It’s become a monthly tradition in the Trump administration: a reporter, or a former member of the extended Trump enclave, will publish a book full of embarrassing details that would be scandalous for another administration, but make up just a small panel of a wall-sized mosaic of the current’ president’s incompetence. The newest members of the club are Politico reporters Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, who wrote The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump’s America.
According to a copy of the book seen by the Washington Post ahead of its publication on April 9, Trump wasn’t exactly paying attention to former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn’s presentation on rebuilding roads and bridges, which could help explain the administration’s disastrous semiannual infrastructure weeks: “As Cohn had detailed his plans to rebuild America’s roads, the president was writing down how he wanted to trash Steve Bannon the next time someone asked him about it.”
Trump’s worksheet reportedly included the nickname “Sloppy Steve,” and “copious notes” criticizing Bannon, who he had fired several months before.
In one anecdote from the campaign, Trump reportedly called up Louisiana representative Steve Scalise to ask if he thought Mike Pence was a solid choice for running mate. Turns out, Pence was in the room with Trump and heard the whole conversation. (Scalise gave a glowing review.) In another from the transition, the president-elect invited Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers to Trump Tower for a “done deal” interview to become interior secretary. Instead, Sherman and Palmer write that “the president-elect had a folder of media clippings at the ready, detailing various times McMorris Rodgers had spoken out against him.”
Sherman and Palmer also provide a new detail regarding the fight to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. According to the pair, “the president privately raised the prospect of tapping Merrick Garland — the very man [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell had blocked from even getting a hearing” under Obama. (Sherman and Palmer do add that it’s hard to separate the president’s “serious ideas from musings” and that “it’s not clear how serious Trump was.”)
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and White House rival in ineptitude, makes a few notable appearances in The Hill to Die On. Prior to the election, Kushner reportedly told Paul Ryan that he thought congressional committees were “inefficient,” and gave the former House Speaker’s aides the impression that he could single-handedly change operating procedure in the lower chamber. In an argument over the recent shutdown negotiations, Kushner was reportedly astonished “at the fact that it costs the government $750 per day to keep an undocumented child” in custody in America. “They might as well put them up at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown,” he said.