In 2018, a then-anonymous Trump official published a New York Times op-ed called "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” which they expanded into a book called A Warning. The official claimed to be part of "a quiet resistance" inside the Trump administration, and on Wednesday that official unveiled himself: Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, a Google lobbyist, and a CNN contributor.
"I got to a point that saying 'no' was no longer enough,” Taylor told ABC in an August interview. “It's not that he would just tell us to do things that we would say are inappropriate, unethical, or illegal, it's that he would continue to consistently tell us to do those same things."
“Donald Trump is a man without character,” tweeted Taylor on Wednesday, revealing himself to be the anonymous author. “It’s why I wrote “A Warning”…and it’s why me & my colleagues have spoken out against him (in our own names) for months. It’s time for everyone to step out of the shadows.”
A Buzzfeed News report involving interviews with former colleagues suggests there is no evidence his lips ever formed the word “no” during his time as one of Secretary Nielsen’s trusted lieutenants as he helped plan major immigration policy overhauls and coordinate messaging to sell the public on them.
"On multiple occasions, I sat within inches of Miles Taylor during meetings solely focused on 'zero tolerance' policy, and he was neither silent nor vocally opposed to the weighty decisions before us," one Trump official told Buzzfeed News, adding that the role of the “tight inner circle” Taylor was part of was "to sustain Nielsen to the greatest extent possible."
That means that Taylor was involved in nearly every immigration policy. This included overhauls such as the family separation policy that separated thousands of children from parents, ending temporary protected status for a quarter million migrants, indefinitely detaining children, deploying troops at the border, restricting the number of admitted asylum-seekers, a "Remain in Mexico" policy that forced asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases were processed, and more.
Even more, Taylor was the one who crafted an insidious plan to adopt a “Protecting the Children Narrative” once images of children abandoned in cages emerged, according to emails obtained by Buzzfeed News.
After his time in the Trump administration ended in 2019, Taylor quickly went to work trying to rescue his reputation under his own name. He published columns criticizing Trump’s policies—as himself, not his “Anonymous” alter-ego—and eventually got a job as a CNN contributor. He worked at Google as a lobbyist where questions about his hiring—given his DHS role and his public support of the Muslim travel ban—were censored.
With his identity now revealed, it's hard not to read over his anonymously-written texts and see the words of a cowardly man who had less of a problem with doing evil than the minimal consequences he might face for it. And even then, he didn’t seem to have such a major issue with it all.
"We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” he wrote in his anonymous 2018 op-ed.
Take one section he wrote condemning the policies he personally defended in his role at the White House, where he seems more concerned with reputation than anything else:
"Those who keep their heads down will live to regret it. Cautionary tales are plentiful. Go no further than the president's homeland security leaders, who, in a sickening display of bad judgement, conceded to a policy that increased the number of children ripped from the arms of their parents at the US-Mexico border. It left a stain on their reputations, their department, and the country.”
As Alex Shephard points out for The New Republic, this whole episode "reveals not only the lengths that ex-Trump officials will go to launder their soil reputations but the eagerness with which mainstream media and publishing institutions will help them do so."
Taylor’s op-ed and book offer no relevant information—because doing so would have revealed his identity and complicity—but they allowed him to spin his two years working on Trump's most immoral policies into a narrative in which "he gets to spend the rest of his life pretending he was actually a hero of the resistance,” as Shephard put it.
He may very well get his wish. It is, after all, a familiar template for operatives on the far-right who are now trying to rehabilitate their images. And, sadly, it’s working.
The Lincoln Project, a social media operation that styles itself as a home away from home for Republicans sick of Trump (and has become a resistance Democrat darling), is run by former GOP operatives such as Rick Wilson, who has a long history with racism and bigotry. A flood of Trump officials have played this game (e.g. Sean Spicer’s Hollywood adventures)—even Taylor’s old boss, former Secretary Nielsen, has been trying to distance herself from the policies she diligently implemented and the harm she caused.
Our country, after all, has always preferred rehabilitation to punishment for the rich and powerful. George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and irradiated one Iraqi city with so much uranium that birth defect rates eclipsed Hiroshima’s and Nagaski’s rates after the US dropped atomic bombs on them. Now, he’s seen as a funny grandpa who paints. In a just world, he and Taylor (and Njielsen, and the rest) would be on trial for their roles in monstrous crimes against innocent people. Instead, we have Trump suggesting that Taylor’s real offenses are his toothless, self-serving criticisms of Trump, saying at an Arizona campaign rally that “in my opinion, he should be prosecuted.”
If all of these people have been able to craft their own redemption narratives without anything stopping them, it’s obvious that nothing will stop Taylor from crafting his own.