[Everyone knew the Trump campaign didn’t expect to win. But who knew they didn’t WANT to win. Also, Steve Bannon: “Ivanka is dumb as a brick.”]
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“Trump Gives Impromptu 30″ Interview, Sans Aides; Makes 24 False Claims, per WaPo” (12/28/2017)
“Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Says GOP Tax Bill ‘Probably Went too Far’ for Corporations” (12/28/2017)
“All Members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS Fired Last Week” (12/29/2017)
“Steele Dossier Did Not Prompt FBI Russia Probe; Papadopoulos’ Drunken Loose Lips Did” (12/30/2017)
“President Twitter-Attacks Pakistan: They’ve ‘Given Us Nothing but Lies and Deceit’” (1/1/2018)
“President Twitter-Attacks: Iran for ‘Failing at Every Level,’ Obama for Bad Iran Deal” (1/2/2018)
“President Twitter-Attacks ‘Deep State’ DOJ: Wants Them to ‘Finally Act’ on Comey, Abedin” (1/2/2018)
“President Twitter-Threatens Kim Jong Un: ‘Mine (Nuclear Button) Is Bigger Than Yours’” (1/2/2018)
“Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Won’t Run in 2018, Opens Door for Mitt Romney (R-Utah)” (1/2/2018)
“Anti-Government Protests Continue Throughout Iran Over Past Week; 20+ Dead” (1/3/2018)
“North Korea Reopens Direct Hotline to South Korea After 2-Year Suspension” (1/3/2018)
“New Book ‘Fire and Fury’ Explodes Dirt and Disturbing Facts About Trump White House” (1/3/2018)
“After Bannon Trashes Don Jr. in New Book, Trump Excommunicates Him From Inner Circle” (1/3/2018)
“Paul Manafort Sues Special Counsel and Deputy AG Rosenstein to Limit Russia Probe Scope” (1/3/2018)
“President Trump Quietly Disbands His Controversial Voter Integrity Commission” (1/3/2018)
“Deputy AG Rosenstein, FBI Director Wray, House Speaker Ryan Meet About Russia Dossier, Apparently to Overturn House Intel. Cmte. Chair Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) Requests for Sensitive Materials” (1/3/2018)
“Trump Lawyers Issue Cease-and-Desist Order to Bannon for Breaking Employment NDA” (1/4/2018)
“Trump Lawyers Threaten to Sue ‘Fire and Fury’ Author and Publisher to Stop Publication” (1/4/2018)
“Regarding the president’s tweeting habits, I haven’t been a fan until this week. I’m warming up to the tweets.”
(McConnell, Mitch, R-Ky., Senate majority leader; Washington, D.C., press conference; 12/22/2017.)
President Donald Trump is about the one politician who can make Mitch McConnell seem a little less nauseating.
Mitch made this cerebral quip at a news conference days after the House and Senate passed the GOP tax plan. The implication was that Donald had mostly stayed on message (read: stayed out of the way) with his tweets and other public statements leading up to the bill’s final passage. Also, the president hasn’t dissed Mitch in about a month.
The colossal McConnellean hypocrisy in even this mildly humorous sound bite screams at us: As long as Donald doesn’t hurt Mitch’s feelings, the Senate majority leader is OK with the president spewing childish sobriquets at other leaders, in this country and around the world. This is like Ralphie saying as long as Scut Farkus doesn’t beat him up this week, who cares what the bully does to Flick, Schwartz, or even his own brother, Randy (a little A Christmas Story reference).
The president is an immature train wreck. As sick as we get of reading about his latest transgressions, we must not take them for granted, rolling our eyes and complaining, “Well, that’s just Trump.” He wants to desensitize Americans to his dangerous idiocy, for many reasons. His primary reason is that he believes these distractions will save him from the special counsel Russia investigation. Though it is not good for our short-term physical health, the long-term health of American democracy depends upon all of us maintaining our outrage.
Let me stop myself right here. Everyone with a brain knew Donald Trump was the most vile, egomaniacal confidence artist ever to befoul a television screen. After one year in office, we also know that his cyclopean ignorance, astronomic narcissism, and galactic immaturity are dangerous enough to threaten Armageddon (— thanks to Merriam-Webster for the Brobdingnagian superlatives).
I was going to review in-depth The Donald’s outrageous tweets since the beginning of the year: you know — the ones that look like a C-student fifth-grader conducting foreign policy. He Twitter-insulted Pakistan. He Twitter-insulted Iran. But I’m tired of rehashing President Trump’s latest outrages. Well, maybe just one today. He Twitter-threatened Kim Jong Un:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter post; 1/3/2018.)
The Trump Doctrine has finally been defined: “Mine is bigger than yours.”
One more on domestic policy?
“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter post; 1/2/2018.)
If you can’t get enough of these New Year’s tweets, see The New York Times article below: “Trump’s First Big Twitter Day of 2018: Analyzing nuclear buttons and the ‘corrupt media.’”
I’m looking at my computer and this story is breaking: The Guardian has obtained a pre-release copy of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, to be dropped Jan. 9, 2018. Now New York magazine has just posted a long article by Mr. Wolff based on his book.
Wolff somehow tagged along with the Trump transition team, then camped out in the West Wing, from Election Day through October 2017, most of Donald’s first year in office. During and after that time, he conducted hundreds of interviews with current and former White House principals. There were, apparently, no ground rules placed upon his access, and he made no promises as to content. This is extremely un-Trumpian considering we know Donald requires legally airtight nondisclosure agreements with even the McDonald’s delivery crew.
Michael Wolff’s book has exploded on the news landscape this week. Everyone will be reading this thing. Between former top aide Steve Bannon’s declaration of war on Trump World and all the insider dirt and unfiltered comments, this book could be a massive blow to Donald’s presidency, second only to Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s ultimate collection of indictments and plea deals. The mistake by the president in allowing Mr. Wolff nearly unlimited access to the White House serves as a microcosm for the entire Trump transition and presidency.
On June 9, 2016, the infamous Trump Tower meeting took place that included Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a gaggle of Russian operatives claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. Mr. Wolff reports that Steve Bannon described this meeting during the campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad sh**, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately. … [Furthermore,] the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero. …
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV. … You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f*****g Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face. … It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner sh**. The Kushner sh** is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”
(Bannon, Steve, former [Trump] White House senior political strategist; as cited in Wolff, Michael; Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House; 2018; as cited in Smith, David; “Trump Tower Meeting With Russians ‘Treasonous,’ Bannon Says in Explosive Book”; The Guardian; 1/3/2018.)
For the record, Steve Bannon hates Jared Kushner. And he’s not big on Don Jr., either. Here’s the president’s response after the excerpts broke:
“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 doesn’t represent my base; he’s only in it for himself. … Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; written statement; as cited in Sullivan, Eileen & Baker, Peter; “Trump Says Bannon Has ‘Lost His Mind’ After Bannon Insults Donald Trump Jr.”; The New York Times; 1/3/2018.)
And just for good measure:
“Trump is not spared [in the book]. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire who is one of the president’s oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: ‘He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.’ Barrack denied that to The New York Times.”
(Wolff, Michael; Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House; 2018; as cited in Smith, David; “Trump Tower Meeting With Russians ‘Treasonous,’ Bannon Says in Explosive Book”; The Guardian; 1/3/2018.)
According to this book, almost every middle- to upper-level White House player has damning things to say about their colleagues, including President Trump. Almost all of Trump’s aides are quoted as using some synonym of the word idiot to describe the president. And Donald, at one time or another, has called most of his staff members idiots.
Add to this earlier reports of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling Trump a “f*****g moron”; National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster calling Donald a “dope” and an “idiot,” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner”; Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly hanging his head in shameful disgust behind the dais while Donald makes another embarrassing speech; and First Daughter, Ivanka, regularly lampooning her father’s Just for Men orange-blond comb-over (as Wolff recounts); and you’ve got the ultimate reality show.
This is Jerry Springer: Presidential Edition.
Now You Tell Me
The New York magazine article focuses on the overriding concept that no one in the Trump campaign thought he would win, and no one in the campaign wanted him to win. They were all — including Donald — sure he would lose and were counting on it. And they were all — excluding Donald — probably sure that he shouldn’t be president.
In the weeks before the election, Mr. Trump was already planning to leverage his increased celebrity, floating rumors about a Donald Trump media network. Kellyanne Conway would be an on-air political pundit star. Ivanka would go out into the world with a freshly burnished retail brand. Javanka would be American royalty. Donald Jr. would revive the Brylcreem hair-care brand.
They all viewed this sure-to-lose presidential run as a spectacular springboard for the rest of their careers. It would be (increased) fame and fortune for everyone. The losing election campaign would be the most successful marketing campaign ever devised.
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” Wolff reports Trump telling Roger Ailes a week before Election Day. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
When the denouement materialized late into election night, Don Jr. said his father looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania cried. In a bad way. Donald had previously assured her he would never be president.
In the coming weeks, high jinks ensued:
“From the moment of victory, the Trump administration became a looking-glass presidency: Every inverse assumption about how to assemble and run a White House was enacted and compounded, many times over. The decisions that Trump and his top advisers made in those first few months — from the slapdash transition to the disarray in the West Wing — set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office. This was a real-life version of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, where the mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were.”
(Wolff, Michael; “Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President”; New York magazine; 1/3/2018.)
This explains so much. Everyone knew the Trump campaign didn’t expect to win. But who knew they didn’t want to win — including the candidate. That’s why they were totally unprepared. As Michael Wolff tells it, however, it took President-Elect Donald Trump a very short time to transition from Fruit-of-the-Looms-full-of-excrement to thinking he could do the job better than anyone else.
It appears Steve Bannon was in a position to understand the Russian dirt without soiling himself. He’s so sure of his cleanliness that he does not plan to hire an attorney to guide him through the special counsel probe. Bannon, the first White House insider to volunteer damaging dirt about Trump World’s alleged illegal dealings with Russia, sees the downfall coming much the same way independent legal pundits do: Don Jr. “cracking like an egg” and the money laundering going right through Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner on the path to “f*****g” Trump. (Of course, the Michael Flynn flip also will be key.)
Mr. Wolff elaborates on this in his book: Donald Trump and the rest of his Keystone Cops did not bother covering their tracks very well because they never expected to win the presidency and be subject to the accompanying scrutiny. Then he won. What’s he gonna do, say “No thanks”? (Although, I remember some speculation about that at the time.) Wolff relates a conversation between then-high-level campaign adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and friends who suggested he shouldn’t have accepted that $45,000 for the speech in Putin’s Russia. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn responded.
We know Trump Inc. has a large web of financial transactions with Russia going back many years. Don Jr. said as much at a real estate conference in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” (And I’ll bet he caught hell for that.) We know that Donald is well-known for cutting legal corners and pushing the boundaries of tax law. Fire and Fury — with its salacious gossip, backbiting, and score-settling — is notable also for all that it corroborates about Trump’s ignorance, likely Russian collusion and conspiracy, and financial improprieties. I believe 2018 is the year the Trump presidency dies.
In another deep dig at the president’s Russia problem, Wolff reports that Bannon said, “If [Trump] fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker. Why not, let’s do it. Let’s get it on.”
Otherwise, as he said on Breitbart News Tonight late Wednesday after the book excerpts were released and the sh** hit the fan, Steve Bannon still thinks President Trump is “a great man,” and he supports the president “day in and day out.”
Indeed. “Let’s get it on.” ■
1/2/2018 | “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations”: Fusion GPS, producer of Steele (Trump) dossier, says their congressional testimony transcripts would answer so many questions — but Republicans won’t release them
1/2/2018 | “Trump’s True Priorities Revealed in Holiday News Dumps”
1/2/2018 | “Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously: It’s worse than you think.”
1/3/2018 | “Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President: One year ago: the plan to lose, and the administration’s shocked first days.”
1/3/2018 | “Trump’s First Big Twitter Day of 2018: Analyzing nuclear buttons and the ‘corrupt media’”