Gavin Ellis on Whale Oil book: “a harrowing slaga” but enduring long form journalism

RNZ media commentator Gavin Ellis applauded what Margie Thomson’s book Whale Oil

Margie Thomson’s investigation into the Whale Oil blog suggests that books may be the most enduring type of long-form journalism.

Transcript (from 6:22)

Great cover on that book, it’s not a whale so much as a sort of a monster of the deep coming up from the bottom of the book.

I think it was Margie who said that a whale was inappropriate, too nice to depict Slater and the dirt he is infamous for.

I think the monster comes from Matt Blomfield’s famous wrestler grandfather Lofty, who created an octopus hold.

Whale Oil by Margie Thomson really is a harrowing tale about a man, a businessman called Matt Blomfield and his decade long fight to clear his name after it was besmirched in a pretty serial fashion by Cameron Slater on the Whale Oil blog.

The book itself, I thought Finlay Macdonald summed it up perfectly, let me just read you one sentence of what he said. he said:

“Many readers will need a shower after a session with this book, and and Margie Thomson is to be applauded for her willingness to go where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen could feel at home.”

And that’s really, this is a, when I say it’s an awful book, it’s a very very good book. What it said is really quite awful about the ability of social media to basically destroy the reputation of an innocent person, and she sets about disproving virtually everything that appeared on the Whale Oil blog.

Of course Matt Blomfield has won defamation cases against Cameron Slater over it, but it’s a harrowing slaga, saga, but the thing that impressed me most I think is that it shows, with books like this it shows that this sort of excellent very long form journalism, you know the book chronicles a saga over ten years.

It may be that the most enduring form of journalism that we have.

The work that we do as daily journalists is ephemeral, you know it’s here one day and gone the next. I used to hate people saying that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrapper, but there’s an element of truth in that.

This sort of deep investigation, and of course she’s not alone, we have a number of other journalists who’ve written books about different subjects, Rebecca McPhee, absolutely, and I think that they do us a real service by having an enduring form of journalism.

Now of course books are not regarded as a news activity, which is a problem under the Privacy Act, which makes them vulnerable, more vulnerable than a daily journalist would be.

Whale Oil was carefully vetted by lawyer Stephen Price to avoid possible legal actions.

Even with proposed changes to the Privacy Act I don’t think that this form of journalism enjoys the same protection as news activities do.

However books have an advantage of time to check out their accuracy and reduce risks.

But nonetheless I really commend not only this book but the whole process of committing to books.

This sort of long form investigative journalism, it really is great reading but also the lessons in them remain for the future, and that’s something in daily journalism we’re in danger of losing, particularly with the avalanche of material that we have bombarding us every day that is so ephemeral and this sort of anchors it with a degree of permanence. let’s hope so anyway.

It’s true that newspapers are published and sold one day, and disappear off the newsagents’ shelves by the end of the day. Books remain for sale on bookshelves for weeks.

But publishing news online means that it does endure far more than it used to. It can be just a Google search away. Enduring news – and blog posts – provide a lot of readily available research material for books like Whale Oil.

The difference with well researched and written books like Whale Oil though is that they collate and filter and edit a vast amount of material – and there is a vast amount of material in the Matt Blomfield story.

One of the successes of Whale Oil is that Margie took a huge amount of information and made it interesting and readable, while putting on record an awful campaign of attack that took place over many years.

It was, as Ellis says, a harrowing Slater saga, or saga.

Statement from Matt Blomfield on ‘Whale Oil’ book

Statement from Matt Blomfield (posted on Facebook):


On Tuesday last week we had the launch for the book Whale Oil by Margie Thomson. It was an incredible and humbling experience. About three hundred people turned up. My wife and kids attended and afterwards they talked about what an amazing night they had with other friends and family.

This weekend with the dust starting to settle I looked back at the week that followed the launch and I felt uncomfortable. It was a busy week with media appearances and messages of support, and naturally there was a big focus on the details of my protracted battle against Cameron Slater. What got me thinking, though, was a book review on Newsroom by Finlay Macdonald – not his words but the image at the top of the page: Cameron Slater knocked out in the first round of his boxing match with Jesse Rider. He looks broken. I needed to beat Cameron in court in order to win back my reputation. It was never my intention to break the man.

Cameron Slater has had his struggles in life. He’s had business failures. He struggled with mental illness; he lost his home. More recently he has had health issues. It follows that my mind takes me to a place of sympathy for Slater. He has a wife and kids just like me; he has tried to succeed, just like me. I feel increasingly concerned at the tone of some of the comments about him that are appearing online. I know what it’s like first hand to be ridiculed online, to be bullied and it affects more than just the individual. It flows through to that person’s friends and family.
Slater is not well. His attacks against me are not the actions of a right thinking individual. He needs help.
I’m concerned that some of the coverage given to the publication of Margie’s book gives the impression this book is a tit-for-tat exercise. It’s not, and that’s clear to anyone reading it. Yes, it’s the story of my long struggle to rescue my reputation and get justice, but
it’s about much more than a fight between two individuals. It is about our changing world and a system that needs to change so that our children are protected. It introduces readers to some incredible individuals and shows that even during the hardest of times good people will stand up and be counted. It’s about never giving up, and that sometimes the decision to fight can come from a place of love, compassion and family. Finally, it’s about people as a whole and how we choose to live not only on the internet but as a society.

The people who have read the book have all had the same reaction; a feeling of surprise. It follows that those same people have expressed to me what an important book this is and how much it impacted them as individuals.

I am now going to focus on my family, my health, my education and hopefully move past this. My story has been told.

I hope that people will move past attacking what can be only be described as a damaged individual. Let’s put him where he belongs, in the footnote of history, and move on to talking about the important issues he only symbolizes.

 

How to buy ‘Whale Oil’ (the book)

The book ‘Whale Oil’ was launched on Tuesday night, and got significant news coverage yesterday. I think this is an important book, and I think that it is worth reading.

If you want to borrow the book from a library there could be a long wait – someone reported yesterday at The Standard: “I have just ordered a copy from Auckland Library.  21 of 21 holds on one copy.”

Whitcoulls have copies available in most stores – you can check out where on their website, and also order online.

It can also be ordered directly from the publisher potton & burton: (this is an easy and fast process, I ordered other books from them recently):

WHALE OIL

ONE MAN’S FIGHT TO SAVE HIS REPUTATION, THEN HIS LIFE
Margie Thomson
Availability: In Stock

In May 2012 Auckland businessman Matt Blomfield found himself the target of a vicious online attack, the work of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. The attack came out of the blue, destroying Blomfield’s reputation and career, stealing his identity, turning him into a social outcast. Two years after the online attack began an armed gunman came to Blomfield’s house and tried to kill him. He only survived because the intruder’s shotgun misfired.

But Matt Blomfield decided to fight back. He spent seven years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars taking a defamation case against Slater, which he ultimately won, establishing that Slater’s vendetta was based entirely on lies.

This book is a remarkable piece of investigative writing, a story of courage and tenacity, which reminds us how important it is to stand up to bullies, and to be reassured that in the end they do not always win.

There is an interesting story around the book cover – Matt’s grandfather was famous New Zealand wrestler Lofty Blomfield:

He is credited for inventing “The Octopus Clamp”, an early version of the Scorpion Deathlock,

Disclosure: I assisted with a little bit of information for the book, but I have no financial interest in the book nor in sales of the book.

I’m promoting it here because I think it is an important book that has wider implications than the Matt Blomfield saga – it shows how easy and bad destructive blogging and online activity can be, and how poorly our laws and our policing practices allow us too deal with it.

Media coverage of ‘Whale Oil’ the book

The Spinoff: The 10 most shocking moments in the blistering new book ‘Whale Oil’

The book, we can now reveal, is by Margie Thomson, and its title is spare and clear: Whale Oil. It tells the story of businessman Matt Blomfield’s long-running struggle against blogger Cameron Slater, who, of course, was at the centre of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics. The saga, told principally from the perspective of Matt Blomfield, covers the extensive legal battle between Blomfield and Slater, as well as examining the way our justice system works, and the way the media has shifted (and shifted again) to allow and then disavow someone like Slater. Blomfield believes that Slater’s attacks led to an attempt on his life at his home in the North Shore of Auckland.

It’s a page-turner – thoughtful and with remarkable attention to detail.

RNZ: New book looks at battle between Slater and Blomfield

Whale Oil is a remarkable piece of investigative writing by Margie Thomson, who has painstakingly researched and documented this unbelievable story.

“It is a chilling account of how inadequate our protection is in the face of a digital attack, and a depressing exposé of police indifference to a citizen’s dire predicament,” the book’s promotional material said.

The book’s foreword is written by Nicky Hager, who said it’s a story of right and wrong, standing up to bullies, and a sobering story of how few protections there are against online attacks.

NZ Herald – Revealed: Book exposes how Whaleoil blogger’s campaign spilled from internet into the real world and took a heavy toll

A new book has revealed how an extraordinary online campaign of harassment and humiliation spilled into the real world and alleges the long-running plan may have been linked to a brutal home invasion.

A conspiracy under the name “Operation Bumslide” saw the former business partner Warren Powell supply Slater and others with a decade of Blomfield’s personal and financial records which were then used in an attempt to destroy his reputation.

The blog posts were then backed up by complaints from “Operation Bumslide” members to a host of government enforcement agencies, leading to Blomfield being described as “one of New Zealand’s most investigated people”.

Eventually Blomfield was cleared of any wrongdoing and Slater lost a High Court defamation case and Human Rights Tribunal case in which one of his articles about Blomfield was described as nothing more than “character assassination”.

The Whaleoil book, by journalist Margie Thomson, is presented as a detailed, behind-the-scenes investigation into years of alleged bullying and threats against Blomfield, including claims that after he launched his seven-year defamation action his computer was hacked and Slater approached one of his daughters over social media.

Along with the personal and financial cost, the book speculates a 2014 attack at their Greenhithe home might be linked to “Operation Bumslide” and the Whaleoil blog posts.

According to the book, Blomfield received odd and frightening text messages forecasting physical harm ahead of a home invasion by gang associate Ned Paraha, who was sent to prison for the armed assault.

The book is highly critical of police handling of complaints, which was conceded by a senior officer who carried out an internal investigation in the way they were handled.

It includes an appendix from barrister and media law specialist Steven Price in which he proposes the creation of a criminal offence for intentional harm caused by posting of online content.

Stuff: New book lifts lid on Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater’s dirty tactics

It took nearly eight years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a few mental and physical scars, but Matthew Blomfield believes he may have finally harpooned the big one with the release of Whale Oil.

The book, written by Margie Thomson, tells the story of Blomfield’s lengthy defamation battle with and ultimate victory over Whale Oil blogger Slater and was released amid secrecy at a launch on Tuesday night.

It had gained notoriety even before its release, as Blomfield’s lawyer Felix Geiringer claimed a family was detained by NZ Customs while entering the country and questioned about the name of the book.

Geiringer said the family, who were carrying a copy of the manuscript, had been stopped at an undisclosed airport, and questioned for several hours, and Customs officers threatened ‘dire consequences’ if they didn’t inform the officers what the book was called.

Note in the NZH report “complaints from “Operation Bumslide” members to a host of government enforcement agencies” – may be just coincidental.

The book details the devastating effect that Slater’s smear campaign had on Blomfield’s life, and how he and his family had to go into hiding after an intruder in a Spiderman mask showed up at his Auckland home and tried to shoot at him while his wife and two young children were present.

The book can be ordered online, eg: https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/product/whale-oil-6462218

But bookstores should have copies.

So what is the ‘Whale Oil’ book about?

A book called ‘Whale Oil’ by author Margie Thomson was launched by Nicky Hager last night in Auckland to a large receptive crowd. I now have a copy of the book, and have been able to have a quick look through it.

The book has been very well researched and well written. It is very readable, and should be of interest to a much wider audience than people involved in blogging.

Disclosure: I was interviewed by Margie, and feature in a very minor way in the book, due to the fact that I was dragged into a campaign of harassment and was myself harassed when I put a stop to attacks here on Your NZ.

Obviously the book is about the Whale Oil blog and about Cameron Slater aka ‘Whale Oil’ the blogger (or sort of ex blogger). But it is about much more than that.

Primarily the book is about Matt Blomfield and his partner Rebecca and daughters Rosalie and Bella, and the extreme harassment they have been subjected to for about a decade. The worst of this was a home invasion attack on Blomfield in which a shotgun was used and Matt was seriously assaulted in front of his family, who were also targeted, But there was much more attacking and harassment, ranging from extensive attacks on Matt’s business operations, threats to family, and even an attempt by someone called Cam Slater trying to friend a 10 year old daughter on Snapchat.

The handling of the assault and a number of other complaints made to the police, in particular the lack of police action, feature prominently through the book. These issues are still under scrutiny.

The six year defamation case that Matt pursued against Slater also features. This shows that claims by Slater and associates on Whale Oil that lead to the defamation, throughout the proceedings, were largely a big pile of whale shit. Finally last October a judge ruled that after years of deliberate delays and stalling and incompetence, Slater had no credible defence.

Damages may take another year to be determined, but as Slater declared himself bankrupt it could be a hollow victory for Matt, unless some of the company and asset ownerships that have been ‘rearranged are unraveled.

Also under scrutiny in the book is ‘Operation Bumslide’, a campaign of harassment by Slater and ex business associates of Matt’s – Warren Powell, Marc Spring and Amanda Easterbrook, plus the close association with the notorious Dermot Nottingham.

Matt’s challenging but determined efforts to shut down Lauda Finem and their notorious website are also covered. However there is still a lot of material still online, despite a jury and judge finding that Nottingham was largely responsible. Spring and Slater were also implicated in using Lauda Finem to harass and attack people, including myself (and many others).

Things have caught up on Slater and Nottingham, both now bankrupt and both suffering health problems – although it is apparent that Whale Oil overstated the effects of the stroke suffered by Slater last October, and Slater tried to avoid and delay court proceedings claiming he was incapacitated, while showing he was far more capable than he was claiming.

But what about the others? It is claimed that Powell paid Slater, which has implications of the campaign against Matt being a paid hit job. But Powell moved overseas.

Easterbrook is put under scrutiny for her involvement. She seems to have avoided consequences so far, but will be uneasy about what is written about her.

And Spring, in my opinion, still looks like a loose cannon, unrepentant and intent on continuing his harassing activities. The book claims that evidence shows that both Spring and Slater discussed the attack on Matt before it happened as well as immediately afterwards. Lack of police action in that respect looks odd, but Spring seems to have been dealt with leniently by police over the years of harassment. Perhaps an attempt at justice will finally be seen to be done.


The book also looks at the wider and very topical issue of bullying and online harassment, and the failure of the police and court system to adequately protect people.

Nottingham has been convicted of five counts of criminal harassment, in which he harassed people over periods of several years. The sentencing judge said that the five charges were the worst of many found on the Lauda Finem website. I disagree with the judge on this.

Matt Blomfield and Rebecca and Rosalie and Bella have, I believe, been subjected to far worse, over a longer period of time, than any of the victims for which Nottingham alone has been convicted. I am amazed and concerned that the police have not addressed this adequately, or addressed those working with Nottingham, in particular Slater and Spring.

Perhaps the book will prompt some more holding to account for the worst case of harassment by a big margin.

These are nasty people who seem to enjoy trying to destroy people’s lives (they have called it fucking over’ – and possibly in one case, take lives. They seem unremorseful, unrepentant, and Spring at least seems intent on continuing with this behaviour, while claiming to be a victim (something Slater and Nottingham have also done). This is typical of bullies.

Matt Blomfield has done something huge for the many victims of abuse from this group of people, he has stood up to them, he has had significant successes, and through this book has highlighted a number of things that should be of concern to the public.

‘Whale Oil’ is about far more than a blog. It is about a pod of pricks.

This has been online bullying at it’s worst. At least it has now been confronted and serious questions have been asked. However more answers are needed, and as a society we need to be looking at how we can prevent this sort of thing from happening, at least to this extent.


Margie has done a great job with this book. Please read it. Copies have been distributed to book shops around the country.

Those of you who have followed things here over the past few years will recognise a lot of what is detailed in the book, but there will be things that will (or should) shock you.

It should also have wider appeal. It details real dangers of harassment online, and how the tentacles of that can spread into the real world, doing real harm.

The book can be ordered online, eg: https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/product/whale-oil-6462218

But bookstores should have copies.

NZ Customs accused of abusing powers ahead of Blomfield book launch

Felix Geiringer was Matthew Blomfield’s lawyer for part of the Blomfield v Slater defamation proceedings. He has also represented Nicky Hager.

On Twitter today:

NZ Customs have been accused of abusing their powers to discover a book title. The book is being launched by Nicky Hager.

The book is being launched this evening. The details of the book, including its title, have been embargoed until after the launch.

The book has been written by Margie Thomson. Nicky Hager has written the forward and will be speaking at tonight’s launch.

The book is being published by Potton & Burton, the same publisher that publishes Nicky Hager’s books.

On the weekend, someone carrying a manuscript of the book was stopped by NZ Customs while trying to enter New Zealand.

The passenger has asked not to be named at this stage. The following is the passenger’s account of what happened.

“They pulled me and my whole family into a side room and insisted on searching our luggage. At first, I thought it was just a random search, but it became clear to me that the two officers conducting the search were looking for something specific.

“When they found the manuscript they started questioning me about it. They wanted to know what the book was about. I told them the details were embargoed and I could not discuss it, but they wouldn’t let it go.

“They wanted to know the title of the book. They told me they wouldn’t let us through Customs unless I told them. They told me I would receive a hefty fine for refusing to tell them.

“I thought the search was abusive. I had three young girls travelling with me and they became very upset. It was over the top behaviour from Customs.

“I could not understand what the title of this book could possibly have to do with a Customs search. I asked, but they would not tell me. They just kept threatening me with dire consequences if I did not answer their questions.

“I just do not understand. Why were Customs using their powers to find out the title of this book?”

I am not independent of the people behind this book. But I think that NZ Customs have some explaining to do.

It is very difficult to see how the demand for details about this book, including its title, could possibly be a legitimate exercise of Customs’ powers.

If the search occurred as alleged, and these passengers were being detained so that these Customs Officers could pursue an illegitimate line of enquiry about the book then that also brings into question the legality of the detention.

Sounds concerning. Another lawyer has a suggestion:

If it is a manuscript of an unpublished book how can it be on a banned list?

How would NZ Customs know about it and try to find out the title? Unless they say some papers and tried to find out what they were, but that seems very unusual.

Bob Woodward on Donald Trump – Fear and Crazytown

Bob Woodward has been a reporter and editor since 1971. he shot to prominence in 1972 when with Carl Bernstein did a lot of reporting that led to Watergate and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon.

A number of parallels have been suggested between Nixon and Donald Trump, but there are also significant differences.

Woodward has written a book on Trump called fear. The Washington Post reports: Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency

…“Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Woodward writes that his book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries and government documents.

The president called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. The president complained that it would be a “bad book,” according to an audio recording of the conversation. Woodward replied that his work would be “tough,” but factual and based on his reporting.

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

This is fairly credible because it’s fairly obvious that this is a fairly plausible explanation for Trump’s statements and behaviour.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Some one has to do it to try and keep the United States on the rails.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, fretted that he could do little to constrain Trump from sparking chaos. Woodward writes that Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom, where Trump obsessively watched cable news and tweeted, “the devil’s workshop,” and said early mornings and Sunday evenings, when the president often set off tweetstorms, were “the witching hour.”

The devil’s workshop has been getting busier and more bizarre as time goes on. One reaction yesterday to ongoing attacks on the US Attorney General: Trump shows why he is unfit for office. From ‘Fear’:

A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a “traitor” for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions’s accent, Trump added, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump has been a particular concern in the volatile Middle East.

After Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

Other officials manipulated Trump.

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.

Cohn came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides,

“That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.

On North Korea:

Woodward recounts repeated episodes of anxiety inside the government over Trump’s handling of the North Korean nuclear threat. One month into his presidency, Trump asked Dunford for a plan for a preemptive military strike on North Korea, which rattled the combat veteran.

On family and advisers:

The president’s family members, while sometimes touted as his key advisers by other Trump chroniclers, are minor players in Woodward’s account, popping up occasionally in the West Wing and vexing adversaries.

Woodward recounts an expletive-laden altercation between Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist.

“You’re a goddamn staffer!” Bannon screamed at her, telling her that she had to work through Priebus like other aides. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”

Ivanka Trump, who had special access to the president and worked around Priebus, replied: “I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”

The Mueller inquiry:

The book vividly recounts the ongoing debate between Trump and his lawyers about whether the president would sit for an interview with Mueller. On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles.

Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”

“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.

But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.

“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.

“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”

The next morning, Dowd resigned.

There will no doubt be more on Woodward’s book.

But remarkably there is little about Trump that will shock, because he has been such a train wreck that the absurd and the outlandish and the scary have become normal Trump news.

It could be that ‘Fear’ tips Trump over the edge, demanding something be done about his dysfunctional presidency, but the odds are that the White House will stagger on while Trump increasingly obsesses over Twitter. Some oof his recent tweets:

Some will applaud these tirades as Trump telling things as they are, but they are a telling indication of John Kelyu’s observations from having to deal with him:

“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.”

Comey versus Trump – book bashing

The FBI director dumped by Donald trump has hit back, bashing Donald Trump in a book. The book has been bashed by critics (ahead of it’s launch).

NY Times (bashed a number of times by Trump for ‘fake news’): James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive.

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

That won’t shock many people.

Fox News (regular praisers of Trump and bashers of trump critics): Comey book filled with unproven attacks on Trump, lofty praise for himself

A highly ironic headline given the habit of Trump for launching unproven attacks and loftily praising himself and demanding praise.

It’s important for every fair-minded person to remember that just because Comey makes a charge, he is not speaking gospel truth – despite his inflated sense of virtue and self-importance.

Just about anyone who’s ever been fired fancies “getting even” with the boss. Comey’s new book does that in spades, according to excerpts leaked to the media Thursday. In the process, it lowers the reputation of both the FBI and Comey, undermines the presidency and hurts the nation.

The book is seething with disdain and insults for a man the American people elected to lead our nation. Comey openly vilifies President Trump, throwing forth every insinuation and slur you can think of, even descending into petty criticism of the president’s tan, length of his ties and height.

Petty criticism is a fair comment and also highly ironic.

NY Times with details: Comey’s Memoir Offers Visceral Details on a President ‘Untethered to Truth’

The 304-page memoir by Mr. Comey is the only firsthand, insider account to emerge so far by a former Trump official describing what it was like to work in the chaotic early days of the administration. In it, Mr. Comey, a veteran law enforcement agent, writes unsparingly about Mr. Trump, calling him a tempestuous president whose connection to honesty was tenuous at best.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Mr. Comey writes in the book, saying his service to Mr. Trump recalled for him the days when he investigated the mob in New York. “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

With the book’s release set for next week, Mr. Comey is planning a media blitz, beginning with an intensely hyped interview with ABC News that is set to air Sunday night. Republican allies of Mr. Trump’s have already set in motion a counteroffensive, creating a “Lyin’ Comey” website aimed at discrediting the former F.B.I. chief.

Mr. Comey’s book does not include dramatic new revelations about the Russia investigation itself, which is continuing. But Mr. Comey does not pull punches as he provides rigorous detail — pulled from his contemporaneous notes — about his charged interactions with Mr. Trump during the transition and in the White House.

This must be unprecedented, a book in which an ex-FBI director blatantly bashes a sitting president. But a president with a character and record like Trump’s is also unprecedented.

The book bashes trump and the book is already taking a bashing, before it goes on sale.

Comey will probably make millions, and his reputation will be savaged by Trump defenders.

With Trump’s lying and his eccentric, bombastic,  and vainglorious behaviour on constant display it’s hard to be shocked by confirmation of his worst traits – perhaps the world should be, but until Trump does something really stupid that has an obvious and drastic effect (as opposed to stupid) that’s likely to continue unabated.

The real danger with this book is that it could provoke Trump and tip him over the edge, prompting him to actually do something damaging to the presidency or the country or the world, rather than his usual blister and ranting and raving.

The US political circus continues, absent a ringmaster.

Bannon backtracks bigly

After cannoning into the Trump White House, in what looked like a payback for being sacked, Steve Bannon has backtracked bigly in a belated attempt to stem the blowing up of his ambitions.

This follows the release of Michael Wolff’s book ‘Fire and Fury’, which lifted the lid on White House dysfunction revealing details about a train wreck administration that didn’t shock because much of it was known or suspected already.

The President appears to be going nuclear on Bannon, rendering him toxic waste politically.

 

Axios Exclusive: Bannon apologizes

Steve Bannon is trying to make amends with the Trump family, providing a statement to Axios that expresses “regret” to President Trump and praises his son, Donald Trump Jr.

  • “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”
  • “My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama.”
  • “President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.”
  • “My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.”
  • “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
  • “Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
  • “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Sounds like regret his blasting of the Trumps has backfired and destroyed his relationships with the White House, the Republicans, major funders and possibly with Breitbart, but it is probably too little, too late to stem the damage.

Bannon’s full statement (five days after the book bombshell hit):

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.

Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.

I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

It sounds like grovelling.

But Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported last night:

Trump has been working the phones over the past several days, telling allies they need to choose between him and Bannon.

And in typical fashion Trump has given Bannon a kicking on Twitter:

A split like this won’t do the future political ambitions of Trump and especially Bannon any good.

Michael Wolff “one of our least reliable journalists” out-trumps Trump

Author of the book about the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, has been described as “one of our least reliable journalists”, but also that “our least reliable president could finally find himself undone at the hands” of Wolff, and that the book will pay off “from a real journalistic impact”.

Trump has responded by predictably slamming Wolff, but also praising himself – “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” His ‘Streisand effect’ promotion of Wolff’s book may not be one of the most genius things he has done.

In a prologue to his book Wolff admits:

“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.

“Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”

But Wolff claims to have trasncripts of over two hundred interviews. Business Insider: The author of the explosive new Trump book says he can’t be sure if parts of it are true

The book itself, reviewed by Business Insider from a copy acquired prior to its Friday publication, is not always clear about what level of confidence the author has in any particular assertion.

Lengthy, private conversations are reported verbatim, as are difficult-to-ascertain details like what somebody was thinking or how the person felt.

Wolff attributes his book to “more than two hundred interviews” with people including Trump and “most members of his senior staff.” According to the news website Axios, Wolff has dozens of hours of tapes to back up what he said.

They include assertions that Trump never wanted to be president, that all of his senior staff considered him an idiot, that he tried to lock the Secret Service out of his room, and that he ate at McDonald’s to avoid being poisoned.

Business Insider rounded up some more of the most eye-catching claims in this article.

Predictably Trump is in full Monty attack/denial mode (probably the best promotion possible for the book in as per the “Streisand effect’).

 

Threats, followed by a swipe at his favourite targets (now including Wolff and Steve Bannon), and then promotion of his favourite person – himself:

Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!

Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.

Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames.

I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star .to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

This may not be a genius response though. It reinforces the image of Trump as a self obsessed egomaniac. Perhaps he is so much a genius it appears to ordinary people as idiotic.

Drew Magary both slams the author but also claims : Michael Wolff Did What Every Other White House Reporter Is Too Cowardly to Do.

I’m gonna begin this post with the same disclaimer that needs to come with every post about Michael Wolff, which is that Wolff is a fart-sniffer whose credibility is often suspect and who represents the absolute worst of New York media-cocktail-circuit inbreeding. But in a way, it’s fitting that our least reliable president could finally find himself undone at the hands of one of our least reliable journalists.

…but the book has already caused legitimate upheaval in the administration, opened a permanent rift between President Trump and Bannon, AND it confirms what we have all always known to be true: that the president severely lacks the cognitive ability to do this job, and that he is surrounded at all times by a cadre of enablers, dunces, and outright thieves.

As much as I wanna discredit Wolff, he got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.

And look how he did it. He did it by sleazily ingratiating himself with the White House, gaining access, hosting weird private dinners, and then taking full advantage of the administration’s basic lack of knowledge about how reporting works. Some of the officials Wolff got on tape claim to be unaware that they were on the record.

…he’s very much up front in the book’s intro about the fact that he was able to exploit the incredible “lack of experience” on display here. In other words, Wolff got his book by playing a bunch of naive dopes.

Wolff has spent this week thoroughly exploiting Trump and his minions the same way they’ve exploited the cluelessness of others. And he pulled it off because, at long last, there was a reporter out there willing to toss decorum aside and burn bridges the same way Trump does.

He has revealed the Emperor without clothes (that many people could see but media were too gutless to go hard on).

Everyone around Donald Trump is too polite to Donald Trump. Democrats, foreign dignitaries, underlings… all of them.

And the White House press is perhaps the worst offender. From the media pool playing along with Sarah Sanders during press conferences—conferences where Sanders openly lies and pisses on democracy—to access merchants like Maggie Haberman doling out Trump gossip like so many bread crumbs, too many reporters have been far too deferential to an administration that is brazenly racist, dysfunctional, and corrupt.

…the only end goal of their access is continued access, to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off. They are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.

Journalists have been complicit in the fall of US democracy, and in particular have been complicit in the rise of Trump to the top of a farcical administration.

Wolff may be a sleazeball journalist but he has done what others weren’t prepared to do, and has out-sleazed Trump.

But Wolff didn’t do that. He did not engage in some endless bullshit access tango. No, Wolff actually USED his access, and extended zero courtesy to Trump on the process, and it’s going to pay off for him not just from a book sales standpoint, but from a real journalistic impact.

Ironically a gutter journalist has been prepared and able to blow the lid on the gutter that politics has become.

I am utterly sick to death of hearing anonymous reports about people inside the White House “concerned” about the madman currently in charge of everything. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.

Scathing of the establishment political media.

Trump ascended into power in part because he relied on other people being too nice. It’s fun to rampage through the china shop when the china shop owner is standing over there being like, “SIR, that is not how we do things here!”

If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn’t even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own?

They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.

A genius rat? Outsmarted.

David Remnick: The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump

What made the Emperor Nero tick, Suetonius writes in “Lives of the Caesars,” was “a longing for immortality and undying fame, though it was ill-regulated.”

Chaotic, corrupt, incurious, infantile, grandiose, and obsessed with gaudy real estate, Donald Trump is of a Neronic temperament. He has always craved attention. Now the whole world is his audience. In earlier times, Trump cultivated, among others, the proprietors and editors of the New York tabloids, Fox News, TMZ, and the National Enquirer. Now Twitter is his principal outlet, with no mediation necessary.

Future scholars will sift through Trump’s digital proclamations the way we now read the chroniclers of Nero’s Rome—to understand how an unhinged emperor can make a mockery of republican institutions, undo the collective nervous system of a country, and degrade the whole of public life.

Twitter may have allowed Trump to bypass, manipulate and torment the established media, but it has also left a trail of evidence, or perhaps more like an eight lane highway of evidence, of his unhinging.

…there is little doubt about who Donald Trump is, the harm he has done already, and the greater harm he threatens. He is unfit to hold any public office, much less the highest in the land.

This is not merely an orthodoxy of the opposition; his panicked courtiers have been leaking word of it from his first weeks in office.

The President of the United States has become a leading security threat to the United States.

But what can be done about it?

It seems all the world can do is watch has Trump and his presidency goes off the rails – and drags US credibility down with him.

Wolff may have a questionable reputation as a journalist, but he may have ultimately forced the United States of America to face up to the problem it has with it’s current president.

I know that some will still staunchly praise and defend Trump, but it’s likely that Wolff’s book will encourage more to look beyond the bull and Twitter and see Trump as he increasingly looks, an incompetent buffoon who managed to achieve some things, but whose negatives are too glaring and risky to keep sweeping under the White House carpet.