Journalist Michael Wolff’s upcoming book about President Trump’s first year in office, “Fire and Fury,” is sending shockwaves through the administration. On Wednesday, the White House released an extraordinary statement denouncing Steve Bannon for his devastating remarks about Trump in the book, saying the president’s former chief strategist had “lost his mind.”
It was one of three separate statements from the administration about Wolff’s book, which will be published Jan. 9. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was “furious” and “disgusted” by Bannon’s comments, and described the book as “trashy tabloid fiction.”
So what in the book has Trump so worked up? Excerpts published by the Hollywood Reporter and New York magazine and a separate report on the book posted by the Guardian paint the picture of a chaotic and dysfunctional administration filled with backstabbing and infighting, and led by a commander in chief compared by one confidant to a “semiliterate” child.
Below are 10 notable revelations from the excerpts released so far.
Trump’s public defenders privately lamented having to defend the president
According to the excerpt published by the Hollywood Reporter, former press secretary Sean Spicer reportedly couldn’t believe he had to defend Trump’s claim of having the biggest inaugural crowd in history.
“You can’t make this s*** up,” Spicer is quoted by Wolff as saying shortly after giving his first press briefing. “Soon enough,” Wolff writes, Spicer “adopted this as a personal mantra.”
After his appointment as chief of staff, Reince Priebus wasn’t sure he’d last until the inauguration, according to Wolff. And Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and special counselor, “would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump’s public comments.”
Rupert Murdoch described Trump as a “f***ing moron”
During Trump’s first year in office, the media mogul frequently placed calls to the president to offer him advice. But in private, Wolff writes, Murdoch “continued to derisively ridicule” Trump.
“What a f***ing moron,” Murdoch reportedly said after one such call.
Trump’s Cabinet held similarly low opinions of the president, according to Wolff.
To Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Wolff writes, Trump “was a moron.” (An even saltier version of that assessment was made public last year.) For chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Trump “was dumb as s***.” For national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Trump “was a hopeless idiot.” For Bannon, Trump “had lost his mind” — coincidentally, the same thing Trump said about Bannon on Wednesday.
Aides quickly became frustrated by Trump’s inability to comprehend basic policy briefings
According to Wolff, White House aides noticed that President Trump, soon after taking office, “didn’t process information in any conventional sense.”
“He didn’t read,” Wolff writes. “He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. He trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said [deputy chief of staff Katie] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants.’”
Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg recalled his attempt to explain the Constitution to the candidate.
“I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg said, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
Trump was increasingly repeating stories and could not recognize old friends
Before taking the chief of staff job, Priebus had been reportedly warned about Trump’s penchant for “constantly” repeating himself.
“Here’s the deal,” a close Trump associate told Priebus. “In an hour meeting with him, you’re going to hear 54 minutes of stories, and they’re going to be the same stories over and over again.”
“Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions,” Wolff writes. “It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes.”
And at Mar-a-Lago late last month, Trump “failed to recognize a succession of old friends.”
Bannon thought the infamous Trump tower meeting was “treasonous”
In one excerpt, published by the Guardian, Bannon reportedly told Wolff that the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on Hillary Clinton should have been reported to the FBI at the time.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon said, according to the excerpt published in the Guardian. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
And Bannon believes that Trump Jr. not only briefed his father on that meeting — he also introduced the participants to the candidate.
“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon was quoted as saying.
Bannon also believed that the Mueller investigation would “crack Don Junior like an egg”
The Breitbart chief predicted that the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, would end badly for the president’s son.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon said, according to the Guardian.
Ivanka Trump has mused about becoming president
Wolff writes: “Both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job. Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.”
Ivanka was known to make fun of her father’s comb-over
“She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray,” Wolff writes. “The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color.”
Trump’s eccentricities were on display when he moved into the White House
Wolff writes: “In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush.
And Trump’s love of fast food has an unusual origin, according to Wolff: “He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.”
Donald Trump didn’t even want to be president
In the excerpt published by New York magazine, Wolff wrote that even on Election Day, “almost everyone” in the Trump campaign was convinced he would not win.
Wolff writes: “Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the effective head of the campaign — wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.”
“Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary,” Wolff continues. “His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
“Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost,” Wolff adds. “Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”
According to Wolff, the unexpected victory “set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office.”
“The mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were,” Wolff says.
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