The most piquant part of Michael Wolff’s gossipy new book, Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House, is the ease with which he insinuated himself into the White House. Wolff explains that Trump initially thought he was interested in landing a job. When Wolff said he actually wanted to write a book about the administration, Trump expressed bafflement that anyone would want to write one but said it was OK for Wolff to talk with administration officials.
Fox News is reporting that the communications team ‘urged all of the senior advisors to cooperate. They thought this was going to be a positive book for the President’. So Wolff apparently hung out in the lobby of the West Wing and got great access. It has to make you wonder: if a journalist like Wolff could snooker the administration this easily, what can foreign adversaries accomplish?
His book has, of course, detonated with concussive force in Washington. Trump may not read books, but he is certainly doing a lot to prompt others to do so. Last night, at least one big bookstore in Washington stayed open past midnight to start selling copies. Trump’s threat to curb its publication simply prompted the publisher to move up the date of its appearance. The publicity Trump has helped bestow on the book with his bluff and bombast has only helped propel it to No. 1 on Amazon. Wolff has pulled off the journalistic coup of this young century. Though his detractors like to claim that he is merely a salacious journalist, the fact is that Trump is running a showbiz presidency. Gossip is its essence. Who better to chronicle it than someone like Wolff who had the ingenuity to penetrate the White House?
The real loser, the new conventional wisdom has it, is Trump’s former consigliere, Steve Bannon. Last night on—where else?—Twitter, Trump dismissed him as ‘Sloppy Steve’. Presumably he was referring to more than Bannon’s penchant for down market clothing. With ruthless efficiency, the right is turning on the head of Breitbart and aligning itself behind Trump. The president looks to be triumphing over the man who originally engineered his victory – though Bannon could stage a comeback if Trump decides he needs him again, even returning to favoured son status. In the mean time, word is that Bannon’s planned revolt for the midterm elections against mainstream Republicans is now dead in the water. He’s lost favour with Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire that has funded his crusade. Now Bannon’s position at Breitbart is reportedly in jeopardy. Word is that he may be fired as soon as this afternoon.
But even as conservatives dutifully line up behind Trump, the question remains whether he can survive the investigation being led by Robert Mueller. New reports indicate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was searching for dirt on former FBI director James Comey, in the hope that at least one nasty story a day could appear in the press about him. Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s business dealings are coming under ever-closer scrutiny, the very prospect that they dreaded all along, according to Wolff’s book.
Trump apparently expressed anger that Sessions didn’t do more to screen him from justice. ‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?’ he asked, referring to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s legendary and unscrupulous aide. It’s a refrain that he may increasingly sound in the weeks and months ahead. But the likelier prospect is that as aides depart from his administration, they will begin to turn on him to extricate themselves from legal peril.