “After looking at memos and correspondence from the vice president’s office, I’m pretty convinced that it came from that way. Not just because of the term ‘lodestar,’ but because of the style and tone of it.”…

“All of these guys work in these groups together and could see themselves as some sort of hero trying to save the country from Donald Trump, but to me Nick Ayers is the one who has the most to gain from writing this,” she continued.

The truth is literally the opposite. Apart from presidential contenders inside the administration like Nikki Haley and Pence himself, no one would have more to *lose* by writing it than Ayers would. He’s all of 36 years old and has risen meteorically in the ranks of Republican advisors. His name was kicked around as a possible RNC chairman in 2010, when he was 28(!!). In 2016 he joined Gov. Mike Pence’s reelection team in Indiana, helped get him on the national ticket with Trump, landed on the transition team after the election, and finally ended up as chief of staff to the vice president of the United States last summer. He’s followed his boss’s approach of dogged loyalty to the president too: The biggest headlines he’s made since joining the White House came last October, when he told a group of top Republican donors that any GOPers in Congress who weren’t onboard with Trump’s agenda should be “purged.” He’s playing the long game:

Even Ayers’ many detractors concede that he’s very good at his job. A number of Republicans believe he has salvaged Pence’s chances of succeeding Trump as president—which is very far from where he was nine months ago. The person close to Cruz said that Cruz would not run against Pence unless he is implicated in a serious finding by Mueller. “Ayers is critical to helping Pence (and by extension the GOP),” this person wrote me. On the one hand, he explained, Ayers “is carefully crafting strategies to show Trump [Pence] is loyal.” On the other hand, he went on, Ayers “is insulating Pence from Trump’s radioactive decisions. No easy task. Few can do it consistently. Ayers is a master at it.”

The point is that Ayers is very clearly on track for bigger things, perfectly positioned to become either the top strategist or chief of staff to President Mike Pence in 2025. He’s a Karl Rove in the making. Every bit of that would go up in smoke instantly if he were discovered to have written the NYT op-ed. Pence would have no choice but to fire him. His name would become a curse word to Trump voters. Republican pols would blanch at hiring him, fearing that to do so would earn them Trump’s wrath and a backlash from right-wing populists. Essentially Ayers would get the same treatment as Steve Bannon got after “Fire & Fury” came out, but more so. Bannon, after all, had populist cred via Breitbart, a ton of friends in right-wing media to help rehabilitate him (gradually), and a relationship with the president which he’s been trying to rebuild. Ayers would have some buddies in the establishment but would forever be known first and foremost as the rat who knifed Trump in the Times. And his boss, Pence, might be sufficiently damaged that his 2024 dreams would be ruined in the process. It’s bananas to believe Ayers would run that sort of risk, needlessly, having spent his entire adult life working to get where he is.

What Omarosa means when she says Ayers has the “most to gain” is, I take it, a reference to the 25th Amendment. If the op-ed were to help convince the cabinet that Trump is unfit for office and if Pence were willing to lead a 25A coup against the president by informing Congress that he can’t properly discharge his duties and if two-thirds of both houses were to agree, then Pence would become president and Ayers his top man. Annnnnnd there’s exactly zero chance of all of that happening unless Trump starts drooling on himself in public. Even if it did somehow happen, Pence might have to fire Ayers anyway as a peace offering to Trumpers, reasoning that while his op-ed raised valid concerns his treachery in raising them was disqualifying. To believe that Ayers stands to gain from writing the op-ed, you have to believe that he’s so incredibly daft that he’d risk his career on a one-in-a-billion shot designed to push Trump out of office early, over the furious howls of Republican populists, instead of staying on the very successful track he’s currently on.

He makes sense as Omarosa’s prime suspect in one regard, though: It would be great drama. No one seriously believes Pence himself would frag Trump with an anonymous op-ed (well, maybe Jimmy Kimmel does, but no one who’s smart) but the next best thing would be his right-hand man doing it, possibly at the private behest of the VP. She may have zeroed in on him as part of her vendetta against Trump, reasoning that nothing would agitate POTUS quite as much as believing his servile VP’s team is actually a nest of snakes waiting to strike. Maximum chaos is her messaging strategy.