We’ve got a special treat for PAY DIRT readers this week. This story is adapted from my new book Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington (Viking), co-authored with my colleague Asawin Suebsaeng. You can pick up your copy here.
Mercedes Schlapp nearly always kept her West Wing office door open, so it was odd in mid-2018 when, after inviting her colleague Cliff Sims to a meeting with a few people he’d never met before, Mercy (as colleagues know her) closed the door behind them. Even Sims’ presence at the meeting was a bit odd, acquaintances of each remarked to us; he and Schlapp weren’t out-and-proud internal enemies, but their relationship wasn’t exactly warm either. But she said she wanted Sims’ help with something, so he made the trek of a dozen or so feet from his office to hers.
Schlapp sat behind her desk as Sims took a chair against the wall. She made introductions. Sims was seated next to Van Hipp, a former chairman of the South Carolina GOP and one of D.C.’s premier Pentagon lobbyists. On a small couch in the office were two people one would normally be surprised to find in the Trump White House: Rick Harrison, co-owner of Las Vegas’ World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, better known for his starring role in the History Channel series Pawn Stars, and, sitting beside him, an employee of his production company.