How a Tell-All Memoir Made It Into Print


When the news broke last month that a senior Trump administration official had written an anonymous tell-all memoir about serving in the White House, criticism was swift, and unusually bipartisan.

President Trump’s supporters dismissed the book as a likely fabrication. Some administration critics chastised the author for hiding behind anonymity, particularly in the middle of an impeachment inquiry when career government officials are testifying publicly about perceived wrongdoing, often at professional risk.

On Thursday night, the critiques grew louder after The Washington Post obtained an early copy of the book, titled “A Warning,” and reported on its contents. Among the revelations: a discussion among senior officials who considered resigning all at once in a “midnight self-massacre” as a warning to the public of the president’s erratic behavior.

But with the release in recent days of damning transcripts from the impeachment inquiry, the events described in “A Warning” could be seen as overly general and less revelatory than those daily disclosures from Washington.

The anonymous author first caused a stir last year with the publication of an essay in The New York Times stating that many of Mr. Trump’s senior officials “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” adding, “I would know. I am one of them.”

Plans to publish the book came together this year when the literary agents Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer, co-founders of the Javelin agency, were summoned to meet with a senior member of the Trump administration.

The official claimed to be the anonymous author of a New York Times Op-Ed published last year that describes how administration officials were “working diligently from within” to frustrate many of Mr. Trump’s plans and ambitions.

Because the author’s identity was, and is, closely protected, Mr. Latimer and Mr. Urbahn had chosen not to shop around a book proposal and instead took the project directly to Sean Desmond of Twelve, a division of the Hachette Book Group. The author did not receive an advance for the book and has outlined plans to donate a substantial portion of the royalties to nonprofit groups supporting government accountability and press freedom, according to the publisher.

Mr. Desmond worked on the book in secret over the summer, and its publication was expedited once the impeachment inquiry got underway. The book is scheduled to go on sale Nov. 19, with a first print run of 500,000 copies.

Details, however, began to leak out shortly after its publication was announced in October.

Speculation about the author’s identity, motivation and current job title intensified as publication neared. (The author is listed on the cover as “Anonymous: A Senior Trump Administration Official.”)

This week, the Justice Department sent a letter to the publisher seeking identifying details, and asking for proof that the author had not signed a nondisclosure agreement with the administration and had not gained access to classified information.



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