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Washington Wrap: Et Tu, Steve?

Omri Nahmias

War of Words: Defensive Trump tries to poke holes in a gossip-filled best seller

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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A s the clock struck midnight in Washington, D.C., last Thursday, 50 people lined up outside a bookstore in 14-degree cold, waiting for their opportunity to be among the first to purchase Fire and Fury, the new exposé of the Trump White House that has the capital city ablaze.

Katie Scott, a D.C. resident, said it’s not every day that the White House attempts to prevent the sale of a book, as it did last week when Trump lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the book’s publisher, Henry Holt & Co. “It’s not just because it’s about the president,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen a lot, period.”

Henry Holt moved up the release date of the book by four days, to Friday, after excerpts of the scathing and unflattering portrayal of Trump and his staff appeared in a number of media outlets. Among other claims, author Michael Wolff writes that a number of White House staffers questioned the intelligence of President Trump. The book also contains quotes from Steve Bannon, a former top aide to the president, who says that a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election, was “treasonous.” President Trump unleashed a Twitter storm against Bannon for his comments, and Bannon later retreated, saying that he supports the president and his policies.

The “insider” nature of the book, however, with details of the daily life and musings of a sitting president who many see as less than admirable, was enough to cause quite a few people to purchase a copy at the earliest possible date. At the bookstore, the first case of books was quickly sold out, and only after some serious bargaining did one of those brave souls in line agree to sell me one of the four books he’d managed to grab.

The book is full of gossip, chinwag, and trivia. But unlike other books that have been published in the last year about the Trump administration, this one contains juicy quotes from Trump’s inner circle, especially from Bannon. The former right-winger who helped get Trump elected depicts himself as a political genius, taking dark horse candidate Trump from the throes of defeat and lifting him to victory. What the book reveals, though, is that Bannon’s loyalty is more to himself than his boss. He might have talked about “our revolution” but as time went on, he started believing the myth he had created, primarily that he’d been the man responsible for Trump’s success — and not the other way around. In response to Bannon’s Fire and Fury bombast, Trump, predictably, hurled a medley of insults at Bannon, among them “when he lost his job, he lost his mind.”

I don’t know if Bannon has lost his mind, but what’s certain is that he’s lost his place inside the Beltway. During his abbreviated tenure in the precincts of the Oval Office, he managed to alienate almost all of the GOP establishment, as well as half of the White House. Now that he’s publicly attacked the president — someone who had spoken highly of him even after his firing — he has found himself with few remaining allies. Politically speaking, you might say this was the week that Bannon lost his credibility as one of the key players of American politics. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 693)

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