He may sue his own niece to hush up her tell-all
The president is reportedly considering a lawsuit over Mary Trump’s forthcoming book, while the Trump administration sued former national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday to stop publication of his much-anticipated memoir.
In the fall of 2018, just before his book on Donald Trump hit shelves, snippets of Bob Woodward’s reporting on the president began to circulate in the media. There was juicy stuff in there, like John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, calling his boss an “idiot” and James Mattis, his defense secretary at the time, saying the president had the mental capacity of a “fifth or sixth grader.” Both Kelly and Mattis later denied it.
But the veteran Washington journalist had documented more than mere palace intrigue in his book. Woodward reported not just what the president’s men thought of him, but the lengths to which they sometimes went to mitigate his worst impulses, as in a memorable episode in which his top economic adviser at the time, Gary Cohn, swiped a letter from Trump’s desk to prevent him from withdrawing from a trade agreement with South Korea with massive national security implications.
Back then, such anecdotes could drive a news cycle or two. There was a naive sense, among Trump’s critics, that damaging revelations like this might, well, damage him. Trump, too, would be made fearful and furious by such tell-alls, whether they were penned by renowned reporter like Woodward or figures in his distant orbit like Omarosa Manigault Newman.
In the days before Fear: Trump in the White House hit stores, Trump obsessed over the details that had already emerged from it, accusing Woodward of fabricating his reporting and describing the 448-page book as a “scam” to “demean and belittle” him. “The Woodward book is a Joke,” Trump tweeted the day before its publication. “Just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults.”
Two years and several more unflattering books later, most of the country has lowered its expectations, painfully aware that no revelations in these tell-alls—however damning—will do anything to lower his standing among his supporters, who have been conditioned to regard plain and unpleasant facts about their leader as fake news.
No one, close to four years now into this presidency, really thinks Trump can suffer lasting political damage from a book. No one, that is, but Trump himself, who has lashed out at a pair of forthcoming tell-alls with the towering rage and barely concealed fear that he did with books that came out earlier in his presidency, when his durability among Republicans was not as much of a given.
Trump this week went to war with John Bolton, his former national security adviser, in hopes of blocking the publication of The Room Where It Happened—a White House memoir expected to outline additional instances of impeachable conduct by the president that surely would have been more useful for the country to know of six months ago, when Trump was actually being impeached.
After spending months tussling over what the administration says is classified material in the book, Bolton’s much-anticipated account is due out next week. But the Justice Department, which Bolton has accused of slow-walking the review process to keep the memoir in purgatory, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an effort to halt the publication, arguing that the book is “rife with classified information” and accusing Bolton of failing to complete the review.
Bolton “struck a bargain with the United States as a condition of his employment...and now wants to renege on that bargain by unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public,” the suit argued.
Bolton’s might not be the only book Trump tries to block through lawsuits; according to the Daily Beast, the president is also considering suing his own niece, Mary Trump, to prevent her from publishing a book later this summer that is said to contain “harrowing” anecdotes and details about him.
Too Much and Never Enough, set to come out just months before the November election, is expected to contain bombshell revelations about the “toxic” family the president has come to embody, as well as her own participation in the New York Times’ Pulitzer-winning reporting on her uncle’s “suspect tax schemes.”
But according to the Daily Beast, Trump is gearing up for a legal fight, getting his attorneys involved and telling people close to him that Mary Trump had signed a non-disclosure agreement years ago.
It’s unclear if he can win either legal fight. As Politico noted Tuesday, the suit seems unlikely to stop Bolton’s book from coming out; review copies have already been distributed, and the former national security adviser is scheduled to give high profile interviews with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz and the Late Show’s Stephen Colbert.
As for Mary Trump’s tell-all, the Daily Beast reported that she did sign an NDA in 2001 — but it remains to be seen if that will prevent her publication, or keep the revelations she makes in the book from coming out some other way.
Whatever moral failings she documents will assuredly make waves; Trump has survived damning accounts from prominent reporters, former top FBI officials, former staff, and one anonymous administration official who claims to be part of a resistance from within the White House—but he has yet to have a family member, or a former official with as prominent a role as Bolton, share their assessments and recollections. Surely, their tell-alls will carry more weight with more people than what, say, Andrew McCabe might write.
But in escalating his efforts to kill these books, he is almost certainly elevating their impact. For all its damning revelations, Woodward’s book soon faded from the news cycle, and Trump continued on with business as usual—eventually without even whatever minimal guardrails Kelly, Mattis, and Cohn provided.
Whatever bombshells they contain, it’s likely that the same would be true of the books by Bolton and Mary Trump — were it not for his aggressive attempts to stop them from going public. Can anything they write even be revelatory about such a known quantity as Trump, let alone damaging?
Who knows. But in taking such pains to shut them down, he’s certainly suggesting that he’s afraid of what they have to say.
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