Lawyers for Donald Trump are seeking to block distribution of Fire and Fury, an insider account of the White House written by columnist Michael Wolff. The book is jam-packed with revelations portraying the administration as a ship adrift led by a president unconnected to reality.
Previews of the gossipy account have already appeared in New York Magazine and the Hollywood Reporter. Booksellers have already handed off copies to reporters at other publications. so the cat is out of the bag in the unlikely event a judge can be persuaded to issue a restraining order.
What we know for sure at this point is somebody granted Wolff a non-media pass allowing more access than common sense would dictate necessary for a year-long period. And the really big bombshell comes from a report at Axios, revealing the existence of an extensive collection of recordings made by the author.
I’ll come back to some of the more salacious accounts in Fire and Fury, but there is other news from Trumplandia also deserving of your attention.
**The Associated Press is reporting Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided to end an Obama-era policy creating an avenue for legalized marijuana in states. Federal prosecutors where pot is legal will now be empowered to decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law.
Sessions and some law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado blame legalization for a number of problems, including drug traffickers that have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to hide in plain sight, illegally growing and shipping the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more. The decision was a win for pot opponents who had been urging Sessions to take action.
“There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end,” said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. “This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”
There are two takeaways from this story. First, the Attorney General’s move will scare away banks considering the possibility of opening accounts for pot-related businesses. And secondly, it will (once again) be open season on arresting people of color for minor drug offenses.
Trust me on this. Racism has always been at the core of government anti-drug policies.
**The White House has announced the shut down of the voter fraud commission, formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Multiple lawsuits and a lack of cooperation by numerous Secretaries of State were to blame.
Elliot Hannon at Slate explained the real reasoning behind the executive order creating the commission in the first place:
After assuming office, the formation of the commission amounted to the nationalization of a common Republican voter suppression scare tactic where every cycle around election time the idea is floated that ineligible voters, namely minority communities, undocumented immigrants, and, you know, Democrats, are attempting to subvert American democracy by illegally voting. It’s usually a strategic move to rally public support to make it harder for legitimate voters from minority communities to cast a ballot by requiring certain forms of ID and making the voting process generally and disproportionally burdensome for those communities.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman/voter suppression expert on the commission, told Politico that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will likely take over the commission’s work.
Kobach acknowledged that ICE has little expertise in other types of potential voter fraud, such as multiple voting or voting by felons who’ve been disenfranchised, but he noted DHS has a broad mandate to address election security issues as critical U.S. infrastructure.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos:
While the prospect of Trump political appointees at ICE using this as further grounds to wage war on immigrants is horrifying, it’s clear that Team Trump does see the commission as a humiliation—they quickly turned to blaming it on the scapegoat of the day. That’s right: it was all Steve Bannon’s idea, they now say.
An ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is familiar with the thinking at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters described it as an effort to gather new details on how Clinton and her aides handled classified material. Officials’ questions include how much classified information was sent over Clinton’s server; who put that information into an unclassified environment, and how; and which investigators knew about these matters and when. The Sessions ally also said officials have questions about immunity agreements that Clinton aides may have made.
A former senior DOJ official familiar with department leadership’s thinking said officials there are acutely aware of demands from President Donald Trump that they look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state—and that they lock up her top aide, Huma Abedin.
Okay, back to The Book.
I suspect it will come to pass, as is true the infamous Steele dossier, many of the tales told in Michael Wolff’s expose will never be proven. After all, one of the accounts in the book has an aide explaining to the President what the mechanics of a “golden shower” are.
None-the-less, Fire and Fury is a political train wreck, so we might as well look.
The Guardian, with everybody’s favorite Steve Bannon riff:
He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
The Washington Post, with reaction from the White House:
In a lengthy statement issued in the afternoon, Trump blamed Bannon — his former campaign manager and chief strategist who now heads the conservative Breitbart News website — for everything from leaks to the news media to the upset GOP loss in last month’s Senate race in Alabama. The president cast Bannon as a disgruntled former staffer whose chief goal is to stir up trouble.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
The White House also released a statement from the first lady’s office condemning Wolff’s book as a title to be found in the “bargain fiction” bin, while the Republican National Committee said Wolff has “a long history of making stuff up.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, devoted much of her Wednesday news briefing Wednesday to disputing Wolff’s claims and seeking to undermine Bannon’s credibility.
Fire and Fury is now at the top spot on Amazon’s best seller list.
Too much media focus has centered on Bannon. There’s tons of other juicy stuff in the book. The following are mostly plucked out of various ‘listicles’ published on the internet.
The Hill cites the portion of the book where we learn Trump’s staff questions his ability to read, calling it a “surprising allegation.” Really?
Pitching policy ideas to Trump was “deeply complicated,” Wolff writes in his book, citing the belief among some close to the president that he “was no more than semi-literate.”
Trump “didn’t read” or “didn’t really even skim,” Wolff writes, creating issues when aides attempted to pitch policy to him.
Former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh reportedly said working with Trump in those instances was “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”
CNBC was seemingly shocked to discover an account of Trump’s political ignorance:
One of Trump’s earliest campaign aides tried to educate the candidate about the Constitution, but Trump grew too bored to make it past the Fourth Amendment:
“Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. ‘I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.'”
NBC’s Katy Tur snipped out a section of the book on Trump’s amoral character:
From Fire and Fury, here’s Trump on his friends’ wives –> pic.twitter.com/9imNBaSqm1
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 3, 2018
Here are three jam-packed paragraphs from book author Michael Wolff’s preview in the Hollywood Reporter:
There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.
Most succinctly, no one expected him to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia “collusion,” Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)
There was more: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.
Wolff’s account ends with the claim that “Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends at Mar-a-Lago” during his Christmas stay.
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