'Disappointed in Kavanaugh': New books on Trump offer behind-the-scenes looks at presidency

·6 min read

A flurry of new books on former President Donald Trump are hitting bookshelves this month. The new books — by author Michael Wolff, Wall Street Journal reporter Michael C. Bender and Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, respectively — outline Trump’s final days in office.

As with most Trump books, they contain colorful and occasionally jaw-dropping anecdotes, drawn from behind-the-scenes reporting of his unusual presidency — and some from Trump himself.

Here are just a few.

‘Hitler did a lot of good things’

Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 04, 2021 in New York City. (James Devaney/GC Images)
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 4. (James Devaney/GC Images)

Bender’s new book — “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” out Tuesday — details a trip to Europe to commemorate the end of World War I during which Trump reportedly told his chief of staff, John Kelly, “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.” At the time Kelly was giving Trump an impromptu history lesson.

According to Bender, Kelly “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” emphasizing German economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s. Per Bender, Kelly “pushed back again and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”

Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for the former president, refuted the Hitler claim, telling the Guardian, “This is totally false. President Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”

But Bender’s book makes a bigger point.

“Senior officials described his understanding of slavery, Jim Crow, or the Black experience in general post-Civil War as vague to non-existent,” Bender writes. “But Trump’s indifference to Black history was similar to his disregard for the history of any race, religion, or creed.”

Throughout his time in office, Trump was slow to condemn right-wing militias, many of which contained neo-Nazi sympathies or elements of white supremacy.

President Biden cited Trump’s response to the 2017 right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., which resulted in the death of a counterprotester, as one of the reasons he decided to run in 2020, and he called on Trump to condemn white supremacy during a presidential debate, which Trump declined to do.

‘I'm very disappointed in Kavanaugh’

US President Donald Trump (R) pats Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh (L) on the back during a ceremonial swear-in at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2018. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with Trump on Oct. 8, 2018. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

In Wolff’s “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” also out Tuesday, Trump spends a great deal of time disparaging Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom he appointed to the bench in 2018 and who has not always voted in alignment with Trump’s wishes.

"Where would he be without me?” Trump tells Wolff of Kavanaugh, who had a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals prior to his ascension to the highest court in the land. “I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.”

During Kavanaugh’s lengthy confirmation fight — which included accusations of sexual assault, questions over large debts allegedly accrued purchasing baseball tickets and belligerent testimony from Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Trump says that “practically every senator called me ... and said, 'Cut him loose, sir, cut him loose. He’s killing us.’”

“I can’t do that,” Trump says he replied. But now the former president seems dismayed by what he perceives as Kavanaugh’s lack of loyalty.

Kavanaugh’s record shows he was more likely to side with the liberal wing of the court compared with other conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Most recently, he joined the majority opinion that rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in June.

“I can’t even believe what’s happening. I’m very disappointed in Kavanaugh,” Trump says. “In retrospect, he just hasn’t had the courage you need to be a great justice.

“I’m basing this on more than just the election,” he adds, referring to Kavanaugh's not overturning the 2020 presidential results from the bench.

Wolff’s credibility as a journalist has been repeatedly called into question, and his first Trump book, 2018’s “Fire and Fury,” contained numerous factual errors in its scathing account of Trump’s early days in office. All of which raises the question: Why would Trump sit down with Wolff for another book?

“The fact that he was talking to me might only reasonably be explained by his absolute belief that his voice alone has reality-altering powers,” Wolff writes, adding that Trump told him, “I don’t blame you. I blame my people.”

‘Just say we won’

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on election night in the East Room of the White House as First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence look on in the early morning hours of November 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Trump speaks on election night 2020 in the East Room of the White House as first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence look on. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Leonnig and Rucker’s upcoming “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year” takes readers inside the White House on Election Day 2020.

“The morning of Nov. 3, 2020, President Trump was upbeat. The mood in the West Wing was good. Some aides talked giddily of a landslide,” they write in the book, which will be out next week. “Trump’s voice was hoarse from his mad dash of rallies, but he thought his exhausting final sprint had sealed the deal. He considered Joe Biden to be a lot of things, but a winner most definitely was not one of them. ‘I can’t lose to this f***ing guy,’ Trump told aides.”

But the mood soured when Fox News projected Biden would win Arizona.

“What the f*** is Fox doing?” Trump screamed, according to the book. “Then he barked orders to [Jared] Kushner: ‘Call Rupert! Call James and Lachlan!’” And to campaign spokesman Jason Miller: “Get Sammon. Get Hemmer. They’ve got to reverse this.” The president was referring to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, as well as Bill Sammon, a top news executive at the network. “Trump’s tirade continued. ‘What the f***?’ he bellowed. ‘What the f*** are these guys doing? How could they call this this early?’”

Then, as swing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan were too close to call, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani instructed Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff; Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien; and Miller to declare Trump the winner anyway.

Rudolph Giuliani, attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee, on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani holds a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the election, Nov. 19, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“‘Just say we won,’ Giuliani told them. ‘Just say we won Pennsylvania,’ Giuliani said,” according to Leonnig and Rucker’s account. “Giuliani’s grand plan was to just say Trump won, state after state, based on nothing. Stepien, Miller and Meadows thought his argument was both incoherent and irresponsible. ‘We can’t do that,’ Meadows said, raising his voice. ‘We can’t.’”


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