Aide Accused of Being Anonymous Writer Is Reassigned to Energy Department
WASHINGTON — The White House is transferring a senior national security aide who fell under suspicion of writing an anonymous insider account of dissent within the Trump administration, the latest of several senior personnel moves stemming from questions of loyalty to President Trump.
Victoria Coates, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, will move on Monday to the Department of Energy, where she will serve as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, announced on Thursday the staff shift in a statement, saying her move was intended to “ensure the close alignment of energy policy with national security objectives.” The move was first reported by Axios.
But current and former administration officials said Ms. Coates, who managed Middle East and North Africa issues on the National Security Council, had been targeted by a whisper campaign among some pro-Trump conservatives that she was Anonymous, an official who wrote a September 2018 Op-Ed essay for The New York Times that was expanded into a book that was published last year.
The Times identified Anonymous as only “a senior official in the Trump administration.” The unnamed official, whose identity is known to the senior leadership of the Times editorial page department but not to their counterparts in the news department or to reporters who cover the White House, has managed to remain anonymous for more than a year in spite of frenzied efforts to uncover the person’s identity. It is unclear whether the person still works in government.
Ms. Coates’s allies dispute the notion that she is the unnamed author, who wrote that many Trump officials, including the author, “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” Mr. Trump and his senior advisers were enraged by the essay and have made efforts to identify who wrote it.
A senior administration official who declined to be named said that the White House “does not put any stock in the suggestion” that Ms. Coates was the author of the book and the Times opinion essay. The official said her transfer had been in the works for several weeks.
But the accusations against her had become a significant distraction. Last week, as rumors circulated about her job status, Ms. Coates was scheduled to appear on a panel at the conservative Hudson Institute. She never showed up, providing no advance explanation.
Earlier this month, the literary agents for Anonymous issued a statement vehemently denying that Ms. Coates, an art historian who had worked with them on her 2016 book about art and democracy, was the author in question.
Known as a hawk on Middle East issues, including Israel and Iran, Ms. Coates previously served as a foreign policy aide to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. She has held multiple national security jobs in the Trump administration and was promoted to deputy national security adviser shortly after Mr. O’Brien took over the National Security Council last fall.
Her departure came shortly after the dismissal from the council of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who testified against Mr. Trump during impeachment hearings in the House, along with Mr. Vindman’s brother, also a national security staffer. The two men were reassigned to the Department of Defense, from which they had been detailed to the National Security Council.
Those dismissals and Ms. Coates’s reassignment are unrelated to a downsizing of the council’s staff that Mr. O’Brien initiated. Mr. O’Brien has said the staff cuts — trimming the agency’s size from 176 positions to less than 115 by the end of this month — are necessary to streamline operations, but critics see the moves as convenient cover for pushing out officials of uncertain loyalty to Mr. Trump.
“While I’m sad to lose an important member of our team,” Mr. O’Brien said in a statement, “Victoria will be a big asset to Secretary Brouillette as he executes the president’s energy security policy priorities.”