Books don’t make you brave – Trump administration officials should have spoken up when it actually mattered instead of whining to authors after the fact

Trump, Gen. Milley
US President Donald Trump speaks as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Army General Mark Milley looks on after a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on October 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • Countless books detailing the Trump administration’s problematic ways are being released.
  • The sources for these books could have had a much bigger impact by speaking up at the time.
  • Otherwise, spare us the delayed crocodile tears.
  • Matt Walton is a former Republican and an educator in Virginia.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year” by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” by John Bolton.

Peril: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Front Row at the Trump Show” by Jonathan Karl.

These are all recent books that have been written about the problematic events that transpired inside the Trump White House.

Many of these books, most recently Woodward and Costa’s “Peril” which is being released on Tuesday, have shared details of events inside the Trump administration that many historians and people would describe as horrific, shocking, and disturbing.

These books rely on details from former administration officials, many of whom are attempting to portray themselves as defenders of democracy and a guardrail to protect America from its own president. It’s unfortunate that these officials chose to wait until after Trump left office to come forward and share with the American people and the world, through interviews with the authors, what they saw and experienced.

Being accessible to an author for a book after the fact doesn’t make you brave. Speaking out in the moment to the public via the press and to congressional leaders would have been more honorable and a better service to the country. We needed more people inside the administration who were witnessing first hand Trump’s danger to democracy and disregard of the rule of law to have the courage to step forward and be public as it was happening. This would have easily curtailed Trump’s worst impulses and led to a more ethical administration.

Brave new world

On June 25, 1973, former White House Counsel to President Nixon John Dean began his televised testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee. In his open testimony, under oath, Dean described in detail what he knew and witnessed from inside the Nixon White House during the Watergate break-in. Dean was the first Nixon administration official to accuse President Nixon of directly being involved in the Watergate break-in and covering it up in press interviews.

In doing so, Dean put the interest of the country above himself and took a courageous step in coming forward to share openly with Congress and the world in almost real time the criminal and corrupt activity that was linked to the Oval Office.

Dean did what many in the Trump White House should have done. Dean did not wait until Nixon was out of office to tell the stories of what he knew. He did so in an open forum and even accepted his role in the Watergate scandal, pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

Former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton described in his book a number of events that he witnessed. Unlike Dean, Bolton sadly decided to be a coward that focused more on compensation rather than raising his concerns through official, and even public, channels about Trump’s potential illegal and unethical behavior .

Through these books, the world hears quotes from various administration officials who depict a disturbing president who was reckless, erratic, and dangerously uninformed. In the book from Woodward and Costa, they tell stories about how Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley was so worried about Trump that he alone took secret actions to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons.

As with the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied,” so true is the public’s knowledge of unethical, corrupt, and illegal actions from government officials. Knowledge of what is transpiring inside government is a fundamental key to maintaining our democracy and rule of law. Delaying public knowledge of events is a passive way of condoning them.

What was taking place in the White House in the Trump administration by the president himself was something that the American people deserved to know as it was happening. America needed patriots who would put the country above self and openly talk about what they were witnessing first hand, rather than wait to be in a book or publish a book.