Writing 2018-09-09

Book Notes – Fire and Fury, Chapter 21


Around late July, the idea was developing that Bannon was on his way out of favor, yet again. The picture of his face on Time Magazine had angered Trump and was combined with his portrayal on Saturday Night Live. Where Trump was portrayed as bumbling, Bannon was portrayed as The Grim Reaper, a more mythological and powerful figure and one that was the force behind Trump. Finally, there was a new book called The Devil’s Bargain which suggested that Trump could not have succeeded without Bannon’s help. The idea that Trump needed anybody angered him immensely.

Bannon still felt in control, however. His agenda was going well and his political opponents seemed to be weaker than he was. Unknown to Bannon or many others, however, Trump had just given an interview to the New York Times. This was set up by a frantic Jared and Ivanka along with Hope Hicks. The interview was a PR disaster. Trump had no game plan, so he went with the old favorites: insulting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and pushing him to resign. Further, he indicated that he felt the Robert Mueller would be crossing a line if he looked into Trump’s family finances.

Bannon was incredulous. To him, this was Trump telling the Special Prosecutor exactly where to look. Bannon recounted Felix Sater, one of Trump’s more questionable associates and someone who had worked with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. Sater had been prosecuted by Andrew Weissman, the first person brought on to Robert Mueller’s team. Weissman’s specialty was fraud investigations. He was one of the investigators that helped bring down Enron. When he brought this up to Trump, the President responded with “That’s not their mandate.”

Bannon was convinced that Mueller was going after the money laundering angle. He believed Mueller would be able to implicate Trump by flipping Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, especially Kushner. Bannon was convinced that Kushner’s family finances were dirty and that Mueller would get him to flip. Trump, in fact, was already known to be calling friends in New York for advice on what to do.

Bannon’s theory was that Jared and Ivanka thought that if they could get prison reform and save DACA (the Dreamers Act), then the liberals would defend them from Mueller. He didn’t think it would work, though, largely because he thought they were both too stupid to actually accomplish anything. As for Trump, Bannon couldn’t figure a way out. Bannon prided himself on solutions, but he had no idea how to stop Mueller from nabbing Trump.

While talking about this over dinner with his allies, Bannon started to receive phone calls on Scaramucci’s ascendance to the role of communications director. Initially he laughed it off as a joke, but when the calls continued to come in, he realized something horrible had just happened. Bannon openly predicted to those at the table that Scaramucci would not last a week.

Scaramucci Arrives

As it happens, Scaramucci lasted 10 days. July 21 was the first day on the job and Sean Spicer quit immediately. Trump announced Scaramucci’s position and direct access to the Trump himself, effectively promoting Scaramucci immediately over Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Trump suggested that Spicer and Scaramucci would be able to work out the logistics between the two of them. Spicer quit immediately.

Scaramucci didn’t waste time settling scores. He blamed Priebus for his long wait for a job at the White House and he knew Trump didn’t like Bannon (at the time). He taunted Priebus publicly and mocked Bannon openly. Trump loved it. Jared and Ivanka also loved it. Scaramucci was going to be their pitbull against Bannon and his allies.

For their part, Priebus and Bannon were just trying not to laugh. They seemed to think they had been dropped into some mockery of the Twilight Zone.

Priebus Leaves

The week of July 24 was a comedy of errors. The health care bill was dying thanks to a battle of wills between the Senate and the White House. Jared Kushner decided to give a speech on his role in the Russia investigation. It was a litany of excuses and he denied culpability by more or less portraying himself as a know-nothing incompetent. Later, Trump gave a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that was so out-of-place that the organization issued an apology to its members, parents and even the entire country. Angered, Trump again insulted Jeff Sessions and banned transgender people from the military.

The next day Scaramucci discovered one of his financial disclosure forms leaked. He immediately blamed Priebus, in public to boot. What Scaramucci didn’t understand was that his disclosure forms were actually public documents that hadn’t leaked at all; they were simply available.

Priebus knew where this was all heading, and he offered to resign. That evening, Scaramucci, whose personal life was in a tailspin, had too much to drink and called up a reporter at the New Yorker magazine. At this point, he drunkenly engaged in a public relations horror show. He stated that Priebus was going to be asked to resign shortly. He accused Bannon of metaphorically trying to blow himself (Bannon found out when fact-checkers called to ask if this was, in fact, true.) The fallout was so bad that he hid in Trump Hotel in Washington while telling people he went to New York to visit his mother.

Following this, the health care bill died in the Senate. Reince Priebus and Scaramucci flew with Trump to New York for a speech and on the way back, Priebus discussed the timing of his departure with Trump. TrumpĀ  urged Priebus to do things right and take his time. Once Priebus stepped off the plane and on the tarmac, Trump tweeted that he was out and that John Kelly was the new Chief of Staff. Kelly took it upon himself to apologize for how Priebus’ firing was handled. Kelly, in fact, had not known of the firing until Trump tweeted it. Six days after being sworn in, Kelly then fired Anthony Scaramucci.

Jared and Ivanka were, of course, desperate to show how much they approved of the firing of The Mooch. After all, they had hired him and they didn’t want to get any blame for having done so.

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.