Hot Air

The anti-Trump Trump official who wrote that anonymous NYT op-ed last year is now writing an entire anti-Trump book

What’s cynical yet brilliant about the author maintaining anonymity in this case is that he/she is almost certainly some random apparatchik in the bureaucracy whose criticism of Trump no one would much care about otherwise. Yeah, yeah, granted, the person is described as a “senior” official, but “senior” could mean many things. Is the deputy assistant undersecretary in the Labor Department a “senior” official? I mean, arguably, no?

But that’s not who we think of when we speculate about a “senior” official betraying the president with an anonymous critique. We think of the true power-brokers, people whose names everyone knows, because that would be the juiciest solution to the mystery of the author’s identity. The book is by Ivanka. It’s her passport back into Manhattan high society once this is over and she comes clean.

If you missed the op-ed last year when it was a sensation for a few days in political media (“I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”), here it is. The cover art is … understated, I guess? It feels overstated, to be honest.

We’re weeks away from Trump being impeached and weeks removed from him ordering a bug-out of northern Syria that’s going to let ISIS regroup and let Turkey and Russia carve up the Kurds. We don’t really need a warning at this point, buddy.

CNN has a few details:

The sources say that the publisher and the author’s literary agents at Javelin were provided verification that the author is the same person who penned the Times op-ed, titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” on September, 5, 2018…

“The Author of A WARNING refused the chance at a seven figure advance and intends to donate a substantial amount of any royalties to the White House Correspondents Association and other organizations that fight for a free press that seeks the truth,” [Javelin co-founder Matt] Latimer said, adding that the book “was not written by the author lightly, or for the purpose of financial enrichment. It has been written as an act of conscience and of duty.”…

The author’s clear intention is to convince the nation to not re-elect Trump in 2020. One of the sources familiar with the book tells CNN that it is intended for two audiences, “the country in general of course and Trump voters, at least the persuadable ones. The hope is the book will get into the hands of those who are persuadables.”

If the point is to influence voters, why is it being released next month instead of October 2020? Is it because the author thinks he or she might be found out and thrown off the job by then?

Or is it because the author thinks Trump might be thrown off the job by Congress by then?

The Times notes, “It’s unclear whether the person remains in the administration currently, given the high turnover in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, and how much additional and specific detail the book will go into regarding the president’s behavior and misgivings that members of his own administration might have.” That was another question I had — is this person *still* working for the administration or are they a former Trump official, which would expand the universe of suspects to figures like Nikki Haley, Kirstjen Nielsen, and James Mattis? Reporter Rosie Gray adds another good question: How much “specific detail” can the author realistically provide about what’s going on in the administration without dropping clues about who he or she is? The White House would obviously love to find this leaker and end the embarrassing “Resistance bro behind enemy lines” narrative. The author will need to be scrupulously vague about specifics, in which case how interesting will this book really be? If you want to read a searing indictment of Trump by a former high official under his own name, go read William McRaven’s op-ed from last week.

All of the zestiest theories about who the author might be are flawed too. It’s not Nikki Haley, as some theorized when the op-ed was published last year. Haley needs to be seen as a reasonably good soldier for Trump in order to be viable when she runs for president in 2024. She’d never risk the blowback from knifing him in the back this way. It’s not Kirstjen Nielsen either. If anything, Nielsen *wouldn’t* want to be anonymous. She’s trying to rehab her image among the administration’s critics. Even if it did turn out to be her, she’d be attacked by amnesty shills for not having done nearly enough as DHS chief to “resist.” It’s not Mattis, whom I’m sure would consider this sort of anonymous attack to be beneath his honor. And of course it’s not one of the Trump kids. Why would the most direct beneficiaries of dad’s gravy train bite the hand that feeds them?

One theory I like is that it’s actually a collection of several different people. That would be one way around the problem of the author identifying himself by recounting specific details known only to a select few people within the administration. If there are various authors contributing different details, the White House would have trouble identifying a single person privy to all of that information. But there’s no evidence that it’s multiple people instead of one. All of the press about this has referred to a single person.

Another possibility that intrigues me is that it’s John Kelly, who was certainly disgruntled enough by the time he left to have a motive to rip on Trump in print. Remember, though, that Kelly supposedly has some sort of deal with Trump in which he’s agreed not to cash in with a tell-all until Trump has left office — provided that Trump doesn’t start badmouthing him publicly before then. If it’s true that Kelly intends to make money on a book later and if it’s also true that the anonymous author of the forthcoming book intends to donate most of his royalties to charitable causes, then Kelly can’t be the anonymous author. He wouldn’t waste material he can monetize later on a book which won’t earn him much now.

Although … it’s possible that Kelly would write two books, one a “warning” involving general observations he’s made about Trump and later the tell-all with all the juicy details. That would solve Gray’s problem about the probable vagueness of the anonymous book. Kelly’s happy to keep things vague for now because he’s saving the good stuff for his real book. If anything, the hype about his anonymous alter ego after the “Warning” book lands will help him move more units of the tell-all a few years from now once he reveals his true identity!

I might end up talking myself into that theory.

My favorite theory, though, is that the anonymous author is Kellyanne Conway. I like that one because it’s always been strange to see a Beltway establishment hand like Conway accustom herself so comfortably to TrumpWorld, and of course it’s really, really, really strange to have her high-profile husband tearing the president to shreds every day on Twitter. How do the Conways make it work? And isn’t Kellyanne worried that the GOP establishment will hate her after this? If Kellyanne is the anonymous author, everything becomes clear. She’s *not* comfortable inside TrumpWorld; she’s actually part of the secret Resistance, leaking to the media and writing this anonymous attack on the president. And thus it’s *not* so strange that she and George make things work. They’re secretly on the same team. Kellyanne will be welcomed back into the establishment with open arms once she reveals her true identity after Trump has left office. This is her ticket back to mainstream respectability!

Imagine how bananas it’s going to be in 2021 when we find out on the same day that not only did Kellyanne write “A Warning,” she’s also been secretly tweeting from George’s Twitter account this whole time. The real George doesn’t even know what Twitter is.

I don’t actually believe that theory. But I *want* to believe that theory. It’d be the most dramatic possible development within the realm of possibility. (Melania as the anonymous author would be the most dramatic overall, but c’mon. It’s not within the realm of possibility.) I’m going all-in on it.

Here’s the video version of McRaven’s op-ed from a few days ago.

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