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WOLFF, Michael



Fire and Fury

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'Does he get it?' Ailes asked suddenly, pausing and looking intently at Bannon.

He meant did Trump get it. This seemed to be a question about the right-wing agenda: Did the playboy billionaire really get the workingman populist cause? But it was possibly a point-blank question about the nature of power itself. Did Trump get where history had put him?

Bannon took a sip of water. 'He gets it,' said Bannon, after hesitating for perhaps too long. 'Or he gets what he gets.'

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It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes … Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

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If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon, then, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls — the phone was his true contact point with the world — to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and then compared notes with one another. (…..) imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s – nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.

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It wasn’t happenstance or just casting balance that one of his Apprentice sidekicks was a woman, nor that his daughter Ivanka had become one of his closest confidantes. He felt women understood him. Or, the kind of women he liked – positive-outlook, can-do, loyal women, who also looked good – understood him. Everybody who successfully worked for him understood that there was always a subtext to his needs and personal tics that had to be scrupulously attended to; in this, he was not all that different from other highly successful figures, just more so. It would be hard to imagine someone who expected a greater awareness of and more catering to his peculiar whims, rhythms, prejudices and, often inchoate, desires. He needed special – extra-special – handling. Women, he explained to one friend with something like self-­awareness, ­generally got this more precisely than men. In particular, women who ­self-selected themselves as tolerant of or oblivious to or amused by or steeled against his casual misogyny and constant sexual subtext – which was somehow, incongruously and often jarringly, matched with paternal regard – got this.

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Jared and Ivanka were urging the president on, but even they did not know that the axe would shortly fall. Hope Hicks... didn't know. Steven Bannon, however much he worried that the president might blow, didn't know. His chief of staff didn't know. And his press secretary didn't know. The president, on the verge of starting a war with the FBI, the DOJ, and many in Congress, was going rogue.

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Trump had little or no interest in the central Republican goal of repealing Obamacare, (…) The details of the contested legislation were, to him, particularly boring; his attention would begin wandering from the first words of a policy discussion. He would have been able to enumerate few of the particulars of Obamacare — other than expressing glee about the silly Obama pledge that everyone could keep his or her doctor — and he certainly could not make any kind of meaningful distinction, positive or negative, between the healthcare system before Obamacare and the one after.

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