Michael Wolff’s new book about the campaign and first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is making waves before it even hits shelves on January 9. Excerpts leaked already have Trump and Bannon at each other’s throats, after the president’s former chief strategist reportedly confided to Wolff that the dealings between the Trump campaign and Russia were “treasonous” and that they were going to “crack Don Junior like an egg.” Trump quickly responded by firing off a statement claiming that Bannon had “lost his mind” and soon followed up with a cease and desist.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Interview snippets from everyone from Ann Coulter to Rupert Murdoch — the latter of whom apparently called Trump a “f***ing idiot” — are coming to light, painting an even more erratic picture of the White House than many had possibly dreamed of. Now, for The Hollywood Reporter, Wolff has written a column based on his time reporting from inside the West Wing, pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the chaos he witnessed firsthand, and through over 200 interviews.
Wolff writes that he was granted access to the White House after receiving an email from Hope Hicks, praising a cover story he had published about the then-candidate in June of 2016. Though Trump himself seemed disinterested about his proposal to write a book, he nevertheless invited Wolff into the White House fold, where he would spend the better part of the first year of Trump’s presidency, in his words “plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.” Following are some of the more bizarre things he heard and witnessed.
Although Sean Spicer’s personal mantra, which allegedly quickly became “you can’t make this sh*t up,” is not too surprising, apparently even Kellyanne Conway could barely tolerate Trump behind closed doors:
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.
He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet … Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.
Even Trump doesn’t know what the heck his kids are doing in the White House:
Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family. In a way, this gave him a human dimension. Even Donald Trump couldn’t say no to his kids. “It’s a littleee, littleee complicated …” he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs.
Probably to the surprise of no one, Trump is constantly seeking some form of gratification.
How to get along with Trump — who veered between a kind of blissed-out pleasure of being in the Oval Office and a deep, childish frustration that he couldn’t have what he wanted? Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.”
Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch apparently refers to Trump as a “moron” behind his back.
One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: “What a fucking moron,” said Murdoch after one call.
And those leaks he’s always going on about?
A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.
The disastrous hiring of Anthony Scaramucci was apparently the work of Jared and Ivanka, a move that only fanned the flames of unrest among White House staffers over the president’s family.
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.
There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.
His penchant for repeating himself is not just in public appearances:
There was more: 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. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.
Finally, the kicker at the end of the piece, makes implications about the president’s current mental state:
At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.
It’s unclear how much of Wolff’s book is the product of taped conversations — which he claims to have — and how much is from memory and/or notes, but this will unlikely be the last we hear about it before it publishes on January 9.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)