ichael Wolff has published a sensational new book about the Trump administration. In it, he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings.
There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics. Wolff writes of Kellyanne Conway’s maneuvering on Election Day, expecting a resounding loss but hoping to parlay her work into a lucrative Fox News contract. There are cabinet secretaries such as Rex Tillerson and quondam allies such as Rupert Murdoch who dismiss the president as an imbecile surrounded by dilettantes, opportunists, and con artists. Trump’s children maneuver fecklessly, and he himself retreats into a cocoon of fast food and cable news. It is the sort of thing that those who take an uncharitable view of the president — and no one takes a more uncharitable view than I do — would have expected.
The president, through his lawyers, insists that these things are not true, and that they constitute libel. Wolff has been criticized as an overly free practitioner of what used to be known as the New Journalism, liberally applying literary techniques to recreate (some of his critics would say to simply create) scenes and interactions to which he was not directly privy. (Another lupine journalist, the unparalleled Tom Wolfe, is most closely associated with that style of writing.) But Wolff did enjoy remarkable access to the Trump team for a year, and he says that he has recordings to back up his version of events.