Rush to defend Trump from book’s claims creates more debate
Trump administration officials on Sunday are playing defense for their boss against shocking allegations reported in a new book detailing the first year of Trump’s presidency.
Multiple individuals close to President Trump hit the Sunday show circuit, including two Cabinet officials, but White House policy adviser Stephen Miller became the talk of the morning after Jake Tapper abruptly cut off a contentious interview with the Trump aide during CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Tapper called Miller “obsequious” for his defense, and Trump aides also took criticism from past administration officials for their approach to fighting back against the book’s claims.
Michael Wolff’s book, titled “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” has roiled Washington, D.C., since excerpts began leaking last week ahead of its Friday release.
The account of Trump’s first year in office includes reporting that alleges Trump did not actually think he would win the 2016 election. It also contains quotes from former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
The White House has since blasted the book as full of lies and denounced Bannon, with the president issuing a damning statement of his former top aide that said Bannon “lost his mind.”
Miller slammed the book during his CNN interview, calling it a “grotesque work of fiction” and a “pile of trash” written by a “garbage author.”
But the interview took a turn when Miller began to spar with Tapper over CNN’s coverage of the Trump White House. After several minutes, Tapper cut off the interview, telling Miller he was not answering his questions.
“I get it. There’s one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious and you’re being a factotum in order to please him, OK,” Tapper told Miller, appearing to refer to the president.
“And I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time. Thank you, Stephen,” the host added as he ended the interview.
Trump in a tweet following the show praised Miller for his debate with Tapper, calling the CNN host a “flunky.”
“Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration,” Trump wrote on Twitter about an hour after the interview aired. “Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”
Other administration officials also pushed back against the reporting in the book, which has been criticized by both politicians and members of the D.C. press corps. The book and its author have made claims about the president ranging from the allegation he doesn’t read to his behavior being childlike.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley disputed another claim made by the book’s author, who said in an interview that “100 percent of the people around” the president question “his intelligence and fitness for office.”
“These people love their country and respect our president. I’ve never seen or heard the type of toxic language that they’re talking about,” Haley told ABC’s “This Week.”
“Now, I’m not there seven days a week, but I’m there once a week, and I’m there for a day with White House meetings and everything, no one questions the stability of the president,” she added.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo also rejected an allegation in the book that the president does not read.
“This president reads material that we provide to him. He listens closely to his daily briefing,” Pompeo said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This president is an avid consumer of the work product that our team at the CIA produces and we do our best to convey that to him every day,” he continued.
Wolff’s book included a quote attributed to White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, in which the administration aide claims Trump will not read policy papers and memos.
Trump, for his part, has dismissed Wolff as a “loser” who “made up stories” to write the book.
“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book,” Trump said last week.
“He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”
Corey Lewandowski, who formerly served as Trump’s campaign manager, echoed the president’s line, accusing Wolff of being a liar.
“The guy is a liar, is what it comes down to, and I don’t think anybody who looks at what’s in this book can take it honestly,” Lewandowski said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“This is a book of fiction. Not only is it not accurate, there are so many misrepresentations in this book that it shouldn’t be taken seriously,” he added.
While some reporting in the book has been called into question, demand for the inside account of the Trump White House has been high and the president’s lawyers reportedly tried to stop the book’s publication.
The administration’s blistering response to the book also garnered criticism on Sunday. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod called the Trump White House’s strategy “disastrous,” adding that it “only raises more questions.”
“So this book is — however accurate some of the reporting is, it builds on a year’s worth of experience with Donald Trump and a year’s worth of reporting by a broad array of news organizations that make you think, yes, maybe there is something here,” Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, also questioned the administration’s handling of the book.
“But the worst thing that you can do is flatter the book with attention and, even worse than that, threaten to sue the author,” McKinnon told CNN. “I guarantee, if you want to raise sales for a book, threaten to sue the author.”
The book skyrocketed to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list ahead of its release on Friday, and physical copies sold out in multiple bookstores.