Donald Trump is reportedly furious about a new book that purports to give a first-hand glimpse into the White House’s inner demons.
The book, Team Of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days In The Trump White House, was written by his former aide Cliff Sims, who served until last May as director of White House message strategy and as a social media assistant to the President.
According to Politico, several current and former White House officials said the President was “very pissed off” and “hopping mad” about the book.
Advance excerpts and leaks from the book detail embarrassing moments in the White House involving Mr Trump. It is the latest in what the Wall Street Journal refers to as a ‘rapidly emerging genre’ of books about the Trump presidency.
DONALD TRUMP’S BIZARRE WHITE HOUSE TOURS
When the President brings senators, New York friends and various guests to the Oval Office, he points out the exact spot where Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky reportedly began their intimate relationship, The Washington Post reported.
On a 2017 visit, according to the book, Mr Trump told a TV anchor, “I’m told this is where Bill and Monica …’ and then stopped himself from going further. Sometimes it would lead to long and crass conversations.
He also claimed, without evidence, that the Oval Office was in “rough shape” after he took it over from Barack Obama.
He claimed the former president used it to “watch basketball all day”, and that he upgraded Mr Obama’s smaller TV to a sprawling flat-screen. An Obama White House official dismissed the account.
The book also claimed the President liked to brag extensively during tours — most notably about the art in the residence, and commented on presidents he liked and disliked.
He has also bragged during some visits about the pictures of him on the walls of the West Wing — including one from his inauguration and one with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Mr Trump would also throw some commentary on the day’s news into the mix. He’d ask guests which Democrats might beat him in 2020, and complain about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“There was no collusion,” he recently told a group, according to the book. “It’s completely insane!”
During tours, Mr Trump would exaggerate, telling groups that people usually “start to cry” when they first see the Oval Office.
Two White House officials told the Post they had never seen any visitor cry in the Oval Office.
The coverage of the President wasn’t all bad though. He’s clearly proud to show off his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and has been described as “gregarious and charming” while doing so.
“When you see him off camera in his own residence, basically being a host, he’s really good at it,” Marc Short, his former legislative affairs director, said.
KELLYANNE CONWAY A ‘CARTOON VILLAIN’
The book also takes aim at Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s senior counsellor, with Sims describing her as “a cartoon villain brought to life”.
The former White House aide described her leaking about Mr Trump to reporters as “the worst-kept secret in town”.
He colourfully compares her to Disney villain Cruella de Vil, stating: “Her agenda — which was her survival over all others, including the President — became more and more transparent. Once you figured that out, everything about her seemed so calculated; every statement, even a seemingly innocuous one, seemed poll-tested by a focus group that existed inside her mind.
“She seemed to be perennially cloaked in an invisible fur coat, casting an all-knowing smile, as if she’d collected 98 dalmatians with only three more to go.”
In the tell-all, Sims recalls helping Ms Conway to respond to criticism from MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
In 2017, Brzezinski claimed that Ms Conway secretly disliked Mr Trump, saying she would lavish the President with praise, and then “the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say, ‘Blech, I need to take a shower,’ because she disliked her candidate so much”.
Sims claimed he used Ms Conway’s laptop to help her draft a response while she texted away on her phone — not realising her Apple Macbook and iMessages were linked.
“Over the course of 20 minutes or so, she was having simultaneous conversations with no fewer than a half-dozen reporters, most of them from outlets the White House frequently trashed for publishing ‘fake news’. Journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Politico and Bloomberg were all popping up on the screen.
“As I sat there trying to type, she bashed Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Sean Spicer, all by name.”
Ms Conway has dismissed the claims.
“The real leakers, past and present, get much more positive press than I do,” she told reporters. “While it’s rare, I prefer to knife people from the front, so they see it coming.”
She asked each reporter one by one, “Do I leak to you?” while looking them in the eye.
“You know who the real leakers are. And if I revealed them, past and present, I’d also have to reveal who they leaked to very often. And that would be not a lot of fun, I guess, so I won’t, but you know the answer to that, you all do.”
In a subsequent ABC News interview, Sims said she didn’t directly deny the scene in the book.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more front stabbing than putting your name to the story I told there. But ultimately what I noticed in what Kellyanne said there is what’s conspicuously missing is a denial.”
COULD SIMS FACE LEGAL ACTION?
According to Politico, Mr Trump is furious at Sims for publishing the book. While his advisers have told him to ignore it, an angry tweet or unpredictable remark at a press conference isn’t off the table.
A person close to the White House said Mr Trump “feels duped by a guy who he trusted”.
A former official told the news outlet that Sims would often attend White House meetings uninvited — a move his former colleagues now believe was to gain material for a future book.
It’s said to have created a panic among Sims’ friends over how they’re going to be portrayed.
Legal action is not out of the question. Like most White House aides, Sims had to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding him from publicising any confidential information he got during his time in the White House.
“Taking notes in secure meetings and reporting on them is a violation of both,” a current official told Politico. “There are folks in the White House who are saying: Do we have legal recourse?”
But doing so would risk heavily publicising the book even further and potentially boosting Sims’ sales.
Ms Conway dismissed the book, telling reporters: “Every couple of months we get this new book that’s bombshells from a former staffer, often somebody who has been forced out, has all these things to say, and then everybody’s supposed to scurry around and answer it.
“Nobody’s talking about it here. We were in meetings most of the day. Obviously very, very focused on reopening the government and getting that border secure.”