The White House is on the warpath over allegations in a new tell-all
Every American president gets his book and no town likes a tell-all more than Washington. So next week’s publication of journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was always going to make a splash. But the excerpts either leaked or published so far have had an unusually speedy impact, already causing a very angry and public split between Donald Trump and his former chief strategist and campaign chief Steve Bannon.
Even as some of the people Mr Wolff quoted in the book disputed his reporting, it has set the White House on the warpath against what it has already sought to portray as a litany of false claims.
Asked on Wednesday how Mr Trump had reacted to the comments attributed to Mr Bannon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I think furious, disgusted would probably, certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims, and completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family.”
These are six of the main allegations to have emerged from the book so far: Bannon claims put White House on warpath Trump and those around him never expected to win the 2016 election According to an excerpt of the book published on Wednesday by New York magazine, Trump campaign members had by August 2016 become resigned to losing the presidential election.
Instead they focused on extracting new levels of fame for themselves, and ignored many of the potential conflicts of interest that would surface if they won. “The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behaviour or their worldview one whit,” Mr Wolff writes. “Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns.
Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared [Kushner] would be international celebrities . . . Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.” Trump refused to invest in his own campaign Mr Trump, according to the New York magazine excerpt, was “baffled” when billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter presented their plan to inject $5m into his campaign and install Mr Bannon and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to revitalise it. But the move quickly highlighted what Mr Bannon came to see as a deep “structural flaw” in the campaign.
“The candidate who billed himself as a billionaire — ten times over — refused to invest his own money in it,” Mr Wolff writes. After approaching Mr Kushner to get him to help convince Mr Trump to inject $50m into the campaign, Mr Bannon got a wake-up call from the president’s son-in-law. “No way we’ll get [$50m] unless we can guarantee him victory,” Mr Kushner responded, according to Mr Wolff. Eventually, the book says, the campaign extracted a $10m loan from Mr Trump on the proviso that he would get it back as soon as other money could be raised.
Trump’s admiration for Rupert Murdoch may not be mutual After hosting chief executives from Silicon Valley at Trump Tower on December 14 Mr Trump reportedly picked up the phone and called the media mogul. That call ended with Mr Murdoch stunned by how Mr Trump had been taken in by the tech titans, who had complained to the incoming president about the Obama administration despite being close political allies of the previous occupant of the White House.
“What a f***ing idiot,” Mr Murdoch said as he got off the phone, according to the book. Bannon is not afraid to burn bridges In an interview with Mr Wolff, Mr Bannon accused other senior Trump campaign figures of in effect engaging in treason by meeting a Russian lawyer in July 2016 who was offering information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton, according to a Guardian report. “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 sh*t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” the former presidential adviser told Mr Wolff. He also predicted that a special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election would pursue money laundering charges and lashed out at the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. “[Investigators are] going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
Trump’s family allegedly see their White House roles as stepping stones Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner “were having to navigate Trump’s volatile nature just like everyone else in the White House. And they were willing to do it for the same reason as everyone else — in the hope that Trump’s unexpected victory would catapult them into a heretofore unimagined big time,” Mr Wolff writes. “Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: 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.”
Trump turned his White House bedroom into a TV-watching retreat In his early days in the White House the new president often retreated to his bedroom at night, where he had three televisions installed and liked to dine on cheeseburgers, according to Mr Wolff. “Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom — the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms,” he writes.
“If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon, then, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls — the phone was his true contact point with the world — to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and then compared notes with one another.”