You could say the Trump era began with an anonymous quote. “It will take a miracle for us to win,” an unnamed senior campaign adviser told CNN on election night. Steve Bannon suspected the source was Kellyanne Conway, according to Joshua Green’s book Devil’s Bargain, and the tell was that CNN went out of its way to avoid using gendered pronouns, a giveaway because Conway was the only woman on Trump’s senior staff.
But since then, the anonymous quotes coming from Trumpland have proliferated so wildly that it would be impossible to track them all down. Over the course of a young presidency composed of nothing but disasters and scandals, a torrent of anonymous backstabbing and grumbling has found its way into the mainstream media. Taken together, these quotes show what it is like to work for a mercurial boss who is painfully unqualified to hold the office—a mosaic that depicts the experience of living within the whirlwind.
While politicos have long used the anonymous quote to air policy disagreements and leak sensitive information they believe voters should know, Donald Trump’s Washington opts for anonymity as a cheap and easy form of exoneration, a way to telegraph to the world: Yes, we know that our boss is crazy and dangerous. And yet they preen and simper in Trump’s presence. Worse still, they dutifully push his agenda forward.
They are identified here only by the title assigned to them by Beltway reporters. What emerges from this anonymous stew is an ongoing record of the Republican failure to speak up in public, while the president wreaks havoc both here and abroad. It is a story about a rotting GOP, as told by the greatest cowards of the Trump era.