IN-DEPTH: ON "FIRE & FURY"
The forthcoming book "Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House," by Michael Wolff, has stirred controversy with its insider's view of the current administration, after an excerpt was published in New York Magazine. The excerpt contains a number of surprising revelations, but primarily focuses on the Trump team's belief - in the closing days of the campaign - that they would lose the election. Wolff chronicles how many Trump campaign staffers - including Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Trump himself - had already started planning their post-politics careers. (Trump apparently had hoped to set up his own media empire, inspired by former Fox News chief Roger Ailes.) Wolff claims that Melania Trump was decidedly against her husband becoming president, and was in tears on Election Night.
He also describes Trump's bewilderment at gaining support from top conservative donor Robert Mercer, who donated $5 million to the campaign and brought in both Conway and campaign chairman Steve Bannon.
The book - which was based on more than 200 interviews with Trump and those closest to him - features a number of explosive, critical comments about Trump and his administration from former strategist Bannon. An excerpt previewed by The Guardian finds Bannon referring to the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic." Bannon also told Wolff that the focus of Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump White House has centered around money laundering, and refers to ongoing deals between Deutsche Bank and the Kushner family as "greasy."
On Wednesday, after the Guardian excerpt was released, Trump fired back at Bannon, accusing him of losing his mind in an official statement. He also implied that Bannon had not been instrumental in the day-to-day operations of his campaign. (For a time, Bannon served as the campaign's chief executive.) On Thursday, Trump noted that, Bannon had referred to him as a "great man" in a Wednesday night conversation on Breitbart Radio, accusing him of "chang[ing] his tune pretty quick."
In the Washington Post, Callum Borchers notes that the rift puts Bannon and Breitbart in an awkward position. Should they abandon Trump support, the site would require "a whole new identity."
On Thursday, President Trump's legal team sent an 11-page letter to Wolff and top executives at Henry Holt & Co, his publisher, threatening a libel lawsuit should the book be released as planned. Bannon also received a letter from Trump's lawyers, who claimed that his comments violate his signed confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.
"Fire & Fury" is scheduled to hit shelves next week.