Michael Wolff has a new Trump White House tell-all coming out next week, entitled Siege: Trump Under Fire, and critics are wary. They’re probably right to be, given Wolff’s tendency to treat gossip as fact and his open admission that even he’s not sure whether the stuff in his last Trump book is actually true. Robert Mueller’s office already came out of the gate with a flat, unequivocal denial regarding claims Wolff made in the book, excerpted in the Guardian, about the special counsel drafting and then shelving an indictment against Trump for obstruction of justice.
Still, rumors turn out to be true all the time, and plenty of the other claims that from Siege that we’ve seen so far are not hard to believe about one of the most chaotic administrations in history, with a president who’s known for being difficult, erratic, and basically just a blowhard dipshit. Many of them involve publicly loyal staffers roast their psycho boss in private.
Siege arrives June 4. Until then, here are the most believable tidbits we’ve seen so far.
Rupert Murdoch once made a big show of how annoying he finds Trump.
One of the pettiest anecdotes so far comes courtesy of a Vanity Fair reporter who obtained a copy of Siege and walked away with the conclusion that, if Wolff is to be believed, everyone who works with Trump thinks he’s a complete maniac. Although there are no heroes in this gross, ghoulish ecosystem, we appreciate this anecdote about Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch dragging Trump.
It’s well-documented that Rupert Murdoch endures a complicated ymbiotic relationship with Trump, despite the right-wing Australian media magnate’s apparent dislike for the president as a human being. The Wolff book provides at least one vivid new image to go along with that reputation.
“I can’t get the asshole off the phone,” Murdoch once said of Trump, according to Wolff. The author added that Murdoch was “holding out the phone as the president’s voice rambled into the air.”
The excerpt in Vanity Fair doesn’t provide context regarding the phone conversation, or who else was in the room, but I don’t need any of that to believe that the 88-year-old mogul put a call with Trump presumably on mute, held the phone up, and flamed the president for being an incoherent jackass.
Even Trump thinks Hannity is too much of a sycophant.
Like many many mob bosses and dictators, Trump demands total loyalty and subservience of his underlings, without guaranteeing any loyalty or respect in return. His TV mouthpiece and unofficial adviser Sean Hannity is all too happy to carry Trump’s water, but Trump supposedly wishes his minion would retain some dignity in the process.
According to Wolff, Hannity’s nightly Fox News broadcasts “had begun to wear thin, and Trump started to turn on him.” Wolf added: “For all of Hannity’s flattery, for all of his zealous commitment to the president, Trump, in almost equal proportion, had become disdainful of him. This was partly standard practice. Sooner or later, Trump felt contempt for anyone who showed him too much devotion.”
This isn’t a particularly new revelation, following several reports where sources close to the president claim that Trump mocks Hannity behind his back for acting like a lapdog. Perhaps Hannity should look to Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen as a cautionary tale for what happens to little guys that are too devoted.
Trump’s staff tries to keep him occupied with junk food, late-night Hannity calls, and pointless meetings to distract him from anything that might make him fly into a rage.
For as long as Trump has been in offices, his staffers have leaked details about what a dysfunctional nightmare it is to work for such a paranoid, abusive boss. West Wing casualties Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus reportedly encouraged their old boss to watch as much Fox News as possible under the assumption that constant praise would pacify their unruly boss.
According to the New York Times‘s review of Siege, the book claims that Trump’s aides’ task themselves with keeping the president “in his ‘bubble,’ munching candy bars at night and getting his ego stroked in marathon phone calls with the Fox News host Sean Hannity.” The fact that Trump exists in an echo chamber driven by men like Hannity and Lou Dobbs is well-documented.
The Times review then encapsulates what an easy day of working for Trump entails:
On good days, Wolff writes, the president arrives late to the office and is whisked through a series of staged, anodyne meetings to keep him busy: “A distracted Trump was a happy Trump.”
One staffer told Wolff “I’ve never met anyone crazier than Donald Trump.”
According to Vanity Fair, one “staff member who has spent almost countless hours with the president” told Wolff “I have never met anyone crazier than Donald Trump.”
I have no problem believing a staffer would walk away from a professional relationship with Trump believing he’s batshit. Still, I prefer the way former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly phrased his working relationship with the man in Bob Woodward’s book Fear: “He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Trump once flew into such a rage that his hair came undone.
NPR cited a passage from Siege which lays out the ways Trump allies mock the president behind his back. There’s a brief mention of GOP leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao (who is also Trump’s head of transportation) doing impressions of the president to amuse their friends, but the most arresting image comes courtesy of an unnamed source who told Wolff that Trump once flew into such a rage “his hair came undone [and] there stood an almost entirely bald Donald Trump.”
I’m choosing to believe that anecdote wholesale and will not be accepting arguments to the contrary.