The dramatic breakup between Donald Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has blown wide open the political direction of the Trump presidency at a particularly inopportune time.
It comes just as Trump is frantically seeking to stabilize a presidency besieged by internal chaos and to cope with his own Justice Department’s investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian agents meddling in the 2016 election.
The president already has his hands full trying to discredit that probe, and by association Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even as Trump insists he has no intention of firing him. He also has now he has turned against Bannon, his onetime guru.
The catalyst for this bizarre bombshell is a soon-to-be-released insider book on Trump and his administration by free-lance writer Michael Wolff. In it, Bannon is said to have described Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower in 2016 as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” — among other explosive contentions.
In reply to derogatory remarks Bannon made about Trump family members, the president contended that Bannon’s role in his campaign and first months of his administration were overblown. Of his old close adviser he tweeted, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he has lost his mind.” Bannon, he said, had “very little to do with our historic victory.” Trump also instructed his lawyers to send Bannon and Wolff cease-and-desist letters, citing an alleged breach of a nondisclosure agreement Bannon has supposedly signed.
It’s clear now that Bannon has become another cross for the president to bear among an accumulating list of critics in and out of his Republican Party. After being fired by Trump, Bannon returned to his old job running the alt-right Breitbart News website, which formerly was a conspicuous cheerleader for the president. But now it but has become a vehicle for Bannon’s own political ambitions, including clashes with the Republican Party establishment and national committee that he appears to be targeting for a takeover.
Beyond revealing the breakup itself, Wolff’s book provides a stinging insight into what some White House insiders thought of the president. One fired campaign aide, Sam Nunberg, is quoted as saying he was assigned to tutor Trump on the Constitution. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” he said, “before … his eyes are rolling back in his head.” Bannon himself is said to have commented that Trump’s daughter Ivanka was “dumb as a brick.”
Also, a former deputy chief of staff, Katie Walsh, is quoted as saying that trying to deal with the president was “like trying to figure out what a child wants” — an observation she later denied having made.
Wolff also reports Walsh says she was obliged to respond to three different Trump power centers: Reince Priebus, the first chief of staff, Bannon and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“For Walsh,” Wolff writes, “it was a daily process of managing an impossible task: almost as soon as she received direction from one of the three men, she would be countermanded by one of another of them.”
It was no wonder the Trump White House came off from the outside as a confused madhouse, with a president constantly getting mixed messages and making decisions as an ill-informed neophyte would-be politician.
Whether all the disclosures Wolff has reported are accurate or not, taken together they constitute more tasty morsels for both the conventional news media and the social media platforms Trump himself so favors.
As a new year gets started, there are already more than enough reasons to worry about the state of the union in the era of Donald J. Trump and his merry band of confusion-spinners.
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power.” Send email to email@example.com.
Trump Caught On Tape: Trump Lies About Wealth
Donald Trump lied (above) about his wealth to get on the Forbes 400, the business magazine’s ranking of the world’s richest people, posing as publicist ‘John Barron’ to do so.
Writes Jonathan Greenberg in the Washington Post:
…it took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had built to project an image as one of the richest people in America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was untrue. Trump wasn’t just poorer than he said he was. Over time I have learned that he should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In our first-ever list, in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million — a paltry sum by the standards of his super-monied peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later.
When Trump was campaigning for president, it was revealed that he masqueraded as his own spokesman earlier in his career to brag about his accomplishments, his wealth, and his alleged desirability to famous women.
In May 2016, The Washington Post published an audio recording of a 1991 call from a man claiming to be on Trump’s PR team, who responded to a request from People magazine reporter Sue Carswell for a comment on Trump’s divorce from wife Ivana and his increasingly complicated relationship with model Marla Maples.
As “John Miller”, Trump touted his reputation as a playboy, explaining that famous actresses and even the likes of Madonna call him wanting to date him.
Trump using the pseudonyms John Miller and John Barron was a fact well-known among New York journalists at the time. Trump would eventually admit that the call to People was a “joke gone awry.” And prior to that call, in 1990, Trump said of the name ‘John Miller,’ “I believe on occasion I used that name.”
Trump denied that fact:
In a phone call to NBC’s “Today” program, Trump denied that he was John Miller. “No, I don’t think it — I don’t know anything about it. You’re telling me about it for the first time and it doesn’t sound like my voice at all,” he said. “I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and then you can imagine that, and this sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams — doesn’t sound like me.” Later, he was more definitive: “It was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that, and it was not me on the phone. And when was this? Twenty-five years ago?”
Trump continues to lie to this day, though there appears to be little to no consequence.
Pruitt Asks Trump to Make Him Attorney General
While its very possible that Scott Pruitt will not survive being the EPA Director for another week, he has being lobbying Trump for another job as Attorney General.
Yes, the man who is now under Investigation by the EPA Inspector General for using millions of tax payers money for his own person first class travel, believes he should be rewarded with a new job as the top cop.
Current AG Sessions has recused himself from investigations into Russia’s ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, effectively prohibiting Sessions from firing Mueller. Pruitt, who has not recused himself, would seemingly not face the same constraints.
Switching out Sessions for Pruitt could have its pitfalls. Pruitt would face a tough confirmation hearing in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority and Democrats would interrogate him about Russia, his EPA tenure and other thorny topics.
Trump Now Hiring From Disney Channel
Telling staff he wants more “hot young women” in his office, Trump is hiring a 22-year old Disney Channel star is making the leap from entertainment to the White House.
Caroline Sunshine, 22, has joined the Trump White House as a press assistant, ABC News has learned.
While she may be known for her acting, Sunshine has interned for the White House, the Office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the College Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told ABC News. She was also involved in the American Enterprise Institute and her school’s Model United Nations team.
Before transitioning to politics, Sunshine spent three seasons playing Tinka Hessenheffer on the Disney Channel sitcom “Shake It Up.” Her other television credits include “A.N.T. Farm” and “Fish Hooks” on Disney Channel and appearances in “The Outfield,” “Marmaduke” and other films.