I don’t get the Roger Stone theory, which predictably strays towards InfoWars maximum-treachery territory.

ROGER STONE: This is the most popular parlor game in Washington and in New York right now. I have a theory that no one wrote it. Meaning that it’s a fabrication. A McGuffin…

[I]f you read the actual op-ed, it would argue that the adults are in charge.

In all honesty, Chris, the adults were in charge for the last 30 years. What did it get us? Foreign war which cost us billions and many lives without our inherent national interests being clear. A stagnant economy. The erosion of our civil liberties. A broken immigration system. Trade deals that were one-sided and benefitted our partners and not our country. It sucked the jobs out of America. Frankly, I don’t think we were better off when the adults, meaning the establishment, was in charge.

By “no one,” I assume he means no one in the administration. It’s a fabrication by the Times itself, in other words, an out-and-out fraud on the public. Even if you’re willing to believe that the Times would engage in behavior that unethical (which would run the risk of staffers resigning if it were found out), what good would the op-ed do the paper and its political allies apart from earning it a one- or two-day windfall of page views? Virtually everyone agrees that the piece will backfire. It’ll make Trump trust the “adults” around him less, leading him to follow his own instincts more and to staff up going forward with unqualified loyalists. The anonymous nature of the backbiting sticks in everyone’s craw, and even anti-Trumpers have conceded that refusing to carry out presidential orders because you happen to disagree with his policy vision is outrageous. It makes more sense to believe that someone in the administration really did write this and the Times chose to run it because it’s extremely newsy than to believe that the paper concocted it for political reasons. Whatever you may think of the NYT’s editors, give ’em enough credit to believe that they wouldn’t score an own-goal this spectacular if they were willing to lie outright to damage Trump.

Plus, why would the Times need to invent an op-ed like this with the Woodward book coming out? If their aim was to show that Trump’s own staff thinks he’s unfit for office, all they had to do was sit back, wait a few days for “Fear” to be published, then promote the hell out of it on the news pages.

And so we turn to the Bannon theory. Not only did someone in the administration write it, multiple people did:

Meh. That’s better than Stone’s theory — certainly there are multiple people within the administration who’d endorse the op-ed, even if they had nothing to do with actually writing it. Here again, though, to make it work you’re forced to accuse the Times of an outright lie to the public in claiming that it was the product of a single “senior official.” You could hammer out a scenario, I guess, in which multiple administration officials secretly collaborated on the op-ed and then one of them approached the Times with it, claiming sole authorship. But that would be risky business: As with any conspiracy, the more people are involved, the greater the risk that someone will talk and the whole thing will unravel. If you were a Trump deputy thinking of attacking him anonymously in the pages of the country’s most famous paper, prudence would suggest you keep your intentions closely held to limit the chances of being found out. That means single authorship.

But all of this assumes that Stone and Bannon are pushing their theories because they earnestly believe them rather than as a means to some political end. Bannon, the anti-establishmentarian, is eager to advance the idea that a soft “coup” is happening around Trump because that helps his populist message. There really are treacherous Washington swamp creatures sabotaging the president at every turn. That’s why we need to throw the bums out next time and elect more Bannon-approved populist-nationalists! The more people like him there are in Washington, the less power the disloyal “deep state” will have. Stone, meanwhile, seems to be appealing to the gut of right-wingers in laying this all off on the media. Sure, there are establishment backstabbers around Trump in the White House, but you’ll never understand how deep the corruption runs until you entertain the possibility that the establishment’s favorite paper made the whole thing up. Stone’s a bit more febrile, Bannon’s a bit more calculating, but each likes the idea here of something going on that’s even more nefarious than a disloyal aide knifing the president anonymously in an op-ed. No one wrote it! Everyone wrote it!

Incidentally, PredictIt is taking bets on who the secret op-ed author is. Leading the pack is Fiona Hill, an intriguing possibility. Hill was a surprise choice to join Trump’s national security staff last year, having served in the Bush administration previously and made her mark as a critic of, uh, Vladimir Putin. If anyone inside the White House is apt to be disgruntled, particularly after the spectacle in Helsinki, it’s Hill. But for the same reason, she might be reluctant to resign and declare her opposition to POTUS’s Russia policies forthrightly: If she thinks she’d be replaced with a more Russia-friendly advisor, which is surely possible, she might feel a duty to try to keep her job and make her unhappiness with Trump known anonymously instead. She’s a plausible candidate. Which is not to say, of course, that she did it.