President Donald Trump is attempting to block the release of a highly-anticipated "bombshell" book featuring interviews with members of his inner circle—including those who reportedly called him a "fucking idiot" and said "He's not only crazy, he's stupid"—by submitting a cease-and-desist letter to the book's publisher.
"Having the President even threaten to legally block publication of a book about his administration is a genuine menace."
—Glenn Greenwald, journalist
In the letter to Henry Holt and Co., Trump attorney Charles J. Harder demands the publisher "immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination of the book," including excerpts and summaries.
The attorney also requests a full copy of the book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which was written by journalist Michael Wolff and set hit shelves next week. Harder makes a number of allegations, including defamation by libel, invasion of privacy, and in response to explosive remarks made by former presidential adviser Steve Bannon, inducement of breach of contract.
Bannon received his own cease-and-desist letter from Trump's lawyers late Wednesday, in which they allege Bannon violated an employment agreement with the Trump Organization "by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company."
The letters followed a lengthy statement from the president in response to an excerpt of the book published Wedenesday by New York Magazine, in which Trump asserted that when Bannon "was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."
Axios reported early Thursday that Wolff recorded several interviews—including ones with Bannon—and was cleared to access the West Wing multiple times. Wolff "was frequently spotted wandering the West Wing with no escort or ensconced in Bannon's office, especially during the early months of the administration," the according to the Post. The writers says he interviewed more than 200 people for the book.
Though some sources have pushed back against how their remarks were portrayed in summaries and excerpts released so far, as one columnist put it, Wolff's depiction of Trump as "an immature 71-year-old incapable of maintaining attention long enough to process new information or even conduct a serious conversation" raises new concerns about his mental fitness for the presidency.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald criticized Wolff's work as a reporter while also emphasizing that "having the President even threaten to legally block publication of a book about his administration is a genuine menace."
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Michael Wolff is a garbage journalist, but having the President even threaten to legally block publication of a book about his administration is a genuine menace. https://t.co/IrFe6hbwcQ— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2018
Others have pointed out that the book could be helpful to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the ongoing investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.
As former federal prosecuter Renato Mariotti explained in a series of tweets—making note of a column by the Post's Jennifer Rubin on the same topic—Mueller could use White House insiders' "statement to Wolff to find leads that will help him obtain admissible evidence," and "if a Trump aide told Mueller something different than they told Wolff, that could create liability for them."
2/ It’s important to put all of this in context, which she tries to do. The opinions of Trump associates aren’t evidence. Mueller will just use their statements to Wolff to find leads that will help him obtain admissible evidence.— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 4, 2018
4/ Federal prosecutors like Mueller and his team don’t interview people without FBI agents present, and lying to the FBI is a crime, as Flynn and Papadopoulos know well. /end— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 4, 2018