Feb 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top NSC official may be moved after "Anonymous" rumor fallout

Donald Trump is pictured in a close-up smile
President Trump at the Daytona 500. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Trump administration officials are in discussions to reassign deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy from the National Security Council, per two sources familiar with the planning.

Why it matters: Coates' working relationship with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who elevated her to the deputy role only months ago, has strained amid an effort by some people inside the administration to tag her as "Anonymous" — a charge she has vehemently denied to colleagues.

  • Coates could take on a senior role under Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the former deputy secretary who was elevated to lead the department in December after Rick Perry's departure.
  • A decision on such a personnel move has not been finalized and discussions could still fall apart, one source tells Axios.
  • "We do not comment on personnel matters," National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told Axios. Coates declined comment.

Driving the news: As Politico first reported, Coates has been the target of a whisper campaign in recent weeks making a circumstantial case that she was the identity behind an op-ed in the New York Times and later a bestselling book describing a resistance movement against President Trump in his own White House.

  • One of the literary agents behind Anonymous' book, "A Warning," went so far as to release a statement saying explicitly that Coates is not the author, did not edit the book, did not see it in advance and did not know about it.

Between the lines: Coates' potential reassignment comes as Trump, fresh from acquittal in his impeachment trial, institutes personnel moves to bring early loyalists back into the White House and tests purges of staff he considers disloyal throughout the federal government.

  • Coates was an original member of Trump's national security team, having been brought in during the transition by Trump's first NSA, Michael Flynn.

Don't forget: Coates has strong working and personal ties to the Energy Department. She advised Perry in his 2012 presidential campaign and regularly coordinates with the department in her NSC role on issues including sanctions and oil and LNG supplies and touching on Iran, Iraq and the Gulf region.

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