Washington watchers shook their heads Thursday as an attorney for Donald Trump told the publisher of a “tell all” book by Michael Wolf to halt publication or face a libel suit or other legal actions.
A letter from Charles Hatcher of Beverly Hills demands that publisher Henry Holt and Company “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book.”
Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” has tongues wagging all over Washington after leaked excerpts of the book show former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon relates sordid tales of a Trump who didn’t expect to win the presidency in 2016 and is considered a child by many members of the staff.
Trump fired back at the reports with a written statement that called Bannon a self-aggrandizing political charlatan who has “lost his mind.”
Trump’s lawyers, in a letter to Bannon, says he violated a “non-disclosure” agreement with the Trump Organization.
“You have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company,” says lawyer Charles Harder in the letter.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump’s statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon, CEO of right-wing Breitbart News, joined the Trump campaign late in the 2016 presidential campaign and was credited with focusing the effort at the tightly-knit alt-right voters who made the difference in the election.
When he became the chief political strategist, he reportedly had Trump’s ear and was who could enter the Oval Office without going through anyone.
That changed when Trump fired chief of staff Reince Priebus and brought in new chief of staff John Kelly, who controlled access to the president and forced Bannon to resign
Still, Trump and Bannon remained in touch via phone and Trump called him “a friend of mine” and a trusted confidant. The president also agreed to be interviewed by Wolff and granted him access to the White House and staff.
Now he considered Bannon a traitor and enemy and White House aides work overtime to try and discredit Wolff, who they claim only had “one meeting” with Trump.
Bannon, back in charge of Breitbart, reportedly was ready to call Wolff a liar and dispute what the book claimed he said but backed off Thursday after Trump went on a rampage.
Before word leaked out, the White House expected a book that would put Trump and his crew in a positive light.
Now the West Wing is in full damage-control mode as it moves to discredit Wolff, Bannon and anyone else quoted by name in the book.
“We’re in ‘duck and cover mode’ right now,” said one aide who would not talk Thursday morning.
Other aides said Trump felt Wolff’s book would be good for the administration and urged aides to cooperate and talk with him. Wolff said he conducted more than 200 interviews, including those with the president and most of his senior staff over an 18 month period in the campaign and then at the White House.
At one time, Trump thanked Bannon for helping him establish rapport with what he calls “his base.”
On Wednesday, his tune changed.
“Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
Others say the same description could apply to Trump.
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