“Where do I send the box of chocolates?” Wolff asked playfully in his first interview about the book, “Fire and Fury,” which became the country’s hottest book in the last two days.
“Today” show host Savannah Guthrie asked: “You think he’s helping you sell books?”
“Absolutely,” Wolff said, and “he’s helping me prove the point of the book.”
What Wolff portrays as Trump’s instability is one of the troubling themes of “Fire and Fury,” which was supposed to be released next Tuesday. Leaks and excerpts from the book and a legal threat from one of Trump’s personal attorneys caused the publisher, Henry Holt, to move up the release to Friday.
Wolff cozied up to White House sources like Steve Bannon and spent months inside the West Wing last year, which is why Trump’s Thursday night tweet was so curious.
“I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist,” Trump tweeted.
Wolff told “Today” on Friday that he “absolutely spoke to the president” while working on “Fire and Fury.”
“Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” Wolff said. “I’ve spent about three hours with the president over the course of the campaign, and in the White House. So, my window into Donald Trump is pretty significant.”
White House aides have depicted the book as a work of fiction. In fact, some of Wolff’s reporting has already been corroborated. But the book also contains some errors, according to early reviewers.
“This author is quite frankly a crackpot fake news fantasy fiction writer,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” Thursday night.
On Friday morning, Guthrie asked Wolff: “You stand by everything in the book? Nothing made up?”
“Absolutely everything in the book,” he said.
Importantly, Wolff said he has receipts: “I work like every journalist works. I have recordings, I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely, in every way, comfortable with everything I’ve reported in this book.”
Wolff has a controversial track record. He has racked up scoops over the years, but critics have at times accused him of sloppy or unethical reporting practices.
Trump might have been alluding to this in his Thursday night tweet: “Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!” (That’s presumably Steve Bannon.)
Wolff responded on Friday morning: “My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than, perhaps, anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point.”
With “Fire and Fury,” there has already been speculation that Wolff burned some of his sources, using material that was meant to be “off the record.”
His own description of his reporting indicates that he capitalized on the dysfunction in and around the Trump White House to gain access.
While working on the book, he also publicly flattered his sources and criticized other news outlets for being too tough on Trump.
On the “Today” show, he said, “I said what was necessary to get the story.”
As for Thursday’s extraordinary cease and desist letter from Trump’s personal attorney Charles Harder, the publisher responded, “We see ‘Fire and Fury’ as an extraordinary contribution to our national discourse, and are proceeding with the publication of the book.”
The book soared to No. 1 on Amazon’s best selling books list on Wednesday and has remained there ever since.
One bookstore in Washington even held a midnight release party for the tell-all.
Harder has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment about the new release date or the prospect of legal action against the book.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM ET
Charles Harder, an attorney representing the president, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt, on Thursday morning.
The legal letter, a copy of which was obtained by CNNMoney, demanded that the publisher “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Wolff’s book is full of shocking quotes and claims about White House chaos and incompetence. The book affirms much of what’s been previously reported by other outlets and adds disturbing new details. But it also contains some errors, according to early reviewers. Excerpts from the book have been published by New York magazine and The Hollywood Reporter.
Harder’s letter alleges that the book excerpts contain “false/baseless statements” about the president. The letter also uses the term “actual malice,” raising the prospect of a libel or defamation case.
Legal experts said an actual lawsuit is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, the letter is a serious escalation in Trump’s war against media outlets. Some journalism advocates said Trump’s tactic was disturbing and compared it to an attempt at censorship. Others said the threat would backfire and help sell even more copies of the book.
The threat came one day after Harder sent a letter to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is quoted in the book saying unflattering things about Trump and his family, threatening to sue him.
Trump has a long history of challenging opponents with cease and desist letters. He also has a reputation for threatening lawsuits but not following through.
Henry Holt had no immediate comment on the legal threat. Wolff did not respond to a request for comment.
The publisher will almost certainly dismiss the letter and move forward as planned.
Thousands of copies of “Fire and Fury” have already been shipped to bookstores, and some news outlets have already obtained copies. The book is scheduled to be released to the public next Tuesday.
When quotes from the book leaked out on Wednesday, it immediately soared to #1 on Amazon’s best selling books list. The pre-orders reflect intense interest in the subject matter.
It seems Trump is belatedly trying to extinguish that interest — even though some of his top aides gave Wolff unprecedented access to write the book last year.
The legal effort on Trump’s behalf is led by Charles Harder, an entertainment industry litigator best known for leading Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker.
Harder has also represented Trump and his wife Melania in the past. He reportedly represented former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes as well. And Harder also briefly represented Harvey Weinstein, and threatened on his behalf to sue The New York Times. No suit was ever filed, and Harder left Weinstein’s legal team less than two weeks after making the threat.
Thursday’s letter to Wolff and the publisher is a pretty standard cease and desist letter — but it is remarkable because it involves the president.
The letter says: “Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the Book, the Article, or any excerpts or summaries of either of them, to any person or entity, and that you issue a full and complete retraction and apology to my client as to all statements made about him in the Book and Article that lack competent evidentiary support.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 4, 2018: 10:28 AM ET
Los Angeles Police are searching for a man who was caught on camera breaking into homes in Studio City between November 28 and December 3, wearing a Santa hat and scarf. The LAPD press release said the suspect knocked on doors and rang door bells to assess if anyone was home. “When no one answered the door, the suspect would gain entry to the backyards of the homes, smash a rear patio sliding door or back window, then enter the homes,” the press release said. “Once inside, the suspect removed cash, jewelry, safes, and firearms before leaving. A get-a-way driver has been seen in a dark sedan.”