In his new book Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, former administration aide Cliff Sims tells some seriously damning stories about his one-time boss. And yet for some reason, President Trump has resisted the urge to publicly disparage him.
One explanation could be that even on his book tour Sims has attempted to maintain some level of loyalty to Trump, managing to draw boos from The View crowd Monday morning when he said he still believes the president is “fit to serve” for another term.
Before Stephen Colbert welcomed Sims to his Late Show stage Monday night, he recapped some of the most absurd passages from the book, including one in which the president apparently said White House visitors “start to cry” when he shows them the Oval Office.
“I believe that,” the host said, adding, “Crying seems a little mild. If I walked into the Oval Office and saw Donald Trump behind the desk, I would make the sound whale moms make when SeaWorld takes their kids away.”
When Sims finally joined him, the host’s first question was, “What makes the people around Trump the most viperous?”
“I think what happened is you had a lot of people thrust together who came in and had their own best interests in mind,” Sims replied. “I think you have a lot of people in the White House who came in—sometimes I was one of them—who got wrapped up in the game what happens when you have proximity to power, when you have access to the most powerful man on the planet.”
Sims did not hesitate to include himself among those “vipers,” telling Colbert, “I was ruthless, I was a coward, I was self-serving at times.”
After Sims noted that he served as director of message strategy in the White House, Colbert began calling him out for the various lies spread by the Trump administration over the past two years. Asked by the host if he’s still “on the Trump train,” Sims waffled a bit, explaining, “At this point, not being in there anymore, when he's doing things I support I’m able to be for it, and when he does things I don’t, then I’m able to be against it.”
When Sims said Trump “deserves credit” for pulling the U.S. out of foreign engagements, Colbert stopped him to point out, “Though he hasn’t actually done any of them yet, he announced it without consulting the Pentagon.”
Of course, the anecdote from Sims’ book that has garnered the most attention concerns White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who the author says enlisted him to craft a statement defending her from charges that she was leaking to reporters. As he was doing so on her laptop, which was synced to her phone, he was able to secretly watch her “trash her colleagues and not paint the president in a favorable light” to “reporter after reporter.”
“The real leakers, past and present, get much more positive press than I do. While it’s rare, I prefer to knife people from the front, so they see it coming,” Conway said in a statement after that excerpt was published.
“Why won’t he fire her? Why won’t he trash her publicly?” Colbert asked Sims on Conway. “It makes no sense to me. He’ll attack anyone, why not her?”
“One of the things I try to do in this book is help people understand what makes Donald Trump tick. And one thing that never goes out of style in the Trump White House is someone who’s willing to go on TV and just fight it out with somebody. He knows she will go out there on any show and defend him.”
“So private loyalty doesn’t matter, but public loyalty on television is more important?” Colbert asked.
Sims replied, “I think there’s no doubt that public loyalty to the president is of utmost importance to him.”