Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” was released on Friday, in the face of a legal threat and blanket criticism from the White House.
President Trump himself said it is “full of lies, misrepresentations, and sources that don’t exist,” while Wolff indicated that he has audio recordings and notes to back up his assertions. It’s likely that Trump supporters will further challenge the book, as the Republican National Committee already has pointed out past challenges to Wolff’s credibility.
The book characterizes Trump as unfit for office, unable to focus his attention on even scant policy details and, in the eyes of even those most loyal to him, having the mentality of a child. But it is likely to be picked apart in the coming days and months, as its dishy anecdotes raise important issues and concern. Joe Scarborough, the “Morning Joe” host and Washington Post columnist who is thanked in the acknowledgements, labelled the book “terrifying.”
Some of the findings were known, like Trump’s insistence that the infamous Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape was altered. Other details are new and stinging to the White House, as they are titbits worthy of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and raise questions about Trump’s acuity.
Here are 10 biggest revelations from the book, categorized by their relevance to the ongoing chaos in Washington.
The Russia investigation:
- The first bombshell leaked from the book were quotes from Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who called Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and also attacked senior campaign officials Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort for agreeing to attend. He speculated that Trump himself may have met the lawyer and other Russians.
Wolff writes that Mark Corallo, who was spokesman for Trump’s private legal team as the Russia investigation unfolded last year, “privately” confided that he thought the president’s attempts to dictate the nature of Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer “represented likely an obstruction of justice.” Corallo stepped down from his role last summer. The initial explanation for Trump Jr.’s meeting was that it was to talk about the issue of Russian adoptions. In fact, as Trump Jr.’s emails revealed, it was to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Fitness for office:
- During the transition, when former Fox News chief Roger Ailes suggested John Boehner, the former House Speaker, for chief of staff, Wolff writes that Trump responded, “Who’s that?” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has already cited this story as one of the false assertions in the book, as Trump had tweeted extensively about Boehner in the lead up to the 2016 campaign.
At an event at Mar-a-Lago just before the New Year, Trump “failed to recognize a succession of old friends,” Wolff wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, previewing the book, bolstering his theme that Trump was “incapable of functioning in his job.”
Sam Nunberg, a campaign aide, was given the task of having to explain the Constitution to Trump. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head,” Nunberg is quoted as saying.
This week, Nunberg didn’t dispute his own quotes, but told ABC News, “I wasn’t there to teach the president the Constitution. The president had a granular understanding of the Constitution, it was good enough. What I was there for, it was around eight days before the first debate and I didn’t want him to have any gotcha questions.” He said that Wolff used “flourish” on the events he described.
- “Trump liked to say that one of the things that made life worth living was getting your friends’ wives into bed.” In a juicy story in the book, Wolff writes that Trump, in pursuing a friend’s wife, “would try to persuade the wife that her husband was perhaps not all that she thought.” Wolff writes that Trump would bring the male friend into his office, engage in sexual banter, while the wife would be listening in on speakerphone.
- Wolff writes that Trump “was visibly fighting with his wife” Melania on Inauguration Day, and that she “seemed on the verge of tears.” He writes that “almost every word he addressed to her was sharp and peremptory.”
“In general, the Trumps’ relationship was one of those things that nobody asked too many questions about — another mysterious variable in the presidential mood.”
Her spokeswoman put out a statement challenging some of the assertions in the book.
“The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section,” the spokeswoman said. “Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for President and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”
- Ivanka Trump would mock her father’s hair. Wolff writes, “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.”
Wolff also writes that Ivanka, along with her husband Jared Kushner, “had made an earnest deal with themselves: if sometime in the future the time came, she’d be the one to run for president (or the first one of them to take the shot). The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton, it would be Ivanka Trump.”
- Wolff makes clear that Trump and Murdoch converse regularly, much to the dismay of Bannon, who saw the media mogul as a part of the establishment. Wolff writes that Ailes, after his dismissal from Fox News, told Bannon at a dinner that Trump “would jump through hoops for Rupert. Sucks up and s—s down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.” The conversation reportedly took place at a Jan. 4, 2017, dinner party at Wolff’s home.
After a meeting with tech industry executives, Trump talked to Murdoch, Wolff writes, and the mogul asked him how the meeting went. “These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them,” he said.
Murdoch, however, then informed Trump that “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket,” sharing a sentiment common among traditional media executives.
Murdoch, Wolff writes, also found it problematic that Trump seemed willing to help the tech executives with H-1B visas — a position that would conflict with his hardline on immigration.
“What a f—ing idiot,” Murdoch is quoted as saying.
21st Century Fox had no comment.
- Trump’s famous love of the fast food chain is explained, to some degree, by being motivated by his fear of being poisoned. Wolff writes that Trump’s one reason why “he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely remade.”