So the early rumors were true?
Sometime during the primaries, the rumor began to circulate that Donald Trump didn’t really want the presidency. He was playing the role of brash candidate, in order to build up his brand, and that, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, they were crafting plans for a new television network venture – TrumpTV.
No one was more surprised that he won than Trump.
That rumor has been out there, and now a new book by Michael Wolff – the one I’ve been bringing you excerpts from throughout the day – is setting the scene on that rumor.
New York Magazine has the full sample from the book and they begin telling of election day activities and the thought process of those on the Trump team.
Kellyanne Conway, for example, had dreams of using her position with the campaign as leverage for a full-time, on-air job with some TV network. She spent election day calling people and telling them that the looming loss was Reince Priebus’ fault.
The campaign felt that if they could hold the loss to under 6 points, that was a win.
Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — the effective head of the campaign — wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
It was Robert Mercer, a former Ted Cruz supporter, and his daughter, Rebekah, came around in August and offered to put $5 million into the campaign. Trump didn’t understand why, but when Mercer wanted to put Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway on the campaign team, Trump was happy to let him do it.
Bannon, who became chief executive of Trump’s team in mid-August, called it “the broke-d*ck campaign.” Almost immediately, he saw that it was hampered by an even deeper structural flaw: The candidate who billed himself as a billionaire — ten times over — refused to invest his own money in it. Bannon told Kushner that, after the first debate in September, they would need another $50 million to cover them until Election Day.
“No way we’ll get 50 million unless we can guarantee him victory,” said a clear-eyed Kushner.
“Twenty-five million?” prodded Bannon.
“If we can say victory is more than likely.”
In the end, the best Trump would do is to loan the campaign
$10 million, provided he got it back as soon as they could raise other money. Steve Mnuchin, the campaign’s finance chairman, came to collect the loan with the wire instructions ready to go so Trump couldn’t conveniently forget to send the money.
Does anybody else remember all the Trump fan club elated because Trump would finance his own campaign and wouldn’t be beholden to anybody?
The book further explains that no one within the Trump circle was prepared, because they felt they didn’t have to be. They were going to reap all the benefits of Trump almost being president.
Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn assured them.
Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
Speaking of Melania Trump, her office has put out a statement today, saying that she always knew her husband would win.
Maybe that’s the problem. When he won, sources for the book say she was crying her eyes out, but not in the “tears of joy” way.
Steve Bannon remarked that in the space of an hour on election night, befuddled Trump morphed into disbelieving Trump, and then into horrified Trump. In the end, he suddenly decided that he deserved to be president and could pull it off.
But then there was the preparation for actually taking office.
Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
Sorry. I pictured that and laughed.
The rest from the New York Magazine piece I’ve already covered, pretty much.
The book is due out next week. I’m going to make a prediction now that it does much better than Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened.”