Over the past week, numerous Americans have become transfixed by a rogue Twitter account which claims to be coming from inside Donald Trump’s White House and has been leaking one embarrassing detail after another. The alleged leaker has been proven right on enough counts that half a million people are now following the account, even as they speculate who might be behind it. But today came a strange article from Esquire, which insists that the account in question is a fake — even though the article itself offers no evidence to back up its claim.
Based on its headline of “These ‘Rogue’ White House Accounts Are Just Liberal Bait,” I was expecting the Esquire piece to have unearthed proof that the rogue Twitter account was some kind of hoax. But it turns out the article consists of little more than rhetorical conjecture, such as the notion that the account can’t be real because it would have been forcibly shut down by now, and that it must be fake because the people running it have declined to offer proof that they’re legitimate. But that’s all just empty speculation being passed of as if it were fact. The Esquire piece is one the worst articles I’ve read in some time. But it does raise the question of what evidence we do have that the account in question may indeed be real or fake. And there are some specific details worth examining in this regard.
Here’s what we do know: the @RoguePOTUSStaff has made three assertions thus far which were ultimately proven true. The first was that the President of Mexico had canceled his meeting with Donald Trump, and that Trump had decided he was going to post a tweet saying he didn’t want the meeting anyway. The second was that Mike Pence would be included on Trump’s phone call with Vladimir Putin. The third was that Neil Gorsuch had been picked for the Supreme Court. None of these are high level details. But none of them were publicly known at the time they were tweeted, and they were all later proven to be accurate. So the account is either run by someone who has access to inside information, or by someone who is really good at consistently guessing these kinds of things in advance and never getting it verifiably wrong.
That said, these are fairly pedestrian secrets. For instance, the Gorsuch pick leaked out to the media not too long after @RoguePOTUSStaff tweeted it, suggesting that by that time, it was the kind of poorly kept secret that everyone in the White House had already heard. What this rogue account is tweeting sounds a lot like the kind of corporate scuttlebutt about the higher-ups that one might hear in the employee break room. It suggests that the person or people running this account aren’t particularly high up the White House hierarchy
For that matter, the account in question has leaked embarrassing details about Trump, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, and Reince Priebus. Any political operative in the White House would likely have been recently hired by one of these four men — and would thus be loyal to him, even if disloyal to the other three. But this account has quickly made them all look bad, suggesting it’s coming from a White House lifer who has no loyalty to any of new arrivals. For all we know this person could be janitor who simply can’t believe what’s suddenly transpiring inside a traditionally professional White House.
But the point is that this leaked information, to whatever extent it is or is not valuable, does appear to be real. There are, however, some who believe the account is a hoax. Among them is conservative political reporter Louise Mensch, whom I respect as a journalist despite our ideological differences. However she’s simply theorizing that the account may be a disinformation campaign by Steve Bannon himself. Strangely, the Esquire piece seems to presenting Louise’s theory, for which she does not claim to have any specific evidence, as if it were fact. Moreover, Esquire didn’t even bother to address the most talked-about piece of evidence regarding the account’s legitimacy.
Earlier this week the @RoguePOTUSStaff account tweeted a screen capture of something on a smartphone. Based on the time of day displayed in comparison to the time of the tweet, and the manner in which the carrier is referred to as “VZW” instead of “Verizon” in the menubar, it suggests that the screen capture was done by someone on the west coast. Some have used this to suggest that the account may be the handiwork of a hoax artist located in a place like California. However, if people in the White House are using even the most basic precautions while leaking secret details, they’re likely using a burner phone to text their messages to a collaborator on the outside, who is then copy-pasting the messages to Twitter. That way no one is using a device in the White House to directly post these things to Twitter, making it harder to trace. So I don’t believe the west coast screenshot tells us anything one way or the other.
Yet strangely, the Esquire article insisting that the Twitter account is “almost certainly fake” didn’t even bother to address the screenshot in question, even though it could have been invoked to help cast doubt. Whoever wrote the article doesn’t even appear to be particularly familiar with the goings-on of the account in question, or the online discussion about the legitimacy of the account. It seems an awful lot like someone at Esquire saw an opportunity to look judicious by arbitrarily accusing the leaker of being fake, knowing full well that the leaker isn’t in a position to prove he’s real without outing his own identity and getting fired.
So draw whatever conclusions you like, based on the available evidence. By my count there’s a decent amount of evidence that the account is real, and no evidence (beyond conspiracy theories and a misunderstood screenshot) that the account is fake. To be clear, I don’t know anything that you don’t know. I have no idea who is behind the Twitter account in question. I’ve had no contact with them. I don’t know anything that you don’t know. But the totality of the evidence suggests to me that @RoguePOTUSStaff is legitimately the handiwork of one or more concerned lower level White House staffers. And at the least, no one has yet offered any real evidence to the contrary.