In an interview, Michael Wolff, author of the bestselling book Fire and Fury, tells «Schweiz am Wochenende» that the Trump presidency has entered a new, dramatic phase. Even if the Republicans hold the House in the midterm elections, Wolff sees several «potentially mortal events» for Trump: Robert Mueller, Russia, the women, and new scandals.
Michael Wolff: So they tell me.
Two million in the U.S., and now up to one million in Europe.
Very good question. When I was doing the book, I knew that this was the first act of his presidency, and that there will be two more acts. We are clearly in the second act: Everyone is coming to the understanding that this is an imperiled president; that there are poison-tipped arrows coming at him from all directions.
Exactly. It was chaos.
You can say now: He is alone. He is home alone right now.
It‘s very hard for him to find them. The advisors who he is choosing now are in fact the only people who take these jobs. It‘s even worse with his lawyers: Literally no lawyer would take this job.
The lawyers he has now are either lawyers who are in retirement or there are no lawyers. Not only are we looking forward to the impeachment of this president, but we are looking forward to him going to the impeachment without any lawyers.
More and more, yes.
What did they really want? One of the ways you can look at this is: After a generation or more of increasing disillusion of politics and politicians, people elected the exact opposite. Here is a man who is temperamentally, verbally, intellectually and sexually the opposite of what we think a politician should be. And that‘s what he is. It‘s the great experiment. And it‘s a failed experiment.
If anything about the Trump era has taught us, it is to be careful of polls.
He does like media people, but as I said, in this instance, he is literally hiring any people who want to work for him. I know and I like Larry Kudlow, but his job at CNBC has come to its last... (hesitating)
Yes. John Bolton the same. He needed a new job.
Among the many things that might improbably happen in this world that‘s probably the most improbable.
I am grateful.
This is true. But it‘s also a slight, but important, misnomer. He doesn‘t really watch Fox. He watches CNN, because he thinks that‘s the big brand. And there is something he is drawn to. It‘s more that he reacts against CNN that he reacts to Fox.
Completely, he seeks their respect. It‘s a delusion and one of the Trumpian things: He doesn‘t understand why The New York Times and other prestigious media might not like him. Well, I asked Donald Trump, “Why do you speak to The New York Times?”
”Because they are The New York Times.”
It‘s very clear: Murdoch thinks Trump is an idiot. At the same time, Murdoch thinks it‘s important to have a relationship with the person who is president, particularly when he might be able to bring significant influence to that relationship. I think that‘s going on. On Trump‘s part, he thinks Rupert Murdoch is the ultimate businessman, the ultimate man of accomplishment.
We‘re in this weird symbiotic relationship. Both need each other; both benefit from each other. Trump is the golden goose for every media outlet. It‘s a kind of almost sexualized relationship. They both have tremors of excitement for each other.
From a business standpoint, there is no long run. Every media outlet is trying to squeeze Donald Trump for everything that he is worth, understanding that when he goes away, we are all screwed.
Well, the media business will be screwed. Many news media now literally survive on Donald Trump.
Yes, they are very much. Remember that since Trump‘s pussy-gate crisis, the whole world has undergone a cultural revolution — in parts because of this crisis. The ultimate target of this movement is Donald Trump. He certainly is the most vivid symbol of what this whole new understanding of harassment is about. He is possibly the greatest harasser ever.
In this case, and only in this case, Trump follows his lawyer‘s advice and doesn‘t tweet. This shows how seriously he takes this threat.
I don’t know. By all the evidence, there is a series of arrangements in this marriage. Well, I think in most marriages there are arrangements. But his are more unusual.
I think there is no role. That’s no part of the arrangement. She doesn‘t want a role, and he doesn‘t want her to have a role.
Definitely. But I am not even sure if Mueller is the biggest threat. The most immediate risk is that the Republicans are going to lose control of the House in the midterm elections and Trump is facing an impeachment. But Robert Mueller is obviously a significant threat.
Today, this number has probably grown. I would put that well over 50%.
I would argue that the end has already begun. Mueller‘s dismissal would certainly accelerate this process. This would not be survivable.
In order to have a collusion or a conspiracy, you have to have intent. And it is very hard to prove intent. Stupidity can be a defense against intent. And these guys are certainly stupid, and they are certainly capable of doing things out of stupidity rather than out of design.
Maybe. On the other hand, you obviously have an effort to undermine this investigation, which would seem likely to be an example of an effort to obstruct justice. I don‘t know what the smoking gun is here. I do know that what you will have is a devastating picture of actions that wouldn‘t be hard to describe as impeachable offenses.
The Trump habit is to declare victory in circumstances which other people would find to be examples of failure. It‘s just a talent of temperament he has. I think if he could find a way out of this presidency and declare victory, he would take it. He could identify impeachment as an extremely partisan effort to remove him — the legitimate president — from office.
I do not believe that Donald Trump has the ability to go to war. War is an incredibly complex, bureaucratic undertaking. It‘s not just pushing the button. You have to make a whole series of decisions that lead you to that point. Making one decision mandates five other decisions. We are in an intellectual ecosystem that Trump could literally not function in. He is not capable — too stupid if you will — to actually go to war.
This doesn‘t make any difference. You have to sit in the room. He can‘t stand more than three minutes in the room with the generals. He cannot do it. The image that we have of war as something stupid is not true. It‘s complicated, too complicated for Donald Trump, and if he tried, this would become manifest. He cannot let this happen.
I believe so, yes.
This meeting won‘t ever happen.
It‘s in neither of their interests that this meeting does happen. Donald Trump will be dissuaded in so many instances from this happening.
Then it would be just a symbolic statement rather than any negotiations.
You are thinking in traditional political terms. You have a rational view of cause and effect. This is not what Trump does. He doesn‘t know anything about North Korea and the nukes. And, besides: He is not a dealmaker. He is a person who sometimes takes credit for other people‘s deals. Make a deal, that‘s a detail-oriented process, and he cannot do details.
Every day for this president is an existential day. How do you survive this? He gets through this as he has gotten through his whole life: He watches television and calls friends. He does not work very hard.
He likes the process of people coming into his office and praising him, and, in return, praising them. He loves that. But he hates many other things. Part of the second act of this presidency is that he understands now that he is the target. When Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump organization records, this was a “oh shit” moment for Trump.
I don‘t think that he has enough self-awareness to criticize his own actions.
His base has not expanded to the extent he wanted it to expand since he took office. Trump doesn‘t have a party that stands behind him. And there is an overwhelming likelihood that Congress will shift in a way that will be a mortal event.
If the Republicans hold the House, we still have potentially mortal events: Mueller, Russia, the women, new scandals...
I don‘t see him in this administration anymore. Steve Bannon wasn‘t really happy working for Donald Trump. Bannon sees Trump as a passing chapter in a much bigger story: the nationalist-populist revolution, which is, for him, a global phenomenon.
It‘s not that complicated: A trainwreck is a trainwreck, and a television performer is a television performer — you can‘t take your eyes off. Trump is performing for the camera and for the audience. Let‘s remove the issues of good and evil and right or left, and you just have a world-class character here.
Maybe in terms of politics, but you have to look at this in terms of drama. Who doesn‘t get up and think: Oh my God, this is incredible. In-cre-di-ble! Never once during eight years of Obama did anybody wake up and say, “This is incredible.” Just on any empirical bases: Trump is the greatest story of all time.