Somehow the Anonymous White House Op-Ed Writer Is Still Anonymous

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Considering the historic leakiness of the Trump administration, it’s a small miracle that the identity of the laughable “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” op-ed writer from September 2018 is still anonymous. All that the New York Times revealed was that the writer was a “senior official in the Trump administration,” which limits the pool of candidates to a few hundred executive-branch staffers. With the announcement that in November the official will publish a book, A Warning, on their time in the administration, speculation on their identity renewed after a packed year of Trump scandals left the gossip dormant.

Upon the publication of the op-ed last year, there were swift and relatively educated guesses on who may have written the not-so-noble piece. Mike Pence emerged as a candidate owing to the use of the word “lodestar,” an unusual choice that the veep has relied on frequently over the years. He even had the betting field in his favor, with 2-to-3 odds on the gambling site MyBookie thanks to the lodestar angle. A Pence op-ed would make sense if, at the time, he was fearing a dismissal from the 2020 ticket, or if he had larger ambitions to oust the president from the top of the ballot. But Pence, along with 29 other administration officials, released a statement claiming he was not the author. And though it’s a year later, the Ukraine scandal reaffirms Pence’s commitment to Trump; once an Evangelical with huge ambitions looks the other way for an Access Hollywood tape, it’s hard to imagine that a little thing like undermining national security would create daylight between him and his boss.

The lodestar theory could also expose Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, who is also known to have used words featured in the op-ed like “steady state” and “first principles.” (The diction — and the letter’s gushing approval of John McCain — appears to rule out any member of the Trump family.) What’s more, the author derides Trump’s “anti-trade and anti-democratic” impulses, and is proud of the administration’s achievements in “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more,” suggesting it could be an Establishment figure like Kudlow.

At Slate, William Saletan made a strong argument for Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman:

The article’s themes are classic Huntsman: effusive about conservative policies, blunt about low character. In 2016, he made the same points for and against Trump. The topic that gets the most space and detail in the piece is Huntsman’s current area, Russia. (As Slate’s Fred Kaplan points out, Trump has been circumventing and undermining Huntsman.) The prose, as in Huntsman’s speeches and interviews, is flamboyantly erudite. The tone, like Huntsman’s, is pious. And the article’s stated motive — “Americans should know that there are adults in the room” — matches a letter that Huntsman wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune in July. In the letter, Huntsman, responding to a columnist who thought the ambassador should resign rather than keep working for Trump, explained that public servants such as himself were dutifully attending to the nation’s business.

The timing of Huntsman’s resignation in September, as he mulls a run for governor in Utah, aligns with his possible authorship as well: close to the pub date in November, but far enough away in Trump time to leave room for multiple scandals to serve as distractions. Whoever it is, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham wasn’t all that impressed on Tuesday: “It takes a lot of conviction and bravery to write a whole book anonymously.”

With a 272-page book, compared to a 965-word letter, the likelihood that the author’s speech pattern will be exposed grows by 268 pages or so. As the New York Times notes, forensic author-identification software can match “prose style to other published work” and has unmasked authors “including J.K. Rowling, who published mystery novels as Robert Galbraith.” Like other esteemed men and women of letters, such as Elena Ferrante and Dril, the resistance op-ed writer could soon face exposure by publishing A Warning.

The White House Op-Ed Writer Might Not Be Anonymous for Long