If there's one thing nearly everyone can agree on about President Donald Trump it’s that he has a slick knack for making a sale. He might have wanted to restrain that flair a bit in the case of a new book that purports to be a fly-on-the-wall look at rampant dysfunction in the West Wing. Instead, he seems to be intent on goosing sales, leading at least one Twitter wag to wonder if Trump had not wangled a cut of the book’s profits.
Cable and social media lit up on Wednesday after some juicy tidbits from author Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, originally scheduled to be released next Tuesday, leaked in The Guardian. That led to New York magazine and The Hollywood Reporter pushing up the online publication of scintillating excepts that were meant to coincide with the book’s official publication date.
Last night, Trump tweeted: “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!”
Earlier in the day, a letter from a Trump attorney, Beverly Hills-based Charles J. Harder, “demanded the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., ‘immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book’ or excerpts and summaries of its contents,’” Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker reported in the Washington Post.
“The latest twist in the showdown came after lawyers accused [former chief strategist Steve] Bannon of breaching a confidentiality agreement, and Trump denounced his former aide as a self-aggrandizing political charlatan who has ‘lost his mind.’”
That was part of a four-paragraph official statement released through press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not a Twitter blast, by the way.
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books,” Trump also wrote.
Attorney Harder meanwhile sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter, Time’s Eli Meixler reported, claiming that Bannon had violated a nondisclosure agreement in speaking to Wolfe. It also charged that Bannon had made “outright defamatory statements” such as, presumably, an observation to Wolff that a meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer was “treasonous.”
So what was the publisher's reaction to the attorney's letter? You guessed it.
“‘Due to unprecedented demand, we are moving the on-sale date for all formats of Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, to Friday, January 5, at 9 a.m. ET, from the current on-sale date of Tuesday, January 9,’ a Henry Holt spokesperson told CNN on Thursday. Booksellers were notified earlier in the day,” Ashley Boucher reported for The Wrap.
"If, short of sending a formal written response with poop smeared on it, there's a bigger middle finger a publisher can give to a president's attorneys than moving up the publication date of a book by four days — to tomorrow — I don't know what it is,” attorney Seth Abramson tweeted.
And author Michael Wolff was on the Today Show this morning, touting it with observations such as: “This man does not read. Does not listen. He's like a pinball, just shooting off the sides.”
Wolff has, over the years, had his own battles with both precision and the MSM, as James Warren chronicled in his “Morning MediaWire” column for Poynter yesterday.
But, as Virginia Heffernan writes for the Los Angeles Times, “It takes a thief to catch a thief, and Michael Wolff, with his new book, … is the ideal hustler to capture President Trump, whom Wolff describes as having a ‘twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul.’ Wolff, if memory serves, is similar, minus the twinkle. Gimlet eyes don't twinkle.”
Some of Fire and Fury indeed sounds like it was crafted using the novelistic techniques that emerged in Clay Felker’s Esquire and New York days. That said, Wolff apparently has recordings of at least some of the conversations. And has rounded up in one place, and put some quote marks around, what has been hiding in plain sight all along, as James Fallows suggests in The Atlantic.
“Just decided I'll be at my local Barnes & Noble at 9am tomorrow morning despite landing at 2am on an international flight. I want #FireAndFury in my hands as soon as it's available. If there's urgency to shut it down and the release date is now tomorrow, then I want it tomorrow,” Trump critic Bandit Aléatoire tweeted last night.
She won’t be the only one lining up, I suspect (although a Kindle download would be a lot more efficient, no?)