Few political books are likely to cause as much controversy in 2018 as Fire and Fury, a new account of life in the Trump White House by American journalist Michael Wolff. Extracts have been widely shared around the world in the past 24 hours and set social media ablaze. Here are six of the most explosive claims.
Decision to fire Comey was largely Trump’s own
The decision to fire FBI director James Comey was one of the most controversial moments of Trump’s first year in office. In Wolff’s telling of the days before the dramatic decision, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, supported Comey’s dismissal - but others, including Steve Bannon, were adamantly against. In the end the decision caught nearly everyone by surprise. “The president, on the verge of starting a war with the FBI, the DOJ, and many in Congress, was going rogue.”
Trump doesn’t read
The president is well-known for his love of cable news programmes, starting each day with several hours of television viewing. But that love of media does not extend to books or newspapers, according to Wolff. “If it was print, it might as well not exist... Others concluded that he didn’t read because he didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate—total television.”
Trump did not want to win
It is possibly the biggest claim made in the entire book: Donald Trump did not want to win the 2016 US election and fully expected to lose to Hillary Clinton. It is said Trump even promised his wife Melania that he would not win the presidency. When the result was confirmed, she broke down in tears. Wolff writes: “There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.”
Bannon believed Trump jnr meeting was ‘treasonous’
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief of staff, described a 2016 meeting between senior campaign staff and a lawyer linked to the Kremlin as “treasonous”. In remarks reported by Wolff, Bannon said the controversial meeting between Donald Trump junior, the president’s eldest son, and a group of Russians should not have happened without the presence of lawyers.
Trump’s regard for Rupert Murdoch is not mutual
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has famously enjoyed close relationships with numerous political leaders over the decades. Trump is a declared fan of both Murdoch and his Fox network, but Wolff’s book suggests the feeling is not mutual. The author describes the president phoning the media giant following a meeting with several Silicon Valley executives. When Murdoch asked how the meeting went, Trump enthusiastically explained he could really help the tech industry. A dismissive Murdoch is said to have replied: “Donald, for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.” When Murdoch ended the call, he reportedly described the new leader of the free world as “a f****** idiot”.
A rocky inauguration
The presidential inauguration is perhaps the biggest event in the American political calendar, taking place every four years and attracting crowds in the hundreds of thousands. But according to Wolff, Trump did not enjoy his big day in January 2017. He was angry that numerous A-list celebrities had publicly announced they would not attend the ceremony. The commander-in-chief also complained about the standard of accommodation at the president’s official guest house. Wolff also reported that Trump was seen arguing with wife Melania, who was left on the verge of tears.