The fury over ‘Fire and Fury’

REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Copies of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by author Michael Wolff are seen at a book store in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

It’s hard to know how Trump and Trumpism will weather the Michael Wolff/“Fire and Fury” moment.

Personally, since I never thought Trump/Trumpism could get this far, I humbly make no predictions about how it ends. But a great many people are being treated to a view of Trump’s lack of presidential qualities (to put it mildly) and a far more detailed and serious portrayal of a White House in chaos than even what we had seen heretofore.

Trump’s lawyers are trying to block publication of “Fire and Fury,” which was supposed to occur next week — until the publisher announced on Thursday that it would move the release date up to today. (If you’re interested, you can read Trump’s lawyers’ demand that the book be withdrawn here.)

Various Wolffian excerpts have already been widely published. The author wrote a summary of his observations for “The Hollywood Reporter,” where he is a regular columnist. That piece is titled “‘You Can’t Make This S— Up’: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House.” 

The summary is staggering, as is every other excerpt I’ve seen from the book.

Right at the top, Wolff explains, vaguely, how he managed to get permission from POTUS himself, to hang out on a couch in the West Wing often during the first year of the Trump term and talk to whoever came and went, including many top administration figures.

It’s not clear to me whom they thought they were talking to, but I assume they are now regretting treating Wolff as some kind of confidante who could be trusted to share the general sense of almost everyone in the administration (according to Wolff) that the president is a weird, disengaged cipher. A couple of excerpts from the Hollywood Reporter piece:

Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.” A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against. …

***

Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of [Trump’s] repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.

***

Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

By the way, fairness and a devotion to accuracy (qualities that, of course, our president does not model) require that I mention something important, at least to journalists. Wolff does not claim to practice old-fashioned, nothing-but-the-facts-ma’am journalism, which would require a journalist to make clear that he is asking them for on-the-record quotes. He conveys his impressions, as described in this Washington Post Style Section piece.

It seems likely that some of those conversing with Wolff in the West Wing did not believe they were participating in on-the-record interviews. And yet, it is also reported that Wolff has tapes of many of the interviews of which he writes, so if things go far enough, some of his interlocutors may be unable to deny some of the comments attributed to them. Some of those quoted by him are disputing that they said the things Wolff reported them saying.

The problem, of course, is that Wolff’s subject, the current president, lies constantly. That doesn’t make it okay to lie about him. But it puts him and his minions in a weak position to complain about matters of facticity.

Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 01/05/2018 - 10:41 am.

    “Fire and Fury” will be another distraction

    It will be infuriating for liberals to read and one more piece of evidence of what they knew all along, that the closest Trump should have been allowed to the White House was on a tour. For the Trumpists and others, it will be “fake news” and treated as such. And the noise surrounding the publication will distract from Trump’s actions yet again. If you are a liberal, what is needed is not another book confirming Trump is an idiot, what is needed is direction and a plan to fight back against his stupidity.

    • Submitted by Steve Roth on 01/05/2018 - 02:23 pm.

      Unfortunately…

      …liberals and Democrats can’t fight back against what is, factually, and historically, dangerous stupidity, alone. America needs a Republican party that hasn’t abdicated their role in protecting our country, the Constitution and the very rule of law. It’s too late. Blame Trump all you want but historians will note that the GOP’s very real campaign of the looting of America and destroying democracy from within began before Trump became POTUS and has only accelerated since.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/05/2018 - 10:45 am.

    Somehow Trump will survive, despite the fact that almost everyone in contact with him in the office regards him as spectacularly unqualified to be President and call him some version “idiot”. But the most relevant form of “idiot” is “useful idiot”.

    Which means there is a powerful constituency that will do what is necessary to keep him in power.

    By the way–Paul Manafort’s suit to limit Mueller’s investigation into the purely election time-frame is a Trump-sponsored move to try to move Trump’s New York/Russian real estate money-laundering issues out of review also.

    Many more shoes to drop. More ways for Republicans to dishonor themselves.

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 01/05/2018 - 11:21 am.

      I’m not sure he will survive…

      …but if its left up to Republicans, and at this point they are the only ones that can stop him, he will. This tells us all we need to know about Republicans and the supposed love of Country, respect for the Constitution and their BS Patriotism. They care nothing for the institutions of Government and everything about what they can squeeze out of it in the form of Benefits for themselves and their Corporate masters. For evidence look at the Tax bill and Senator Corker’s reversal on supporting it. After all his criticism of Trump and his unfitness for office Corker supported the Tax bill after Real Estate investors like himself were allowed a 20% cut on pass through income. The amendment also benefits the Trump family to the tune of 10s of Millions of dollars. Phonies, the lot of them.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/05/2018 - 12:51 pm.

        Unless the Republicans

        decide that they’d rather run along side Pence in 2018 than Trump, who’s becoming a GOP albatross (I’m giving him the bird;-).

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/05/2018 - 11:14 am.

    More ways

    My thanks, again, to Neal Rovick. “More ways for Republicans to dishonor themselves” is a fair way to paraphrase my own personal response to the whole enterprise, starting with the campaign, and simply being confirmed, day after day, since the inauguration.

    If Mr. Wolff’s book, based on excerpts Eric and others have now provided in other sources beyond MinnPost, is only half-true, it seems nonetheless to be the case that, truly, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” Much of the behavior described not only doesn’t rise to “presidential standards,” it doesn’t manage to rise to “adult human being” standards, either.

    I have a 6-year-old grandson whose language and behavior, pretty ordinary for his age, are better.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/05/2018 - 01:21 pm.

    One more quote from the book….

    …At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends…

    This and the repetitive story-telling should be very worrisome.

  5. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/05/2018 - 03:31 pm.

    Republicans could have saved their legacy, but its too late now.

    If Trump didn’t give Michael Wolff access to the White House, who did? What was he doing in the White House? It seems to be a question for the White House security. Is security such that people can’t jump the fence to get into the White House, but can walk in the front door whenever they like? It smells like another Trump lie to me.

    Given the President’s extreme narcissism and his need for massive amounts of attention, I have said for a long time that Trump never wanted to be President. He just wanted to stir the political pot and garner all the associated attention. Now he has more attention than he can handle. He wants to run the government as he runs his businesses. Seeing how he is running the government doesn’t say much about his business acumen. Trump’s current assumed legal problems recall the old saying, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when at first we try to deceive.” The President’s demonstrable lies are starting to catch up to him and he is doing all he can to stop further investigation, which is only making it seem like Trump is guilty, guilty, guilty. Trump’s narcissism is so extreme he is willing to take his own relatives down with him. So far, it appears Don Jr. and Jared are culpable participants in Trump’s disaster.

    Republicans and everyone else knows the President is not fit for the job. The problem is the Republicans have invested so much foolish time and energy trying to defend the undefendable, they can’t back out now. It is another case of the Republicans handling of the repeal and replace of the ACA, Obamacare. Rant, rave, lie, and wave their arms how bad it was, got to the point where they had to show their repeal and replace cards, and they had absolutely nothing. What an embarrassment for the entire Republican Party. Now they are doubling down with their defense of our undefendable President. The best they can hope for is that they can salvage some part of the Republican Party, which has lost its credibility. They can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still going to be a pig. The Republicans are starting to flee the Trump ship for fear of any Trump stink ending up on them. It would have been so much easier for them to work for the good of the country rather than the failed Republican Party. Now they leave with the Trump stink all over their legacy.

  6. Submitted by Leon Webster on 01/05/2018 - 02:56 pm.

    not totally accurate but true

    I heard John Dickerson on the Slate Political Gabfest talking about this book. He said that it may not be accurate in every detail, but it is true in the sense that the general feeling in the White House is one of chaos and subordinates who don’t respect the Mango Moron.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 01/07/2018 - 01:05 pm.

      Fake but true. That didn’t go very well for Dan Rather, did it?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/08/2018 - 01:34 pm.

        Rather’s fault

        was making a statement tht he could not substantiate.
        No one was able to prove that he made a false statement; just an unverifiable one.
        “Fake but true” is an oxymoron.

  7. Submitted by Tim Smith on 01/05/2018 - 08:37 pm.

    Whatever happened

    To those good ol critical thinking alt leftys who believed in real journalism, facts and reason? This book is just one more rat hole they hysteically ran down without questioning anything about the source or the fact (much disputed). Then to follow order we will get a report on The Presidents approval rating, a vicious cycle, over simplified cycle for alt left head nodders. If the author has this all on tape I am
    Sure he will share.

    One example,,the book claims trump didnt know who John Boehner is. A google search shows he tweeted about boehner over 20 times hmmmm

  8. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/05/2018 - 10:02 pm.

    Mr. Black mentioned in passing that Mr. Wolff is not a journalist but here is more on that: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/is-bannon-trump-michael-wolff-reporting-reliable.html. After that, any journalist with self-respect should stay clear of this book or any discussion thereof. But hate for Trump is so high, that anything goes (just like the View’s host took an NBC report as the truth and jumped up with joy). Trump doesn’t have a dog, Trump eats too many cheeseburgers, Trump can’t read, Trump can’t remember his friends’ names, and so on and so forth, with no end in sight. Seriously? Remember when right-wing conspiracy theorists were saying that Clinton was very sick?

    By the way, even if we don’t go by this guy’s reputation, why would people share their bad opinion (even if we assume they had ones) about Trump, their boss, with someone they barely knew? If anything, it would be logical for them to share positives… But, of course, as always, people believe in what they think they already know…

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/07/2018 - 09:38 pm.

      The believable aspect comes from seeing the outlines of those behaviors by Trump over the years, and the public evidence of his increasingly bizarre and incoherent statements and immature behavior.

      Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….

  9. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/06/2018 - 10:22 am.

    What is interesting

    Seems comments that do not pay homage to “T” is left wing, bad reporting, and unsubstantiated, comments that pay homage is substantiated and good reporting. Suggesting that only 1 news source is credible, a source which many of us have written off years ago for their severe lack of fair and balanced reporting integrity. It also appears curious that folks are suggesting Mr. Wolff is somehow a lefty, but make no thought, consideration, question as to why did/would an alt-right presidency allow a lefty journalist more or less free reign in the alt-right presidential suite?

  10. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/06/2018 - 06:34 pm.

    Trump maybe a genius, but nothing leads me to that belief.

    Trump refers to himself as a very stable genius. Trump’s criteria for genius is because he went to a good college and he has made billions. He didn’t mention the losses he has had. I have seen nothing that leads me to thinking he is stable or a genius. Reports lead me to believe he is unstable and very immature, which fits what I hear from him and see in his actions. Trump may be a genius, but nothing leads me to that belief. There are many geniuses in the world that put their extraordinary skills to work appropriately. A true genius knows how to use their extraordinary skills. If Trump is a genius, which I doubt, he has not figured out how to use his self-proclaimed skills appropriately and he would be smart enough to know he is not qualified to be President. Wildly tweeting, claiming my button is bigger than the other guys button, hitting someone 10 – 15 times harder when someone says something about him, and needing to be the center of attention are not genius qualities. Trump’s reactions lead me to believe he is nowhere near the genius he claims to be. It appears Trump’s dad taught him money is everything, when it isn’t. I don’t think Trump was ever properly socialized as a child and at 71 he still hasn’t figured it out.

    Occasionally Trump has a good idea, which eventually suffers from its nemesis, time. Time is his good idea’s enemy. It may be as little as 15 minutes before Trump has shot his own idea down with a counter statement or tweet.
    Trump is incapable of working with others. Here are some preposterous claims he has made which shows he isn’t as smart as he claims.
    “I can do it alone.”
    “I know better than all the generals.”
    “I will sign, repeal, and replace legislation on day one.”
    “I will build a wall on the southern border and Mexico will pay for it.”
    “The judge is biased because he is Mexican.”

    Trump has lead a life without consequences, so the truth frequently evades him. Trump is a man without an ethic of any kind, because it is all about him.

  11. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 01/07/2018 - 12:52 pm.

    This book is being panned from every direction and for good reason. With a subject as target rich as Donald Trump, only a real buffoon could produce the dog’s breakfast Wolff did.

    Someone will write a worthwhile book about the Trump administration, but this isn’t it.

  12. Submitted by jim hughes on 01/07/2018 - 07:40 pm.

    Books like this mean nothing.

    Trump’s hard core 30% won’t even know that books like this exist unless Fox tells them. And their support for Trump probably wouldn’t waver if he were found running around the White House grounds naked (or has that already happened?).

    Let’s all just stay tuned, because it’s pretty clear that Trump’s personality and behavior are unraveling over time – he wasn’t really acting like this 10 years ago. He may well be sliding into some form of dementia, and may get to a point where he’s no longer manageable, even by Fox News – for example, if he can’t stay on script even with a teleprompter, or if foreign leaders start to find him incoherent in meetings, or he begins firing people around him every few days…

  13. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/07/2018 - 09:47 pm.

    Another inside source

    Executive time…

    President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more “Executive Time,” which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.

    …..On Tuesday, Trump has his first meeting of the day with Chief of Staff John Kelly at 11am. He then has “Executive Time” for an hour followed by an hour lunch in the private dining room. Then it’s another 1 hour 15 minutes of “Executive Time” followed by a 45 minute meeting with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Then another 15 minutes of “Executive Time” before Trump takes his last meeting of the day — a 3:45pm meeting with the head of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano — before ending his official day at 4:15pm.

    Other days are fairly similar, unless the president is traveling, in which case the days run longer. On Wednesday this week, for example, the president meets at 11am for his intelligence briefing, then has “Executive Time” until a 2pm meeting with the Norwegian Prime Minister. His last official duty: a video recording with Hope Hicks at 4pm.

    On Thursday, the president has an especially light schedule: “Policy Time” at 11am, then “Executive Time” at 12pm, then lunch for an hour, then more “Executive Time” from 1:30pm.

    https://www.axios.com/scoop-trumps-secret-shrinking-schedule-1515364904-ab76374a-6252-4570-a804-942b3f851840.html

    Let’s not forget most evenings end with cheeseburger time in his room at 6:30 pm

  14. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/08/2018 - 08:24 am.

    My 2¢

    I like Dennis Wagner’s interpretation…

    The author of the book may well be a hack with no reputable track record, and I’m inclined to take what I read in and about the book with a grain of salt, since the Current Occupant is obviously a very polarizing figure, but what I’m reading in comments are mostly attacks on the author, not credible facts and statements that run counter to the book’s general conclusions. Simply using public statements, without any sort of White House access needed, it’s pretty easy to document that we have a Narcissist in Chief in the Oval Office.

    At age 73, I can’t recall any previous presidents that I disliked (e.g., famously thin-skinned Richard Nixon) making a point of “proving” to the public that they’re a “genius,” even if he did say “I am not a crook.” I also don’t recall any sort of speculation in the half-century since it was adopted that the 25th Amendment might actually apply to, and even be used to replace, a sitting president, and that includes Ronald Reagan, who was widely acknowledged to be sliding into senility by the end of his 2nd term (and who also did not spend 12 to 16 hour days with his nose to the governmental grindstone).

    Thus, Mr. Senker’s skepticism notwithstanding, being wrong about some of the details (and I have no way of knowing whether that criticism is accurate or not) but reasonably accurate about the overall conclusion (ditto, except for what I’ve observed as a citizen paying attention), is NOT the same thing as “fake.” Most (not all, but most) of the “fake news” I’ve encountered in the past decade has come from the same source Dennis Wagner alluded to in his comment.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/08/2018 - 09:56 am.

    I hate to say it but…

    Really all this confirms is the that Trump is actually NOT the problem. It looks like this account is simply adding details, but not revealing anything previously unknown. Anyone who honestly paying attention already knows that Trump is childish, incompetent, ignorant, and egocentric. The guy that actually wrote: “The Art of Deal” back in the 80s penned an article months ago recalling a conversation with Trump wherein he said something to the effect: “I look back on when I was 11 years old, and I haven’t changed”. Simply watching Trump behave anywhere in any capacity confirms that insight. Even when he’s just sitting in a chair he looks like antsy child who waiting to be entertained.

    But here’s the thing… what THAT ALL means is that all this crap, from oil drilling in the Arctic to making it easier to kill and injure seniors in nursing homes… has little or nothing to do with Donald Trump… it’s the so-called “responsible” Republicans around him who are making these moves. Sure he tweets, but they actually do this stuff. Trump had virtually nothing to do with the tax bill for instance, and when it gets into actually doing something, like finding the money for the wall etc… it’s not Trump that going to make it happen. At some point we have to deal with the horrible and tragic reality that it’s not just one guy in the White House that is our problem.

  16. Submitted by Jim Boulay on 01/08/2018 - 10:33 am.

    Stable Genius?

    Trump paid $10,000 for a Tim Tebow signed helmet! Stable? Genius? I hope Mueller digs it out in his investigation. Is he looking into the sweetheart deal he got to get rid of the Trump University fraud charges? That looked dirty too!

  17. Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/08/2018 - 01:44 pm.

    50,000 Shades of Bunko and the Category Five

    When Democrats first claimed Russia had hacked the DNC computers last year I laughed a little and thought, “This is different” and, the next day, on more of a whim than anything else, typed “Comrade Trump” into the search field and next thing I knew I was on this unexpected tour of story after story that was “intriguing,” to say the least.

    I could list a hundred different links, but after taking that initial look and paying moderately close attention to the bizarre ball of wax since then, I became convinced at some point during the last year or so that the real story probably won’t turn out to be about weather or not there was collusion with Russia during the election campaign (and beyond) but whether or not the president and his closest advisors, as well as numerous business partners and associates, have been eyeball deep in money laundering since well before the notion of running for president became a reality.

    I could list another two or three dozen links related to that but, for anyone interested in the Cliff Notes (as possible) shortcut to the “heart of the story,” just do a search on some version of “Felix Sater Trump Mueller investigation” and take a look at some of what comes up.

    For anyone who might like a complimentary, comprehensive and relatively mind-boggling sketch and tour of at least some of the iceberg-like rabbit hole in question, this “long form” (10,000 word or about a 14 or 15 page) article — “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections” — by James Henry, is thorough, enlightening and tricky to reflexively toss into the fake news or false equivalence bin.

    http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/12/19/the-curious-world-of-donald-trumps-private-russian-connections/

    And (or), for anyone interested in the general flavor of the president’s earlier business life (the period when Trump Tower was being built and, after that, his adventures in Atlantic City) and how tight he appears to have been with some of America’s most influential organized crime family members, this David Johnston article that was published by Politico in May, 2016 — “Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?” — is tough to beat.

    Repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers and other crooks, including the son of a reputed Russian mob boss at the president’s side at a gala condominium opening who, the president claimed later, under oath, he barely knows? (See: Felix Sater above)

    Bribery and bid-rigging?

    Threats?

    Concrete union tough guys storming the building contractor’s office and holding a knife to his receptionist’s throat?

    Overworked and underpaid undocumented construction laborers (from Poland) all over the (union) job site?

    A drug-trafficking helicopter pilot and the consigliere of the most powerful Mafia group in New York on the future president’s payroll?

    Fake news?

    The Clintons and Obama did it too so what’s the big deal?

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/donald-trump-2016-mob-organized-crime-213910

    As the (alleged) money laundering relates to Michael Wolff’s book, here’s something from it that (allegedly) came directly from Steve Bannon:

    ” ‘This is all about money laundering. Their path to [expletive] Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It’s as plain as a hair on your face.

    ” ‘It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner stuff. The Kushner stuff is greasy. They’re going to go right through that.’

    “Bannon then roasts the Trump White House for how ill-prepared it is to take on Mueller’s team: ‘They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.’ ”

    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-95594861/

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/09/2018 - 09:42 am.

    Wolf was on PBS last night.

    Christiane Amanpour interviewed Wolf on PBS last night. I think Amanpour is a definite improvement over Charlie Rose by the way, rose had really gotten on my nerves in a variety of ways over the last decade or so.

    But getting back to Amanpour and Wolf, there

    1) Bannon is lying now when he tries to walk back and claim that he wasn’t talking about Trump Jr.

    2) Everyone around Trump considers him to be incompetent for this job, and they are all struggling with the problem of trying to get his and hold his attention, provide information, and guide his policy decisions.

    3) Perhaps the most explosive revelation from Wolf is that the White House press corps are well aware of White House staff beliefs that Trump is incompetent, but they are not reporting it because they don’t want to jeopardize their access. When asked why White House officials would make such statement to Wolf, and no one else- Wolf claims that they ARE making those statements to everyone, but those statements rarely get reported because those reporters have to return to the White House on a daily basis.

    4) The real worry about the Russia probe is an investigation that will discover illegal financial dealings, not campaign collusion. This makes sense in a variety ways, seriously organized collusion would be difficult to prove, and difficult to impeach. However, money laundering and other criminal activity would clearly fall into a crime and misdemeanor category that could make Trumps presidency untenable. Those financial ties would also explain all the Russian connections and contacts more parsimoniously than campaign collusion. And those pre-existing criminal relationships would even explain some of the collusion-like activities of the Russians.

    I’d recommend watching the segment, it’s about 15 minutes long: http://www.pbs.org/video/amanpour-michael-wolff-and-billie-jean-king-iqsmb3/

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