Fire and Fury | Michael Wolff

Summary of: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
By: Michael Wolff

Introduction

Get ready to dive into the chaotic and intriguing world of the Trump White House with our summary of ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ by Michael Wolff. Prepare to be captivated as we reveal insider information on the 2016 election, the dynamics between Trump’s staff, and the unpreparedness of the administration and its key members. Focusing on the strained relationships, power struggles, and key policy debates, this summary will provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the Trump presidency.

Unanticipated Victory

Shockwaves ran through everyone, even Trump himself, when he won the 2016 US presidential election. The campaign team was preparing for life post-election, believing Trump would ultimately lose. The lack of preparedness for the White House was evident in the transition period, as those with potentially problematic financial backgrounds would soon face scrutiny. The victory, though unanticipated, set the stage for a tumultuous administration.

The 2016 US presidential election took the world by surprise when Donald Trump, with no political experience, emerged as the victor. Trump and his campaign team, including his wife, Melania, didn’t expect the win, and they all looked forward to returning to their normal lives in November. Melania was eager to step out from under the prying eyes of the media and escape the constant buzz around her husband’s past misdeeds.

The campaign’s overall disbelief in Trump’s chances led them to focus on post-election plans. Trump wanted to allege that the election had been stolen from him while launching his television channel, the Trump Network. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway aimed to continue her career in the world of cable-news networks.

This unpreparedness was further highlighted as shady financial backgrounds and dealings soon came under intense scrutiny for Trump and some of his campaign associates like Paul Manafort. Manafort had joined the campaign based on the reassurance from Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, that there would be no victory and, as a result, no investigations into Manafort’s background.

As the results rolled in, declaring Trump the winner, a sense of disbelief gripped his inner circle and staff. Only Trump advisor Steve Bannon and pollster John McLaughlin had a sense that the numbers were turning in their favor. The majority, however, was ill-prepared for the consequential events that would follow the unanticipated victory.

Clashing Visions in the White House

After Trump’s election, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump found themselves at odds with Steve Bannon, each having different visions for the administration. Bannon, a staunch advocate for economic nationalism, wanted to focus on a trade war with China and disengage from Middle East conflicts. Meanwhile, Kushner and Ivanka, with strong connections to Israel and influential businesspeople, aimed to resolve the Israel-Palestine situation and pursue Trump’s Democratic inclinations. Despite their disagreements, both Bannon and the couple soon realized that managing Trump’s presidency proved to be a difficult task.

The dynamics within the White House took an interesting turn once Trump was elected. Steve Bannon, who had been quite friendly with Jared Kushner during the campaign, shifted gears. It became clear that Bannon’s vision for the Trump administration revolved around economic nationalism, including a trade war with China and disentangling the United States from complex foreign situations, such as Middle East conflicts.

On the other side, Kushner and Ivanka Trump, often sarcastically referred to as “Jarvanka,” had contrasting goals. They sought to leverage Trump’s Democratic tendencies and focus on striking significant deals in the Middle East, especially around the Israel-Palestine issue. With close connections to key figures like Israel’s prime minister and prominent businesspeople in the region, the couple held substantial influence. However, no one was prepared for the challenge of managing an unpredictable and unmanageable Trump presidency.

Bannon’s Shock-and-Awe Strategy

Propelled by his background in Breitbart media and the vision of small government and pro-Christian America shared by Rob and Rebekah Mercer, Steve Bannon played a crucial role in shaping the early days of Trump’s presidency. As a central figure in the ultra-conservative, alt-right movement, Bannon sought to demonstrate Trump’s dominance in the political sphere through the use of executive orders (EOs). Aiming to issue 200 EOs within the first 100 days, Bannon tackled immigration with a controversial ban targeting countries with predominantly Muslim populations. Trump’s disdain for bureaucracy, combined with his staff’s lack of experience in creating policy, made EOs an attractive strategy for the fledgling administration. Bannon’s focus on evoking strong reactions, whether positive or negative, was a reflection of his clickbait media background where any click, regardless of sentiment, held value.

Tug of War: Bannon vs. Jarvanka

Amid the controversy surrounding Trump’s travel ban, the President sought approval from Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Disregarding protests and separated families, Trump felt satisfied with the outcome. Within the White House, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump—dubbed “Jarvanka”—sought to curb Trump’s impulses by offering alternatives to Stephen Bannon’s radical strategies. Bannon, however, cleverly made sure he had the last word in conversations with the President. The consistent conflict between Bannonites and Jarvankaists led to ongoing chaos in the administration. Jarvanka tried to gain Trump’s favor by involving Gary Cohn and Dina Powell from Goldman Sachs, which the President respected. While Cohn and Powell knew the risks of joining Trump’s team, they hoped to have a positive impact. Their influence was briefly seen when Trump delivered a speech to Congress that momentarily made him appear presidential—a moment that left Bannon dismayed.

Title: Clash of White House Titans

The Infamous Comey Firing

As whispers of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russian government emerged in mid-2016, mounting evidence continued to surface – culminating in the Steele Dossier, which alleged damning connections between President Trump and Russian operatives. In January 2017, FBI findings supported these claims, revealing Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a consensus also reached by the CIA and the NSA. Displeased with the ongoing probe, Jared Kushner encouraged Trump to consider firing FBI director James Comey, against Steve Bannon’s advice. Despite being counseled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be patient, Trump impulsively fired Comey on May 10, 2017, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to provide justification for the termination. In a move to counter Trump’s hasty decision, Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the potential ties between Trump and Russia.

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