Journalist Michael Wolff‘s book on the transition and early days of the Trump presidency, titled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is out next week. New York magazine published a number of excerpts from the book today, and they include rather remarkable fly-on-the-wall anecdotes involving a number of TV newsers.
The late former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, and 21CF executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch are among those who are mentioned.
Wolff wrote that Murdoch referred to Trump as “a f*cking idiot” at one point over his seemingly contradictory views on immigration policy. The comments were apparently made by Murdoch after a phone conversation between the two men that took place in December 2016, during the presidential transition. Trump had just finished up a meeting with Silicon Valley execs, whose concerns included a potential crackdown by the incoming president on H-1B visas, the main visa used to hire foreign talent to tech companies.
“Oh, great, just great,” said Trump. “These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”
“Donald,” said Murdoch, “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”
“Take this H-1B visa issue. They really need these H-1B visas.”
Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, “We’ll figure it out.”
“What a fucking idiot,” said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.
Ailes met with Trump and Steve Bannon, a central figure in this story (and apparently throughout the book), on multiple occasions during the transition. Bannon and Ailes both loathed Murdoch (for different reasons), and according to Wolff, Bannon said he needed Ailes’s help in tempering Murdoch’s “establishment influence” on Trump, as well as Murdoch’s meetings with Jared Kushner.
He spent several minutes trying to recruit Ailes to help kneecap Murdoch. Since his ouster from Fox over allegations of sexual harassment, Ailes had become only more bitter toward Murdoch. Now Murdoch was frequently jawboning the president-elect and encouraging him toward Establishment moderation. Bannon wanted Ailes to suggest to Trump, a man whose many neuroses included a horror of senility, that Murdoch might be losing it.
“I’ll call him,” said Ailes. “But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and shits down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.”
Wolff also writes about the White House visit made by Morning Joe cohosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in late January 2017, right after the controversial Muslim ban was first announced.
According to Wolff, Trump asked Scarborough how he thought he was doing. Scarborough replied he thought the immigration order could have been handled better, which Trump was not pleased to hear.
Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.
The three of them were joined by Kushner and Ivanka Trump for lunch.
After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”
“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”
Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.
Then came discussion about Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship. Pres. Trump always enjoys a good gossip story.
Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.
“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.
“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.
“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when I could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”