Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, has encouraged an effort by Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans to have President Donald Trump removed from office under the 25th Amendment for what they claim is mental incapacity.
The accuracy of the book has been disputed, not only by the White House but also by journalists who cover the president. (Wolff himself calls “looseness with the truth” an “elemental thread of the book.”)
Still, Wolff himself is increasingly explicit, in promoting Fire and Fury, in his insistence that the book shows the president should not be in office.
On Friday morning, Wolff told NBC’s Today that Trump’s legal effort to block publication of the book was not only helping drive sales, but “helping me prove the point of the book.” That point was that President Trump “cannot do this job.”
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment provides (emphasis added):
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Trump’s most determined opponents floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove him almost as soon as he was elected in November 2016. Then, in May, the New York Times‘ resident conservative columnist Ross Douthat, a devout NeverTrumper, wrote a column titled, “The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump.” In 2018, reporters have returned to that theme, with CNN’s Brian Stelter calling Trump “a person who is not well.”
It is not clear that those who spoke to Wolff understood his aim. Wolff admitted to NBC that he had not told all of his subjects — including the president — that they were being interviewed. “I absolutely spoke to the president,” Wolff said. “Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know. But it certainly was not off the record.”
Though President Trump tweeted that he had authorized “Zero” access for Wolff, the author remembers otherwise, writing that Trump seemed to have allowed him access to the West Wing after press aide — later, White House Director of Communications — Hope Hicks praised Wolff’s previous work:
I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.
An editor’s note that accompanies an excerpt from Wolff’s book in New York magazine suggests that the president himself was thought to have authorized Wolff’s presence:
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Wolff says, he was able to take up “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” — an idea encouraged by the president himself. Because no one was in a position to either officially approve or formally deny such access, Wolff became “more a constant interloper than an invited guest.” There were no ground rules placed on his access, and he was required to make no promises about how he would report on what he witnessed.
Early excerpts of Wolff’s book suggested that the controversial author had the 25th Amendment in mind when he stitched together snippets of conversations (or, as some critics suggest, figments of his imagination). For example:
Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.
At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.
Some Beltway veterans immediately understood the implications of Wolff’s book, and reacted accordingly:
The portrait of an unfit president in a dysfunctional administration at a time the world is characterized by mounting disarray adds up to a truly dangerous moment in history. The best that can be hoped for is drift. The worst to be feared is a disaster of some magnitude somewhere
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) January 4, 2018
CNN’s Stelter used the book to press his point, again: “The book suggests that President Trump is unstable and raises alarms about his fitness for office.”
Others agreed, and the topic was debated furiously Thursday afternoon and Friday morning:
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 5, 2018
— ‘GITMO’ BAMA (@President1Trump) January 5, 2018
Michael Wolff’s article in The Hollywood Reporter confirms the president is suffering from a condition—age-related or not—that so impairs his memory he can no longer serve as president. The Cabinet has a duty under the Constitution to report this and act under the 25th Amendment.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) January 4, 2018
— Carla Marinucci (@cmarinucci) January 5, 2018
— Eleanor H. Norton (@EleanorNorton) January 4, 2018
“Under the 25th Amendment, a sitting VP + majority of the cabinet could transfer power out of the hands of a sitting president. At that point, those officials would notify Congress, and the VP would assume the office as the acting president.” https://t.co/pNhVxmAL7E
— Brad Thor (@BradThor) January 4, 2018
Likewise, The Hill reported: “Fears about President Trump’s mental fitness have burst into public view with the upcoming release of a new book detailing the chaotic early months of his presidency. … Some people have even floated the far-fetched possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet to remove the president from office.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.