Only a fool would attempt to write about a book he hasn’t read. Only an exhibitionist would write about a book that won’t be released for another month. Reader, I am that writer.
The book is A Warning, a 272-pager set for publication Nov. 19 and written by “Anonymous,” the unnamed senior Trump official who wrote an unsigned September 2018 column for the New York Times titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Other observers who have yet to read A Warning—including White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Matthew Miller, former Trump aide Cliff Sims, Tom Nichols and Mimi Rocah—quickly registered their negative opinions the book. Some of them called Anonymous a coward for concealing his identity and pledged not to buy or read A Warning until he applies his name to it.
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But if Anonymous is a coward for wearing a mask while spilling beans about the Trump White House, he has plenty of company. Unnamed sources routinely whisper their secrets into the pages of the nation’s top newspapers. Among these anonymous sources are allies of the president, seeking to promote his policies, as well as opponents hoping to take him down a notch. I’m no booster of anonymous sources, but even I recognize the distinguished, ancient pedigree they hold in American politics. Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense anonymously. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay cloaked their authorship of The Federalist Papers under the pseudonym of “Publius.” In more recent days, journalist Joe Klein joined the lower levels of this pantheon with Primary Colors, his roman à clef about Bill Clinton.
More important, time has been remarkably good to Anonymous’ op-ed. When first published, it seemed vague, unnecessarily guarded and excessively self-congratulatory about its own courage. But read in the context of what we’ve learned since about resistance by senior officials to President Donald Trump’s orders, the op-ed seems a lot smarter. The op-ed boasted that the Trump administration was filled with many senior administration officials “working diligently from within to frustrate” parts of Trump’s “agenda and his worst inclinations.” A steady stream of news stories has appeared—and continues to appear almost daily—confirming the assertion of aggressive sandbagging of the president by top administration officials.
The Mueller report documents how former White House counsel Don McGahn directly foiled Trump’s order to fire the special counsel, as NBC News noted on Tuesday. Since leaving office, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described how he rejected Trump orders that he thought violated the law. Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House reported how economic adviser Gary Cohn nicked a Sept. 5, 2017, trade-deal document from the president’s desk to prevent him from signing it. “I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”
It’s now evident that the stop-Trump rebellion stretched across the Potomac to the Pentagon. According to a forthcoming memoir by a speechwriter for Jim Mattis, the former secretary of Defense, repeatedly dragged his feet in response to Trump’s orders and alerted his aides to what he regarded as Trump’s treachery. “The White House is not to be trusted right now,” Mattis reportedly said in March 2018 to his close aides as Trump pushed Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Cohn from the White House and out of the administration. Mattis also roadblocked Trump’s desire for a Soviet-style military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and stalled Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from Syria until he could stall no longer and finally resigned.
The boldest claim made by the op-ed was “early whispers with the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” to remove the president. Oh, sure, I thought at the time. But two weeks after the op-ed appeared, the New York Times broke a story that essentially confirmed the formation of a 25th Amendment posse led by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and designed to push Trump from office. There’s been more reporting on that allegation since, including a new book by journalist James B. Stewart asserting that Rosenstein believed two members of the president’s 2017 Cabinet—Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly—were ready to join his 25th Amendment plot.
This steady confirmation of the op-ed’s key points by the best journalists covering the Trump administration makes it easy to award A Warning a four-star, prepublication review and predict that it will serve as a revelatory text. The impeachment committees should preorder their copies now.
Anonymous won’t be anonymous much longer thanks to forensic author-identification software. I agree with Slate’s Will Saletan that Jon Huntsman is the likely author. What say you? Send predictions via email to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts ghostwrite my Twitter feed. My RSS feed is an AWOL Russian asset.