Cliff Sims’ Team of Vipers

Cliff Sims’ Team of Vipers

Donald Trump began Tuesday by lashing an explosive book published overnight by a “low level staffer I hardly knew” as “boring” and based on “fiction”.

The US President attacked former communications aide Cliff Sims as “nothing more than a gofer” and a “mess” who had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

But Sims then tweeted photos of him and Mr Trump looking extremely chummy at the White House, calling himself “the most famous ‘gofer’ in the world!”

In his book Team Of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days In The Trump White House, Sims contends he got on well with Mr Trump and was granted extraordinary access to behind-the-scenes drama in the “out-of-control” West Wing — and took copious notes.

We’ve heard fascinating revelations about “cartoon villain” Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s bizarre White House tours and his enemies list. Here are some other remarkable anecdotes from the sensational book.


Sims’s entry into Mr Trump’s inner circle was a trial by fire. Jared Kushner, he writes, was soft-spoken and observant with “a relaxed vibe that reflected his unassailable position in the Trump orbit,” eschewing suits and ties for cardigans and vests “someone might wear on a trendy college campus”.

Ivanka Trump was a “living, breathing Barbie doll” and “seemed to generally enjoy the attention”, he writes. She, too, had a “breezy air of confidence” and was assertive, but “unfailingly polite”, with a gift for breaking tension and getting her father to relax.

Campaign CEO Steve Bannon was Mr Trump’s attack dog, telling Sims: “I want you weaponising everything. We’re not being aggressive enough. F**k anyone who tells you not to do something. Let’s start wrecking some sh*t.”

One of those moments came when Mr Bannon forced Bill Clinton to sit and watch wife Hillary debate Mr Trump alongside three women who had accused him of sexual assault.

“I’m not sure anything was more traumatising than when he locked eyes with a woman who’d accused him of raping her almost 40 years before,” writes Sims. “The man who was famous for maintaining his cool demeanour under even the brightest lights looked like he was melting.”


When the Access Hollywood tape of Mr Trump boasting about his power over women and “grabbing them by the p***y” emerged, Sims claims the backlash was “so severe … that there was essentially nothing we could do”.

But when the young aide finally saw Mr Trump on the fifth floor of Trump Tower — once The Apprentice set and by then a large recreation room — he “didn’t even seem flustered”.

A swimsuit model and campaign volunteer with a huge Instagram following was sitting at a laptop, and Mr Trump headed straight for her. “What do you think about all this — the video and what everyone is saying?” he asked.

The young woman assured him she “didn’t understand why everyone is so upset”.

He pressed her further. “Tell me what you really think about it. It’s OK.”

“I don’t think people will care after a few days,” she replied. “I was totally not offended.”

Mr Trump smiled, shook her hand and turned to Sims on the other side of the room.

“Not offended,” he said with a shrug, tapping Sims on the chest with the back of his hand as he walked past. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine, believe me.”


As his campaign team waited in agony on election night, Mr Trump took a stream of calls on his beloved Android phone. Almost every caller was a household name, writes Sims.

At 10.55pm, Stephen Miller handed him “Speech Number 2” — a draft victory speech — but Mr Trump placed it face down. “That’s right, don’t jinx it,” said the cautious Mr Kushner.

When the night ended, the President-elect had remained “boastful, friendly, talkative, and confident throughout”. He was the “most self-assured person” Sims had ever met.

Only at one moment did he look vulnerable, as he headed down in the Trump Tower lift with Melania and another aide after his sensational win was confirmed, and the gravity of what was happening seemed to hit him.

Contrary to her portrayal in the media, Sims says, Mrs Trump was never a “reluctant and put-upon spouse” but was “in it with him all the way”, for better or worse.

“‘We’re going to do this together,’ his wife reassured him, ‘and you’re going to be a great president.’”


Sims often worked on video recordings with Mr Trump. “Watching him was like a masterclass in idiosyncrasies,” says Sims, who always carried a travel size can of Tresemme Tres Two hairspray, extra hold, for the boss.

The former reality star would sit down, look at the playback monitor and move his chair, regardless of how it was placed. “He preferred to position his head in front of a darker backdrop,” writes Sims. “In many video recordings done direct-to-camera, his head is at least partially in front of the top of the presidential flag, which is dark blue. This is because he doesn’t like the way his hair looks in front of a white backdrop.”

Mr Trump often asked for the light to be turned down, and would ask a trusted person in the room for their opinion. He may have made the odd stumble, Sims writes, but the President had a “superhuman ability to ad lib”.

Talking was “like a form of exercise for him”, says Sims. “Sometimes he’d start a sentence and figure out the point he wanted to make along the way. Lacking any filter, he’d make the same observation to the Queen of England that he’d make to a construction worker.”

When one recording was interrupted by the noise of building work from within Trump Tower, Mr Trump raged at his ground-floor designer tenant. “I bet it’s Gucci! I guarantee it’s Gucci! I’m so sick of this s***; it’s every day! Get (Trump Organization CEO Matthew) Calamari on the phone right now.”


Mr Trump has many obsessive-compulsive habits, Sims recalls, always moving any item set down in front of him, from a water glass to a name placard to his notes. “If his silverware was not exactly perpendicular to his plate, he would carefully align it,” adds Sims, with the President sometimes even doing the same for his guests.

He went to extraordinary lengths to redecorate the White House to his exact specifications, leaning over his executive assistant at her computer as she scrolled through historic, often gold, decor options. Mr Trump never uses a computer himself, adds Sims.

He so reveres the military, he had the eight flags encircling the Roosevelt Room moved to the Oval Office, forcing aides to move them back for every event, until a second set was acquired.

The President enjoyed playing a prank on guests in meetings at the Oval Office, where an assistant would clear his desk of papers but leave behind a wooden box with a golden presidential seal printed on top and a small red button beside it.

At one point, he would move it away. “Don’t worry about that,” he’d say. “No one wants me to push that button so we’ll just keep it over here.”

Later in the conversation, he would suddenly press the button, as the guests looked alarmed. A steward would enter carrying a glass of Diet Coke on a silver platter and Mr Trump would burst out laughing, telling them: “People never know what to think about that red button! Is he launching the nukes?!”


Sims was a Trump admirer, but also disturbed by how the President’s behaviour at times seemed to defy moral decency.

The Republican son of a Baptist minister from Alabama first met Mr Trump on his radio show and asked the candidate’s previous assertion he “hated the concept of abortion” yet was “very pro-choice”.

Mr Trump glossed over this, and began talking about friends who had almost had abortions before changing their minds and having “phenomenal” children. “He’d often cite various ‘friends’ whose statements or experiences fit neatly into whatever point he wanted to make,” writes Sims. “Sometimes reporters wondered if those friends existed.”

Asked about religious liberties, Mr Trump changed tack. “‘There’s an assault on Christianity,’ he said. ‘They don’t want to use the word Christmas anymore at department stores … I will go so strongly against so many of these things. When they take away the word ‘Christmas’ I go out of my way to use the word ‘Christmas.’”

He had taken a complicated subject and turned it into something relatable. Sims’ listeners, he says, loved it.

Mr Trump has “ushered in a new era of authenticity in American politics”, skipping “professionalised” packages and coming to symbolise “a broad cultural revolt against political correctness”, says Sims.

“Were people offended by some of Trump’s antics?” he writes. “Sure, we all were.”

In the end, “voters agreed with him on many of the issues, and that was what mattered most”.

Ms Conway said it best, according to the author. “There’s a difference,” she said, “between what offends you and what affects you.”

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