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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 27, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsPopped Culture

Trump-era “whistleblowers” make money off books

In 2010, Chelsea Manning risked the death penalty when she leaked hundreds of thousands of pieces of classified information detailing American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years later Edward Snowden fled to Russia after he leaked information from the National Security Agency proving a system of global surveillance. 

Now, in 2020, journalist Bob Woodward, Republican consultant John Bolton, and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seem to think that they are following en suite. They have become pseudo-whistleblowers, publishing books that recount politically damaging backdoor experiences with President Donald Trump.

This trend started earlier this year during Trump’s impeachment trials. During the thick of the trials John Bolton, Trump’s former National Security Advisor, announced that he would be publishing a memoir accounting his time in the White House. While political memoirs have always been churned out by retired American politicians, Bolton’s book pitch had something exclusive—the story of Trump’s desperate attempt to coerce foreign governments into getting dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent for reelection.

Six months, an acquittal and one pandemic later, Bolton’s book was released under the title “The Room Where It Happened.” The book recounts Trump’s corruption and amateurism in awesome detail —my favorite being that he thought Finland was part of Russia— but was ultimately an overweight brick with little nuance or character. Disturbingly, it seems that somewhere in the process, we forgot that Bolton is an establishment warmonger who has had his grubby hands involved in a running list of things the United States should be ashamed of—the Iran-Contra affair, the Iraq War, and conspiracy theories that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Bolton received a $2 million advance on the book which ended up selling 780,000 copies in its first week. This leaves us to conclude that Bolton wore the patriotism of a whistleblower so when the book was later published, he could take home a fat check.

But not soon after the release of Bolton’s book, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s Former White House Press Secretary announced the release of her memoir, which would also contain off-the-record stories of President Trump. It was released in September under the ridiculous title “Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House.” 

Similar to how “The Room Where It Happened” sold copies because it contained the story of the President’s corruption, “Speaking for Myself” sold copies because it contained the headline story that Trump jokingly told Sanders to sleep with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un.

While the President has a history of making crude remarks towards women, asking one that he works with to sleep with a dictator in order to get a peace deal signed seemed too insane to be true. 

Despite Sanders sharing this weird and gross story in her book, the rest of it is surprisingly supportive of the president. When the book was marketed, it seemed that Sanders had turned on the President. The released book showed that she had done anything but that:

“President Trump empowered me. Not just as a woman but as a working mom.”

Her book ends with a Trump 2020 advertisement explaining how the United States will “fall apart” if Trump doesn’t win reelection.

That same month, Bob Woodward, a famous Watergate-era journalist, published “Rage,” a book that beyond just recounting stories of Trump’s impeachment trials, describes the disastrous coronavirus response by Trump and his administration. Partnered with the release of Woodward’s book was audio of Trump admitting privately that he knew that the coronavirus was deadly and downplayed it to the public to avoid panic.

The book as well as the audio released created a bombshell reporting that significantly damaged Trump’s chance at reelection. While the book contains disturbing information that the American people deserve to know, it also raises other questions about Bob Woodward himself. Most importantly, if Bob Woodward had audio of Trump downplaying a pandemic why didn’t he release it earlier? How many lives could have been saved if Woodward had released the evidence that Trump was lying to us?

Since Woodward is a writer and a journalist, “Rage” is a far superior book than those published by Bolton or Sanders. It’s structure and delivery creates a layered character study of the President that is not just intriguing, but fascinating. “Rage” is legitimately good, but because the audio was withheld until it’s release, there is no conclusion to make other than that Woodward withheld evidence for personal gain.

While each of Bolton, Sanders, and Woodward’s books release different pieces of insider information on President Trump, they all seem to be profiting off of Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip, self-preservationist style of running the county. Despite the media romanticizing Bolton, Sanders, and Woodward for sharing this insider information, they aren’t heroes. They’re opportunists. If they could sell PDF files of what happened between them and the President for the same price, they would.