In 2018, the New York Times published an op-ed attributed only to an anonymous senior Trump Administration official, entitled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” which alleged the existence of a “steady state” of officials working around the president to prevent him from implementing his more disastrous policies. The article echoes the conspiracy theory of the “deep state,” a loosely organized network of unelected government officials working to implement a secret policy agenda, and implicitly argues that such an organization is a necessary evil in the event of a president who is deeply compromised and mentally unfit for office.
The article was met with criticism, as the public criticized the official for failing to reveal his identity and remaining employed at an administration he or she is actively trying to undermine rather than resigning and going public with allegations. Nonetheless, this same anonymous official has released a book, entitled “A Warning,” to similarly mixed reception. Though the book comes only a little over a year after the release of the op-ed, this duration has felt like a lifetime in the political world, and the author goes to great lengths to expose the president’s deterioration during this time and describe how much worse things can get in the event of reelection.
The book chiefly explores the president’s unfitness for office, containing anecdotes like the presence of an informal guideline within the administration to keep presidential briefings to three main points, as the president lacked the attention span to absorb any more information than that. However, it goes on to refute the thesis of the op-ed written roughly a year ago. While the author previously claimed that the so-called “steady state” would prevent Trump from doing anything truly destructive to democracy, he or she now believes that the resistance within the administration has all but fallen apart, as the president has increasingly surrounded himself with sycophants and has taken an even more erratic and impulsive approach to decision making. The message of the book, ultimately, is that for the sake of preserving American democracy, the reelection of Donald Trump must be prevented, as the “steady state” will not last another five years.
While the fact that the author is a Trump administration official is not in dispute, the lack of further information about his or her character generates a credibility problem.
Just like the op-ed that preceded it, the book was met with serious criticism. One of the most common complaints about the book’s publication was that it didn’t reveal anything that people who pay attention to the news didn’t already know. The facts of the president’s thoughtless impulsiveness, lack of moral compass, and proclivity towards authoritarian instincts are not new. In fact, the Trump administration has arguably been the most transparent presidential administration in recent history, owing not to any intentional effort on the president’s part but to the continuing tendency of administration officials to anonymously leak government secrets to the press. While in ordinary circumstances it would be shocking to hear the president say things like, “These are just words. A bunch of words. It doesn’t mean anything,” in response to a written briefing, this type of behavior is sadly to be expected of the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Another criticism levied against the book has to do with the author’s potential to make money. Books about Trump have frequently become best-sellers, and “A Warning” is no different, appearing at the top of Amazon’s Best Seller list immediately after its release. Despite accusations of the anonymous official profiting personally off of governmental dysfunction and chaos, however, lawyers for the author have said that much of the book’s proceeds will be donated to charitable organizations that support freedom of the press, with additional profits being put towards a potential legal defense fund.
A third criticism is that the author should have resigned and told his story publicly rather than hide behind anonymity. Because the author is anonymous, it is difficult or impossible for journalists to independently verify the book’s claims without accidentally outing the author, as the scenarios described in the book were witnessed by just a handful of people. While the fact that the author is a Trump administration official is not in dispute, the lack of further information about his or her character generates a credibility problem. Furthermore, critics allege that the publication of a book like this while the Trump administration is ongoing may have the effect of the administration purging government officials who are suspected of being the author, leading to an even further destruction of the “steady state” the author has insisted is necessary. The author has defended his or her anonymity, claiming that not revealing him or herself allows the focus to be placed squarely on the facts, and that it enables him or her to continue to attempt to resist the Trump administration from within.