The Fix | Analysis
January 3, 2018 at 12:19 PM
President Trump is a book genre unto himself. There's “Understanding Trump,” by Newt Gingrich, whom Trump considered as a running mate; “Let Trump Be Trump,” by former Trump campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie; “The Swamp,” by former Fox News Channel host Eric Bolling; and a forthcoming book by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer (working title: “The Briefing”).
Note that all of these authors are pro-Trump partisans. That's why Michael Wolff's “Fire and Fury,” out Jan. 9, is significant. Wolff, a longtime journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, the Guardian, the Hollywood Reporter and other publications, presents his new title as a major piece of reporting.
Wolff says that his book is based on 200 conversations over the past 18 months with Trump, most members of his senior staff, some of whom he talked to dozens of times, and many people with whom they had spoken. Some conversations were on the record, while others were off the record or on “deep background,” allowing him to relay a “disembodied description of events provided by an unnamed witness to them.”
He notes that many accounts he heard of the Trump White House conflicted one another. In some cases, Wolff says, he let the players offer competing versions of reality while in other cases, he said that “through a consistency in accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that “this book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House.”
“Fire and Fury” contains many interesting insights and claims, big and small. Some are new; others are familiar but bolstered by additional color and detail. Here are 12 that stand out:
Key excerpt: In politics somebody has to lose, but invariably everybody thinks they can win. And you probably can’t win unless you believe that you will win — except in the Trump campaign. The leitmotif for Trump about his own campaign was how crappy it was and how everybody involved in it was a loser. He was equally convinced that rival Hillary Clinton's people were brilliant winners — “They’ve got the best and we’ve got the worst,” he frequently said. Time spent with Trump on the campaign plane was often an epic dissing experience: Everybody around him was an idiot.
Key excerpt: “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” said an astonished and derisive [Stephen K.] Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed. “The three senior guys in the campaign,” an incredulous Bannon went on, “thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s--t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
(Washington Post reporters have found no evidence that Trump met with the Russians during this meeting at Trump Tower. The president fired back at Bannon on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”)
Key excerpt: In early August , less than a month after Ailes had been ousted from Fox News, Trump asked his old friend to take over the management of his calamitous campaign. Ailes, knowing Trump’s disinclination to take advice, or even listen to it, turned him down.
Key excerpt: “You need a son of a b---h as your chief of staff. And you need a son of a b---h who knows Washington,” Ailes told Trump not long after the election. “You’ll want to be your own son of a b---h, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: “Speaker Boehner.” (John Boehner had been the speaker of the House until he was forced out in a tea party putsch in 2015.) “Who’s that?” Trump asked.
Key excerpt: So mortifying was this development that when Reince Priebus, the RNC head, was called to New York from Washington for an emergency meeting at Trump Tower, he couldn’t bring himself to leave Penn Station. It took two hours for the Trump team to coax him across town. “Bro,” said a desperate Bannon, cajoling Priebus on the phone, “I may never see you again after today, but you gotta come to this building and you gotta walk through the front door.”
Key excerpt: The New York Post got its hands on outtakes from a nude photo shoot that Melania had done early in her modeling career — a leak that everybody other than Melania assumed could be traced back to Trump himself. Inconsolable, she confronted her husband. Is this the future? She told him she wouldn’t be able to take it. Trump responded in his fashion — We’ll sue! — and set her up with lawyers. But he was uncharacteristically contrite, too. Just a little longer, he told her. It would all be over in November. He offered his wife a solemn guarantee: There was simply no way he would win.
Key excerpt: 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 pre-made.
Key excerpt: An overweight seventy-year-old man with various physical phobias (for instance, he lied about his height to keep from having a body mass index that would label him as obese), he personally found health care and medical treatments of all kinds a distasteful subject. The details of the contested legislation were, to him, particularly boring; his attention would begin wandering from the first words of a policy discussion. . . . Prior to his presidency, he had likely never had a meaningful discussion in his life about health insurance.
Key excerpt: Jared [Kushner] and Ivanka had made an earnest deal between themselves: If some time in the future the time came, she’d be the one to run for president (or the first one of them to take the shot). The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton, it would be Ivanka Trump.
Key excerpt: 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. 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.
Key excerpt: A few hours after the O’Reilly [firing] announcement, Ailes, from his new oceanfront home in Palm Beach — precluded by his separation agreement with Fox from any efforts to compete with it for 18 months — sent an emissary into the West Wing with a question for Stephen K. Bannon: O’Reilly and Hannity are in, what about you? Ailes, in secret, had been plotting his comeback with a new conservative network. . . . In reply, Bannon let Ailes know that for now, he was trying to hold on to his position in the White House. But yes, the opportunity was obvious.
Key excerpt: Trump believed that firing Comey would make him a hero. Over the next 48 hours he spun his side to various friends. It was simple: He had stood up to the FBI. He proved that he was willing to take on the state power. The outsider against the insiders. After all, that’s why he was elected.