The follow-up to the first tell-all is a wild ride, stretching credulity and heavily indebted to Steve Bannon. But so is the president
Michael Wolff is back and not with a whimper. The latest installment of his Trump chronicles picks up where Fire and Fury ended. Once again, it leaves the president bruised and readers shaking their heads.
Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Don McGahn. None escape unscathed.
As Wolff describes it, Donald Trump calls Kushner a girl. As for his vice-president, hes a religious nut. Why does he look at me like that? Trump asks about Pences beatific gaze. As for Pences wife, Karen? She really gives me the creeps.
Steve Bannon supplies a running commentary for which Wolff calls him his Virgil. Like Dantes Inferno, Siege ends on hells bottom rung.
Wolffs tale is credible enough to be taken seriously and salacious enough to entertain. If you have doubts about Wolffs credibility, and many do, the latest blowup over the USS John S McCain is one more reminder that in the Age of Trump, truth is weirder than fiction. Much weirder.
Beyond that, by early 2018 Wolff had captured the centrality of Robert Mueller in Trumps life, and nailed Trumps and Kushners insatiable cravings for cash. Fire and Fury records Bannon as saying: This is all about money laundering It goes through Deutsche Bank and Kushner and all that shit. Talk about getting the big picture right.
This time, Wolff finds himself pitted against the special counsels office, as to whether Muellers team drew up or had drawn up a three-count indictment against the president in March 2018. Team Mueller has issued something other than a categorical denial: The documents that youve described do not exist. Let us parse.
Note the expression documents that youve described. Note the use of the present tense. As an impeached former president said: It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.
Regardless, Wolffs guide, the major-domo of Trumps 2016 campaign who became a White House adviser until he wasn’t, enjoys tweaking his former boss. Bannon volunteers that he helped concoct the story that the Mueller investigation was the demon spawn of the deep state, and says there was never much substance to it.
As Wolff tells it, among the nimblest conspiracy provocateurs of the Trump age, Bannon spelled out the narrative in powerful detail. But then Bannons voice pierces his own self-generated din: You do realize that none of this is true. Allow that one to sink in.
Wolff also has Bannon calling the Trump Organization a criminal enterprise and predicting its downfall: This is where it isnt a witch-hunt even for the hardcore, this is where he turns into just a crooked business guy Not the billionaire he said he was, just another scumbag. Allow that to sink in, too.
Expect Bannon to be quoted by Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the eventual Democratic candidate. Also look for the Democratic National Committee to send chocolates to Bannon, once head of Breitbart and a partner in Cambridge Analytica, next Easter.
More broadly, Wolff injects that Trump measured loyalty, that significant currency of his business and walk-on-the-wild-side lifestyle, by who was so dependent on him, and as clearly exposed as he was, that they would of course lie for him. Said differently, there are ample reasons as to why Mueller refused to give Trump anything approaching a clean bill of health on the issue of obstruction of justice.
A new alternative reality
Siege also ladles out what we have come to expect from deep dives into Trumpworld sex (real or imagined), race and religion.
Wolff reports of Trump bragging to others of a dalliance with the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley and of his supposedly banging a junior White House staffer who had a way about her.
Wolff badly burned himselfwhen he first raised the notion of a Trump-Haley affair.Haley herself angrily and adamantly denied it.
As for the unnamed White House staffer, Wolff ponders: Locker room talk? Or all part of a new alternative reality that only he seemed to be living in?
Still, Trump can count on the Rev Franklin Graham leading our nation in prayer on Sunday 2 June, on behalf of its beleaguered leader. That is two days before Wolffs book comes out.
Bannon refuses to rule out that Trump is a racist. As for antisemitism, Bannon doesnt think so. But Wolff has his doubts.
The author reports a Trump fantasy concerning Allen Weisselberg, an Orthodox Jew and the Trump Organizations chief financial officer. Weisselberg has reportedly cooperated with law enforcement. In turn, Wolff writes, Trump has developed a riff on the horrors that an Orthodox Jew would probably encounter in jail, one that sketched a vivid picture of a tattooed Nazi cellmate.
Catholics come in for their share of distrust and scrutiny, too. After Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court, in Wolffs telling the president became sensitized to the absence of a lifelong Protestant on the highest court.
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