Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
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Read between January 11 - January 19, 2018
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George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”
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“They take everything I’ve ever said and exaggerate it,” said the president in his first week in the White House during a late-night call. “It’s all exaggerated. My exaggerations are exaggerated.”
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The Oval Office itself had been used by prior occupants as the ultimate power symbol, a ceremonial climax. But as soon as Trump arrived, he moved in a collection of battle flags to frame him sitting at his desk, and the Oval immediately became the scene of a daily Trump clusterfuck.
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Steve Bannon had pressed him to invoke Andrew Jackson as his populist model, and he had loaded up on Jackson books (they remained unread).
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Almost nobody except the president himself thought he could pull off the Correspondents’ Dinner. His staff was terrified that he would die up there in front of a seething and contemptuous audience. Though he could dish it out, often very harshly, no one thought he could take it.
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“It’s Trump,” said Bannon. “He thinks he can fire the FBI.”
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“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with the fire and the fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”
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Outside of the portion of the electorate that, as Trump once claimed, would let him shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, the civilized world was pretty much universally aghast.
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The debate, as Bannon put it, was not about whether the president’s situation was bad, but whether it was Twenty-Fifth-Amendment bad.
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For every member of the White House senior staff this would be the lasting conundrum of dealing with President Trump: the “why” of his often baffling behavior.
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“The president fundamentally wants to be liked” was Katie Walsh’s analysis. “He just fundamentally needs to be liked so badly that it’s always … everything is a struggle for him.”
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There was now a fair amount of back-of-the-classroom giggling about who had called Trump what. For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an “idiot.” For Gary Cohn, he was “dumb as shit.” For H. R. McMaster he was a “dope.” The list went on.
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Everyone waited for the dominoes to fall, and to see how the president, in his fury, might react and change the game again.
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Steve Bannon was telling people he thought there was a 33.3 percent chance that the Mueller investigation would lead to the impeachment of the president, a 33.3 percent chance that Trump would resign, perhaps in the wake of a threat by the cabinet to act on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (by which the cabinet can remove the president in the event of his incapacitation), and a 33.3 percent chance that he would limp to the end of his term.