There’s not much to Landslide, the desultory end of Michael Wolff’s Trump trilogy that began with Fire and Fury, a book that shocked and awed with gossipy revelations, largely provided by Steve Bannon, about the incompetence of his administration before that had been so widely recognized.
The new book, which The Daily Beast obtained a copy of ahead of its publication next week, is supposed to give an inside track of what happened as Trump’s presidency went off the rails in its final months, adding some insidery and usually vaguely sourced details to that well-documented disaster, as process was abandoned and a raving Trump and a handful of his remaining henchpeople and true believers just made things up as they went.
It’s written in an omniscient third person that finds space for multiple mentions of Rudy Giuliani’s farts, and windily proclaims that “in the event that factual matters have been disputed, they have been included only if confirmed by multiple sources.” Which doesn’t sound so different from saying that the gossip only made it into print if two people shared the same story. Some of that gossip:
—Trump, at a meeting with Karl Rove at the beginning of the summer in 2020, as Joe Biden remained largely in his basement, told “Bush’s Brain” that “he had come to understand that the Democrats wanted him to attack Biden so as to weaken and destroy him. And then, when he had destroyed ‘Sleepy Joe’ as only Trump could, the Democrats’ plan, he had it on super-secret authority, was to replace Biden as the nominee” with Andrew Cuomo, adding “there is a very good chance that Michelle” Obama would then replace Kamala Harris on the Democratic ticket.
At the end of the meeting, Wolff writes, Rove asked where this crazy idea came from, and is told it’s from Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “POTUS believes it,” then-campaign manager Brad Parscale tells him. “If you could call Hannity and tell him to let up, that might be good.”
(Trump briefly returns to Cuomo in a rambling, raving interview with Wolff at Mar a Lago that concludes the book, with the ex-president saying that “Andrew is a thug,” while saying how surprised he is that Cuomo’s grip on power in New York appears to be slipping.)
—As to Cuomo’s old friend Chris Christie, Wolff reports that the final rift between him and Trump came at the last prep session before the first presidential debate, where the former New Jersey Governor, playing Biden, really rips into the president for the first time: “You have blood on your hands. You’re a complete failure. All these people have died from the virus. And it’s your fault.” It was a moment, Wolff writes, that “observers would judge in hindsight broke [Trump’s] relationship with his old crony”—not to mention that “Trump blamed getting COVID on Chris Christie… [who] had sat across from him at the debate prep table, and Trump had seen the spittle come out of his mouth and tried to duck from the droplets.”
(In the Mar a Lago interview, Trump says of Christie: “I helped him out a lot with his problems, and he turned out to be a very disloyal guy—and he had big problems. He’s not going anywhere.”)
—According to Wolff, who as usual does not cite his sources, it was Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch, with his father Rupert’s backing, who made the decision to call Arizona for Biden on election night, pulling the rug out from under Trump. According to Wolff, Fox News’ independent election desk operation “was merely cover…to bypass the news desk and be directly answerable to the Murdochs. Certainly, there was every reason, if you wanted a reason to delay the Arizona call, to yet forestall it and still have no fear of being preempted by anyone else. Lachlan got his father on the phone to ask if he wanted to make the early call. His father, with signature grunt, assented, adding: ‘Fuck him.’”
Fox News, which didn’t immediately return a request for comment from the Beast on Thursday about Wolff’s depiction of the election night events, said on Friday that "This account is completely false. Arnon Mishkin who leads the FOX News Decision Desk made the Arizona call on election night and FOX News Media President Jay Wallace was then called in the control room. Any other version of the story is wildly inaccurate."
Later in the book, Wolff quotes Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who died in 2017, saying after a debate practice session in 2016 that “Rudy is Rudy, and Donald is Donald, and together that’s an equation which adds up to a loss of contact with most other rational people, if not reality itself.”
—Speaking of Rudy, Wolff reports that after Maria Ryan, who Giuliani has called his “good friend” and Wolff describes as his “girlfriend,” emailed a Trump aide that he would charge $20,000 a day to fight the election results—an ask that was promptly leaked to The New York Times and that “America’s mayor” fiercely denied, leading the aide she’d emailed to ask her how it felt to have her boyfriend call her a liar in the paper of record—Trump flatly told Giuliani he would be paid only for a win.
Later, Wolff writes, as Giuliani and “constitutional lawyer” Jenna Ellis held bootleg meetings with Trumpist state lawmakers to try and get them to overturn their election results, Ryan, who traveled with him, put in “an invoice to the Trump campaign for her services. The remaining campaign officials would take some pleasure in refusing to pay it and in conveying to a very sour president that Rudy’s girlfriend had put in for her fees.”
—As then-Attorney General William Barr separated himself from Trump’s attempts to overturn the election he lost, Wolff writes, “Trump had been personally calling around to various U.S. attorneys in swing state districts, among them his appointee William McSwain in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania” to try and convince them to open their own probes. When they did not, Trump blamed his A.G., saying that “if I had won, Barr would have licked the floor if I asked him to. What a phony!”
—When the Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit Texas originated trying to challenge the results in other states, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing, Trump was furious at “his” three Supreme Court justices, according to Wolff, with most of the president’s bile spent on Brett Kavanaugh, who Trump said he hadn’t wanted to appoint while growling, “Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.” In his interview with Wolff, Trump added, “I’m very disappointed in Kavanaugh… he just hasn’t had the courage you need to be a great justice.”