Every day, you wake up, check the news, think: “surely Trump can’t have said anything more stupid than yesterday” and then you are proved wrong.
And every time you read another insider’s account of the chaos behind the scenes at the White House, you think: “surely it can’t be quite as bad as what this person is saying, surely there is some sort of method behind the madness?”
But, again, it seems we have been proved wrong, given the utterly sensational preview article of a new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House which chronicles the crazy first year of the Trump administration.
It’s been written by journalist Michael Wolff, who was, able to, in his own words, take up “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” and is based on more than 200 interviews with staff. It lifts the lid on the startling events in the White House and we would say it is shocking, but then no doubt something more shocking will emerge tomorrow which will make this look normal.
So what are the ‘highlights’? Well, these:
1. Donald Trump did not actually want to be President
According to the book, the plan all along was to run for president, come close to winning, but not actually win. Why? He would become “the most famous man in the world,” and use his increased profile - and position as a martyr who had gone out fighting the evil Hillary - to launch his own TV network. The beauty of this was that he - and his extended family - could get all the benefits of the increased exposure and opportunities without having to change their behaviour or worldview one iota. Now, if this all seems familiar, then just call me ‘Mr Brexit’ - because it’s rumoured that this was exactly the plan that Boris Johnson had when he campaigned for ‘Leave’ in the EU Referendum - to lose, but lose closely - thus positioning himself to become the next Tory leader after David Cameron. So what happened when news came through that Trump was going to win? “Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”
2. He was very angry about his inauguration
It has already been widely documented how much the lack of crowds at Trump’s inauguration annoyed him, but Fire and Fury really lays bare how much the whole process angered him. As Wolff writes: “He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears. Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed.”
3. Ivanka and Jared Kushner planned to later run for president
According to the book, the only reason that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner agreed to take jobs in the White House (“against the advice of almost everyone they knew”) was “in the hope that Trump’s unexpected victory would catapult them into a heretofore unimagined big time”. But most hilariously of all, they made a pact worthy of a daytime soap - their own version of Blair and Brown’s famous agreement; that “If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.” Even Steve Bannon thought it unbelievable, reportedly saying: “They didn’t say that? Stop. Oh, come on. They didn’t actually say that? Please don’t tell me that. Oh my God.”
4. Trump is semi-literate
The article is littered with examples of Trump’s inability to communicate in any standard sense of the word. He spends his day on the phone, but people have to constantly try and stay in touch with him, since “the last person the president spoke to ended up with enormous influence.” In terms, of talking: “He could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his performance — without making him angry or petulant.”
Another incredible section details how: “He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate. He trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.””
5. Ivanka openly mocks her dad’s combover hairstyle
Despite often being described as her father’s closest confidante, it seems Ivanka was not averse to openly mocking him, including his famous hair, which he is so sensitive about. “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.”
6. The administration has no idea what it actually wants to achieve
Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, in a desperate attempt to try and enable the administration to achieve something - anything - tried to boil it down to the absolute basics. Wolff writes: “In early March, not long before she left, she confronted Kushner with a simple request. “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,” she demanded. “What are the three priorities of this White House?” It was the most basic question imaginable — one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer. “Yes,” he said to Walsh. “We should probably have that conversation.””
7. Trump loves Rupert Murdoch, but the feeling is not mutual
The book described how, on the Saturday after the election, Trump was entertaining a group of well-wishers in Trump Tower. “But Trump himself was mostly looking at the clock. Rupert Murdoch, who had promised to pay a call on the president-elect, was running late. When some of the guests made a move to leave, an increasingly agitated Trump assured them that Rupert was on his way. “He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,” Trump said. “You have to stay to see him.”” However, the feeling was not mutual - after a later phone call between the two, he called Trump “a fucking idiot”.
8. Even Steve Bannon though Donald Trump Jr’s Russian meeting was treasonous
One of the main focuses of the Russia enquiry is an alleged meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr and a group of Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it turns out that even Steven Bannon thought that this was an outrageous thing to do. Bannon apparently told Wolff: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor - with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” What is more, commenting on the investigation, Bannon apparently said: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”“
9. The Muslim ban was rushed through precisely to annoy ‘the snowflakes’
The infamous executive order signed by the president at the end of January led to widespread chaos as people came out to protest, and was masterminded by Steve Bannon, keen to throw down the gauntlet early on. Wolff writes: “Almost the entire White House staff demanded to know: Why did we do this on a Friday, when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters? “Errr … that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: Make them crazy and drag them to the left.”
10. Trump likes to be in bed with a cheeseburger by 6:30pm surrounded by three TV screens
To be fair, who doesn’t? Other remarkable revelations read: “He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (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 premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.”
11. Bannon, Priebus, and Kushner all fought each other so much that nothing ever happened
Walsh describes how, whenever she received direction from one of them it would be immediately overturned by another, leading to constant stalemate. Wolff writes: “I take a conversation at face value and move forward with it,” she said. “I put what was decided on the schedule and bring in comms and build a press plan around it … And then Jared says, ‘Why did you do that?’ And I say, ‘Because we had a meeting three days ago with you and Reince and Steve where you agreed to do this.’ And he says, ‘But that didn’t mean I wanted it on the schedule …’ It almost doesn’t matter what anyone says: Jared will agree, and then it will get sabotaged, and then Jared goes to the president and says, see, that was Reince’s idea or Steve’s idea.”’