K E Y P O I N T S
- Michael Wolff’s eagerly anticipated book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, has been released four days early, prompted by threats of legal action from the Trump administration after an advance copy was obtained by The Guardian.
- The book paints a picture of a presidential candidate who didn’t particularly want to win the US election in 2016, and a team around him which was resigned to imminent defeat.
- The author begins with a note saying it was “originally conceived as an account of the Trump administration’s first 100 days... but events barrelled on without natural pause for more than 200 days”.
- He claims the book is based upon conversations with ”... the President, with most members of his senior staff - some of whom talked to me dozens of times - and with many people who they in turn spoke to”.
- Wolff, a veteran 64-year-old author and journalist, told NBC on Friday that everyone he spoke to gave the same description of the President - “he is like a child”.
- Trump has claimed the book is “phoney” and “full of lies” and that he never spoke to Wolff.
- The veracity of the claims made have been questioned with Maggie Haberman of The New York Times saying there are “several things that are true and several that are not”.
S N A P V E R D I C T
From HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief, Amanda Terkel:
Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” has shaken up the White House. Aides were not prepared for excerpts to leak so long before the planned January 9 publication date and they were caught off-guard on how to respond.
From the excerpts and leaks, we know the book is full of gossipy details, like how Ivanka makes fun of her dad’s hair and how President Donald Trump likes to retire by 6:30pm with a cheeseburger and his TVs.
But the book also underscores how unprepared Trump and his inner circle were for the presidency. In fact, according to the accounts by Wolff, none of them thought he would be president ― and they didn’t particularly want him to be. They thought they would all get rich being on cable TV after their election loss. Trump, and members of his family, are portrayed as ignorant and foolish by people like Rupert Murdoch, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.
But no one has earned the ire of Trump as much as Steve Bannon, the head of the conservative Breitbart News and the former top White House and campaign aide. Bannon is quoted extensively in the book. Most damningly, he goes after Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign, saying it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” He also calls Ivanka “dumb as a brick.”
Trump ended up releasing a blistering statement going after Bannon, the likes of which no one can remember seeing from a president: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
The result has been an isolation of Bannon, whose strength was his connection to Trump and his ability to bring the far right to him. But these voters are already sticking with Trump, and Bannon now may have lost his connection to the president. And there are reports that Breitbart’s big benefactor may oust Bannon from his job. Without Breitbart, Bannon won’t have his megaphone, and already, several candidates he is backing for election in 2018 have distanced themselves from him.
B E S T L I N E S
The book makes a number of explosive, intriguing and sometimes downright surreal claims:
- Some of the harshest quotes in the book came from Steve Bannon, the right-wing firebrand who headed the final stage of Trump’s campaign and became chief strategist at the White House before being fired in August. He is said to have described a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in New York as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
- On the announcement of his election victory, the President-elect became “a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump”.
- Trump was personally aggrieved that a number of A-list stars snubbed his inauguration ceremony.
- As one of Trump’s aides tried to educate him on the US Constitution he grew bored and only made it to the 4th Amendment before he started ”... pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head”.
- Trump loves to “pursue the wives of friends” and goes to bed not with his wife, but with a cheeseburger and three TVs.
- Upon moving into the White House he found the building “scary”. Wolff writes: “Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom - the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. 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.”
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have already agreed that if the opportunity arises it will be Ivanka that runs for President.
- Rupert Murdoch described Trump as “a fucking idiot” after trying to explain basic policy to him. Many of Trump’s senior aides have used similarly colourful language, variously describing him as an “idiot”, “dumb as shit” and a “dope”.
- Trump’s orange hair colour is a result of impatience - Ivanka mocks her father to friends with the book saying she describes it as “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 centre and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The colour, 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”.
- The reason Trump has made so few appointments is “they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests”.
- Disgraced former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, knew that accepting money from Moscow for a speech could come back to haunt him. The book claims he “had been told by friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. ‘Well it would only be a problem if we won,’ he assured them”.
W H A T N E X T?
During his first year in office Trump has faced more scandals than most Presidents face in their entire terms - think Russia and Watersportsgate just for starters.
But what makes this book different is the apparent unprecedented access to the White House and material - apparently - direct from Trump’s inner circle.
And as some commentators have said, this might be a one-of-a-kind that throws into question how journalists deal with the administration.
dilemma of the Wolff book for journalism commentators : those who said press should break the rules, not normalize Trump, call it what it is etc., did not anticipate the most effective route to that would be by pulling off the most audacious act of access journalism of all time— emily bell (@emilybell) January 4, 2018
Wolff just compacted the "beat sweetener" concept and took it to an extreme. Sided all-in with Trump admin overtly for a month or two to get access, waited, did the reporting. Effective strategy but only works for a one-off. (Like...a BOOK). https://t.co/bfvhqyIxBn— Elizabeth Spiers (@espiers) January 5, 2018
As for the President, he is so far attempting to downplay and distract with his tried-and-tested “look at the Stock Market” tweets.
Dow goes from 18,589 on November 9, 2016, to 25,075 today, for a new all-time Record. Jumped 1000 points in last 5 weeks, Record fastest 1000 point move in history. This is all about the Make America Great Again agenda! Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Six trillion dollars in value created!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2018
T W E E T O F T H E D AY
The fact this parody tweet gained so much traction and was believed by many says much about the current state of US politics.
Wow, this extract from Wolff’s book is a shocking insight into Trump’s mind: pic.twitter.com/1ZecclggSa— pixelated boat (@pixelatedboat) January 5, 2018
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.