An excerpt from bestselling author Michael Lewis’ newest book, The Fifth Risk, appeared in The Guardian on Thursday. In it, the author of The Big Short and Moneyball takes an inside look at Donald Trump’s “bungled presidential transition”—and how it has framed his time in the White House.
Lewis likely derived the title of his new project from a bombshell piece he published in Vanity Fair about Trump’s Department of Energy, which included a theory by former DOE official John MacWilliams about “the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.”
In The Guardian, Lewis describes plenty of problems from the short-term thinking that he encountered as he looked into Trump’s presidential transition.
Here are the most eye-popping revelations from The Fifth Risk, due out Oct. 2, so far:
Trump Didn’t Want a Transition Team—and Tried to Shut It Down
Chris Christie was the first to realize that Trump’s campaign would eventually need a transition team in case he actually won the election. But his longtime friend really didn’t want one, especially if it required spending money. In the end, Lewis wrote, Trump agreed to let Christie raise separate funds to pay for the team—as long as it didn’t come from his personal account or his campaign funds.
Eventually, Trump read about how Christie raised several million dollars to pay the staff of his new team, and he went “apoplectic,” accusing Christie of stealing his money.
“Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money?” Lewis writes. “Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. Months before the election, the law said, the nominees of the two major parties were expected to prepare to take control of the government.”
In response, Trump allegedly said, “Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money.”
“Shut it down,” said Trump. “Shut down the transition.”
Christie and Bannon were only able to convince the real-estate mogul to keep the transition team by asking him to imagine how shutting it down would look on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“That makes sense,” he allegedly said.
Winning the Election ‘Scared the Crap’ Out of Trump
The moment when his victory was finally clear, after Pennsylvania was called, was a somber one. Lewis wrote that at 1:35 a.m. early that November morning, Trump was speechless.
Meanwhile, when Mike Pence tried to kiss his wife Karen, she wouldn’t look at him.
“You got what you wanted, Mike,” she reportedly said. “Now leave me alone.”
What’s more, Trump’s campaign team hadn’t even thought to prepare an acceptance speech, Lewis reported.
“Why study for a test you will never need to take?” Lewis wrote. “Why take the risk of discovering you might, at your very best, be a ‘C’ student? This was the real part of becoming president of the U.S. And, Christie thought, it scared the crap out of the president-elect.”
Steve Bannon Axed Chris Christie—at Jared Kushner’s Request
Shortly after Trump was declared winner, Jared Kushner pushed Steve Bannon to axe the former New Jersey governor. When Christie asked why he was being let go, Bannon allegedly replied, “It’s really not important.”
Months earlier, Christie was warned by Trump’s campaign chairman (and now-convicted felon) Paul Manafort that Kushner was “paranoid” about him because Christie prosecuted and jailed Kushner’s father for tax fraud in 2005.
Trump Hired a Loyal Cabana Attendant to Work at the Department of Agriculture
On Inauguration Day, President Trump filled his Department of Agriculture with loyalists who had little to no experience with the field, including “a long-haul truck driver, a telephone company clerk, a gas company meter reader, a country club cabana attendant, a Republican National Committee intern, and the owner of a scented candle company,” according to Lewis. The $164 billion-budget department is charged with technical work big and small, including ensuring that the elderly and the poor in the United States do not starve.
Lewis has been reporting on Trump’s hiring decisions inside the department since November 2017, when he spoke to NPR about the decision to nominate Sam Clovis—co-chair of the Trump campaign—as the top scientist at the agency, despite his lack of experience in the area. Clovis later pulled out of consideration for the job after his name was linked to the Russia investigation.
“They seem to have regarded it as a place to put Trump loyalists where it wouldn’t matter ’cause no one would notice,” Lewis said at the time.