- The impending release of “A Warning,” an exposé about the inner-workings of President Donald Trump’s administration, has reignited discussion over which senior Trump official is the anonymous author behind it and the op-ed published in The New York Times in September 2018.
- Both pieces are written by the same anonymous “senior Trump administration official” who is critical of Trump’s presidency and, as they wrote in their Times op-ed, “vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
- After the 2018 op-ed was published, most of the main players in the Trump administration denied having written it. A few online sleuths compiled clues pointing toward different people in the White House.
- There are also elements in the Times op-ed and “A Warning” that hint at what type of person wrote it, along with soundbites from past and current White House figures.
- Here are the breadcrumbs left by the author and some of the people identified as possible matches.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The anonymous senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration who first penned the explosive “resistance” op-ed for The New York Times has a new book-length exposé, “A Warning,” coming out later this month. Still anonymous, the official’s representation says they are still working at the White House, fueling speculation as to which member of Trump’s team is spilling secrets and profiting off anti-Trump backlash.
Released excerpts from “A Warning” contain fiery anecdotes from inside the White House, suggesting that Trump’s staffers are concerned about his mental capabilities and recalling what almost became a mass midnight resignation of the president’s top officials.
After the initial anonymous op-ed ran in September 2018 attacking Trump’s “amorality” and attesting that the writer and other top officials were working “to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” all of the high-profile members of the Trump administration publicly denied writing it.
There are several clues that point toward the identity of the anonymous author behind “A Warning” and the Times op-ed, but they’re all just guesses. Javelin, the literary agency that represents the author, told Business Insider that “We have heard numerous guesses as to the identity of the author of A WARNING – just yesterday it was Barack Obama. Our response is and will always be the same: no comment.”
The anonymous op-ed author makes it clear that they support traditional Republican politicians and principles.
- Flickr / nedrichards
In the initial anonymous op-ed there are quite a few clues as to what type of person in the Trump White House wrote it.
The piece emphasizes that the author believes strongly in traditional Republican principles like “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military, and more.” Those are the parts of the Trump administration that are championed. In contrast, the author denounces Trump’s “amorality.”
The content of the Times op-ed has been thoroughly dissected and could point to a number of Republicans under Trump. Blind guesses from Times staffers (who didn’t actually have any identifying information besides their own intuition) at the time included Vice President Mike Pence, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, and then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Of course, the two latter guesses are no longer at the White House, and Pence added his name, along with all of his staffers, to the list of official denials.
But what’s clear from the content of the op-ed is that whoever wrote it stands for the traditional Republican values iterated by the party’s top politicians in years past, which the author no longer believes stems from the Oval Office.
The author also name drops John McCain in the op-ed, and quotes Teddy Roosevelt and Cicero in “A Warning.”
- REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
In line with what the author touted as the accomplishments of Trump’s administration so far, the anonymous senior official also uses references that reflect someone who was a huge fan of Republican politicians prior to the Trump era, and is also someone who enjoys history and classics.
In the op-ed the author ends with a reference to Senator John McCain’s farewell letter, so McCain is clearly someone the author admires greatly.
“All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation,” the op-ed reads.
They also note their disagreement with Trump’s favor toward “autocrats and dictators” like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In “A Warning,” according to the review of the book by the Times, the author references quotes from historical and literary figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Cicero, the Roman statesman. They describe themself as a “student of history.”
And there’s another key mention of McCain in “A Warning” – the author says one of the last straws for their willingness to give Trump a chance was when he tried to raise the flag above half mast following McCain’s death.
Some of the vocabulary used in the author’s writing has given people an idea of who they may be.
Right after the op-ed’s publication in September 2018, a prominent theory of its authorship was that Vice President Mike Pence wrote it. Not only would Pence be one of the most dramatic reveals, but there was a word used in the op-ed that rang some alarms.
“Lodestar” was used at the end of the op-ed and made some sleuths think it had to be Pence, who has a history of using the clunky vocabulary term.
This may have been short-sighted, Vox wrote, because a lot of people use the word “lodestar.” Also, it’s possible that whoever wrote the op-ed specifically threw in vocabulary meant to cast suspicion elsewhere, to avoid being fired from their position in the White House.
Pence, for his part, has denied authorship, along with the author being anyone who works with him.
Omarosa Newman, Trump’s former confidante and White House adviser, hinted at the op-ed author’s identity in a Twitter poll.
- Drew Angerer/ Getty
In a Twitter poll, the former Trump adviser included four White House staffers who she said she believed were likely candidates for the piece’s authorship.
The results are in…
(btw Nick Ayers is VP45’s Chief of Staff). ???? pic.twitter.com/lq8CralKpm
— Omarosa (@OMAROSA) September 7, 2018
Newman noted that her best guess would be the person “who is looking to exit the WH soon.” She also later said that the author had been quietly removed from the White House, but they still say they’re working there, so Newman’s poll isn’t necessarily reliable.
The list included Andrew Bremberg, the director of the Domestic Policy Council who was recently confirmed as US ambassador to the Office of the United Nations, and Nick Ayers, though he left the White House in January after serving as Pence’s Chief of Staff.
John DeStefano was also on the list, but the long-serving Trump aide left the White House in May 2019 to advise Juul in its dealing with the Food and Drug Administration. There was also Bill Stepien, who is still currently the White House political director, but multiple people told Politico that Stepien was loyal to Trump as of late 2017.
One line of sleuthing apart from Newman’s poll also pointed to Bremberg.
- Chip Somodevilla / Getty
Bremberg doesn’t generate a lot of press for himself, but he has deep roots in the traditional Republican party, having worked for former President George W. Bush’s administration and under Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
As one of the Twitter users behind the blog “Our Bad Media” (which has exposed plagiarism by Fareed Zakaria and Malcolm Gladwell), @blippoblappo, explained on Twitter, Bremberg’s role as head of the Domestic Policy Council focuses largely on deregulation, the first thing that was emphasized as a success under Trump in the op-ed.
The Hill profiled Bremberg in February 2017 and described him as Trump’s “details guy.” It’s the most comprehensive media attention paid to Bremberg thus far. He isn’t a very buzzy figure in the Trump administration, and his Google search results and social media mentions are significantly less dense than the oft-suggested candidates for the anonymous authorship.
“Some White House aides know little about Bremberg,” The Hill reported. But behind the scenes, he wrote a harsh memorandum on immigration – the type of traditional Republican policy heralded by the op-ed writer.
The Hill also wrote that those who know Bremberg were “encouraged” by his presence in the administration to defend the party.
“‘It was encouraging to a lot of people who were a little nervous about Trump,” one source told the Hill, adding that they thought he could “preserve the peace in the party.”
‘They knew the traditional principles would be preserved,” the source told the outlet.
The lack of mainstream attention could put Bremberg in a good position to keep publishing material about the “resistance” from within because the work itself is what’s getting the headlines and buzz, not him.
Of course, all of these reported suspicions are unconfirmed. But as Republicans slip out of the White House one by one, there aren’t too many staunch traditionalists left behind in Trump’s White House who ring the anonymous author alarm.