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What's In The Anonymous Official's 'A Warning'


An anonymous author who self-identifies as a senior official in the Trump administration has written a book called "A Warning." In fact, there are a few warnings in the book, among them that President Trump, quote, "will not exit quietly or easily." Last year, the same author wrote an op-ed in The New York Times identifying him or herself as part of the resistance inside the Trump administration. NPR's Ron Elving is a senior editor and correspondent on the Washington desk, and he has read the book. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So the author is anonymous, but you've been around in Washington for a long time. What were you able to glean about this person, do you think?

ELVING: It's possible that we will soon know the identity of this person, that it will somehow be divined. And the person in the book says that person will continue to deny having written the book. But this author presents the case sounding like a longtime Republican who agreed to serve in the Trump administration despite reservations, someone who thought the new president would need moderating influences, someone who found other kindred spirits within the Trump Organization, perhaps not in the sense of a deep state the way that term's been used, but...

KING: Yeah.

ELVING: ...What's called here a steady state, people dedicated to preserving some equilibrium and some guardrails. But the author reports that the resistance to Trumpism (ph) inside the White House has pretty much collapsed at this point.

KING: OK, that's interesting. What is the author's main critique of President Trump?

ELVING: There's a surprising amount of really high-minded and intellectual judgment on display here. The author compares Trump to the ideals of the founding fathers of American democracy, but then goes off for quite a while about Cicero, the ancient Roman statesman, and the criteria of Cicero for leadership - that's wisdom, and judgment, and love of virtue, and learning and knowing the truth - then finding Trump deficient by all of Cicero's criteria.

And the author also relates the way ancient Athens dealt with a demagogue named Cleon, a popular orator who appealed to the base instincts of the mob of his day, once again making the none-too-subtle parallel to the current president.

KING: OK, so there's some interesting history in there. But the author is also sort of characterizing how President Trump runs the government. What does this person say about that?

ELVING: The author warns that Trump is incapable of running the government effectively, not really even interested in it, and shows that the understanding of other branches of the government is completely lacking. But worse than that, Trump is trying to divide the country using a kind of populist appeal to turn people against their own government and their own interests by inflaming prejudices and stoking fears. This is, of course, this anonymous author talking at this point.

Near the end of the book, the author actually warns that Trump might not even be willing to leave office if impeached or convicted or even if he were to lose a close election next November.

KING: Which is a worrying thing, I mean, a really worrying thing, you know, saying the president will not go quietly, will not exit quietly or easily. Of course, we must point out in the couple of seconds that we have left that the difficulty here is that this person is anonymous, and so we can't tell whether or not they are telling the truth.

ELVING: At this point, we do not know the sources of this author's insights or characterizations. But as I say, one suspects that the author's name will come to the public.

KING: And then it will maybe get even more interesting. NPR's Washington senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Thanks, Ron.

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