To be clear, it’s not the threats from Trump’s lawyers that are speeding up its release. It’s the filthy, filthy lucre to be made, striking while the iron is politically hot, after all the hype of the past 48 hours. The president just gave a political kiss of death to his former chief strategist, who currently runs the most popular pro-Trump media platform in America, all because of things Bannon said to Wolff for this book.
And just to make the buzz louder, Trump then turned around and threatened to sue Wolff’s publisher if they went forward. “PR people as yet unborn will tell future clients, ‘This is about the best publicity you can get, short of a cease and desist order from the president,'” quipped David Frum. Pretty much. Ken “Popehat” White wondered if Trump is getting a cut of the profits, as that’s the only way to explain why he would have granted Wolff such extensive access to the West Wing and then done everything he could to stir excitement for the book by attacking the people involved in it.
The author himself was moved to express his gratitude this afternoon.
Here we go. You can buy it (and read it) tomorrow. Thank you, Mr. President.
— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) January 4, 2018
It was originally due out Tuesday, now it’s due out tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. That may be part of the reason why the Breitbart brain trust huddled so quickly to discuss dumping Bannon. There are bound to be more salacious excerpts circulating tomorrow after the book hits stores and Bannon, Wolff’s most prominent source, is bound to take the blame for the worst parts, fairly or not. For instance, wait until the material about Trump’s alleged growing senility starts getting talked about. Wolff previewed that in a column for the Hollywood Reporter this morning:
Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something…
[Hope] Hicks’ primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions…
At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.
Is any of that true, in which case holy shinola, or is it just Wolff being, shall we say, “creative”? Well, for what it’s worth, he took a bunch of heat yesterday over a passage in the book that purports to re-create, verbatim, an entire conversation between Bannon and Rupert Murdoch. Just another case of Wolff invoking artistic license to “report” on something he couldn’t possibly be privy to, right? Maybe not:
So I was one of the 6 guests at the Bannon-Ailes dinner party in January 2017 and every word I've seen from the book about it is absolutely accurate. It was an astonishing night… pic.twitter.com/I4vgOrHOYb
— Janice Min (@janicemin) January 4, 2018
A few eyebrows were also raised by the fact that POTUS took the unusual step today of having Sarah Huckabee Sanders play a video he recorded to reporters at the White House press briefing. The briefing room is just a few dozen yards away from the Oval Office; if the president wants to address reporters directly, typically he’ll wander down the hall and pop in after the briefing begins. Obama did that occasionally. Trump went to the trouble of recording something instead, presumably so that he wouldn’t need to face questions. On any other day that would be chalked up to him hating the press and simply not wanting to chat with them. Today, in light of Wolff’s column and the related chatter lately from partisan shrinks, some are wondering. That’s the sort of headache Trump and the White House will be dealing with over the next days and weeks as the more lurid parts of the book circulate.
As for the lawsuit to try to halt publication, fuhgeddaboutit. You don’t need to be a lawyer to know why: Wolff apparently has plenty of audio to support the quotes, and the discovery process as sources are deposed and squeezed for even more shocking dirt about the Trump White House would be completely self-defeating for POTUS. Plus, although he’s threatening suit as a private citizen, I think most judges would view an attempt by the president to block publication of a book that’s critical of him as being waaaaay too close to prior restraint to let it happen. The courts haven’t given Trump any benefit of the doubt since he took office. They’re not going to start here. The lawsuit threats are just his way of signaling to fans that they shouldn’t believe anything they read in the book or hear about it. It’s “FAKE NEWS,” so much so that it’s worthy of a lawsuit. And when Trump loses that suit (assuming it’s ever filed, which is unlikely) he’ll just chalk it up to the libel laws being “rigged” or whatever. It’s a PR move. It costs him next to nothing. Except for, ah, all the added hype it’s lending to the book.
Relatedly, a fun rumor that was circulating today:
On CNN, Atty. Mark Geragos says he has it on 'good authority' that Steve Bannon is considering a defamation suit against President Trump.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) January 4, 2018
A Trump/Bannon lawsuit would be magical but Bannon allies have whispered to various reporters that there’s no truth to it at all. I believe it. Could the president even be sued for defamation for things he’s said in office? Unclear.
Exit quotation via WaPo: “One senior White House official said Trump advisers considered Wolff friendly and believed it would be beneficial to speak with him; this person also said that Wolff interviewed Trump.” Who the hell allowed that to happen, especially knowing the West Wing’s penchant for leaking on each other? Did anyone think Michael Wolff, of all people, was going to toss away a mountain of dirt that was being fed to him by his sources only to write some boring pattycake tribute to MAGA? Good lord.