A Very Stable Genius: A Conversation with Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker
On Jan. 24, The Washington Post’s White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker and National Investigative Reporter Carol Leonnig sat down with The Washington Post Live to discuss their new book, "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America."
"A Very Stable Genius" tracks the first three years of the Trump presidency relying on intimate, revelatory interviews with first-hand witnesses and including never-before-reported details. The book delves into Mueller’s Russia investigation, President Trump’s conduct on the world stage and goes behind-the-scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, revealing an administration struggling to maintain order and establish a governing foothold.
Some have wondered why those who have spoken out against President Trump’s conduct privately won’t also condemn his actions publicly. “A Very Stable Genius” author Philip Rucker says some feel honor-bound not to criticize a sitting president while others are fearful because of Trump’s tendency to seek retribution on those who are not loyal to him.
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When asked whether ‘shamelessness’ is President Trump’s superpower, ‘A Very Stable Genius’ author Carol Leonnig said, ‘I can’t remember a presidency that would have survived the first few months of this one, in which there was a the travel ban against countries that obviously had a religious discrimination element in it as found by court. I can’t imagine a presidency that would’ve survived not one, not two, but five different cabinet members and senior officials traveling on private jets for private purposes....It’s a stunner every time, and again, it doesn’t exactly go to Donald Trump, it goes to voters. Why is it that this is the champion?’
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“A Very Stable Genius” portrays President Trump as ‘at times dangerously uninformed.” Author Philip Rucker says some world leaders have found ways to use his apparent ignorance to their advantage. “There are other leaders around the world who have decided they can find ways to manipulate Trump and his administration because of the lack of experience, and knowledge, and sophistication in world affairs and geo-politics. We see it in the Middle East. We see it in the way the Saudis have treated the United States. We see it in other areas as well,” Rucker said.
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During the Russia investigation, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and other senior officials practiced fire drills in case Trump triggered a “Saturday night massacre” — an allusion to the series of resignations under President Richard M. Nixon following his order to his attorney general to fire the Watergate independent special prosecutor. “There were senior aides whose job it was to quickly rush to whomever would replace Rod Rosenstein if he had been decapitated and fired, rush to that person within a certain number of minutes and communicate to them how to hold off the White House from taking any other actions.… We learned something Robert Mueller never did, which is that the President was actively talking in January 2018 of getting Rod Rosenstein fired.”
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Carol Leonnig
National Investigative Reporter, The Washington Post
Carol Leonnig is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has worked at The Washington Post since 2000. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her work on security failures and misconduct inside the Secret Service. She was part of a Post team that was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for revealing the U.S. government's secret, broad surveillance of Americans through the disclosures of Edward Snowden. She is a three-time winner of the George Polk award for investigative reporting. She reports on Donald Trump's presidency and investigates Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Leonnig is also an on-air contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.
Philip Rucker
White House Bureau Chief, The Washington Post
Philip Rucker is the White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. He previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. Rucker also is a Political Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He joined The Post in 2005 as a local news reporter.
Moderated by Stephanie Ruhle
Anchor, MSNBC and Senior Business Correspondent, NBC News
Stephanie Ruhle anchors “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle” and “MSNBC Live with Velshi & Ruhle” on weekdays. Ruhle also appears across all NBC News and MSNBC platforms as NBC News’ Senior Business Correspondent, including “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” “TODAY,” NBCNews.com, and NBC News BETTER where she hosts the “BETTER Business” series. Ruhle has interviewed titans in politics, business, entertainment and sports. Ruhle is also the host of the podcast, “Modern Ruhles: Compelling Conversations During Culturally Complicated Times.”Ruhle received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from Lehigh University, living abroad in Guatemala, Kenya and Italy.
About Washington Post Live
Washington Post Live is the newsroom’s live journalism platform. Top-level government and business leaders, emerging voices and newsmakers discuss the most pressing national and global issues of the day.