What's In 'A Warning'

Nov 8, 2019
Originally published on November 8, 2019 6:10 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A new book by an anonymous author identified only as a senior official in the Trump administration is making some explosive claims. Among them, the author says a group of senior officials inside the administration were prepared to resign en masse last year. Another - the writer says if the Cabinet had been prepared to remove President Trump under the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence would have supported that effort. This is something Pence has since denied. The New York Times and The Washington Post have seen early copies of the book.

Philip Rucker of The Washington Post has read it, and he joins us now on the line. Thanks so much for being with us.

PHILIP RUCKER: Hi. Glad to be here.

MARTIN: The book is titled "A Warning." What threat does the author lay out?

RUCKER: You know, the author basically painted a portrait of President Trump. This book is a character study and shows the president to be inept, amoral, unfit for office. The author delves into issues of mental acuity, intellectual curiosity - or rather, the lack thereof - and describes moments where Trump, you know, made decisions and directives and orders that were against the law of his staff and describes the extent to which senior officials inside the government would try to mobilize to thwart the president from what they viewed to be his most dangerous impulses and ideas. And as they saw it, they were protecting the country from the president who was elected to lead it.

MARTIN: Does the author cite specific examples?

RUCKER: You know, there are a few specific examples. Some of them are known to us already from the reporting on this presidency. But rather than a page-by-page catalogue of gripping anecdotes, this book is more of an assessment - observations or commentary on the president. In fact, the author, who is anonymous, writes in the beginning of the book that he or she decided to filter through, you know, weed out some of the details of these scenes (ph) and anecdotes so that the author's identity would not be found out or revealed.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that. The White House is deriding the author. The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, says this person is a coward for staying anonymous...

RUCKER: That's right.

MARTIN: ...That this is a work of fiction. I mean, do you come away, after reading this, believing the author does indeed work for the Trump administration?

RUCKER: It's hard not to believe that the author works for the administration simply because there are moments where the author is describing being in the room with the president and is quoting dialogue verbatim from the president. So it's clear that the author had some or perhaps continues to have some access to the president.

What's unclear is how senior this person is. If this, you know, author were to become identified tomorrow, would it be a name that we all know? I don't know. But there are also a lot of officials who work in the White House in and around the president who have much lower public profiles and who are not some of the household names that we're hearing about all the time but who have an intimate level of access to the president and his decision-making.

MARTIN: We should say this is the same person who wrote the 2018 op-ed in The New York Times that was titled "I Am Part Of The Resistance Inside The Trump Administration." But in this new book, the author, according to your review, amends part of their thesis, right?

RUCKER: That's right. The author writes that - in a New York Times op-ed, by the way, the author explained the group of senior officials that were working to thwart the president and then describes them as being successful and able to put an end to some of the more dangerous ideas. And in the book, which is now a year, you know, 13 months later, the author explains that that was wrong, that these officials and the government are no longer able to contain the president because the president feels so unrestrained and feels so emboldened now in year three that these ideas are getting through.

MARTIN: I want to ask about the big revelation I mentioned earlier - the idea that a group of officials was going to resign at the same time. Why didn't it happen? Does the author reveal?

RUCKER: The author doesn't reveal a ton of detail about that but says that they decided that it would be too dangerous and risky for the country for these officials to leave because they were serving a value in thwarting the president's impulses - that they needed to stay.

MARTIN: All right. Philip Rucker of The Washington Post - he's reviewed an early copy of the book by Anonymous titled "A Warning." Thanks so much, Philip. We appreciate it.

RUCKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.