Donald Trump has consistently railed against allegations that he colluded with the Russians to undermine the 2016 elections. While he remains the subject of an intense investigation sprawling his relationship with Russian officials — all the way up to Vladimir Putin — before and after his election, he has denied that he has ever sought favors from the Kremlin. On the contrary, during his first year in office, Trump has casually claimed that he and Putin get along just great, to the point where Trump got so annoyed by the media’s constant pestering in November last year that he said he could not keep asking Putin the same questions about his involvement with the U.S. election debacle, according to a report from Axios.
“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
Trump has previously claimed that Putin and himself share a mutual respect for each other, and the media must abide by this newfound camaraderie between the United States and Russia. But Michael Wolff’s explosive new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, contends that’s far from the truth. In the book, which has already become a bestseller days after its release and has cast a spell of chaos and infighting in the White House thanks to its striking details, Wolff mentions what Donald Trump’s relationship with Putin might really be like.
During a dinner Wolff hosted two weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration, the then president-elect’s longtime friend and disgraced Fox News mogul Roger Ailes (who had also turned down an offer to lead the Trump campaign after the ouster of Paul Manafort in August 2016) asked Steve Bannon about Trump’s Russian thing. The following is an excerpt from the book.
“‘What has he gotten himself with the Russians?’ pressed Ailes.
“‘Mostly,’ said Bannon, ‘he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a s**t about him. So he’s kept trying.’
“‘He’s Donald,’ said Ailes.
“‘It’s a magnificent thing,’ said Bannon.”
During the same conversation, Bannon later tried to cajole Ailes to call Donald Trump and berate Rupert Murdoch, Fox owner and perhaps world’s biggest media king, who had also started to hold Trump’s reins in his hands and was pressuring him towards a more moderate Republican view in the days after the election.
But Ailes, though he promised he would call Trump, did not have much to look forward to. In his opinion, Trump “sucked up” to Murdoch, much in the same way he did to Putin.
“‘I’ll call him,’ said Ailes. ‘But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and sh**s down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.'”
Despite this, Trump’s friends did his best to have his back.
According to Wolff, when Ailes, although disgraced but still commanding a fabled intelligence network, warned Trump that the “Russia thing” could bring his downfall and that he needed to pay more attention to the details, Trump dismissed the investigation and expressed faith in his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“He warned Trump of potentially damaging material coming his way.
“‘You need to take this seriously, Donald.’
“‘Jared has this,’ said a happy Trump. ‘It’s all worked out.'”
Only time will tell if Donald Trump will come out clean after the Russian investigation, but it sure seems like the way the American president looks up to Putin would make even the Russians flinch.