early and often

The Drama-Lover’s Guide to the New Trump Books

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

For lovers of salacious political gossip that may or may not be true, January 5, 2018 was a banner day. President Trump’s legal team had threatened to sue if Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury wasn’t kept off the shelves; instead publisher Henry Holt & Co. released the White House tell-all early because of “unprecedented demand.” Within a week it was the fastest-selling book in the publisher’s history and I was relishing every second of the audiobook. Trump didn’t even want to be president! His attorney “took care of” as many as 100 potential sex scandals during the campaign! Steve Bannon predicted that Robert Mueller’s team was “going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV!”

Since Trump left office, there has been a deluge of books about the inner workings of the previous administration from journalists on the Trump beat and former White House insiders with scores to settle and reputations they’d like to rehabilitate; Axios reported that Trump himself has given “at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office.” While there’s been limited interest in tell-alls by former Trump aides, a few books by journalists have become bestsellers. But personally, I am now too cynical to devote even eight hours to “ear reading” a book whose basic take away is “Trump: not a great guy.” Therefore, please join me on this tour of the juiciest tidbits from the latest batch of Trump books. I do not know if they are true, but I do know they are darkly amusing and might even be shocking if we weren’t all numb.

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Trump cuts his own hair.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

The report: Stephanie Grisham, the former Trump White House press secretary (whom you probably don’t remember because she never held a press briefing) and chief of staff to Melania Trump, claims in her book that Trump was cutting his own infamous locks even before the pandemic made amateur barbering a trend. According to the Washington Post, Grisham writes that Trump would cut his hair using “a huge pair of scissors that could probably cut a ribbon at an opening of one of his properties.”

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Trump had a “Music Man” tasked with soothing him during his rages.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

The report: When the going got tough, our “tough guy” president had a guy come play his favorite show tunes, according to Grisham. The New York Times reports:

At one point, she writes, Mr. Trump’s handlers designated an unnamed White House official known as the “Music Man” to play him his favorite show tunes, including “Memory” from “Cats,” to pull him from the brink of rage. (The aide, it is revealed later, is Ms. Grisham’s ex-boyfriend. She does not identify him, but it is Max Miller, a former White House official now running for Congress with Mr. Trump’s support.)

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Trump shouted at Melania over the “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: When Melania Trump returned to the White House after donning a jacket reading “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” during a trip to visit child migrants, she was summoned to the Oval Office – which was a first. President Trump then yelled at Grisham and his wife, asking, “What the hell were you thinking?”

If you too would like the answer to this question, you’re out of luck. Melania’s reasons for ordering a $39 jacket online from Zara, then wearing it to the border, are still a mystery. According to the Times, Grisham only reveals that Trump himself came up with the cover story, telling an aide to tweet out that his wife’s target was the Fake News Media, not migrant children separated from their parents.

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Melania called Jared and Ivanka “the interns.”

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: In a book excerpt published in Politico, Grisham said the first lady picked up on a mean nickname for her step-daughter and her husband:

When I worked for the first lady in the East Wing, we had all come to call Jared and Ivanka “the interns” because they represented in our minds obnoxious, entitled know-it-alls. Mrs. Trump found that nickname amusing and occasionally used it herself. 

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Trump said Hitler “did a lot of good things.”

Source: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender

The report: In this too-on-the-nose anecdote, during a trip to Europe Trump remarked to John Kelly, “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”

According to an anonymous source who wants us to know about Kelly’s behind-the-scenes heroism, the former chief of staff tried to school his boss on Nazi atrocities, then settled for ensuring he wouldn’t repeat this in public. From The Guardian:

But Bender says unnamed sources reported that Kelly “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” emphasizing German economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s.


“Kelly pushed back again,” Bender writes, “and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”


Bender adds that Kelly told Trump that even if his claim about the German economy under the Nazis after 1933 were true, “you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can’t.”

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The mystery procedure that prompted Trump’s secret trip to Walter Reed was routine colonoscopy.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: Do you believe that Trump would endure significant physical discomfort just to maintain his strongman persona? That is the central question raised by Grisham’s explanation for Trump’s impromptu trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2019, which prompted much wild speculation. Though she does not actually use the word “colonoscopy,” according to the Post, Grisham writes that it was “a very common procedure” for which “a patient is sometimes put under” and that George W. Bush had one as president, too.

Grisham explains that Trump refused to disclose this to the media, though it could have encouraged Americans to undergo regular cancer screenings, because he didn’t want to be “the butt of a joke” on late-night TV. According to the New York Times, Grisham says Trump also underwent the procedure without anesthesia because he felt giving Vice President Mike Pence power even for a few hours would be “showing weakness.”

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Trump tried to get tough with Putin – but just for the cameras.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: During a meeting on the sidelines of the 2019 G20 summit, Trump warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he was going get tough with him – but it was just for show. Grisham writes, per the Times:

With all the talk of sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and for various human rights abuses, Trump told Putin, “Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave we’ll talk. You understand.”

As Intelligencer’s Benjamin Hart notes, “One can only imagine what Trump was like with Putin in private.”

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McConnell told a decent “Trump is dumb” joke.

Source: Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Report: A consistent theme throughout this entire genre is that everyone around Trump thinks he’s dangerously stupid, but mainly all they do about it is make fun of him behind his back. As New York contributor Ben Jacobs noted, the book reports that Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, “thought that the president was experiencing mental decline” and “Attorney General William Barr compared him to a deranged character from Dr. Strangelove.” Mitch McConnell is quoted as joking in the Senate cloakroom: “Do you know why [former secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was able to say he didn’t call the president a ‘moron’? Because he called him a ‘fucking moron’.” Solid.

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Trump suggested we ship COVID-infected Americans to Guantánamo Bay.

Source: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta

Report: When it comes to moronic ideas for containing a pandemic, you’re never going to beat hmm … has anyone tried injecting bleach? But there were a lot of runners up. Abutaleb and Paletta report that in the early days of the pandemic, Trump offered a suggestion on how to handle Americans who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 abroad. “Don’t we have an island that we own?” he reportedly asked advisers assembled in the Situation Room. “What about Guantánamo?”

Aides were stunned, according to the Washington Post, and when Trump brought it up again the idea was quickly scuttled, as they worried that “quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects” might cause some kind of backlash.

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Trump complained about the “idiot” who got the government into COVID-testing, a.k.a. Jared.

Source: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta

Report: Another recurring theme in these books: Trump bemoans the idiocy within his administration, only to learn the calls are coming from inside his own house(s).

For instance, while berating berated Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a March 18 phone call, Trump reportedly declared “Testing is killing me!” and demanded to know why the federal government got involved in COVID-19 testing in the first place.

“I’m going to lose the election because of testing! What idiot had the federal government do testing?” Trump said.

“Uh, do you mean Jared?” Azar responded.

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Ivanka knows some good D.C. marriage counselors.

Source: Here’s the Deal: A Memoir by Kellyanne Conway

Report: Conway, who served as senior counselor to the president throughout Trump’s presidency, criticized her husband George Conway in her book, saying his frequent public missives attacking Trump amounted to “cheating by tweeting.” She also revealed that she got some support from Ivanka Trump, who knows about politics dividing families. Here’s the relevant excerpt, per People:

Ivanka offered empathy and an ear.


“I am in a family of Democrats,” she said, referring to at least some of the Kushners. “I get it.” I got somewhat emotional, not overly personal, and was truly grateful. In that moment, Ivanka was incredibly kind and supportive, reiterating that she knew how warmly her father and their entire family felt about me.


A week after that conversation, and based on my stated openness to the idea, Ivanka came into my office (which was next to hers) and handed me a Post-it note. It had the names of two local doctors who specialized in couples therapy. I noticed she had avoided putting that in a text or an email. I appreciated the information and her thoughtfulness and wanted to pursue it. After I showed George the names, he rejected one and said a half-hearted “okay” to the other while looking at his phone.


We never went.

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The Joint Chiefs chairman told Stephen Miller to “shut the fuck up”

Source: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender

Report: In a scene reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s famous “shut up, Wesley” scene, if Wesley was the opposite of a boy genius and seemed pretty racist, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley reportedly snapped at Stephen Miller in 2020 when the Trump adviser compared the unfolding racial-justice protests to something out of a third-world country and suggested that Black Lives Matter demonstrators had turned U.S. cities into war zones. Per CNN:

“These cities are burning,” Miller warned, according to the excerpts.


The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes, noting the Army general who had commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan spun around in his seat and pointed a finger directly at Miller.


“Shut the f- - - up, Stephen,” Milley snapped, according to the excerpts.

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Trump wanted the military to shoot and-or “beat the fuck” out of civil-rights protesters.

Source: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender and A Scared Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times by Mark Esper.

Report: For your mental file of unsurprising yet still appalling Trump behavior: During the same discussions about racial justice protests, Trump reportedly pointed to footage of law enforcement getting physical with demonstrators and said that’s what he wanted to see. Per CNN:

“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”


Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the f- - - out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes.


“Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.

When Milley and Barr suggested the president should tone down the bloodlust he replied, “Well, shoot them in the leg — or maybe the foot … but be hard on them!”

In his own memoir, Mark Esper, the former defense secretary, also recalls Trump asking him about the protesters, “Can’t you just shoot them?”

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Trump suggested we bomb the Mexican cartels, then pretend it wasn’t us.

Source: A Scared Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times by Mark Esper.

Report: Spoiler alert: Breaking Bad does not end with U.S. military secretly blowing up a Mexican drug lab, killing Walter White and his associates. But that could have happened in real life, if Trump had his way. Mark Esper says in his memoir that during the summer of 2020, Trump asked him if the U.S. military could stop the flow of drugs across the southern border by launching missiles into Mexico, then lying about it. Per the New York Times:

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Esper at least twice if the military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs.”


“They don’t have control of their own country,” Mr. Esper recounts Mr. Trump saying.


When Mr. Esper raised various objections, Mr. Trump said that “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” adding that “no one would know it was us.” Mr. Trump said he would just say that the United States had not conducted the strike, Mr. Esper recounts, writing that he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Mr. Trump in the face.

Sounds like Trump is a TikTok fan after all.

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Trump called for a White House leaker to be “executed.”

Source: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender

Report: During the racial-justice protests in June 2020, President Trump was briefly taken into a bunker under the White House. Days later, he fumed to assembled military, law enforcement, and West Wing officials about this fact being leaked to the press.

“‘Whoever did that, they should be charged with treason!’ Trump yelled, according to Bender. ‘They should be executed!’”

It appears that all of the Trump administration leakers lived to share dirt for the new batch of Trump books.

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Trump thought Democrats might ditch Biden, nominate Cuomo.

Source: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff

Report: As the pandemic took hold the spring of 2020, Trump thought Democrats were trying to weaken their own presidential nominee, Joe Biden, so they could replace him with Andrew Cuomo, who was successfully painting himself as “America’s governor” at the time. Per Spectrum News 1:

Trump’s source, according to journalist Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book Landslide, was Fox News personality Sean Hannity.


According to a portion of the book obtained by Spectrum News 1, Trump met with Republican strategist Karl Rove in the Oval Office to discuss the theory of a Cuomo-led Democratic ticket. Trump believed the plan was being orchestrated by former President Barack Obama, and even suggested one possibility was to have Michelle Obama run on the ticket with Cuomo.


Rove, according to the book, found the claim to be a “bizarre theory.”

Trump is not only the president for people who believe Hannity’s conspiracy theories, he’s also a client.

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Trump considered calling off the 2020 election due to COVID.

Souce: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff

Report: In the summer of 2020, Trump reportedly raised the idea of delaying the election or “calling it off” due to the pandemic, Wolff reports. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told him the Constitution would not allow this, but Trump wasn’t convinced, so he asked Chris Christie about it during debate prep. From Business Insider:

“I’m thinking about calling it off,” Trump told Christie, the book says.

“The prep?” Christie reportedly said.


“No, the election — too much virus,” Trump was said to have replied. According to Wolff, Christie then told him, “You can’t do that, man,” adding: “You do know, you can’t declare martial law. You do know that, right?”

This isn’t a huge shock as Trump also floated this idea in a July 30 tweet bashing mail voting, which concluded, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump received widespread criticism, though his use of three question marks clearly indicates he was only thinking about suspending the Constitution.

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Trump worried Christie would say he gave him COVID.

Source: Thank You For Your Servitude by Mark Leibovich.

Report: Donald Trump and Chris Christie were both hospitalized for COVID, which they apparently contracted at the White House’s super-spreader reception for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in September 2020. Trump gave Christie a call when he was in the ICU, but it seems the former New Jersey governor’s health wasn’t his primary concern. Per Politico:

“Trump was being treated concurrently at Walter Reed hospital and called Christie in New Jersey to check in, caring friend that he was. After some chitchat, Trump moved to the real purpose of his call. ‘Are you going to say you got this from me?’ Trump asked Christie. It was important that he not say this, the president reminded him. Contagion, pathogens, ICU—not beautiful associations for the brand.


“‘It was one of the few laughs I had in the hospital,’ Christie told me later of Trump’s friendly reminder. ‘I got off the phone and I just shook my head. Like, this guy will never change.’”

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Sean Hannity helped write a Trump ad, and it was so bad that it only aired on Hannity.

Source: Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender

Report: Despite receiving a slap on the wrist from Fox News for appearing in a Trump campaign spot in 2016, Sean Hannity helped write a Trump campaign ad in the 2020 election. Trump campaign officials found the ad (which described Biden as a “47-year swamp creature”) so terrible that they only ran it during Hannity.

Here’s Bender’s summary of the debacle, which ran in Punchbowl:

“Multiple internal campaign emails referred to the spot simply as ‘Hannity.’ Another referred to it as the ‘Hannity-written’ spot. ‘POTUS has not yet approved, but Hannity has,’ read one email. ‘Hannity said this is our best spot yet,’ another campaign aide wrote … Inside the campaign, the spot was mocked mercilessly — mostly because of the dramatic, over-the-top language and a message that seemed to value quantity over quality.” 


… In the book, Bender writes that the Trump campaign “deemed it so useless that they limited it to exactly one show: Hannity. … If Trump and Hannity watched the spot on television — and were satisfied enough to stop asking about the commercial — that seemed to be the best result of the ad.

The campaign basically spent $1.5 million to reach Hannity viewers — people who, presumably, are already pretty partial to Trump — at a time when they were so strapped for cash that they were pulling other ads. And the spot didn’t even feature an original swamp-creature illustration:

Hannity denied any involvement, telling Bender: “The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump. But my involvement specifically in the campaign — no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit.” But in Bender’s interview with Trump, the ex-president did not dispute the story.

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Giuliani concocted Trump’s “just say we won” strategy while drunk.

Source: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig

Report: Though Trump repeatedly indicated that he planned to prematurely declare victory on Election Night, a book excerpt published in the Washington Post suggests Giuliani came up with the idea on the fly — after some heavy drinking — while quizzing top Trump aides aides about early state-by-state returns.

“What’s happening in Michigan?” [Giuliani] asked.


They said it was too early to tell, votes were still being counted and they couldn’t say.


“Just say we won,” Giuliani told them.


Same thing in Pennsylvania. “Just say we won Pennsylvania,” Giuliani said.


Giuliani’s grand plan was to just say Trump won, state after state, based on nothing.

Later in the evening, Guiliani reportedly urged Trump himself to ignore Fox News calling Arizona for Biden. “Just go declare victory right now,” Giuliani told Trump. “You’ve got to go declare victory now.”

Michael Wolff offered an even more sensational account, telling MSNBC that Giuliani was so drunk on Election Night that Trump advisers worried he would break the White House china.

“And at that moment, Rudy was incredibly drunk, weaving this way and that way,” Wolff said. “And the china, those place settings from every president are very valuable and Trump’s aides were obviously, or rightfully, concerned about what Giuliani was saying to the president about the election, and giving him this misinformation. But they were also concerned that he was going to break the china.”

Giuliani has insisted this is not true, and he’s “not an alcoholic.”

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Melania slept through most of Election Night 2020.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: Grisham says that the First Lady slept through much of Election Night 2020.

“I knew by now how much sleep meant to her, but still, I couldn’t imagine being asleep at a time like that,” she wrote. “Maybe she thought that someone would wake her up if Trump won.”

Melania did wake up to join Trump at his 2:30 a.m. press conference, and sneaking in a nap before your husband ineptly attempts to execute a coup seems pretty reasonable. The same goes for manically rolling around on the floor on Election Night 2020, as Grisham is shown doing in these ostensibly “embarrassing” photos a Melania defender leaked to the Daily Mail.

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Melania declined an opportunity to denounce the Capitol riot.

Source: I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House by Stephanie Grisham

Report: Grisham claims that soon after rioters breached the Capitol barricades on January 6, she asked the First Lady if she wanted to send a text discouraging this sort of behavior. Per Politico:

“Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness and violence?” Grisham asked the First Lady.


A minute later, Melania replied with a one-word answer: “No.” At that moment, she was at the White House preparing for a photo shoot of a rug she had selected …

Grisham also claims Melania spent an inordinate amount of time working on her photo albums; the aide describes the photo books as one of “her two children.” The Melania mystery deepens!

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Paul Ryan was “sobbing” on January 6

Source: Thank You For Your Servitude by Mark Leibovich

Report: Though former House Speaker and current Fox Corporation board member Paul Ryan was “not inclined to grapple with questions of complicity” when he talked with Mark Leibovich for his forthcoming book, he did tell the journalist that he was “absolutely horrified” by the insurrection and “found himself sobbing” while he watched it unfold on TV. Per CNN:

“I spent my whole adult life in that building,” Ryan, who served as a Republican congressman from Wisconsin for two decades, later told Leibovich, according to the book. “And I saw my friends, a lot of cops, some of my old security detail – I’m still friends with a bunch of those guys. It really disturbed me, foundationally.”


Leibovich writes that Ryan told him he’s not much of a crier, but “something snapped in him” as he watched the Capitol attack.

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Betsy DeVos talked to Mike Pence about invoking the 25th Amendment.

Source: Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child by Betsy DeVos

Report: In her memoir, Betsy DeVos says she resigned from her post as Trump’s education secretary on January 7, 2021 because saw the Capitol riot as a “line in the sand.” She writes: “It wasn’t about the election results. It was about the values and image of the United States. It was about public service rising above self. The president had lost sight of that.”

In an interview with USA Today ahead of the book’s publication, she revealed that she decided to step down after speaking with other Cabinet members on January 7 about whether they might be able to remove Trump via the 25th Amendment. She also talked to Vice President Mike Pence, but he wasn’t interested in removing the president, despite his clear disregard for his personal safety.

“I spoke with the vice president and just let him know I was there to do whatever he wanted and needed me to do or help with, and he made it very clear that he was not going to go in that direction or that path,” DeVos said. “I spoke with colleagues. I wanted to get a better understanding of the law itself and see if it was applicable in this case. There were more than a few people who had those conversations internally.”

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Milley drafted resignation letter after Lafayette Square photo-op.

Source: The Divider: Trump in The White House by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

While Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was not theresistance inside the Trump administration,” he did vow to keep his job and “fight from the inside.” According to a book excerpt published in The New Yorker, Milley drafted a resignation letter after police tear-gassed protesters in Lafayette Square to clear the way for a Trump photo-op. The incident led Milley to conclude that Trump was “doing great and irreparable harm” to the country, but he ultimately decided to stay on:

… Milley had finally come to a decision. He would not quit. “Fuck that shit,” he told his staff. “I’ll just fight him.” The challenge, as he saw it, was to stop Trump from doing any more damage, while also acting in a way that was consistent with his obligation to carry out the orders of his Commander-in-Chief. Yet the Constitution offered no practical guide for a general faced with a rogue President. Never before since the position had been created, in 1949—or at least since Richard Nixon’s final days, in 1974—had a chairman of the Joint Chiefs encountered such a situation. “If they want to court-martial me, or put me in prison, have at it,” Milley told his staff. “But I will fight from the inside.”

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Milley really leaned into the Nazi comparisons.

Source: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig and Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Report: In a tale that lends credence to both Godwin’s law and our darkest fears about Trump, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley kept making Hitler references when describing his concerns about what Trump might do to stay in power.

I Alone Can Fix It reports that in November 2020, Milley called Trump supporters rallying behind the president’s false claims of a stolen election “Brownshirts in the streets.” Then, as Trump continued pushing the narrative in the following weeks, Milley told aides, “This is a Reichstag moment,” referring to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish the Nazi dictatorship. “The gospel of the Führer.”

Peril added more detail, reporting that Milley was so concerned that Trump might “go rogue” in the final weeks of his presidency that he reassured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. was not planning a strike, and reminded top U.S. officials that Trump couldn’t unilaterally launch nukes. “Milley also summoned senior officers to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, saying the president alone could give the order — but, crucially, that he, Milley, also had to be involved,” the key passage reads. “Looking each in the eye, Milley asked the officers to affirm that they had understood, the authors write, in what he considered an ‘oath.’”

Trump and his allies called this behavior “treasonous,” though subsequent reports suggested the general’s actions were routine and less dramatic than Peril made it seem. Woodward and Costa responded, “We stand by our reporting.”

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Trump sought advice from his Diet Coke Valet.

Source: Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America by Maggie Haberman

Report: The president theoretically has access to the nation’s top legal minds, but Donald Trump, man of the people, just wanted to know what his soda server thought he should do about the 2020 election. Per CNN:

Trump couldn’t decide which path to follow after his 2020 defeat. Haberman writes that he quizzed nearly everyone about which options would lead to success – including the valet who brought Diet Cokes when Trump pressed a red button on his Oval Office desk.

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Trump refused to attend Biden’s inauguration because McConnell tried to disinvite him.

Source: Betrayal by Jonathan Karl

Report: In the wake of the Capitol Riot, Mitch McConnell tried to have the four top congressional leaders write a letter informing Trump that he was not welcome at Biden’s inauguration. According to Politico, Karl reports that the then-Senate majority leader “felt he could not give Trump another opportunity to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

This historic snub never came to pass because Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who opposed the move, informed the White House of the plan. Trump then tweet that he would not be attending Biden’s swearing in.

On Monday, Trump (incoherently) pushed back on this report, issuing a statement claiming that he “would never have agreed to go to Joe Biden’s inauguration,” but also “probably would have held my nose and gone” if it meant sticking it to “the old broken-down Crow,” McConnell.

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McConnell seriously considered voting to impeach Trump.

Source: UNCHECKED: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump by Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian

Report: McConnell decided he was done with Trump immediately after the Capitol riot, telling his staff that night, “We’ve all known that Trump is crazy … I’m done with him. I will never speak to him again.”

The Republican leader came close to voting to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, but with much of the party rallying around the ex-president he decided to vote to declare the entire impeachment procedure unconstitutional, and then to vote no in the trial itself. McConnell told Representative Liz Cheney, who had personally appealed to him to convict Trump and bar him from office, that he agreed with her morally but not strategically. The books says, per an excerpt published in the Washington Post:

McConnell told Cheney he did not disagree on her [argument that Trump was a threat to the country], though he was adamant that logistically the Senate could not convict Trump in a week. In his view, Trump deserved the right to find counsel and prepare a defense no matter how guilty he was. But McConnell also acknowledged another fear to Cheney that had started to creep into his psyche: that conviction might make Trump a martyr in the eyes of his followers, empowering him in the long run. That might pose even more of a threat to the Republican Party, he feared.


“We don’t disagree on the substance; we just disagree on the tactics,” McConnell told Cheney as they conferred about how to free the GOP from Trump’s iron grip. “Let’s just ignore him.”

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Trump threatened to leave GOP, stayed for the money.

Source: Betrayal by Jonathan Karl

Report: In the final hours of his presidency, Trump told Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that he was leaving the GOP and forming his own party. Trump reportedly wanted to punish members of his party for failing to fight hard enough to steal the election for him. McDaniel tried to convince him that the move would destroy his legacy, and hurt the people who were loyal to him, but Trump was adamant.

Unsurprisingly, what did change Trump’s mind was the threat of financial losses. Days later, RNC leadership told the ex-president that if he left, they would immediately stop paying legal bills incurred by his spurious attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and destroy the value of his campaign’s list of 40 million supporters’ email addresses by giving it out for free.

“It’s a list Trump had used to generate money by renting it to candidates at a steep cost,” Karl writes. “The list generated so much money that party officials estimated that it was worth about $100 million.”

Both Trump and McDaniel have denied the story, and when talking with Karl for the book, the former president claimed ignorance. “You mean I was going to form another party or something?” Trump asked Karl. “Oh, that is bulls**t. It never happened.”

This piece has been updated throughout.

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The Drama-Lover’s Guide to the New Trump Books