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.

Trump versus Bannon escalates

Ex Trump campaigner and White House aid Steve Bannon has stirred things up with revelations in a book, and Trump via his lawyers has hit back with a cease and desist letter.

BBC: 10 explosive revelations from new Trump book

Donald Trump was “befuddled” by his election win, did not enjoy his inauguration and was scared of the White House, according to a new book.

Journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House also purports to lift the lid on Ivanka Trump’s secret presidential ambitions.


1. Bannon thought Don Jr meeting ‘treasonous’

According to the book, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon thought a meeting between Donald Trump Jr and a group of Russians was “treasonous”.

Bannon reportedly said the Justice Department investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Moscow would focus on money laundering, adding: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

2. Trump ‘befuddled’ by his victory

In an article for NYMag adapted from his book, Wolff describes the amazement – and dismay – in the Trump camp at his November 2016 election win.

“Shortly after 8pm on Election Night, when the unexpected trend – Trump might actually win – seemed confirmed, Don Jr told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears – and not of joy. There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.”

3. Trump ‘angry’ at inauguration

Wolff writes:

“Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears. Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed.”

But the first lady’s office rejected the claims.

Communications director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement: “Mrs Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for President and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”

4. Trump found White House ‘scary’

Wolff writes:

“Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom – the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room.”

5. Ivanka hopes to be president

Mr Trump’s daughter and her husband Jared Kushner allegedly struck a deal that she might run for president in future, according to Wolff:

“Balancing risk against reward, both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job. Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump. Bannon, who had coined the term ‘Jarvanka’ that was now in ever greater use in the White House, was horrified when the couple’s deal was reported to him.”

6. Ivanka mocks dad’s ‘comb-over’

The US first daughter poked fun at her father’s alleged “scalp-reduction surgery”, according to the book.

“She treated her father with a degree of detachment, even irony, going so far as to make fun of his comb-over to others.”

7. White House unsure of priorities

Katie Walsh, the White House deputy chief of staff, asked Mr Kushner, the president’s senior adviser, what the administration wanted to achieve.

But according to the book, Mr Kushner did not have an answer.

“‘Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,’ she [Katie Walsh] demanded. ‘What are the three priorities of this White House?’ It was the most basic question imaginable – one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer. ‘Yes,’ he said to Walsh. ‘We should probably have that conversation.'”

8. Trump’s admiration for Murdoch

Wolff, who previously wrote a biography of Rupert Murdoch, describes Mr Trump’s high regard for the News Corp media titan.

“Rupert Murdoch, who had promised to pay a call on the president-elect, was running late. When some of the guests made a move to leave, an increasingly agitated Trump assured them that Rupert was on his way. ‘He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,’ Trump said. ‘You have to stay to see him.’ Not grasping that he was now the most powerful man in the world, Trump was still trying mightily to curry favor with a media mogul who had long disdained him as a charlatan and fool.”

9. Murdoch calls Trump ‘idiot’

But the admiration was not mutual, according to Wolff’s account of a call between Mr Murdoch and Mr Trump about the president’s meeting with Silicon Valley executives.

Mr Trump is said to have told Mr Murdoch:

“‘These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.’ ‘Donald,’ said Murdoch, ‘for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.’

‘Take this H-1B visa issue. They really need these H-1B visas.’Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ ‘What a f****** idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.”

10. Flynn knew Russia ties ‘a problem’

Former US National Security Adviser Mike Flynn knew that accepting money from Moscow for a speech could come back to haunt him, according to the book.

Wolff writes that before the election Mr Flynn “had been told by friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. ‘Well it would only be a problem if we won,’ he assured them.”


That mostly seems quite lame, but people supposedly on Trump’s side calling him and idiot and saying actions of his son were treasonous aren’t a great look.

Trump’s reaction via his lawyer suggests he wasn’t very pleased – and guarantees maximum exposure.

ABC News: Trump attorney sends Bannon cease and desist letter over ‘disparaging’ comments

That sounds a tad ironic given Trump’s history of disparaging comments, but his lawyers claim a breach of confidentiality agreement.

Lawyers on behalf of President Donald Trump sent a letter Wednesday night to former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon demanding he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his family.

Trump attorney Charles Harder said in a statement, “This law firm represents President Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. On behalf of our clients, legal notice was issued today to Stephen K. Bannon, that his actions of communicating with author Michael Wolff regarding an upcoming book give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients. Legal action is imminent.”

In the letter to Bannon, Harder, writes, “You [Bannon] have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company [the campaign], disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members.”

In the letter, Trump’s attorney says that “remedies for your breach of the agreement include but are not limited to monetary damages” though no dollar amount is disclosed.

During the campaign, then-candidate Trump had all campaign staff sign a non-disclosure agreement which required all staff, according to campaign sources, to refrain from any disparaging comments against the candidate, his family or the Trump campaign and organization.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump hit back at Bannon in scathing comments, saying that when Bannon was fired “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind”.

So it seems that Trump only has a double standard about disparaging comments.  Perhaps he didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” the president said in a statement.

“Often described as the most talented field ever assembled” – good grief. Next thing he will claim to have defeated the strongest Democrat candidate ever.

“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

More irony. This could get uglier.

Another book from Hager?

Will Nicky Hager launch another book this year?

He only recently revealed he would be launching what turned out to be the book he co-wrote with Jon Stephenson, Hit & Run. Stephenson presumably did most of the investigating, and it was not a long book (I think not much over a hundred pages).

Before the launch it was said that the book wasn’t targeting or would affect the election campaign like Hager’s last book, Dirty Politics.

There’s time for another book launch before September. Does Hager have another book up his sleeve?

I’m just wondering, I haven’t heard anything about another Hager book this year. He manages to keep his launch plans fairly secret.

Ridiculous demands for urgent inquiry

Some media and some politicians are demanding an urgent, immediate inquiry into the Afghan attack the SAS were involved in. This is ridiculous.

Sound governance should not operate on the demands of the every shortening news cycle, nor on the demands of increasingly activist ‘journalists’ trying to create headlines.

The merits of the claims by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson on their book Hit & Run should be carefully assessed, and alternate views also have to be considered.

This will take time.More time than a journalist or pundit getting a book at 5:30 pm, making a pronouncement on the 6 o’clock news, reading the book overnight and leading the morning headlines with demands for instant action from Government.

The Minister of Defence and the head of the NZ Defence Force are out of the country until Saturday. They have to be consulted.

People taking more time and care than journalists jumping to conclusions based on a one sided book need to check through the claims – and ask questions, seek other views, and assess the merits of the claims.

Even Nicky Hager says that time is needed.

Mar 22, 2017 12:57 PM
Nicky Hager
I hope that politicians will have the sense to avoid dismissing any of the allegations we’ve put forward until they have really seriously looked at them and asked questions. I believe that this issue is not going to go away quickly, that we are going to end up with it being investigated over months or years, and it would be wise for all politicians to keep an open mind when they haven’t even had a chance to read the book.

The raid occurred in Afghanistan in 2010.

Hager and Stephenson have been working on the book since 2014.

Demanding action to fit with a ridiculously short news cycle is not only nuts, it’s irresponsible.

Bill English has been criticised for not taking decisive action. That can be expected from bloggers but journalists should know better – if they weren’t so encased in there instant news bubbles.

If in a couple of weeks or a couple of months the Government decides that an inquiry is justified – and that may well turn out to be the prudent option – the same journalists who didn’t  have their instant demands met, and a few politicians and bloggers, are likely to label it a flip flop or u-turn.

I want a Prime Minister who will consider serious issues – as the Afghan incident is – and will seek good advice before making decisions.

Bill English needs to sharpen up on how he deals with media howling for instant action.

But he is correct in taking his time considering how the Government should deal with the claims in the Hager/Stephenson book.

Sometimes Prime Ministers and Governments have to react quickly and decisively to events that happen.

An incident that happened 7 years ago, and claims in a book that has taken 3 years to write, don’t justify instant political action. To the contrary.

Very serious legal issues have been raised, including suggestions of possible war crimes.

A Government not only should but has to take time seeking sound legal advice. They should also allow other evidence to be presented.

Demands for an atom bomb instant reaction are more than ridiculous, they are also stupid.

‘Rumours’ about Key

As soon as John Key announced his retirement ‘rumours’ (or deliberate fake news attempts) started to do the rounds.

There were claims that Key resigned just before a book that was ‘very critical’ of him was published, he’d had an affair, he was fleeing a huge earthquake that was about to happen, Key was leaving to take up a job at the head of the IMF. At one stage Key was asked about these claims and he denied them.

The Spinoff listed Theories on why John Key resigned, ranked in order of stupidity:

7. There is going to be a huge earthquake on December 13 and John Key is fleeing

6. John Key had an affair with *insert name of anyone he has ever met here*

5. “Hidden economic reasons” (that only Winston Peters had foreseen)

4. Key was scared of a book AKA The Bomber Theorem

3. John Key wanted to spend more time with family

2. He wanted to spend more time with anyone except the MPs of the National Party

1. He wanted to make way for Prime Minister Valerie Adams

He said he really did want to spend more time with his family. No evidence has supported the rest so appear to be bunkum.

I saw another rumour variation yesterday – that the issue of North and South due out had a damaging article about Key. That has been debunked (by a strong Key critic):

The ‘big, secret story’ in North and South tomorrow is about Scott Watson, not about John Key being a shady bitch

Even though he is stepping down now the Key clobbering machine keeps swinging – and missing, except perhaps where stupid jokes are believed and get social media traction.

UK update – Conservatives

Update #1 from Missy in the UK:


Conservatives:

The honeymoon is over for Theresa May as it appears that Cameron’s supporters are starting what one journalist has described as a concerted attack on May in order to destabilise her Government. It started with a speech given by George Osborne the other day criticising the Government’s economic policy and their response to Brexit, but the weekend is when it got interesting as David Cameron’s former Communications director, Craig Oliver – sorry make that SIR Craig Oliver (more on that later) – started flogging his book on the EU referendum, and parts have been leaked to the media.

Along with the predictable stuff about Johnson and Gove betraying the PM, and how they underestimated people’s views on immigration, and how they thought the economy would win it for them, there were a couple of pointed comments on Theresa May. For anyone here who has read my views regarding May’s referendum presence (or lack of) this will be no surprise.
According to Oliver it was suggested that May would back Brexit, so the PM called her had words and hung up on her, apparently satisfied he had made an impact. May then released a statement offering muted support to the Remain campaign.

Oliver accuses May of being a submarine during the referendum campaign – basically nowhere to be seen. She is being accused of not really supporting Remain, offering lukewarm support, and all the time plotting to bring down Cameron. Essentially he now believes that she only offered lukewarm support to the Remain side as she could not be seen going against the PM as Home Secretary.

Now, what the truth in this is, is anyone’s guess, but the idea that May was a Brexiter, but only supporting the PM as he was the PM is one that I have heard a number of times from UK people. Most say that May is a Brexiter from way back, and has always been a eurosceptic. This is leading some in the media to speculate it will be a hard Brexit, not a soft Brexit that many want as it will be almost like Remaining.

Another allegation in Oliver’s book is that May tried to stonewall the PM on the issue of immigration, he claims that she blocked his plans for an immigration brake, supposedly to help the leave campaign – and her future ambitions of being PM. However, many of her allies / supporters have come out today and denied this, saying it was May that wanted a brake on immigration and the PM ignored her.

One thing that is also notable is that May was apparently supposed to go with Cameron in February to try an negotiate a deal with the EU to try and stop the referendum, however, she ended up not going because she had a weekend away with her husband planned. This was when Cameron failed to get any significant concessions – especially in terms of free movement. Oliver suggests that this was deliberate so that she wouldn’t be tainted with the expected failed negotiations.

Book Controversies:

With regards to the book itself there are a number of controversies around it – and the author, summed up below:

  1. Craig Oliver is one of the people who received his knighthood when Cameron left office, it is considered by many to be tainted based on the way it was awarded.
  2. Many MP’s and Ministers have an active dislike of Oliver, and they are all airing their opinions now, the most common one is that many don’t think he was very good at his job, and also they have noted that he used to constantly write notes in meetings, and it was highly suspected that he was going to cash in on being the Communications Director for the PM.
  3. When a senior public official leaves their position they are not allowed (by law) to make any money from their position – or the knowledge gained whilst in the position – for at least 3 months, and then any position, or potential commercial matter, needs to be reviewed and approved. This means for anyone wanting to write a book they shouldn’t even be optioning it, let alone have it published and ready for sale, for at least 3 months, Oliver has been out of his job for 2 and a half months. It is viewed as being published with unseemly haste, but most recognise it is timed to be released before the Conservative Party Conference in a couple of weeks.

WaPo document archive on Trump

A book was published about Donald Trump last week – Trump Revealed

Trump’s response:

TrumpRevealedTweet

Washington Post’s response: ‘Trump Revealed’: The reporting archive

The Post is making public today a sizable portion of the raw reporting used in the development of “Trump Revealed,” a biography of the Republican presidential nominee published August 23 by Scribner. Drawn from the work of more than two dozen Post journalists, the archive contains 398 documents, comprising thousands of pages of interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records and other material. Interviews conducted off the record were removed, as was other material The Post did not have the right to publish. The archive is searchable and navigable in a number of ways. It is meant as a resource for other journalists and a trove to explore for our many readers fascinated by original documents.

The archive is here.

NiemanLab responds: The Donald, documented: The Washington Post open-sources much of its Trump reporting

The Washington Post recently published a new biography of Donald Trump, for which the Republican nominee sat for more than 20 hours of interviews.

Now, in a welcome show of journalistic openness, the Post has published the raw materials that made up its reporting, including transcripts of those 20 hours with the Donald, for others to read — including other journalists.

Journalistic transparency is almost always a good thing — especially in the context of an extraordinarily contested race in which the media has been a frequent piñata, for reasons good and bad. (The Post has, at various times in this campaign, been both banned from covering Trump campaign events as press and given almost unthinkable candidate access for a book.) Like a data journalism project that releases its code on GitHub, or a documents-based investigation that puts its work on DocumentCloud, this effort by the Post is a move in the right direction.

News.com.au (via NZ Herald) responds: Massive 398-document archive on Donald Trump released they detail a number of fairly boring “things about the billionaire candidate we’ve learnt”:

  • Trump had a privileged upbringing
    Donald Trump benefited greatly from this, growing up in a world of wealth and privilege. He went to private school, was the only family in his neighbourhood to have a Cadillac, and was to follow his father’s business ventures.
  • Trump is proof celebrity life can be very lonely
    He himself admitted he doesn’t have a lot of people he can turn to. “He really doesn’t have the kinds of friendships that most people would describe… and never really has.” (so that goes back to well before ‘celebrity’ days)
  • Trump allegedly showed racial bias when renting his properties
    For example, an African-American man who went to inspect an apartment had his application denied, with the agent telling him there was no room. The following day his wife, a white woman, went for the exact same apartment, and was told they’d be delighted to have her.
  • Trump may have voted for Hillary Clinton 16 years ago
    When she was running for the US Senate of New York in 2001, he even had a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party in his apartment.
  • Trump may threaten you if you write a book about him
    “I just hope the book could be fair because, otherwise, you know, we’ll see what happens. But it would be nice if the book could be fair. But we’ll see.”
  • Trump (sort of) admitted he expressed initial support for invading Iraq
    In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, when Trump was asked if he was in favour of invading Iraq, he replied: “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
  • Trump claimed he’s not an insulting person
    “I don’t feel I insult people. I don’t feel I insult people. I try and get to the facts and I don’t feel I insult people. I hear what you’re saying but I do not feel that I insult people. Now, if I’m insulted I will counterattack, or if something is unfair, I will counterattack, but I don’t feel like I insult people. I don’t want to do that.”
  • Trump refuses to believe his fans are insulting people
    The reporters asked Trump what he thought about his fans calling Hillary Clinton a “b*tch”, and wearing T-shirts that read: “Trump that b****”.
    “I have not heard that, I don’t like that. But I have not heard that. I would not be happy if I heard it. No, I have not heard it.”
  • Trump will hang up on you if he doesn’t like the question
    Donald Trump allegedly created his own press agent. The Post said he would call reporters saying his name was “John Miller”, but wouldn’t even bother to disguise his voice. He would then give them fake news tips, telling them he would be at glamorous events with glamorous people.
    Boburg: “Mr Trump, we just have two more questions and then we’ll let you run. The story today about John Miller. Did you ever employ someone named John Miller as a spokesperson? I think he hung up. I’m pretty sure he hung up.”

America’s response:

Yawn