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Siege: Trump Under Fire

a book by Michael Wolff

(our site's book review)

Mueller’s “Witch Hunt” No Longer Haunts Trump, but the Bulk of the Book is Current

The Amazon blurb says that Michael Wolff, author of the bombshell bestseller Fire and Fury, once again takes us inside the Trump presidency to reveal a White House under siege.

Just one year into Donald Trump’s term as president, Michael Wolff told the electrifying story of a White House consumed by controversy, chaos, and intense rivalries. Fire and Fury, an instant sensation, defined the first phase of the Trump administration; now, in Siege: Trump Under Fire, Wolff has written an equally essential and explosive book about a presidency that is under fire from almost every side.

Never before has a president been under such concerted attack with such a limited capacity to defend himself. His enemies surround him, dedicated to bringing him down
Never before has a president been under such concerted attack with such a limited capacity to defend himself. His enemies surround him, dedicated to bringing him down

At the outset of Trump’s second year as president, his situation is profoundly different. No longer tempered by experienced advisers, he is more impulsive and volatile than ever. But the wheels of justice are inexorably turning: Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” haunts Trump every day, and other federal prosecutors are taking a deep dive into his business affairs. Many in the political establishment—even some members of his own administration—have turned on him and are dedicated to bringing him down. The Democrats see victory at the polls, and perhaps impeachment, in front of them. Trump, meanwhile, is certain he is invincible, making him all the more exposed and vulnerable. Week by week, as Trump becomes increasingly erratic, the question that lies at the heart of his tenure becomes ever more urgent: Will this most abnormal of presidencies at last reach the breaking point and implode?

Both a riveting narrative and a brilliant front-lines report, Siege: Trump Under Fire provides an alarming and indelible portrait of a president like no other. Surrounded by enemies and blind to his peril, Trump is a raging, self-destructive inferno—and the most divisive leader in American history.


Wolff Has a Train-Wreck Fascination with Trump

Steve Bannon, in Trumpworld, played Dr. Frankenstein and had deep ambivalence about the monster he created, says Wolff
Steve Bannon, in Trumpworld, played Dr. Frankenstein and had deep ambivalence about the monster he created, says Wolff

Wolff says "The wheels of justice are inexorably turning against him. In many ways, his own government, even his own White House, has begun to turn on him. Virtually every power center left of the far-right wing has deemed him unfit. Even some among his own base find him undependable, hopelessly distracted, and in over his head. Never before has a president been under such concerted attack with such a limited capacity to defend himself. His enemies surround him, dedicated to bringing him down."

Trump's enemies surround him, dedicated to bringing him down, says Wolff, but Trump is very enthusiastic and persistent and so far he has defeated Mueller and he has Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham backing him on Fox, the most watched news network
Trump's enemies surround him, dedicated to bringing him down, says Wolff, but Trump is very enthusiastic and persistent and so far he has defeated Mueller and he has Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham backing him on Fox, the most watched news network

Wolff has a train-wreck fascination with Trump—that certain knowledge that in the end he will destroy himself—by almost everyone who has encountered him. On the other hand, Trump weathered the Mueller “witch hunt” just fine, with Barr's help (or was it complicity?), and Trump is looking strong for the 2020 election preparation, far moreso than the uninspiring troup of Democratic clowns where one chooses between radical, socialist, sleepy, or bungling. If Biden is already suffering this badly from foot-in-mouth disease at 14 months out, what will he do when he has to face Trump in debate? Biden, a.k.a. Obama 2.0, is somehow failing to inspire, interest, or even stay awake—he should just retire because his heart isn't in it.

If Biden is already suffering this badly from foot-in-mouth disease at 14 months out, what will he do when he has to face Trump in debate?
If Biden is already suffering this badly from foot-in-mouth disease at 14 months out, what will he do when he has to face Trump in debate?


Wolff has a train-wreck fascination with Trump—that certain knowledge that in the end he will destroy himself—by almost everyone who has encountered him
Wolff has a train-wreck fascination with Trump—that certain knowledge that in the end he will destroy himself—by almost everyone who has encountered him

Trumpland Requirement #1: Start Playing Fast and Loose with the Truth

Michael Wolff and Ben Shapiro may think that he [Trump] is a bloviating gasbag who’s unqualified for the office, but since Trump eats fast food continuously, do Wolff and Shapiro know enough not to stand downwind of him? He may start bloviating!

Michael Wolff and Ben Shapiro may think that he [Trump] is a bloviating gasbag who’s unqualified for the office, but since Trump eats fast food continuously, does Shapiro know enough not to stand downwind of him? He may start bloviating!
Michael Wolff and Ben Shapiro may think that he [Trump] is a bloviating gasbag who’s unqualified for the office, but since Trump eats fast food continuously, does Shapiro know enough not to stand downwind of him? He may start bloviating!

Wolff says "A basic requirement of working [in the Trump White House] is, surely, the willingness to infinitely rationalize or delegitimize the truth, and, when necessary, to outright lie. . . . most crucially, the president, by a wide range of the people in close contact with him, is often described in maximal terms of mental instability. 'I have never met anyone crazier than Donald Trump' is the wording of one staff member who has spent almost countless hours with the president." And Trump will attack staffers and throw them under the bus at the drop of a hat, and staffers know it.

Trump will attack staffers and throw them under the bus at the drop of a hat, and staffers know it
Trump will attack staffers and throw them under the bus at the drop of a hat, and staffers know it


A basic requirement of working there is, surely, the willingness to infinitely rationalize or delegitimize the truth, and, when necessary, to outright lie
A basic requirement of working there is, surely, the willingness to infinitely rationalize or delegitimize the truth, and, when necessary, to outright lie


'I have never met anyone crazier than Donald Trump' is the wording of one staff member who has spent countless hours with the president
'I have never met anyone crazier than Donald Trump' is the wording of one staff member who has spent countless hours with the president


Trump harbored a myth about the ideal lawyer that had almost nothing to do with the practice of law
Trump harbored a myth about the ideal lawyer that had almost nothing to do with the practice of law

Wolff says "Trump harbored a myth about the ideal lawyer that had almost nothing to do with the practice of law. He invariably cited Roy Cohn, his old New York friend, attorney, and tough-guy mentor, and Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s brother. 'He was always on my ass about Roy Cohn and Bobby Kennedy,' said Steve Bannon . . ."

It is obvious to all that Trump lives in an alternate reality from the rest of us. Yet his disapproval rating is only 53.9 and his approval rating is 41.5, and his campaign in 2016 showed they were able to laugh at the polls and win anyway, despite Clinton having 46.8 percent of voter support compared to Trump's 44.3 percent. Russian help clinched Trump's win in 2016—what do you bet they do the same thing in 2020?

Trump wants us all to respect his authoritah! There are many of us that respect, not his authoritah, but his unprecedented chutzpah!
Trump wants us all to respect his authoritah! There are many of us that respect, not his authoritah, but his unprecedented chutzpah!


Alice through the looking glass
According to Wolff it would surely have taken a through-the-looking-glass perspective not to see Trump as the bullseye of the Mueller investigation


Trumpers swept up by Mueller were all declared wannabe and marginal players . . . 'I know Mr. Manafort—I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but I know him,' declared a dismissive Trump, pulling a line from the 'who dat?' page of his playbook
Trumpers swept up by Mueller were all declared wannabe and marginal players . . . 'I know Mr. Manafort—I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but I know him,' declared a dismissive Trump, pulling a line from the 'who dat?' page of his playbook


According to Wolff, Trump tried to get pledges of loyalty (as if he were a king) from anyone he worked with or who worked for him, including James Comey, and if he didn't get it he'd fire them (e.g., Comey), and if he got it they got job security
According to Wolff, Trump tried to get pledges of loyalty (as if he were a king) from anyone he worked with or who worked for him, including James Comey, and if he didn't get it he'd fire them (e.g., Comey), and if he got it they got job security

Trump's Biggest Liability: His Shady Businesses

Jared Kushner got Trump worried, with all the investigations of Trump's shady businesses, of the RICO act being used to seize assets resulting from criminal enterprises, as if the Trump organization was a Mafia front. Of the over 500 companies and separate entities in which Trump had been an officer before becoming president, some might be subject to forfeiture. One potential victim of a successful forfeiture action by prosecutors was the president’s most famous building—the government could seize Trump Tower! But as we near 2020 it is seeming that such actions are unlikely, especially since it would appear politically motivated.

One potential victim of a successful forfeiture action by prosecutors was the president’s most famous building—the government could seize Trump Tower!
One potential victim of a successful forfeiture action by prosecutors was the president’s most famous building—the government could seize Trump Tower!

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. While RICO was originally aimed at the Mafia, over the past 37 years, prosecutors have used it to attack many forms of organized crime: street gangs, gang cartels, corrupt police departments and even politicians. (Look out, Trump!) See Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Law.

According to Wolff, Bannon was the man behind the curtain—he believed he was the man of populist destiny and not Donald Trump
According to Wolff, Bannon was the man behind the curtain—he believed he was the man of populist destiny and not Donald Trump


When Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity hammered the message to Trump's base: betrayal due to Trump's support for the appropriations bill with no wall funding, Bannon was behind it
When Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity hammered the message to Trump's base: betrayal due to Trump's support for the appropriations bill with no wall funding, Bannon was behind it


You've an invitation from Donald Trump? Well, why didn't you say so? Come right in!
You've an invitation from Donald Trump? Well, why didn't you say so? Come right in!

The White House had originally asked for $25 billion for the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, although high-end estimates of the Wall’s ultimate cost came in at $70 billion. But all people with half a brain realiized that this wall was a stupid idea supported by nonthinking idiots—or mainly the basket of deplorables. There were an infinite number of ways to go over, under, through, and around the wall, regardless of how high or strong it was built. And once the illegals defeated his wall, laughing all the way, the wall would inevitably and forever be known as TRUMP'S FOLLY. Hannity, Carlson, and Ingraham of Fox News strongly supported the wall, but as smart people they were possibly doing that so Trump looked loyal to his base rather than thinking the laughable barrier would keep anyone out.

But all people with half a brain realiized that this wall was a stupid idea supported by nonthinking idiots—or mainly the basket of deplorables
But all people with half a brain realiized that this wall was a stupid idea supported by nonthinking idiots—or mainly the basket of deplorables

Responses to Siege: Trump Under Fire

"The world didn’t end after all [in the Trump vs. Kim Jong-un saga], and the anticlimax has forced Wolff, in this new account of later developments, to think again about the Trump show’s genre [war movie in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury]. Siege: Trump Under Fire reclassifies the hapless administration as a comic opera, calls the president a clown, and makes his rants and tantrums sound absurd, not alarming. Sean Hannity, the Fox News demagogue who spends hours on the phone with Trump each day, calls him 'totally f-ing crazy'. . . . 'it’s hardly his fault that his followers gobble up the whoppers he feeds them,' says Wolff. . . . Wolff, who admits to a 'train-wreck fascination with Trump' . . . However, thanks to Mueller’s legalistic caution, Trump didn’t crash and burn, so a flustered Wolff has to apologise for one more anticlimax. " (Source: Siege: Trump under Fire by Michael Wolff – review, Peter Conrad, The Guardian)

This book shows how Trump, simply by being Trump, has made himself the perfect wrecking ball, blasting holes through an array of institutions, says the NY Times
This book shows how Trump, simply by being Trump, has made himself the perfect wrecking ball, blasting holes through an array of institutions, says the NY Times

Siege: Trump Under Fire is ostensibly about Trump — portrayed here as a very unstable non-genius cracking under the pressure of being thrust into the highest office — but its guiding worldview looks remarkably like Bannon’s. It’s a mordant, readable tell-all designed to show how Trump, simply by being Trump, has made himself the perfect wrecking ball, blasting holes through an array of institutions. . . . Policies, decision-making, anything that requires even a minimal amount of attention to detail — that happens, as much as possible, without Trump, Wolff says. The president’s staff sees it as their job to keep him in his 'bubble,' munching candy bars at night and getting his ego stroked in marathon phone calls with the Fox News host Sean Hannity." (Source: In ‘Siege: Trump Under Fire,’ Michael Wolff Chats With Steve Bannon While the Establishment Burns, Jennifer Szalai, NY Times)

The president’s staff sees it as their job to keep him in his 'bubble,' munching candy bars at night and getting his ego stroked in marathon phone calls with the Fox News host Sean Hannity
The president’s staff sees it as their job to keep him in his 'bubble,' munching candy bars at night and getting his ego stroked in marathon phone calls with the Fox News host Sean Hannity


There are hangers-on...Ivanka and Jared and there are certainly losers. Besides Trump, himself, Giuliani ranks high on this list, and almost everybody that served in the Trump White House. Humpty Trumpty is as thin-skinned (or thin-shelled) as Humpty Dumpty
There are hangers-on...Ivanka and Jared and there are certainly losers. Besides Trump, himself, Giuliani ranks high on this list, and almost everybody that served in the Trump White House. Humpty Trumpty is as thin-skinned (or thin-shelled) as Humpty Dumpty (Source: Jon Hunt, Amazon reviewer)

Steve Bannon—the Man Behind the Curtain

Both Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and Siege: Trump Under Fire are amazing windows into Steve Bannon and his racist, White Nationalist, sexist, xenophobic, antisemitic, alt-right crusade against the establishment. These two books are the chronicles of a modern day Don Quixote out to slay the windmill-dragon of U.S. politics. They're a Bannon's-eye view of Donald Trump.

Wolff's two books are the chronicles of a modern day Don Quixote (Steve Bannon) out to slay the windmill-dragon of U.S. politics—they feature Bannon as much as Trump
Wolff's two books are the chronicles of a modern day Don Quixote (Steve Bannon) out to slay the windmill-dragon of U.S. politics—they feature Bannon as much as Trump

Bannon has produced many movies and even written a few. They generally are apocalyptic, finding all the evil aspects of his subject (e.g., Clinton Cash) while ignoring the good, and using music and cinematography to build up to a climax that predicts disaster if we don't act on the extreme political views being expressed. Since Bannon is a xenophobic, antisemitistic, Islamophobic, nationalist hero of the extreme alt-right, his movies usually express some aspect of these biases. On the other hand, his rightwing hero is Ronald Reagan, so he made a worshipful movie about him called In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed, where Reagan did everything but walk on water. As one can easily see, all of Bannon's views are extreme, which explains his part in the Breitbart franchise.

Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor and colleague of Bannon, called Bannon a "bully" who "sold out [Breitbart founder] Andrew's mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump. On November 18, during his first interview not conducted by Breitbart Media since the 2016 presidential election, Bannon remarked on some criticisms made about him, saying, "Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing." (Source: Steve Bannon, Wikipedia)

Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney


Satan
Satan


Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor and colleague of Bannon, called Bannon a 'bully' who 'sold out [Breitbart founder] Andrew's mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump'
Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor and colleague of Bannon, called Bannon a 'bully' who 'sold out [Breitbart founder] Andrew's mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump'

A title like Siege: Trump Under Fire is a bit sensationalistic, since there is no siege and no one is shooting at the White house, although many of the liberals get hysterical enough in their hyperbole to sound like they would like to take some Trump-targeted pot shots. If only the liberal mainstream media had been this thorough during the corrupt reign of Obama! But they looked the other way as he smeared, race-baited, and threatened his way through eight years in office. If Trump had pulled the Benghazi or Libya or misuse of email server debacles, he'd have been impeached and dumped out of the White House. Wolff sees none of this, siince he buys the liberal narrative, hook, line, and sinker.

Michael Wolff is the author of Fire and Fury, the number-one bestseller that for the first time told the inside story of the Trump White House. He has received numerous awards for his work, including two National Magazine Awards. The author of seven previous books, he has been a regular columnist for Vanity Fair, New York, The Hollywood Reporter, British GQ, and other magazines and newspapers. He lives in Manhattan and has four children. He has been called the pre-eminent chronicler of the Trump era.

See also: