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‘Fire and Fury’ Becomes a Political Controversy

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Photo courtesy National Review

Photo courtesy National Review

Photo courtesy National Review

Alexandra Bettez, Editing Contributor

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In the wake of a scathing book released by journalist Michael Wolff, new light has been shown on Trump’s mental health and the inner workings of his administration. In response to these claims, Trump has fired back in multiple tweets, blasting the author and the claims made in the book.

Last week, amid enormous demand, the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” was published early. In the weeks leading up to the book’s release, President Trump’s lawyers sent cease and desist letters to Wolff’s publisher as well as former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who contributed to the book, according to ABC News.

The publisher, Henry Holt and Company, responded by calling any efforts to suppress the book’s release as “flagrantly unconstitutional.” The president of the company continued to write that they “will not allow any President to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court.”

Wolff makes many bombshell claims in the book, ranging from Trump’s days campaigning to his days in the White House. In the book, Wolff claims that Trump did not plan to win the election, that he and his wife Melania sleep in separate bedrooms, and that many White House aides consider him an “idiot.” Wolff also wrote at length about the current head of the National Economic Council and former Goldman Sachs executive, Gary Cohn, who has privately disagreed with Trump. Wolff also reports that an email in April “purporting to represent the views of Gary Cohn” says that:

“It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.”

Wolff also claims that many White House staff members repeatedly talk about “the 25th amendment,” which was put in place in 1967 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This amendment describes the succession procedures should a president die in office, resign, or have an “inability to discharge the powers and duties” of the Oval Office. Under this amendment, the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet can declare a president unfit for his role, and then Congress would vote on the issue. Concerning this issue, Wolff said “It’s that bad. I mean, it’s an extraordinary moment in time. And the last several days focused on my book I think are proof of this.”

However, many White House staff members have spoken up in the media firestorm about “Fire and Fury,” calling the book “fiction” and denying the claims. Trump also responded on his Twitter account in multiple Tweets, saying on January 5th:

“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”

In addition, the President posted a series of Tweets on January 6th, refuting Wolff’s claims of Trump’s unstable mental health:

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence….Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star….to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

Lastly, on January 7th, Trump mentioned “Fire and Fury” in his Twitter feed again:

“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”

Wolff did address in his author’s note the challenges of reporting on the Trump administration, and claims that the sources can collide or can be untrue entirely. It is also important to note that sometimes he offered a version of events and pieced together stories based on different sources, bringing into question his presence and interview techniques. According to CNBC, Wolff interviewed more than 200 people over 18 months to gather information for the book.

It is unclear at this time how the book will affect his presidency in the long term, but it may stay in the mainstream for months to come. As for now, libraries are struggling to fill hold requests and copies of the books are flying off the shelves at bookstores.

 

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