WASHINGTON ― Journalist Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury drew outsize attention this week, when excerpts were released that featured members of President Donald Trump’s administration openly questioning his mental stability, as well as explosive comments from his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Trump and the White House unleashed attacks against Bannon and threatened legal action against Wolff and his publisher. The book ended up being released on Friday, four days ahead of its scheduled publication date.
Here are some especially notable claims from the book to hold you over until you read the full thing.
Trump told former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes that son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner would “work out” the Russia issue.
According to Wolff, Ailes warned Trump about “potentially damaging material” coming up about the ties between his campaign and Russian officials.
Shortly after the election, his friend Ailes told him, with some urgency, “You’ve got to get right on Russia.” Even exiled from Fox News, Ailes still maintained a fabled intelligence network. He warned Trump of potentially damaging material coming his way. “You need to take this seriously, Donald.”
“Jared has this,” said a happy Trump. “It’s all worked out.”
Kushner, who has been assigned a rather large array of tasks as a White House senior adviser, has faced plenty of scrutiny in the multiple investigations into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia last year.
Bannon told top Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller to use “the internet” as he drafted the administration’s famous immigration executive order.
The book paints an unflattering picture of Miller, who is responsible for shaping much of Trump’s platform ― particularly his anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy proposals. Miller knew little about policy or military matters, the book says.
Bannon “sent him to the Internet to learn about and to try to draft the [executive order],” according to Wolff.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka told her friends about the secrets of her father’s hair.
She treated her father with some lightness, even irony, and in at least one television interview she made fun of his comb-over. 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.
Trump has a conspiratorial reason for his frequent consumption of McDonald’s food.
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.
Trump is a “post-literate” TV junkie.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that a busy schedule and strong work ethic keeps him from watching much television. “Primarily because of documents,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One in November. “I’m reading documents. A lot. And different things. I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television.”
According to Wolff’s book, Trump has three TVs in his White House bedroom, hardly reads and struggles to process information.
Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. (There was some argument about this, because he could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post’s Page Six.) Some thought him dyslexic; certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he just didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate—total television.
As Bannon told Wolff: “[Trump’s] a guy who really hated school … And he’s not going to start liking it now.”
“Everybody was a leaker”: former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, Bannon, Kushner — even Trump.
In their efforts to “influence the president and undermine” one another, Bannon, Priebus and Kushner created a kind of “paralysis” within the White House that led each of the advisers to turn to the media, Wolff writes.
The constant leaking was often blamed on lower minions and permanent executive branch staff, culminating in late February with an all-hands meeting of staffers called by Sean Spicer—cell phones surrendered at the door—during which the press secretary issued threats of random phone checks and admonitions about the use of encrypted texting apps. Everybody was a potential leaker; everybody was accusing everybody else of being a leaker.
Everybody was a leaker.
At least some of the information about the inner workings of the White House came directly from Trump, Wolff writes.
Trump accusing the Obama administration of “wiretapping” Trump Tower was a “turning point” for White House staff.
In a series of tweets on March 4, 2017, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of surveilling him, offering no evidence to support the claim. “This is McCarthyism!” Trump wrote, adding that Obama was a “Bad (or sick) guy!”
It was a turning point. Until now, Trump’s inner circle had been mostly game to defend him. But after the wiretap tweets, everybody, save perhaps Hope Hicks, moved into a state of queasy sheepishness, if not constant incredulity.
Sean Spicer, for one, kept repeating his daily, if not hourly, mantra: “You can’t make this shit up.”
Trump had no interest in repealing Obamacare — or health care in general. A man of many phobias, however, he once lied so as not to be pegged obese.
Trump had little or no interest in the central Republican goal of repealing Obamacare. 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.
During one particular health care discussion, Trump reportedly asked of his aides: “Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?”
Privately, Kellyanne Conway rolls her eyes at Trump’s antics.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — arguably Trump’s most loyal defender — has what Wolff describes in the book as a “convenient On-Off toggle.”
In private, in the Off position, she seemed to regard Trump as a figure of exhausting exaggeration or even absurdity—or, at least, if you regarded him that way, she seemed to suggest that she might, too. She illustrated her opinion of her boss with a whole series of facial expressions: eyes rolling, mouth agape, head snapping back. But in the On position, she metamorphosed into believer, protector, defender, and handler.
Trump has multiple theories that former President Richard M. Nixon was framed for the Watergate scandal.
Trump was reportedly reminded of the famous wiretapping scandal as the FBI’s Russia probe unfolded, and compared James Comey to John Dean, who was instrumental in unraveling the Nixon administration’s cover-up.
The president has “several revisionist theories” about Watergate and how Nixon was framed, the book says.
After a perceived win against Ivanka Trump over the Paris climate agreement, Bannon declared, “The bitch is dead.”
Wolff says the president’s plan to back out of the Paris agreement, announced in early June, was the move Ivanka Trump “had campaigned hardest against in the White House.” Bannon, who had fought repeatedly against Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s White House influence, had supported the withdrawal.
“Score,” Bannon said. “The bitch is dead.”
Bannon called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives “treasonous,” and suggested Trump himself met with the foreign officials on the same day.
Wolff outlines four imagined scenarios justifying the meeting in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, ranging from outright plotting by the Trump campaign to mere amusement at the prospect of playing dirty campaign tricks on Hillary Clinton. Regardless of the reason, Wolff states that “practically nobody” doubted Trump himself was aware of the meeting.
“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon said, according to Wolff. “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.”
Trump’s presidency might end with impeachment, according to Bannon.
Bannon said “it just brings the impeachment closer” if Trump were to fire Mueller.
There’s a “33.3 percent chance that the Mueller investigation would lead to the impeachment of the president, a 33.3 percent chance that Trump would resign, perhaps in the wake of a threat by the cabinet to act on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (by which the cabinet can remove the president in the event of his incapacitation), and a 33.3 percent chance that he would limp to the end of his term,” the former adviser said.
Bannon said he certainly doesn’t believe Trump will last eight years.
“He’s not going to make it,” he said. “He’s lost his stuff.”