Trump tries to stop release of explosive tell-all book
Publisher of account of life inside the White House brings forward its release to Friday
Lawyers for Donald Trump sought on Thursday to stop publication of a new tell-all book that has already precipitated a bitter public break-up between the US president and former senior adviser Steve Bannon.
In a letter sent to author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt & Co, lawyer Charles Harder demanded that they “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book”.
“We are investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr Trump in your upcoming book,” Mr Harder says in the letter.
“Your publication of the false/baseless statements about Mr Trump gives rise to, among other claims, defamation by libel, defamation by libel per se, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with contractual relations, and inducement of breach of contract.”
Wolff, his agent and his publisher did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The book was due to go on sale next week, but on Thursday night, the publisher announced that “due to unprecedented demand” it was bringing forward its release to Friday.
Excerpts of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House published this week portrayed Mr Trump as a reluctant, volatile and ill-informed president sitting atop a chaotic White House. In the book Mr Bannon also accuses Mr Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and other senior campaign staff of “treasonous” behaviour for meeting a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election campaign who had promised to provide damaging information on rival Hillary Clinton.
In a separate “cease and desist” letter sent to Mr Bannon late on Wednesday, Mr Harder also threatened legal action against the former Trump campaign chief for violating confidentiality clauses in his employment contract with Mr Trump. Mr Harder once represented Harvey Weinstein and won $140 million in damages for wrestler Hulk Hogan, crippling the Gawker website.
The allegations published on Wednesday quickly pushed the White House on the defensive and drew a strong public rebuttal from Mr Trump, who accused Mr Bannon of having “lost his mind”.
In his first comments since the publication of the book excerpts, Mr Bannon late on Wednesday insisted that he remained loyal to Mr Trump. “The president of the United States is a great man,” he told listeners of a Breitbart radio show. “You know, I support him day in and day out.”
Mr Trump on Thursday told reporters that Mr Bannon clearly regretted his conversations with Wolff. “He called me a great man last night so, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.”
The White House said the allegations contained in the book, which according to Wolff is based on more than 200 interviews, left Mr Trump “furious”. They also prompted a new scramble to contain leaks.
In a statement on Thursday the White House said it would ban the use of “all personal devices” by both staff and guests in the West Wing. “The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration,” it said.
But the new book, which is due to be released on January 9th and already tops Amazon’s best seller charts, also appears to have been enabled by Mr Trump and his White House, who for much of last year provided Wolff with unusual access to the building and senior figures within it.
In an article published in the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, Wolff details how he won the president’s tacit approval for his research that led him to begin a routine of checking in to Washington’s luxurious Hay Adams hotel, setting up meetings with senior officials, “and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch”.
“The surreal sense of the Trump presidency was being lived as intensely inside the White House as out. Trump was, for the people closest to him, the ultimate enigma,” Wolff wrote. “He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet ...Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.”
In the article, Wolff said White House staff were “painfully aware of the increasing pace” of Mr Trump’s repetitions. “It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories – now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions – he just couldn’t stop saying something.”
Referring to Mr Trump’s “small staff of factotums, advisors and family”, Wolff wrote: “ Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all – 100 percent – came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.
“At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognise a succession of old friends.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018