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White House Pushes Back Against Michael Wolff's 'Fire And Fury'

Jan 5, 2018
Originally published on January 5, 2018 3:41 pm
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President Trump is at Camp David for a weekend retreat with Republican congressional leaders and some members of his Cabinet. The goal is to plot out the GOP policy agenda for this year ahead. The White House would also love to turn the focus away from Michael Wolff's new book, "Fire And Fury," which came out today, and paints the Trump presidency in an incredibly negative light. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: As he walked to Marine One, President Trump paused to talk to reporters gathered on the frozen south lawn of the White House.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hi, everybody, I'm going over with the senators. We're going to Camp David. We have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to accomplish. The stock market is up very, very big today.

KEITH: When Trump stops by the cameras, he often lingers to answer questions - not so today.

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TRUMP: We're making America great again. Thank you. Thank you very much.

KEITH: As he walked away, reporters shouted questions about Michael Wolff's book and about Steve Bannon, the former top White House aide, who Trump has disavowed after his scathing comments in that book. And it wasn't just Bannon. On the pages of the book, aides are quoted openly criticizing the president, describing him as a child. Wolff told NPR's Kelly McEvers that the Trump White House isn't just dysfunctional but shattered, with a president at the center of it all unwilling to learn or grow.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Not only does he not read, he doesn't listen. So it's - it becomes, from day one, the crisis of the presidency. You can't tell him anything.

KEITH: For three days now, White House aides have worked to discredit Wolff and his book. This was press secretary Sarah Sanders on "Fox & Friends" this morning.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: He repeatedly begged to speak with the president and was denied access, and he makes it sound like he was sitting outside the Oval Office every single day, which is just not the case. This is a guy who made up a lot of stories to try to sell books. And I think more and more people are starting to see that his facts just simply don't add up.

KEITH: Wolff disputes that, telling McEvers that from the campaign through the early months of the presidency, he spent about three hours with Trump and was essentially a fly on the wall in the West Wing.

WOLFF: My intention was to go into the White House and to - and to see what - report what I saw and what I heard. I thought that from the beginning this was going to be an extraordinary story in whatever way it went. And I had no way of knowing what way it would go. So literally I am not a hit man.

KEITH: But the book that resulted is jam-packed with the kind of quotes and observations no White House would ever want to be hit with. Try as they might, including a cease and desist letter and a threat of a lawsuit from Trump's personal attorney, the White House hasn't been able to quiet the buzz about "Fire And Fury." Tamara Keith, NPR News.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And you can hear the first part of Kelly McEvers' conversation with Michael Wolff elsewhere in today's program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.