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10 things about Michael Wolff’s explosive book on Trump presidency

According to the book, the Russian side offered Donald Trump Jr damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2018 18:36 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan on December 20, 2017.
US President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan on December 20, 2017. (Reuters File photo)

Michael Wolff’s explosive book about the early days of the Donald Trump presidency contains many controversial nuggets about the real estate baron and his aides, having already triggered a devastating takedown of former chief strategist Steven Bannon by the US president.

Fire And Fury: Inside the Trump White House, the first tell-all account of the chaotic first months of the Trump presidency, will be out next week but a lengthy adapted excerpt by Wolff in New York Magazine has already provided some revelations.

1. Steven Bannon thought Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Russians was ‘treasonous’ and Ivan Trump was “dumb as a brick”

This is the revelation that prompted Trump to dismiss Bannon as someone who had nothing to do with his victory and as someone who has “lost his mind”.

According to the book, the Russian side offered Donald Trump Jr damaging information on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower…with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon told Wolff.

Bannon also thought the US investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia would “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV”.

2. Trump didn’t think he would be president and was ‘befuddled’ by victory

In the adapted excerpt, Wolff writes about the surprise within the Trump camp over the election victory: “Shortly after 8pm on Election Night, when the unexpected trend – Trump might actually win – seemed confirmed, 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. There was…in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump.”

“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” Trump told his old friend, Fox News boss Roger Ailes.

3. The election win exposed the team around Trump

“This was a real-life version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, where the mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle – that they would lose the election - wound up exposing them for who they really were,” Wolff writes in the adapted excerpt.

4. Trump was ‘angry’ at his inauguration

“Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. 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,” Wolff writes in the adapted excerpt.

5. Ivanka Trump struck a deal to run for president

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have struck a deal for her to run for president in future, Wolff says in the adapted excerpt.

“Balancing risk against reward, both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew…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.”

6. Ivanka made fun of Trump’s hair-do and scalp-reduction surgery

Wolff writes that Ivanka’s relationship with her father is “certainly transactional” and in “no way conventional”. She also made fun of her father’s alleged “scalp-reduction surgery” and “comb-over” and treated him with “a degree of detachment, even irony”.

“She often described the mechanics behind (the comb-over) 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 colour,” he writes.

7. Trump found the White House ‘scary’

Wolff writes in the adapted excerpt that Trump found the White House to be “vexing and even a little scary” and retreated to a separate bedroom. “In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room.”

8. Rupert Murdoch called Trump an ‘idiot’

Murdoch looked up to News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch but the media giant didn’t think much of him, writes Wolff in the adapted excerpt. “He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,” Trump told guests before a meeting with Murdoch soon after the election.

During a call between Trump and Murdoch about the president’s meeting with Silicon Valley executives, Trump said the tech executives needed his help on issues such as the H-1B visas.

“Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ ‘What a f****** idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.”

9. Even Mike Flynn didn’t think Trump would win

Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, was told by friends before the election that taking $45,000 from the Russian for a speech was not a “good idea”. Wolff writes, “‘Well it would only be a problem if we won,’ Flynn assured them.”

10. Trump is like ‘an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor’

Wolff writes in the adapted excerpt: “(Trump) 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.”