Writing 2018-09-03

Book Notes – Fire and Fury, Chapter 11

The Beginning of the Russia Scandal

Hope Hicks was considered too young, too inexperienced and too sycophantic to be in her job, but for some reason, the President had latched on to her. She had become vital for her ability to interpret the media for Trump in the most positive way or easing the blow of media criticism as much as possible.

When the Russia scandal started to break, everyone initially ignored it. By this point, the President was starting to use his now-familiar line of “Fake News”. He also didn’t understand why anyone would think that communicating with the Russians would be a bad thing. In addition to all of this, he took the reports of collusion by members of his team to actually be good news. He thought it showed that the previous administration (Obama, et al.) was working with the intelligence community to undermine the Trump administration as revenge for Hillary Clinton being defeated. He literally felt this was proof that people were out to get him.

What was missed by the team, at least initially, was a point at the end of an article by the New Yorker. The article tied all the points known at the time together. At the bottom of this article was a final point: Jared Kushner was connected to Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in a meeting with Michael Flynn in Trump Tower. This now tied three people at that point in time to Kislyak: Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, the last of whom had been revealed to have lied to Congress regarding contact with agents of the Russian government.

Jared and Ivanka deeply suspected that Bannon had leaked this to his own advantage.

Jeff Sessions

Sessions more or less believed the role of Attorney General was the role he was born to play. He viewed it as his obligation to get into this position and undo all the changes that had been implemented for the last three administrations. He had no interest in anything that could threaten that and recused himself from the Russia probe once his past interactions with Russia had been revealed. Sessions did not warn the White House ahead of time.

Trump was baffled. He didn’t understand why Sessions would do this, since he saw the Attorney General position as a shield against the Russian probe. He was already getting worried about the probe thanks to frequent phone conversations with friends outside the White House. Many of these friends were wealthy and therefore connected,allowing Trump to get information on what his government was doing without going through government channels. Unfortunately, this also skewed his perceptions a little; he was becoming convinced that the DOJ was filled with women who hated him. He was also convinced that pro-Obama employees in the DOJ (what Bannon later termed in 2018 as “The Deep State”) were out to get him as part of a conspiracy to spoil his victory and general greatness.

Jared and Ivanka

Jared and Ivanka both became targets of cultivation by Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch. They had no connections in Washington or circle of friends there and thus were prime targets for mentorship by those seeking to influence them. Jared Kushner perhaps more so, thanks to his upbringing under a strong father figure.

Tony Blair, on one such mentorship session with Kushner seems to have offhandedly suggested that British Intelligence had put Trump campaign staff under surveillance. Normally this was not done, but if the Obama administration had indicated in some way that this as a desired action, the British would have moved in to perform it as a favor. This way there is no direct line of communication on the matter and little paper trail.

This was the kind of thing Donald Trump’s mind fed on and it led to a meeting between Kushner, Bannon and Mike Pompeo, then Trump’s head of the CIA. The CIA would later report this as a miscommunication, but this is the sort of thing that Donald Trump himself doesn’t let go of.

The Politics Game

In the Age of Trump, politics was zero-sum. One side wins and thus another must lose. Effectively, no matter which side someone was on, it was kill or be killed. In President Trump’s mind, and this was just after seven weeks in office, he was the target of a historic conspiracy. All the agencies, all the courts and all the media; they were all out to get him. He was, in his mind, Donald Trump the Martyr.

This led to outbursts of pure emotion that no one could rationally deal with. They just let him vent and agreed with whatever he said, waiting for the storm to pass. On March 4, he vented his frustration with a series of tweets declaring Obama had “wire tapped” his campaign. At 6:40am he woke up then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, declaring “Did you see my tweet? We caught them red-handed!” Of course, no such thing happened. This was just a window into the mind of frustrated and angry man.

The wiretapping was not true, but the tweets now forced the White House to scramble to find anything that might be. A Breitbart article was summoned up to provide some kind of justification or context, but the real effect of the tweets was to bring reality to the White House staff. The President could not function in any standard (thoughtful) political manner and everyone was going to have to live with it. Sean Spicer’s regular mantra became “You can’t make this shit up.”

About the author

Erik Hentell: I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.