President Donald Trump is a book genre unto himself. There’s “Understanding Trump,” by Newt Gingrich, whom Trump considered as a running mate; “Let Trump Be Trump,” by former Trump campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie; “The Swamp,” by former Fox News host Eric Bolling; and a forthcoming, yet-to-be-named book by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Note that all of these authors are pro-Trump partisans. That’s why Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” out Jan. 9, is significant. Wolff, a veteran journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, the Guardian, the Hollywood Reporter and other publications, presents his new title as a major piece of reporting. Wolff says that his book is based on 200 conversations over the past 18 months with Trump, most members of his senior staff, some of whom he talked to dozens of times, and many people with whom they had spoken.
“Fire and Fury” contains many interesting insights and claims, big and small. Some are new; others are familiar but bolstered by additional color and detail. Here are 10 that stand out:
- Trump thought he would lose the election
Key excerpt: “In politics somebody has to lose, but invariably everybody thinks they can win. And you probably can’t win unless you believe that you will win - except in the Trump campaign. The leitmotif for Trump about his own campaign was how crappy it was and how everybody involved in it was a loser. He was equally convinced that the Clinton people were brilliant winners - ‘They’ve got the best and we’ve got the worst,’ he frequently said. Time spent with Trump on the campaign plane was often an epic dissing experience: Everybody around him was an idiot.”
- Stephen Bannon thought Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer was “treasonous.”
Key excerpt: “ ‘The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,’ said an astonished and derisive Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed. ‘The three senior guys in the campaign,’ an incredulous Bannon went on, ‘thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor - with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad [expletive], and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.’ “
(Post reporters have found no evidence that Trump met with the Russians during this meeting at Trump Tower.).
- Trump asked Roger Ailes to lead the campaign, and Ailes declined
Key excerpt: “In early August, less than a month after Ailes had been ousted from Fox News, Trump asked his old friend to take over the management of his calamitous campaign. Ailes, knowing Trump’s disinclination to take advice, or even listen to it, turned him down.”
- Trump didn’t know who John Boehner is.
Key excerpt: “ ‘You need a [expletive] as your chief of staff. And you need a [expletive] who knows Washington,’ Ailes told Trump not long after the election. “You’ll want to be your own [expletive], but you don’t know Washington.’ Ailes had a suggestion: ‘Speaker Boehner.’ (John Boehner had been the speaker of the House until he was forced out in a tea party putsch in 2011.) ‘Who’s that?’ Trump asked.”
- Reince Priebus froze after the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked.
Key excerpt: “So mortifying was this development that when Reince Priebus, the RNC head, was called to New York from Washington for an emergency meeting at Trump Tower, he couldn’t bring himself to leave Penn Station. It took two hours for the Trump team to coax him across town. ‘Bro,’ said a desperate Bannon, cajoling Priebus on the phone, ‘I may never see you again after today, but you gotta come to this building and you gotta walk through the front door.’ ”
- Melania Trump dreaded becoming first lady.
Key excerpt: “The New York Post got its hands on outtakes from a nude photo shoot that Melania had done early in her modeling career - a leak that everybody other than Melania assumed could be traced back to Trump himself. Inconsolable, she confronted her husband. Is this the future? She told him she wouldn’t be able to take it. Trump responded in his fashion - We’ll sue! - and set her up with lawyers. But he was unaccustomedly contrite, too. Just a little longer, he told her. It would all be over in November. He offered his wife a solemn guarantee: There was simply no way he would win.”
- Trump eats McDonald’s because he thinks the food is safe.
Key excerpt: “He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s - nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely pre-made.”
- Ivanka Trump has presidential ambitions of her own
Key excerpt: “Jared and Ivanka had made an earnest deal between themselves: If some time 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.”
- Ailes, before he died, hoped to launch a new TV channel with Bannon, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Key excerpt: “A few hours after the O’Reilly announcement, Ailes, from his new oceanfront home in Palm Beach - precluded by his separation agreement with Fox from any efforts to compete with it for 18 months - sent an emissary into the West Wing with a question for Stephen K. Bannon: O’Reilly and Hannity are in, what about you? Ailes, in secret, had been plotting his comeback with a new conservative network . . . In reply, Bannon let Ailes know that for now, he was trying to hold on to his position in the White House. But yes, the opportunity was obvious.”
- Trump was surprised by criticism of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey
Key excerpt: “Trump believed that firing Comey would make him a hero. Over the next 48 hours he spun his side to various friends. It was simple: He had stood up to the FBI. He proved that he was willing to take on the state power. The outsider against the insiders. After all, that’s why he was elected.”
John Wagner is a national political reporter covering the White House. Callum Borchers covers the intersection of politics and media.