Last night, cease and desist letters were sent to Steve Bannon, former Trump White House advisor, and Henry Holt & Co., the publisher of the Fire and Fury, the explosive forthcoming book from reporter Michael Wolff about the first year of the Trump administration. The White House is now officially attempting to block publication of the book, which almost assures its place atop the best-seller list. After quotes from the book leaked from the Guardian and New York magazine published a lengthy excerpt yesterday, we’ve got a fresh new excerpt, from the Hollywood Reporter no less, which seems entirely appropriate for the times.
In the New York piece, the big takeaway was that no one in Trumpworld, up to and including Donald himself, expected to win, and that they saw the whole campaign as a launchpad for future business endeavors (which goes a long way toward explaining the overarching sloppiness of their Russia collusion) A lot of this morning’s excerpt echoes those same sentiments, but with an emphasis on just how much that surprise and confusion has created an atmosphere chaos and resentment among staff.
Here are the highlights:
Trump didn’t seem to know what he was getting into when authorizing the book.
“’I hear a lot of people want to write books’…But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out…Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the "system," and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.”
Wolff seems to have anticipated skepticism of his reporting, and the fantastical elements of the first excerpt, by giving a White House geography lesson as to how he was positioned to hear so much.
“The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare—everybody passes by. Assistants—young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn's abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.
Sean Spicer’s personal mantra:
“You can’t make this shit up.”
Everyone in the White House felt the same way about Kellyanne Conway’s cable news arguments as you did.
Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump's public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway's fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)
We have Jarvanka to thank for the 11 absurd days of the Scaramucci era.
“Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka's solution to all of the White House's management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York — he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci — as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any — to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.”
No, Melania is not more powerful behind the scenes than it appears.
“With Melania a nonpresence, the staff referred to Ivanka as the ‘real wife’ and [Communications Director Hope] Hicks as the ‘real daughter.’”
The American legal elite seem uninterested in taking on Robert Mueller.
“No one expected [Trump] to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia "collusion," Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)”
Rumors of Trump’s diminished mental capacity do not seem exaggerated.
“Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. 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.”
General John Kelly started off his tenure as chief of staff in the dark.
“The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff—without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand. Grim and stoic, accepting that he could not control the president, Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president…if that is comfort.”
Staff was relieved when the man who most considered closest to Trump on the campaign finally said the obvious…
“He’s just a fucking fool” - Sam Nunberg