The people saying mean things about Trump aren’t lurking in the shadows. They are well-known names whom Trump recruited to work by his side. Their motives aren’t mysterious. They are obvious: A transactional president encourages transactional behavior in his midst. These sources have shocking stories to tell, but no longer any genuinely surprising ones.

The plot is playing out now in familiar ways. Prominent people typically went to work for Trump thinking he seems like a jerk but, hey, he was elected, after all. So they calculated that maybe he’s not so bad and that the compensations in power and status of an important job were worth the trade. They believed the Republic would be better off with their wise counsel helping curb Trump’s worst instincts. Once there, they discovered that the president is more self-absorbed and less tethered to public interest than they had previously imagined. Having been lured into the inner circle to enhance their reputations, they fear—often with good reason—that they are leaving soiled by Trump’s splatter.

So they write books, like former Trump lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen. Or they talk to magazine journalists, like the senior military officers who told damaging tales to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg or dispatched surrogates to do so. Above all, they sit with Washington’s legendary confessor priest, Bob Woodward, for his new book, “Rage.”