An explosive new book promises to blow the lid off a volatile White House that skidded from crisis to crisis in the first nine months of Donald Trump’s administration and is awash with intrigue “so corrosive and lethal” it threatens to “paralyze the new presidency”.
Provocative media critic and columnist Michael Wolff has written what is billed as the first inside account of the inner workings of the Trump White House in a “shocking, fly-on-the-wall” account that portrays a fiery but inexperienced president surrounded by warring factions of advisers and officials.
“My goal was not to write as an outsider looking in, but to find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling,” Wolff told the Guardian on Tuesday.
Sources say Wolff was present at critical junctures, including the morning in May when the FBI director, James Comey, was fired without apparent forewarning from Trump to any of his West Wing inner circle.
The author, who has known Trump since his days as a reporter at New York magazine, began showing up at the White House soon after the inauguration last January. He found a relatively porous environment, with most figures relatively accessible and able to speak freely, the Guardian has learned.
His access, while not entirely official, came after he’d written up an interviewwith Trump in the Hollywood Reporter seven months earlier. Sources say Trump liked the story and commented “cool cover”, at the time.
Wolff set out to write the book as an account of someone chatting in a fairly open way with most of the players in a unique period of US governance.
“While most people took the position that everyone should be hostile to these people, I was not particularly hostile. That allowed me to get them to be relatively open,” he told the Guardian.
The point is, he continues, “I showed up with no agenda. I was there out of curiosity, and I got there by leveraging an amount of goodwill I had with these people.”
The publisher has amped up the results of that access, promising to cast a “white hot light” on Trump, and draw portraits of his senior officials and their relationships with each other and “their unpredictable and often vituperative” boss.
The book is titled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and will be published on 9 January, close to the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.
“The US is in the midst of the most intense political storm since Watergate and my aim in reporting and writing this book was to see life inside the White House through the eyes of the people who are closest to the center of this hurricane,” said Wolff, adding: “Perhaps not since the Tudors has palace intrigue been so corrosive and lethal, nor the king so volatile and so in need of instant gratification.”
Wolff has reportedly based his book on more than 200 interviews with Trump, members of his most senior team and people in and around the administration. He witnessed in close-up the roles played by people including former election campaign leader Steve Bannon, before he lost his job as chief strategist. He also had access to the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who were given plum jobs (though unpaid) as senior aides in the White House after Donald Trump’s surprise victory.
Wolff reportedly watched former chief of staff Reince Priebus get outflanked by other operatives and witnessed the daily life and dealings in the West Wing of top players such as Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, top aide Dina Powell and Hope Hicks, communications director.
“These and other advisers – and of course Trump himself – engaged in a daily clash as nasty and chaotic as has ever taken place in the West Wing,” a release from the publisher stated.
It calls the book the first inside account of the most controversial presidency in US history.
And it promises to tell the behind-the-scenes story of “a presidency in turmoil and an institution under attack from within”.
Wolff is a bestselling author and well-known New York media columnist with a reputation among his peers as a provocative and egotistical commentator on the media industry.
The New Republic described him as: “Possibly the bitchiest media bigfoot writing today,” while the New York Times has said he is: “Far less circumspect – and sometimes more vicious – than other journalists.”
He has written most notably for the Guardian, New York magazine and Vanity Fair and published books about the revived power of television, the internet and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Wolff conducted prominent interviews with Donald Trump in June 2016 and Steve Bannon in November 2016 that were published in the Hollywood Reporter and demonstrated considerable empathy for their subjects at the time.
A Washington source with knowledge of Wolff’s access to the White House, said the author was initially authorized to spend time there researching his book. “And once you are in the front door …” he said, indicating that Wolff roamed freely and witnessed goings-on in a way that was not stage-managed.
“He has got a decent relationship with the president and Steve Bannon. Or, like, he did have,” said the source.
- This article was amended on 16 December 2017. Wolff’s interview with Steve Bannon was published in the Hollywood Reporter in November 2016, not 2017, as stated in an earlier version.