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White House laughs off Anonymous book as old news

The White House is breathing a big sigh of relief after the new book by an anonymous author claiming to be a senior Trump official doesn’t seem to have many new damaging details of the president’s conduct in office, according to interviews with five current White House officials.

They’ve been heartened, too, by the critical reviews the book, titled “A Warning” and due out Nov. 19, has received in outlets like The New York Times. Most of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to trash the anonymous author, whose book they acknowledged they have only read about.

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These officials’ main complaint: The author is “cowardly” since the person doesn’t cite many specific examples in the book out of fear of making it easier for journalists and colleagues to discover the writer’s identity.

And they say the book is likely to contain errors, based on the unusually secretive process by which it was written.

“Normally, the publishers would do a pretty good fact-check on this but it’s impossible to do a fact-check if you don’t know who the person is and if you’re not citing specific stories so it’s literally the least fact-checked book ever,” said a White House official.

They also are dismissing the author’s description of President Donald Trump as cruel, incompetent, ill-tempered and a threat to the country as nothing new. Those epithets and more, they say, are present on “liberal Twitter every day,” as the official put it.

So far, the White House plan for the book’s release next week is just to ignore it.

Other officials don’t dispute the author’s general characterization of the president as a mercurial, difficult boss. But that, they say, is precisely why “A Warning” is hardly revelatory.

For instance, the author writes that efforts by the so-called adults in the room to steady the decision-making process in the White House have turned out to be “just a wet Band-Aid that wouldn’t hold together a gaping wound.”

“Any casual observer would say the same thing,” another White House official sniffed dismissively.

While many dismiss the book, top Trump officials are also taking part in a guessing game to try to figure out the identity of the author, and it may be hard for some to resist the urge to avoid picking up a copy of the book so they can play amateur detective.

They’ve whispered the names of suspected officials to reporters, often going into elaborate explanations as to why this or that person could be the author.

Nobody can say for sure, and it’s not even known whether Anonymous is a current or former official. The op-ed announcing Anonymous’ “resistance” against Trump was published on Sept. 5, 2018, which would seem to rule out anyone who left the administration before that date.

But the amateur sleuths have zeroed in on a few traits that seem plausible, based on a reading of this person’s writings: It’s an establishment Republican who spent a decent amount of time in the West Wing.

The guessing game has some current officials ducking for cover.

One person suspected by many in Trump’s orbit initially did not respond to an email and text message sent Friday about whether he was Anonymous. When reached by phone later in the day, this person would say only: “I’m not going to get into any of that.” A few minutes later, he called back to say in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t the author.

While most officials claimed they wouldn’t read the book, some aren’t staying fully on message.

When asked about specific aspects of the book, such as the author’s claim that Trump viewed his pardon power like “unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on a Monopoly board,” one White House official was unimpressed. “That’s literally the definition of a pardon,” this person said.

One problem for the Anonymous hunters: On some issues, the author’s revulsion at the president’s behavior was widely shared within the White House.

For example, Anonymous said the key event that turned him or her against Trump was when the president initially didn’t order the American flag to be lowered to half-staff after Sen. John McCain died in August 2018.

One White House official said that some staffers didn’t like how the president handled the flag episode because they wanted him to adopt the view that, “The guy’s dead. Let it go.”

Other claims by the author seem more fanciful.

Anonymous also writes that senior Trump administration officials had debated whether to resign en masse last year in a so-called midnight self-massacre to warn the public about Trump but had rejected doing so because they thought such a move would damage the effectiveness of the government.

But White House officials doubted whether this actually happened and said if it did, it was “probably people who were going to get fired,” said one.

Another called it “ridiculous. I certainly heard nothing about it and I certainly would have.”

Some speculated that the person is staying anonymous for now just to sell more copies because the mystery surrounding the author’s identity has created more intense interest in the book, as with “Primary Colors,” which was written anonymously. It was later revealed that book was penned by journalist Joe Klein.

“The only person it could be is someone who could sell more books as anonymous than they would with their actual name, which tells you how irrelevant this book is if your name isn’t enough to sell a book,” said one White House official. “If he was John Bolton, he wouldn’t need to do that. He would be a big deal to begin with.”

Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, also said the author was trying to profit off his or her time in the administration.

“There are so many people trying to make a buck off of Donald Trump’s name at this point, I’ve lost count,” he said. “I find it comical that so many in the media try to claim that this person is brave and courageous when the author won’t even put their name to it. It’s completely gutless, not to mention false.”

While he wouldn’t address the book’s specific allegations, he called the book a “joke” and said no one cares who the author is, even though the Justice Department has asked the publisher for details of who the author is and evidence that the person never signed an nondisclosure agreement or had access to classified material.

“It’s another PC establishment elitist who thinks they know better than the millions and millions of people who voted for Donald Trump because they were sick and tired of the swamp’s stranglehold on this country,” Gidley added.

Twelve, the publisher of “A Warning,” which had 500,000 copies printed in its first run, pushed back on the White House’s efforts to dismiss the book.

“‘A Warning’ offers page after page of new information and shocking revelations about this White House, from the inside,” said Sean Desmond, Twelve’s publisher, in a statement. “The overwhelming amount of public interest, including a huge number of preorders, is warranted. It’s even gotten the interest of the Justice Department, hardly a sign of disinterest no matter what the White House spin wants you to believe.”

While the book was a top story on cable television late last week and there have been multiple articles about it this week, employees in the White House say they aren’t talking about it with colleagues and they’re not trying to hunt for an early copy, as with past blockbuster books by Michael Wolff, Bob Woodward and Cliff Sims about the Trump White House.

“You see the headlines and you say, ‘Oh cool, more bullshit, let’s get back to work,’” said one official.

Eli Nachmany, a former Trump White House staffer who is now a student at Harvard Law School, said the book’s revelations haven’t surprised anyone in Trump world, calling it “another low-quality book by a disgruntled individual.”

“At least with most of these pointless rants against the president, the writer has the courage to put her or his name on it,” he said. “Stephanie Grisham got it right: This person is a coward.”

Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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