WATCH: Full 'Today Show' interview with 'Fire and Fury' author Michael Wolff
Author of book on President Trump appears on 'Today Show'
NEW YORK – The author of a controversial new book profiling the Trump White House sat down for an interview on the Today Show on Friday morning.
Michael Wolff, the author of "Fire and Fury," talked to Savannah Guthrie Friday, defending his book while President Trump tries to stop its publication.
"This man does not read. Does not listen. He's like a pinball, just shooting off the sides," Wolff said of President Trump. "“I am certainly, absolutely in every way comfortable with everything reported in this book.”
Wolff continued: "I work like every journalist works. I have recordings. I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with what I have reported. Not only is he helping me sell books, but he’s proving the point of the book.”
Watch the full Michael Wolff interview below:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 5, 2018
Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” portrays Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t want to win the White House. Trump said on Twitter that it is full of “lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.”
Wolff said Friday he had spoken to Trump since the inauguration. He said he was “comfortable” with all the reporting in the book.
Trump’s attorney has demanded a halt to publication of the book or excerpts. The publisher instead moved up the release date to Friday.
New book leaves Trump ‘furious,’ ‘disgusted’ with Bannon
President Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on former top adviser Steve Bannon, responding to a new book that portrays Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and quotes Bannon as calling his son’s contact with a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”
“I don’t talk to him,” Trump said Thursday of his former chief strategist.
Hitting back via formal White House statement rather than a more typical Twitter volley, Trump insisted Bannon had little to do with his victorious campaign and “has nothing to do with me or my Presidency.”
“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said Wednesday.
It was a blistering attack against the man who helped deliver the presidency to Trump, spurred by an unflattering new book by writer Michael Wolff that paints Trump as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends.
Speaking to reporters before meeting with Republican senators Thursday, Trump noted Bannon had praised him on his radio show late Wednesday after Trump issued the statement. “He called me a great man last night,” Trump said. “He obviously changed his tune pretty quick”
Late Wednesday, Trump attorney Charles Harder threatened legal action against Bannon over “disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements.”
Harder sent Bannon a letter saying the former Trump aide violated confidentiality agreements by speaking with Wolff. The letter demanded Bannon “cease and desist” any further disclosure of confidential information. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Harder on Thursday sent cease-and-desist letters to Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.
Trump has a history of threatening to sue when he doesn’t like something but rarely acts on those threats.
White House aides were blindsided when early excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” were published online by New York magazine and other media outlets ahead of the Jan. 9 publication date.
The release left Trump “furious” and “disgusted,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who complained that the book contained “outrageous” and “completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family.”
Asked what specifically had prompted the president’s fury with Bannon, she said: “I would certainly think that going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favor with anybody.”
In the book, an advance copy of which was provided to The Associated Press, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” The meeting has become a focus of federal and congressional investigators.
Bannon also told Wolff the investigations into potential collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials would likely focus on money laundering.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon was quoted as saying in one section that was first reported by The Guardian.
A spokeswoman for Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. Trump Jr. lashed out in a series of tweets, including one that said Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the Breitbart News site that Bannon now runs, “would be ashamed of the division and lies Steve Bannon is spreading!”
Bannon, who was forced out of his White House job last summer, was not surprised or particularly bothered by the blowback, according to a person familiar with his thinking but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. That person said Bannon vowed on Wednesday to continue his war on the Republican establishment and also predicted that, after a cooling-off period, he’d continue to speak with Trump, who likes to maintain contact with former advisers even after he fires and sometimes disparages them.
CNN reported Bannon said on his satellite radio program Wednesday night that Trump was a “great man” after the president had blasted Bannon earlier in the day.
The former-and-current Breitbart News head has told associates that he believes Trump has been ill-served by some his closest allies, including eldest son Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Bannon has said he believes they have exposed Trump to the Russia probe that could topple his presidency and that Trump would be able to accomplish more without them
So far, there is no indication that Bannon is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. But the House intelligence committee has invited him, along with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, for a closed-door interview as a part of the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the invitation.
New York magazine also published a lengthy adaptation of the book on Wednesday, in which Wolff writes that Trump believed his presidential nomination would boost his brand and deliver “untold opportunities” — but that he never expected to win.
It says Trump Jr. told a friend that his father looked as if he’d seen a ghost when it became clear he might win. The younger Trump described Melania Trump as “in tears — and not of joy.”
The first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, disputed that, saying Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run, encouraged him to do so and was happy when he won.
Wolff was generally granted access to the White House with a “blue badge” instead of a traditional press badge, giving him wide access to the West Wing, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal protocol. One former White House official said Wolff was known to camp out for hours in the West Wing lobby after meetings, sitting on a sofa as he waited to talk to staffers passing by.
Wolff said in an author’s note that the book was based on more than 200 interviews, including multiple conversations with the president and senior staff. But Sanders said Wolff “never actually sat down with the president” and had spoken with him just once, briefly, by phone, since Trump had taken office.
She also said the vast majority of interviews Wolff conducted with other White House officials were done at Bannon’s request.
Trump: Wolff book 'full of lies,' author had 'zero access'
President Donald Trump has stepped up attacks against a new book by Michael Wolff about his campaign and the early days of his presidency, calling it "full of lies."
Trump, in a Thursday night tweet, implored people to look at Wolff's past and referred to his former-adviser-turned-latest-target, Steve Bannon, as "Sloppy Steve."
"I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist. Look at this guy's past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!" the President tweeted.
The White House has been taking issue with claims from the book, "Fire and Fury," since adapted excerpts of it began to surface online ahead of its publication. Quotes attributed to Bannon that were negative about Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. led to a scathing statement from Trump, in which the President said his former campaign executive and top aide had "lost his mind."
The White House has likewise attacked the book, with press secretary Sarah Sanders calling it "complete fantasy," and an attorney for Trump sent a legal threat to the book's author and publisher.
Trump-Bannon feud lays bare new fissure in fractious GOP
The acrimony surrounding former White House adviser Steve Bannon’s very public break with President Donald Trump escalated Thursday, suggesting a permanent split between the president and the pugilistic strategist who helped put him in the Oval Office.
The new fissure in an already fractious Republican Party cast doubt on Bannon’s hopes to foment a movement centered on “Trumpism without Trump.”
It already has cost him a key backer. Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire GOP donor and Breitbart co-owner, issued a statement Thursday distancing her family from Bannon.
“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” she said. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
White House officials described the president as furious at Bannon’s criticisms, laid out in an explosive new book that quoted the former aide as questioning Trump’s competence and describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
On Twitter Thursday night, Trump said the book was full of “lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.” He also came up with a new nickname for Bannon: “Sloppy Steve.”
A parade of administration officials and allies worked to discredit Bannon as a disgruntled has-been. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went so far as to suggest that Bannon ought to be booted from Breitbart, the populist website he helps run.
“I certainly think that it’s something they should look at and consider,” she said.
Bannon had helped Trump form a coalition of anti-establishment Republicans, blue-collar working class and economic nationalists that launched him to the White House, but Trump had long ago grown frustrated that Bannon seemed to be overstepping his role as a staffer.
The self-appointed keeper of Trump’s nationalist flame during the president’s first six months in office, Bannon had soured on the president even before he was pushed out of the White House for feeding the perception that he was Trump’s puppeteer.
None of Bannon’s close associates was willing to speak publicly about the fallout but privately conceded that the explosive comments may forever tarnish his brand. Bannon’s political appeal had been deeply tied to the perception that he was an ally of Trump’s. Those close to Bannon feared that the connection had been permanently severed.
Bannon was preparing to launch a nonprofit organization designed to help give Trump’s brand of conservatism populism a permanent base. It’s unclear how Bannon’s new rift with the president, and the related impact on major donors, will affect the organization, dubbed Citizens of the American Republic.
Current and former White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations, said Bannon had miscalculated by attacking the president and his family. Much of Bannon’s political clout, they argue, stemmed from the assumption that he was acting with the imprimatur of the president, even if Trump wasn’t visibly in lockstep.
Some Trump allies also expressed satisfaction that Bannon appeared to be finally cast out of the president’s inner circle.
“Bannon has no contingent,” former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday between media interviews to defend Trump. On Thursday, Gingrich echoed Trump’s charge that Bannon had “lost his mind.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime punching bag for Bannon, reveled in the aide’s break with the president. “I’d like to associate myself with what the president had to say about Steve Bannon yesterday,” he said mischievously Thursday.
Since leaving the White House, Bannon spent much of his time courting donors to help finance his self-declared war on the Republican establishment. He vowed to find Republican challengers for virtually every GOP senator seeking election this fall, chiefly for the purpose of electing candidates who would remove McConnell as majority leader.
Bannon publicly backed conservative challengers in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Mississippi and New York, where House challenger Michael Grimm issued a statement denouncing the ex-adviser’s comments as “baseless attacks” that were “beyond disturbing.”
Others who have received boosts from Bannon, including Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward and potential Mississippi Senate challenger Chris McDaniel, were more circumspect, wary of alienating either faction of the party’s insurgent grassroots.
Bannon’s political standing was already weakened after he went all-out last month to support failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore.
Doubling down on Moore left Bannon politically “incapacitated,” said Steven Law, president and CEO of the super PAC led by McConnell.
“The only concern left was whether the president might give Bannon a temporary lease on life,” he said. “But this repudiation was so methodical and so absolute that it really slams the door on that.”
White House aides have tried to look past other loaded comments from Bannon in recent months while seeking to marshal his political following on the president’s behalf.
But they warned Bannon’s allies over the last 24 hours that Trump would likely never take his calls again. However, there are few absolutes in Trump’s orbit, White House aides acknowledge, and he has been known to bury the hatchet with those he perceived to have wronged him.
Some Trump allies even encouraged him to welcome Bannon back into his good graces.
“You can either excise him or shun him, which I don’t think is the best recommended strategy, or tell him to knock it off and bring himself back into the fold,” Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, said on MSNBC.
Trump coolly noted Thursday that his full-throated counterassault appeared to have its desired effect on Bannon.
“He called me a great man last night,” Trump said, referring to Bannon’s radio show appearance. “He obviously changed his tune pretty quick.”
Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” quickly shot atop Amazon’s best-seller list, and the publisher moved up its release date by four days, to Friday.
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