The President Who Cried Wolff

Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, has gotten a mixed response, to say the least. Regardless of the claims of ‘fiction’ coming from the White House, it sent ripples through the American populace. Sales have soared since the release of the novel, quickly climbing to the top of the bestsellers list. Readers were eager to consume the gossip of the inner workings of the White House.

Wolff is a journalist who has written for such publications as Vanity Fair, the Guardian, and the Hollywood Reporter, to name a few. He compiled the book based on 200 conversations with Trump and most members of his senior staff. Wolff claimed to have taken a “semi-permanent seat on the couch in the West Wing” during his 18-month investigation.

Wolff’s claims regarding the West Wing’s occupants vary from the benign to the unconstitutional. Some of the most hard-hitting accusations include:

  • Trump and his aides never expected to win the presidency. He was allegedly looking forward to his plans for post-election Trump TV network.
  • Melania and Trump’s relationship is cold and distant They tend to go days without talking, he says, even when they both lived in in Trump tower. Melania has never been interested in Trump’s business in the slightest.
  • Stephen Bannon, Trumps former chief strategist, condemns the transition’s meeting with a foreign government inside Trump Tower, calling it “treasonous”, he emphasizes that there were “no lawyers” present. Bannon continues by saying the president’s son and son-in-law, both of whom were present at said meeting, “should have called the FBI immediately”.
  • Shortly after Roger Ailes was ousted from the post of CEO at Fox News, Trump asked him to take over management of his tumultuous campaign. Ailes turned down the position, citing Trump’s inclination not to take advice.
  • Trump was surprised that his decision to fire FBI director James Comey was widely criticized. Trump believed he was simply consistent with his campaign. He took on the FBI; it was the outsider against the insider.
  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have entertained the idea that Ivanka would run for president. In fact, Ivanka has long believed that the first woman president would not be Hillary Clinton but herself.
  • Trump has a long-time fear of being poisoned, so he likes to eat McDonald’s.

While there a variety of allegations made in the book. There remains an overarching theme of Trump’s instability and incompetence, his inability to lead the country. Trump is portrayed as detached from governance, an infantile, borderline illiterate man. Trump has fired back on Wolff’s allegations, calling his book “a work of fiction” and “a disgrace”. Similarly, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said that the book is “complete fantasy.” Paradoxically, Trump is taking the book very seriously, given that his lawyers sent Wolff a cease-and-desist, claiming that what they had called a “fictional” book was revealing confidential information.

Of course, there are many critics of Wolff’s novel that are not the president. They cite that the severe lack of circumstantial evidence is a serious pitfall in Wolff’s credibility. Wolff notes in his introductory comments that some of his sources were definitely lying to him while other offered contradictory reports. The unreliability of Wolff’s witness casts a shadow of doubt on the accuracy of the book. Wolff is also slippery about whether he was present for some of the conversations he relays, or relaying a version of events from someone who was present. Journalists have criticized Wolff for not pinning down details when describing key events. Given that Wolff refuses to release any evidence or tapings of his conversations, this book is little more than hearsay. Wolff’s political journalism, is concerned more with interpretation and opinion rather than accuracy. According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, 32 percent of registered voters find the book very or somewhat credible while 25 percent say it’s not too or not at all credible.

(It’s worth noting that Wolff is already well-known for his tendency to embellish quotes and descriptions of events or people. As a chronicler of the Manhattan Elite, Wolff was once known for his way of milking a brief interaction with a celebrity or powerful figure. He has been criticized harshly by fellow journalists, for his technique of getting most of his information by imagining himself in his subject’s place, and describing that imaginary individual, in place of the real one. To supplement this, he’s been known to pick and choose bombshells that have already been documented, and reword them to sound newer and more scandalous. As a result, his writing tends to contain very little new information. Many of the actual “bombshells” in Wolff’s book have been covered in the past, and those that haven’t are mostly unsourced and clearly embellished.)

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