You Should Read (Maybe): Fire and Fury

This weekend in the comments, I said something disparaging about Michael Wolff’s book on the Trump administration, mentioning I was only half finished with it.  I’ve finished now, and I would change my reaction from “meh” to “huh.”  That is, it got better, but I’m still not sure if it’s worth reading since its general thesis was pretty evident before it was published.  I did laugh out loud once (more about that later), but mostly I had a Stengal-like reaction: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”  The following is not a review–this book has been reviewed enough–it’s a reaction to a description of the executive branch of our government that Monty Python would spit on as being too absurd..  A dead parrot would be a step-up in this administration, according to this book.  At least it wouldn’t tweet.

For those of you mercifully unaware of  Fire and Fury, it’s a recounting of the first nine months of the Trump administration by Michael Wolff, who is not considered a reputable journalist, but who is considered a damn good collector of gossip.   Wolff was invited to the Trump White House because he defended the President in print.  Then because the place was so disorganized, he just stayed, sitting on a couch near the Oval Office for months, taping conversations and interviews, a kind of journalistic Man Who Came To Dinner.  The Trump admin has declared this book all lies (Pot, meet Kettle), and the journalism world has warned that Wolff is capable of making stuff up, so many grains of salt should be needed, except . . . 

It’s all too believable.  

The stuff I can’t believe is the stuff that’s been on the news, the stuff that’s been proven true.  I started to list all the incredibly dumb things this administration has done, but the list was too long and too depressing.  These are the people who held meetings with Russians to discredit Hilary Clinton and then defended themselves by releasing e-mails that proved they’d had meetings with Russians to defeat Hilary Clinton.  How bad is the Gang That Couldn’t Govern Straight?  According to this book, Steve Bannon is the closest thing they have to a voice of reason, and he’s insane.

I knew it was bad on Pennsylvania Ave. (everybody knows that), so I wasn’t caught up in the book at the beginning.  And aside from a few new bits of info, I didn’t really learn anything important by the end, although that may be because the news has been doing excerpts for a week.   What I did get was a much greater sense of doom: Nobody is driving this train.  If this were a novel, there’d be a hero or heroine who worked behind the scenes to save the country, and there are plenty of people working behind the scenes, but they’re all out for themselves.  In the entire book of quotes and conversations, not one person is quoted as saying, “This is what America needs.”  It’s all about what they need.  Steve Bannon comes the closest when he talks about the need to get out of Afghanistan, but even he frames it in terms of Trump’s base: it’s their kids who are cannon fodder in the war.  And of course, he’s right.  He’s just right for the wrong reasons, trying to keep Trump in power so he’s in power, not to save blue-collar kids.  In that sense, this book is not only depressing as hell, it’s terrifying..

So I could take comfort in the fact that Wolff is known for playing fast and loose with quotes and conclusions.  Except that even the journalists who warn about his dodgy history have said that nothing in this book rings false, plus Wolff says he has tapes.  He must be praying that Trump sues him so he can play those tapes in court.  There are things in here that answer questions I’ve had all along; suddenly many inexplicable things make sense, if you’re living in a Trumpian world.  

For example, the Trump admin is notorious for being the leakiest in history.  Who, I wondered, would leak around a paranoid President?  Turns out, everybody.  Jared and Ivanka leaked about Bannon and Priebus, Bannon leaked about Jared and Ivanka and Priebus, Priebus leaked about . . . you get the picture.  And of course, the loosest lips of all belong to Trump and his Twitter finger.  There’s so much infighting in this book that it’s a war story more than a political book: they’re all knifing each other and cancelling each other out, and while they’re doing that, the country is careening toward the edge.  

Another example: What the hell was Anthony Scaramucci thinking when he made that call to the New Yorker journalist?  Turns out he wasn’t thinking, he was drunk on his ass because he wasn’t getting what he thought he’d get from Trump and his personal life was coming undone.  That’s the place where I laughed, by the way.  He told the New Yorker reporter that he wasn’t like Steve Bannon, “I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” and the next sentence from Wolff is,  “In fact, Bannon learned about the piece when fact-checkers from the magazine called him for comment about Scaramucci’s accusation that he sucked his own cock.”  I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud trying to imagine that conversation.  “Mr. Bannon, Mr. Scaramucci has made a statement about your ability to self-pleasure yourself, and we were wondering if you’d confirm . . .”  

The book ends in October, 2017, and of course since then Bannon, who reportedly intended to run for President in 2020 because he knew Trump wouldn’t make it that far, has since been defenestrated for criticizing Jared and Ivanka, who come across as more venal and stupid than evil here, and are now facing down prosecution because money laundering is allegedly a hobby of theirs.  Then there’s the host of evil henchmen who have now been indicted and are cooperating with the special prosecutor who is in turn being targeted by Republican congressmen who evidently can’t remember Watergate even though most of them were around for it and therefore have no worries about being on the wrong side of history.  Meanwhile Trump is trading playground insults with the madman on the other side of the globe by telling him that his button is bigger (men should never be given positions of power unless castrated), and . . .

So this book is sadly incomplete because history keeps happening, and even more sadly, there will undoubtedly be much more to come.  One of the most depressing things about this book is that it portrays all of these people as incredibly stupid.  It’s also one of the most reassuring things.  They have immense power, and they ‘re ignoring it to play picayune power games in the White House.  If there was a governing intellect up there, we’d be in trouble.  Instead we have Trump who will most certainly have destroyed the ascendency of the Presidency over the other two branches of government to bring us back to three equal branches, Sessions who is singlehandedly making national legalization of marijuana a probability, and a Republican congress who have greatly increased the changes of a single payer health system and are currently doing their best to shoot themselves in the feet for the 2018 midterms.  That’s before we get to the other clowns in cabinet positions, all of whom are taking positions that can only be described as evil while they dash about the country on private planes at the taxpayers’ expense.  The final takeaway from this book isn’t just that the Trump administrations policies are bad, it’s that the administration is abysmally bad at making them a reality, and absolute genius at making voters hate them.  Thank god, these people can’t play this game.  

Vote in the 2018 midterms, people.   If you’re not sure that’s necessary, read this book.   

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76 thoughts on “You Should Read (Maybe): Fire and Fury

  1. My only concern is that they aren’t making enough voters hate them. Many of his supporters are still rabid for him.
    That’s almost scarier than what he’s got going on IN Washington.

    9+

    1. Yes, it’s as if they just keep doubling down on Trump, and they’ve dug themselves in so far that they can’t possibly admit to any doubts without altering the fabric of the universe… or their universe, anyway.

      1+

      1. Some of it is a Christianity thing, I think? I don’t mean this as disparaging towards Christianity or any religion, but my Mother-in-Law is a Christian who supports Trump and it seems to come down to this sort of thought process:

        a. Trump says he is a Christian AND he will use his power to enact Christian Values and battle Evil Lefty Abortion Mongers.

        b. If someone says they are a Christian, it is an un-Christian thing to do to say that they don’t seem to be acting like a Christian. Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus and God, and other people can’t tell you that you don’t have that.

        c. In Christianity, you can keep getting forgiven, and be forgiven anything, by being Christian. I was raised Catholic, so I hope I’m not generalizing too much, and there was definitely something about really intending to stop sinning, but from what I can tell it is “better” to be a devout Christian who does terrible things than an atheist or member of another religion who tries to be pretty decent to people.

        1+

        1. I feel compelled to point out I am a Christian and I think Trump is an idiot. So, while I understand your point, please do not associate a belief in Jesus as an automatic belief in Trump. Not all Christians support Trump.

          Also, while you can be repeatedly forgiven, you first have to admit you did something wrong, which Trump is highly unlikely to do. Plus, the Bible teaches us to not sin regardless of the can always be forgiven part but to strive to follow God’s law.

          3+

          1. I don’t think she was saying that at all.
            I think she was saying it was a mindset that some people have.
            If the Christian bit bugs you, take it back to abortion. There are people who would vote for the Devil if he promised to ban abortion, even if he was running against Jesus.
            Oddly enough, most of these people never demand free day care or medical care for children who actually exist, or do anything that would actually stop abortion, like campaign for more sex education in the schools or mandatory maternity leave.

            5+

          2. Hi Kelly S., sorry about that. I know better – anytime you feel compelled to start a sentence with “not to say anything bad about group x, but…” it’s probably a better bet to just not say it, or at least not that way. I’ve just been trying to understand where she’s coming from when some of what she says seems contradictory, but that’s just kind of a human thing. Followers of any religion are not a monolith, so what seems true to me about my MIL does not automatically apply to other Christians or even other Christian Trump supporters.

            2+

        2. You probably don’t want to get into a fight with her, but you might want to remind her that Jesus says a great deal about caring for the poor and not one word about abortion.

          And if the Roman centurion’s servant/slave has the same duties that pais in the Latin usually translates to, then Jesus cured the gay lover of the Roman centurion.

          1+

          1. That’s not going to matter. You’re talking about belief, not facts, passion not history.
            Beating up people with knowledge is not the way to change their thinking. You have to listen first and then talk WITH them, not at them. And even then, if the belief goes deep, especially belief powered by anger (and a lot of people who voted for Trump have a legitimate reason to be angry with the system), then explaining history or their religion to them is just going to make them loathe you more. It’s like Mansplaining. Libsplaining, if you will.

            0

          2. Yeah, I leave it to my husband to fight with her LOL. And despite what it must seem based on my comment, I do try to stay in my own lane regarding religion, as I am not a practicing anything. She’s going to be staying with us for a few months, so wish me tact!

            0

          3. The people who claim Jesus believes in guns and no abortion are lying about the NT and the Jesus I believe in.

            I don’t think you believe, Jenny, but I do. And as a Christian, I’m not just talking history. I am against people claiming to be for the Bible, who don’t seem to have read the Bible, or if they did they got stopped at the “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” verse.

            I can’t even get started on people who want to make a Bible they seem unfamiliar with the law of the land.

            Let them call themselves Paulites or some other name. They need to stop claiming they’re doing this because of their faith when they are actively working against the teachings of Christ.

            0

          4. The problem is “lying about the Jesus I believe in.” They don’t know anything about what you believe, so they’re not lying about your beliefs. They’re telling the truth about their beliefs. When you state your beliefs, you’re not lying about theirs. You just have two different interpretations of ideas about a man who’s been dead for over two thousand years, and whose work has been interpreted by millions of people in thousands of cultures since then.

            It’s the big problem with arguing about religion, in this case Christianity. Whose Christianity? I was raised Lutheran in a church with a fire-and-brimstone preacher who told us we were all going to hell. That was not my Christianity, so I left the church as soon as I got the hell out of my small town. If I’d been raised in a kinder, more loving church, I might still be a Christian.

            0

          5. Well, I can cite chapter and verse for the Christ of the NT. As can most of the mainstream Christian sects.

            Nothing against abortion. Nothing in favor of guns. (I had someone cite a verse to me, but he left off the part where Christ says his followers don’t need swords because they are under God’s protection). At least one verse on paying your taxes to the state. And multiple verses on giving to the poor.

            We can argue about gay marriage. We can argue about infant vs. adult baptism. We can argue whether women’s role should be defined by Christ who had Mary study with the disciples or Paul who said that women should be silent.

            But there are some beliefs of conservatives which have no grounding in the NT.

            If you think I sound cranky, you should check out the progressive evangelicals who are utterly appalled.

            0

          6. I don’t think you sound cranky.
            I think you’re using your interpretation of the New Testament as The Interpretation. And that gets you into dicey territory.

            1+

        3. @CourtneyMadison – you didn’t need to apologize, but thank you. I didn’t take offense at what you said and Jenny is relatively correct that many Christians vote for the candidate who is anti-abortion and don’t pay attention to other issues. I just wanted to point out that not everyone in a community all think alike, so please don’t assume, in this case, all Christians support Trump. I think Bridget and Jenny managed to make that point quite well.

          0

    2. Yes, Trump supporters are still intensely, passionately supportive…but they aren’t a majority by a long shot. 58% of those polled disapprove of the job he’s doing, vs. 37% who approve. The key is going to be disapprovers getting their butts to the polls and voting. I will admit I’ve been completely slack when it comes to mid-term elections, but that’s changed, even though I live in a seriously blue state.

      1+

  2. I love the Stephen Colbert tweet that a friend posted on a chat board.

    “One of the most surprising parts of ‘Fire and Fury’ is how Donald Trump accidentally started a national book club.” posted on 1/5/18 at 8:49

    15+

      1. I hope he does. I’d rather have a twitter-obsessed idiot with a short attention span than a rabidly religious, anti-gay president pushing us toward theocracy.

        7+

          1. No. Pence would have the right to nominate another person to be VP, and if the Senate confirmed him, that would be the new VP.

            If, OTOH, Trump is out for health reasons and Pence is out because of impeachment before a new VP can be confirmed, then Ryan is president.

            Or January 2019, new Democratic Congress impeaches both of them and a Democratic Senate refuses to confirm any VP, then Nancy Pelosi becomes President.

            Which is so unlikely, it’s not even funny. But I amuse myself with the thought we get a woman president and she’s the hardass that makes Hillary look like a real grandmother. Because Nancy doesn’t joke around.

            10+

          2. Nope. If Pence takes over, he nominates somebody as VP, and then Congress votes on it.
            Pray for a Democratic congress

            5+

        1. i live in hope that ousting 45 leads to taking down the VP as well, and (having, in a perfect world, flipped the house) Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters, as House Leader, would be inaugurated…. I’d rather take them out piece by piece than leave one hideous one there because I am more afraid of his successor?

          5+

          1. Every real conservative in this country already has an exploded head: Trump’s not a conservative.
            Of course neither is most of Congress. They’re the last gasp of a dying demographic: pissed off white males and white women who aren’t sure the country is ready for a woman President.

            I thought it was so good of Trump to say that there were good Nazis. That clarified things so nicely.
            “Maybe he’s not that bad.”
            “He thinks there were good Nazis in Charlottesville.”
            “Oh.”

            7+

          2. A majority of the House has to vote to impeach, which would require the Democrats to pick up about 22 seats (I don’t know how many independents or other parties there are and if they would vote for impeachment). Then two-thirds of the Senate has to vote for impeachment, which would be 67 Senators. While the Democrats would only have to have 51 Senators for a majority, about 4 new seats, Republicans would have to lose 18 seats in order for an impeachment to happen. It could happen. But it is really unlikely.

            1+

          3. It’s unlikely now. The midterms are nine months away, and Mueller’s digging deep. By November, the Republicans may have a situation on their hands that’s untenable.

            The other interesting thing that’s happening is that the Republicans are retiring in droves. I think a lot of them are just sickened by what the party has become, what they have to do to maintain party loyalty. They just want out. Which means there’ll be Republican primaries, and it’ll be the wingnuts against anybody sane they can get to run (who would?). Wingnuts do not make good candidates. Michelle Bachman is considering running again. That should be fun.

            I have no idea what will happen between now and November, so I would not rule out impeachment.

            1+

          4. It may feel unlikely. But Republicans are holding onto the VA House of Delegates by one seat and that’s based on accepting a spoiled ballot for the Republican AND weird ballots being handed to voters for the wrong precinct which is currently being pursued in court. They went from a 32+ majority to 1.

            Virginia now has a transgender representative in the House of Delegates and she defeated the incumbent.

            I remember 74 and the Watergate wave. It’s possible.

            2+

          5. That trans candidate is such a class act. And the guy she defeated once announced that he was Va.’s homophobe in chief. SO GOOD.

            4+

        2. He can push, but he can’t move. The only way Trump gets impeached is if there’s a Democratic congress, and in that case, Pence is going to be even more neutered than he is now, and that’s assuming he doesn’t go down with Trump.

          4+

        3. Well, I think for all practical purposes right now we have them both. So if we can get rid of one, I will take it. I don’t think there is much Pence wants that Trump prevents.

          1+

          1. Pence is many things and none of them good.

            But I honestly don’t feel Pence is going to push a button on the nuclear football because he wants to see what will happen.

            Trump would.

            So, I’ll take Pence.

            1+

    1. No, that was year one. There’s no way he lasts four years.

      This feels like dementia and it’s getting worse. Even if the Republicans do nothing and the Democrats don’t turn the House over, Trump is going to be running down PA Avenue in the altogether before Year 3 is over.

      6+

  3. Also love Mark Hamill’s response to Trump’s tweet about Wolff being a “total loser” and “Sloppy Steve” crying and begging to keep his job:

    “Congratulations, sir! This dignified, statesman-like tweet is the perfect way to counter the book’s narrative that you’re an impulsive, childish dimwit.”

    20+

  4. We read Hamlet r Macbeth and wonder at how much Shakespeare enhanced the machinations of people in power for dramatic effect. Then we see “There’s so much infighting in this book that it’s a war story more than a political book: they’re all knifing each other and cancelling each other out, and while they’re doing that, the country is careening toward the edge” that hey, it was more probable than we thought.

    In SA we’ve had a difficult time of it with our president, now his party has elected a new leader at the December elective conference and our currency has strengthened. The ruling party’s leader changed, that’s all, and suddenly my $ ebooks cost less in Rand value.

    Change comes. Keep on keeping on. But be good allies.

    5+

    1. It’s like we caught a virus, and the immune system is having trouble defeating it, but we’ll get there.

      5+

  5. Jenny, Thanks so much for your reflection (NOT review!) of F & F. You made me smile at the insanity of so much White House chaos. AND that’s saying a lot since I’ve not found a whole lot to smile about regarding our government, since November 2016.
    My hopes are high the Mueller will bring it all crashing down… I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. And, I’m also clinging to hope the Mr. Suck-up (Pence) will be dismissed along with all the other ****ers. (pick your favorite expletive)
    I’m choosing not to read F & F. I think most of the news stations have pretty much read it to me already. I’m waiting for the Washington Post version. 🙂

    6+

  6. I wish I shared your sense of hope for the future. While the major news outlets have been all about Trump’s antics, the administration has been jettisoning environmental rights, human rights, and everything that makes America safe. We’re headed toward another civil war. And the good guys have already lost. Many of the Democrats are with Big Money anyway. Sorry for my pessimism. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your books.

    4+

    1. Aside from the tax plan, which is a poison pill that’s going to hurt the Republicans more than help them, they haven’t passed any legislation, they’ve just issued orders. And the thing about orders is, they can be rescinded by the next guy. Here’s what good about all of that: people are going to court to challenge the orders, they’re being tested. The orders are so bad that corporations are doing on their own what the government is telling them they don’t have to do. Here’s my favorite bit of news from this week: The ACLU got so much money this year that they’ve decided to become the NRA of the left. They have plans to air ads on the issues during the midterms, which is going to make life hell for Republicans.

      What all this is doing is reversing Yeats’ Second Coming. Suddenly the best are full of passionate conviction, too. It’s going to be a very interesting year.

      7+

  7. I don’t plan to read it because the gist seems to be “all these people are stupid and power-hungry,” and I knew that already. Even more specific examples than I have now would just depress me.

    1+

    1. Don’t read the book. Listen to the Administration.

      They say a lot of terrible things about Wolff, but the one thing they haven’t explained to my satisfaction is how he got access. He’s a liar, he’s a fake journalist, blah blah blah.

      Okay, let’s say he’s all of those things. Why then did none of you notice he was hanging around the WH and why then did none of you vet who he was and what he was doing there?

      I heard a lot about Clinton not keeping information secure (even though her network/laptop wasn’t hacked). These idiots let some guy none of them claim to know or to have talked to hang out INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE for over a year. I think in the sane world, we call that a major security breach.

      4+

    2. Some of it is actually funny, but the big takeaway is how unbelievable stupid everybody is up there.

      When the Oprah 2020 thing started yesterday, I thought, “Oh, yeah, great, another entertainer,” but the more I think about it, the more I’m wondering if that’s not the answer. Get her a young professional politician as VP, a seasoned Chief of State, Obama on speed dial, and she could actually kick some ass. And god knows, the Dems don’t have anybody young who’s ready to run or old who isn’t too damn old (and I say this as somebody who would be too damn old).

      4+

      1. I didn’t watch the Globes and haven’t read the speech, but when I heard about the Oprah thing I thought “why not? She’s intelligent, articulate, educated, creative, talented, and a f***ing hard worker.” And you can’t tell me that a black woman who’s achieved that level of success in broadcasting doesn’t understand politics.

        Used to think that people running for high office needed experience. I don’t think so anymore. I think that longtime political service has been clearly shown to be – in general – a liability, not an asset, in the sense that the public servant forgets what he is there for and starts accumulating debts that only pork can pay.

        If I were Oprah, I’d launch my submarine campaign right now, and start wooing Obama to be my Secretary of State. 🙂

        2+

        1. I semi-joked about Oprah for 2016. She’s ten times the entertainer and entertainment manager that Trump is. If all 48 percent of the voters need and want is engaging TV, Oprah can deliver. Plus, I think she can deliver a better quality version of “all the best people”. (-: And as for recruiting Obama for her cabinet, is it a question of if, or which one? (To quote a little Hamilton.)

          It also seems that she’s smart enough to not want to touch the job with a ten-foot pole. Was Cincinnatus the Roman guy who had to serve as a leader, and then retired back to his farm? She seems like a modern version of Cincinnatus. (I really need to google him — he may have had terrible politics, but he’s remembered for stepping up when his country needed him, and stepping down when the crisis was over, and that’s what I mean.)

          1+

          1. Well, we have a two-term limit for the Presidency, and it’ll take at least eight years to fix the mess Trump made. I base this on the fact that it took Obama eight years to fix the mess Bush made.

            2+

        2. Get Joe Biden as VP. Kristin Gillibrand. Adam Schiff. I think the VP would be key.
          Trump is leeching the power out of the Presidency, which is a good thing. We need somebody positive who can unite the country, a Good Mom who’ll put a stop to all this nonsense and make us be nice to each other and eat our vegetables, while intelligent people who haven’t been bought run the White house staff and Congress.

          1+

  8. I can’t read it. It’s hard enough watching it play out in real time. But if it gets people talking about all the crazy, I’m for it.

    In the meanwhile, I’m reading romcom.

    4+

  9. I wanted to keep quiet concerning Trump because I’m not American, but it’s oh so hard to watch from afar a very stable genius wreak havoc with his country. It’s bad enough having to listen to “America First” when, as a European, you’re aware of the fact that nowadays everything is a global issue, from the climate to the economy. (Also, isn’t Mexico or Canada also a part of America? At least that’s what I was taught in school.)

    Reading the New York Times makes things even worse. So many smart people like Paul Krugman commenting on what’s going on in Washington but things don’t really seam to get better. At least I found an op-ed piece by Jennifer Weiner which I’m pretty sure you will all like:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/opinion/trump-dogs-wolff-book.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

    Enjoy!

    8+

    1. Canada/US/Mexico is North America. “America” generally refers to the country of the United States of America, rather than the continent.

      I think things are getting better, or at least we’re at the end of one story and at the beginning of another. It’s that chaos theory line: we’re moving from being into becoming.

      1+

    2. I read an article back during the campaign about Ivanka Trump who said that she had once had a dog, but after the divorce, that dog was sent to live with Ivana permanently. While Ivanka and her bros were treated as sort-of-joint-custody kids.

      So I think Trump really DOES dump dogs.

      1+

  10. Every time I hear about something Trump tweeted I tell myself, “If this was fiction, nobody would believe it.” It’s like a Carl Hiaasen novel, but set in Washington.

    As much as Trump bothers me, though, I can’t help thinking that with him it probably is mental illness. But what does that say about Pence and Ryan? They have willfully chosen to follow down the rabbit hole … doesn’t that make them somehow worse?

    And you are right that nobody ever learns from history. I only dabble amateurishly at history, and even I know that nothing remains a secret forever. Things that happened 200 years ago when paper was in short supply and you had to write with a quill, they didn’t stay secret. Now? You burp and 5 million people on the other side of the world say, “You’re excused.” So how is it that anyone with more than two functioning brain cells could actually think anything they do in Washington will be kept confidential? That kind of stupidity strains credulity.

    Fact is, the stuff that I’ve heard about Wolff’s book feels almost anticlimactic compared to what comes out of the White House directly.

    3+

    1. “But what does that say about Pence and Ryan?”

      THIS. All the bastards who are ready to sacrifice children, the marginalized, the environment to retain power and gain wealth…almost makes me wish I believed in Hell. Instead I pray for their enlightenment and for their asses to be kicked out of office.

      3+

  11. I found the book gossipy and very readable, and I agree with your overall take on it.

    I think the surprise take-away for me is that Trump did not (and apparently still does not) recognize that it’s actually a problem that his campaign communicated with representative of Russia before the election and before inauguration, and that it’s an even bigger problem that they lied about it to Congress and the FBI.

    It’s not actually surprising that Trump is incapable of processing that information, and it certainly makes a number of his known statements and behaviors fall into place (such as his voluntarily telling Lester Holt he fired Comey to shut down the Russia investigation). But for some reason, it genuinely hadn’t occurred to me before before that Trump simply can’t understand that there is actually something wrong with it.

    In the book, he insists there ISN’T anything wrong with it–and I think he is still stuck on that premise now. I also think since reading the book that when Trump keeps insisting there was “no collusion,” it’s not even that he’s lying or in denial, it’s that he doesn’t understand what “collusion” means.

    Also as you noted, there’s no one who comes out of the book well. It’s not as if it painted Bannon well in comparison to anyone else. Bannon is portrayed as less stupid than the Trumps–but potted plants come out of this book looking less stupid than the Trumps. I think Bannon is nonetheless portrayed as being much less smart than he considers himself (though Wolff made flattering comments about Bannon’s intelligence in an NPR interview yesterday), as well as mean, self-serving, back-stabbing, and vile.

    Wolff and others have pointed out that everyone in the Trump administratin is so naive, inexperienced, and/or dumb, they don’t even realize that if they want to speak off-the-record to a journalist, they have to clarify that. If you just start blathering to a reporter without a specific agreement that this is off the record, it’s on the record. Scarymoochy is a notorious example of that, but it’s a common feature of that administration–and they don’t seem to learn.

    Wolff said yesterday that Bannon, unlike the rest of them, is so media savvy and shrewd, he certainly knew he was talking on the record. But given where this has gotten Bannon… I am skeptical about that.

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    1. I think Trump basically believes that there was nothing wrong in accepting any help he was offered to win the campaign, and he probably didn’t agree to a quid pro quo. There is no crime of collusion with a foreign country, actually. There are however plenty of legal cases to be made about what seems to have happened.

      1)This could have violated conspiring to violate the election laws of the United States, which prohibit foreign nationals from contributing any “thing of value” to an electoral campaign. And to the extent that the Trump campaign aided, abetted or advised the Russians about what would be most useful to steal from the Democrats or how best to enhance the impact of their release, they may have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
      2) Coverup/obstruction of justice. Enough said.

      So yeah, I agree he doesn’t think he committed a crime and I think he actually is at legal risk. But maybe the biggest risk is not federal issues(because its hard to have the justice dept prosecute the president), I think its state crimes. I think he probably was conspiring to launder money with the Russians for a decade. That’s probably something Schneiderman can prosecute under NYS law and Trump can’t pardon himself out of any state crimes.

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  12. Sadly in 2018 there are only 8 Republicans up for re-election and 25 Democrats or Independents. So even if every seat was won by a Democrat the Senate would then be 57 Dems to 43 Republicans and you would need another 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment. In 2020 there are 22 Republicans up and only 11 Democrats. So that’s the year the Senate could swing heavily Democratic.

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    1. Don’t assume there are no Republicans who would vote for impeachment. We have no idea what things will be like in November. We have no idea what things will be like tomorrow.

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    2. If every Republican lost to a Democrat in November – especially in the solid South – I think you’ll find a lot more Republicans willing to vote for impeachment.

      They’re not for Trump because they believe in him or because they like him – they’re for Trump because they’re afraid of being primaried. If they’re going to lose the general because of him, a lot of them will vote to get him out.

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      1. Every Republican isn’t going to lose.
        But Congress is now in open civil war. The Democrats like Feinstein and Cardin are doing end runs around their committee leadership. And Trump is being incredibly stupid in some of the things he’s doing, like the appointment of the prosecutor in Manhattan that Gillibrand just blue-slipped which Grassley says he’ll honor.
        There are three special elections before November, so that’s another bellwether. And there are ten months between now and then. What are the chances that Trump will (a) improve or (b) not do anything horrible?
        There are a lot of reasons for Republicans to vote to impeach, not the least of which is Trump’s abysmal approval ratings. I would not count out it out.
        Although I’m pretty sure the 25th Amendment is off the table.

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        1. For the moment. I think he has dementia or at least is in the early stages, and dementia doesn’t get better.

          So if the Republicans won’t do it for their own sake this year, they’re going to have to explain that next year when he is so much worse.

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          1. It will be interesting to see what they release from his Walter Reed check up and whether the doctors report on mental capacity. I think that’s expected next week.

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  13. I think some would. But realistically we would need at least 15. We would need a sea change at the polls in the states of those 15. Which is why I watch the polls by state and care about how many people are leaving the Republican Party.

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