President Trump’s lawyer demanded that author Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of a forthcoming book, Fire and Fury, according to a letter obtained by ABC News. The letter says they are looking into possible defamation of Trump and his family and invasion of privacy. It goes on to accuse the author of “actual malice.” The response from the publisher?
The book is being released this morning at 9 am. Fuck yeah! That is the way you respond to Trump and his bullying legal threats. When he tries to intimidate, you fucking double down. Pay attention Democrats.
Trump’s lawyers also “sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump’s former senior strategist Stephen Bannon, arguing he had violated a non-disclosure agreement in speaking about his time on the campaign and in Trump’s most trusted inner circle,” the Washington Post reports.
ABC News: “During the campaign, then-candidate Trump had all campaign staff sign a non-disclosure agreement which required all staff, according to campaign sources, to refrain from any disparaging comments against the candidate, his family or the Trump campaign and organization.”
James Hohmann: “The fact that Trump’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter […] reflects the palpable concern about what he might say. The lawyers said Bannon must stop communicating either confidential and or disparaging information, as well as preserve all records in preparation for an ‘imminent’ lawsuit. This is a classic Trump tactic, but it can also be read as at least a tacit admission that there is some there there.”
Playbook: “The White House can’t argue simultaneously that the book is completely incorrect and Bannon violated a non-disclosure agreement. If he violated a non-disclosure agreement then something he said was right!”
Trump instructed Don McGahn in March: Stop Jeff Sessions from recusing himself in the Russia probe, two sources tell NYT.
When McGahn was unsuccessful, Trump erupted in anger in front of numerous W.H. officials, saying he needed his A.G. to protect him. https://t.co/s59I3JZ3DN
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 5, 2018
“President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election,” the New York Times reports.
“Public pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, carried out the president’s orders… Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him… Mr. Trump then asked, ‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?’”
Also: “The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director.”
James Hamblin in The Atlantic: “After more than a year of talking to doctors and researchers about whether and how the cognitive sciences could offer a lens to explain Trump’s behavior, I’ve come to believe there should be a role for professional evaluation beyond speculating from afar.
The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close. A presidential-fitness committee … could exist in a capacity similar to the Congressional Budget Office. It could regularly assess the president’s neurologic status and give a battery of cognitive tests to assess judgment, recall, decision-making, attention — the sorts of tests that might help a school system assess whether a child is suited to a particular grade level or classroom — and make the results available.”
In a random drawing to decide a tie race in the Virginia’s 94th district, incumbent David Yancey (R) won. The decision gives Republicans a 51 to 49 edge in the House of Delegates.
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 4, 2018
“Justice Department officials are taking a fresh look at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state,” the Daily Beast reports.
“An ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is familiar with the thinking at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters described it as an effort to gather new details on how Clinton and her aides handled classified material. Officials’ questions include how much classified information was sent over Clinton’s server; who put that information into an unclassified environment, and how; and which investigators knew about these matters and when. The Sessions ally also said officials have questions about immunity agreements that Clinton aides may have made.”
"By acting alone on taxes, Republicans have insured that they must act alone on entitlements, too. And that means any meaningful fiscal and generational rebalancing of the federal budget will have to wait—likely for many years to come." https://t.co/ZJ9A59rBiK
— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) January 4, 2018
James Hohmann: “Try to picture Barack Obama declaring that David Axelrod had ‘lost his mind,’ George W. Bush saying that Karl Rove ‘is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look,’ or Bill Clinton’s lawyers sending James Carville a cease-and-desist letter threatening ‘imminent’ legal action. Conversely, imagine Robby Mook saying that Chelsea Clinton is ‘dumb as a brick.’”
“You can’t. Because all those scenarios are inconceivable. But that’s just another Wednesday in this chaotic White House, which once again plunged into crisis mode after the publication of excerpts from a forthcoming book by Michael Wolff called Fire and Fury.“
Steve Bannon was trying to build a movement larger than the president himself. Their bitter split may bring an end to his "Trumpism without Trump," @rosiegray and @mckaycoppins report: https://t.co/ZzkUilO3Aq pic.twitter.com/blbxl6y4wW
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) January 4, 2018
Axios has more from Michael Wolff’s book: “On the the July 8 preparation aboard Air Force One of the initial (and false) explanation about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the campaign, made under Trump’s personal direction: “Ivanka, according to the later recollection of her team, would shortly leave the meeting, take a pill, and go to sleep. Jared, in the telling of his team, might have been there, but he was ‘not taking a pencil to anything.”
“Nearby, in a small conference room watching the movie Fargo, were Dina Powell, Gary Cohn, Stephen Miller, and H. R. McMaster, all of whom would later insist that they were, however physically close to the unfolding crisis, removed from it.”
“Mark Corallo [former spokesman for Trump’s personal legal team] … privately confiding [to Wolff] that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice — quit.”
Jonathan Swan: “Senior White House officials are debating whether Katie Walsh should be fired from Trump’s main outside group, America First, after comments she reportedly made to the author Michael Wolff.”
“The Wolff reporting on Walsh that infuriated West Wingers: Figuring out what Trump wants is ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants,’ Wolff quotes Walsh as saying. Walsh told me yesterday she never said those things, but Axios’ Mike Allen reported this morning that Wolff has tape recordings of his conversations with Bannon and Walsh.”
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 3, 2018
President Trump’s growing feud with Steve Bannon is threatening the former White House strategist’s leadership of the conservative Breitbart News website and upending Bannon’s plans to wage “war” on party incumbents he deemed insufficiently loyal to the White House agenda, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Bannon’s longtime benefactors, billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, are actively distancing from him… They and other Breitbart News Network LLC board members on Thursday were debating whether to oust Mr. Bannon as chairman, with many supportive of the move.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes Rebekah Mercer issued a rare public statement: “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
White House staffers have been told they can no longer use personal cell phones anymore, according to the New York Times. Axios: “Leaks were likely a motivating factor, particularly as the announcement comes after today’s chaos over a forthcoming book.”
The portrait of an unfit president in a dysfunctional administration at a time the world is characterized by mounting disarray adds up to a truly dangerous moment in history. The best that can be hoped for is drift. The worst to be feared is a disaster of some magnitude somewhere
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) January 4, 2018
Republican strategist Rick Tyler told MSNBC that Republican will turn on President Trump and impeach him should they lose heavily in the 2018 midterms.
Said Tyler: “When does the Republican Party turn? When they get wiped out. That’s what happens. If they get wiped out in 2018, the Republicans will absolutely turn on Donald Trump.”
He added: “And I think to the point where they will impeach him and they will get 67 percent of the vote in the Senate to impeach him, to do that. But it will require a wipe out.”
“The Trump administration unveiled a controversial proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic, where oil and gas exploration is opposed by governors from New Jersey to Florida, nearly a dozen attorneys general, more than 100 U.S. lawmakers and the Defense Department,” the Washington Post reports.
“Under the proposal, only one of 26 planning areas in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean would be off limits to oil and gas exploration.”
Photo of the decade: Doug Jones being sworn in, while his openly gay son QUIETLY DISINTEGRATES THE SOUL OF MIKE PENCE. pic.twitter.com/wTKHAZSrOx
— Derek Milman (@DerekMilman) January 4, 2018