When excerpts of Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book about the first year of the Trump presidency, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, were published online yesterday in New York Magazine and the Guardian, it sent the White House into a bit of a panic. In it, Steve Bannon is reported to refer to a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russian officials at Trump Tower as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon is also reported to have said that Donald Jr. would “crack like an egg” under the pressure of the Russia investigation. The White House was quick to fire back, calling the book “trashy tabloid fiction,” according to an article in Axios. The author, however, now claims that he has hours and hours of recordings of Bannon and other White House aides that back up his reporting.
Bannon’s reported statements have set off a firestorm in the press since they were released on Wednesday. Bannon and Trump have long been considered friends and allies since Bannon joined the Trump campaign late in 2016. They have reportedly continued to communicate frequently since Bannon left the White House in August of 2017. Many, including the president, view Bannon’s words as a bitter betrayal. Donald Trump immediately sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter, accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement he had signed before accepting a job in the White House.
Later, according to an article in the New York Times, Donald Trump issued a statement where he claimed Bannon had “lost his mind” and was “only in it for himself” and that Bannon was the reason the Republicans had lost the Senate seat in Alabama by backing Roy Moore. In the statement, Trump also referred to Wolff’s upcoming tell-all as a “phony book.” Even the comments on posts over at Breitbart News, which is run by Bannon and has been considered the voice of the Trump movement and his base, have been attacking Bannon, calling him a traitor and demanding he step down from his position running the website, according to an article in Newsweek.
The White House then went a step further on Thursday, according to an article in USA Today, sending a second cease-and-desist letter to Michael Wolff and his publishers in an attempt to prevent the publication of the book this coming week as scheduled.
Many people are skeptical of the claims Wolff makes in his book, pointing out that he has been known to stretch the truth in the past.
An article on Thursday in the New Republic, takes Michael Wolff to task for what they claim is his past and present embellishment of the truth. They point to a key detail in the book where it is revealed that Donald Trump doesn’t know who former Speaker of the House John Boehner is. There is a small problem with the truthfulness of this passage, however, in that Trump had already been golfing with Boehner several times and had even mentioned him in tweets. The New Republic piece goes on to argue that Wolff’s book could actually backfire and play right into Trump’s hands. If the reporting is proven to be false or exaggerated, it could fit perfectly into Trump’s “fake news” narrative.
On Thursday, though, Axios report that Michael Wolff claims he has “dozens of hours” of recorded interviews on tape, including recordings of Steve Bannon, that prove his statements are true, as well as of former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh. The Axios article also reports that some of the White House insiders interviewed for the book may have believed that they were speaking off the record. These tapes, if they exist, have yet to be released to the public.
Steve Bannon, according to an article in the Washington Post, appeared on the Breitbart News Tonight radio show on Wednesday night and said that Donald Trump is a “great man” and that Bannon still supports him “day in and day out.”