Donald Trump's dysfunctional, dangerous, and deeply unpopular presidency is one of the most bizarre chapters in United States history. Imagine that a seasoned and clever journalist was given access to the inner workings of this wacky White House and permitted to observe its activities like "a fly on the wall," with "something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing." Imagine further that this journalist was permitted to be "a constant interloper" who "accepted no rules nor...made any promises about what [he] might or might not write" (Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House [New York: Henry Holt and Company, January 5, 2018] p. xii).
As we found out when Michael Wolff's instant bestseller Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House came out six weeks ago, all that happened last year. Wolff held down that spot for at least the first eight months of Trump's insane presidency. Along the way, he interviewed hundreds of individuals familiar with Trump within and beyond the White House, including many senior administration staffers.
The result was a book that quickly became an historical event in and of itself -- a volume that will certainly make its way into future American history textbooks.
Grounds for Impeachment
Packed with soul-numbing revelations on nearly every page, Fire and Fury is something of a Rorschach Test indicating what presidential (and not-so presidential) facts matter most (and least) to readers of different persuasions. Liberals and others hoping to find cause for impeachment have found much to their liking. Late in the book, for example, Wolff quotes Trump's initial Chief Political Strategist, the wily white nationalist Steve Bannon, on how it was "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" for Trump's son, Donald Trump, Jr, and the presidential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take their infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. "The chance that Don, Jr. did not walk these [Russian] jumos up to his father's office on the twenty-sixth floor," Bannon says, "is zero." (Fire and Fury, p.255).
Daddy Trump knew about the meeting, contrary to White House denials. "The certainty among the White House staff that Trump himself would not only have been apprised of the meeting, but have met the principals," Wolff writes, "meant that the president was caught out as a liar to those whose trust he most needed." (p. 256)
Wolff has Trump dead-to-rights on obstruction of justice. Fire and Fury reports that the president was directly responsible for the preposterous White House story claiming that the Trump Tower meeting had only been about U.S. adoption policy. (pp. 258-259)
By Wolff's account, Trump's rash and idiotic May 2017 decision ("made by the president with almost no consultation except of his inner family circle") to fire Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey was "arguably a plan to obstruct justice. The president made it perfectly clear," writes Wolff, "that he hadn't fired the FBI Director because he had done Hillary wrong; he fired the FBI director because the FBI was too aggressively investigating him and his administration." (p. 220) Also enticing for those who would like to see Trump impeached (in connection with Russia and/or obstruction and/or the Constitution's emoluments clause), Wolff depicts the president's hostility to the Robert-Mueller-headed federal investigation as arising from Trump's fear that his slimy Russian and German business dealings and those of son-in-law's family will be exposed. Here, as in much of Fire and Fury, the dodgy but perceptive Steve Bannon bears special witness: