Feb 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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

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.

Go deeper

Scoop: Top NSC official reassigned to Energy Department amid "Anonymous" fallout

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates will be reassigned as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the National Security Council said Thursday — and a senior White House official said that the administration "rejects" the rumors that she is "Anonymous."

Why it matters: Coates has battled claims that she is the still-unknown Trump administration official that penned a New York Times op-ed and book critical of President Trump.

Exclusive: Trump's "Deep State" hit list

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: WPA Pool/Getty Pool, Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

John Bolton's book delayed until May because of White House review

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The publication of former national security adviser John Bolton's book "The Room Where It Happened" has been delayed from March 17 until May as the White House continues to review the manuscript, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The memoir, which claims that President Trump linked Ukraine aid to investigations of his political rivals, was at the heart of Trump's impeachment inquiry — although Bolton ultimately never testified before the House or Senate. The Trump administration says that it is reviewing the book's content to ensure it does not endanger national security, though Bolton publicly worried last month that the White House may use the review process to suppress its publication.