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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) I'm doing a live reading of FIRE AND FURY in this thread, offering some analysis of just a few short passages that seem of importance to the Trump-Russia investigation specifically or the Trump presidency generally.

I hope you'll follow along and share with others.
First, here's my overall reaction to FIRE AND FURY, in a brief thread.

I think it's possible to miss the forest for the trees with this book, and in analyzing a few short excerpts I don't want to contribute to that mistake. 1/
That Trump didn't want or expect to win—as I wrote about in Tweet #1—is borne out by his promise to spend $1 billion on his campaign and the reality that he starved it of money from Day 1.

The money he put in, he put in as a loan, putting his campaign in debt from the jump. 2/
FIRE AND FURY discusses how Trump would respond to the conventional practice of a campaign doing oppo on its own candidate to vet ethical issues.

Think about Trump's Moscow trip and the Ritz Moscow as you read this. It answers the question: would Trump care about kompromat? 3/
This excerpt is about Trump being bad at business—and spending his whole life hiding it—but I find it more interesting for what it says about how easily he could be fooled by a sophisticated operator like Putin.

A businessman who can't read a balance sheet? A very easy mark. 4/
This excerpt strongly suggests Trump knew what Jared was doing on Russia post-election: 1) a November call to Kislyak; 2) an early December meeting with Kislyak and Flynn at Trump Tower to establish a secret Kremlin backchannel; 3) a meeting with Putin's banker at Trump Tower. 5/
Flynn was working hand-in-glove with Kushner on Russia during this period, so Trump smugly saying that he knew Jared was going to take care of "this" suggests—as Flynn also told a confidant, per ABC News—that Trump knew what Jared *and* Flynn were up to during the transition. 6/
At times, Wolff is oddly credulous about Trump's motives—saying that Trump wanted the transition to be at Trump Tower rather than in D.C. just so he could enjoy and brag about his great digs. So why did he start sneaking Russians in the back door—literally—almost immediately? 7/
Trump—or Jared, who was handling the Russia "thing" for Trump—made use of back entrances to Trump Tower exclusively for his Russian visitors (Kislyak and Putin's banker, Sergei Gorkov). So Wolff implies Trump knew what Kushner was doing, then pretends he wasn't doing anything. 8/
"Everybody who came to see Trump was acknowledging an outsider government. Trump forced them to endure what was gleefully called by insiders the "perp walk" in front of press and gawkers." No—this is false. This suggests transparency—not Russians coming through the back door. 9/
Do you remember a "perp walk in front of press" for Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in early December, when he went to Trump Tower? No, you don't. Do you remember one for Sergei Gorkov—Putin's banker—when he went to Trump Tower? No, you don't. Wolff *misses* the story here. 10/
This lends a sort of back-handed credence to claims Papadopoulos made to Greek officials in Athens in December 2016 that Trump had offered him a "blank check" job offer for the Trump Administration.

We know Papadopoulos had done Trump a big service—so this claim checks out. 11/
On the other hand, to be fair to Wolff—and Trump—Wolff's description of a Trump job offer makes it sound very offhand. Of course, Trump implies he was never alone with Papadopoulos—while Papadopoulos claims a call and meetup *besides* 3/31/16—so any offer would undercut that. 12/
Hallie Jackson (MSNBC) was wrong in saying Wolff's claim Trump said "Who?" of John Boehner is "provably false" because Trump had used Boehner's name in the past. A key point in FIRE AND FURY is Trump's memory problems—and paying no long-term notice of what he sees as details. 13/
I can't believe Don Jr. proposing a "parallel White House structure" with him managing one—virtually secret—line of administration hasn't been big news. This contradicts promises he made in public—and underscores men like Prince and Flynn *were indeed* on a "private" Cabinet. 14/
I've noted that Flynn began advising Trump on national security in Summer 2015 but *wasn't named* to any of Trump's first three national security teams. Likewise, Erik Prince was a national security advisor who lied under oath to say otherwise. Don wanted to codify all this. 15/
The fact that Tom Barrack—who worked with Flynn and Iran-Contra criminal/Russian oil pipeline advocate Bud McFarlane to lobby Trump during the transition to give nuclear tech to Saudi Arabia—bailed Jared out of money trouble during the election *will* be looked at by Mueller. 16/
Here's my thread on Prince, Flynn, McFarlane, Barrack, and Don Jr. and what they were up to during the transition. Now Kushner—who already took a mystery trip to Saudi Arabia—is in the frame. There's no doubt Mueller will dive into this Wolff tidbit. 17/
And don't forget that it's a near-certainty Don helped authorize Flynn's December violations of the Logan Act. The Jared-Don-Flynn nexus—with Barrack and Prince in the mix—is fascinating.

And it will be looked at *much* more in the coming few months. 18/
More news on Tom Barrack: per Wolff, he engineered Manafort taking over for Lewandowski. Given that Tom would later partner with Flynn in secretly lobbying Trump on Saudi Arabia, I think the degrees of separation between two top Mueller targets becomes, er, just one: Barrack. 19/
Much is made of Wolff writing that Ann Coulter told Trump, you can't hire your kids. But can we all stay focused on the fact that—yeah—he basically did? Jared and Ivanka are in every meeting; Don helped run the transition. This *is* the family affair everyone feared it'd be. 20/
Michael Wolff flippantly declaring Steve Bannon "on the spectrum" should have been cut by the editors at Henry Holt. It's unworthy of the book, or journalism. And to be clear, it doesn't seem to have been a joke—at all. 21/
I just want to state an obvious fact: there is no justification whatsoever for going to work for a man of whom this could ever be said—let alone working your butt off to help a man like this become the person running the United States. Zero justification. Zero. Period, full-stop.
I don't know what to do with the fact that Trump *privately*—with friends—insisted it wasn't his voice on the Billy Bush tape. There's something profoundly wrong with a person who does this, and yes I do mean psychologically and emotionally. There has to be some damage there. 23/
Great catch by Wolff: the Orbis Dossier—funded by Republicans, then Dems—was Russia-focused *because Trump wouldn't stop talking about his Putin ties and his desire to do business there*. And he had Russian partners. *Trump* created the Dossier—why don't more people say this? 24/
Apparently, in September 2016, Steele briefed five top U.S. media organizations about what his top-shelf (MI6-derived) Russian HUMINT was saying about Trump—NYT, WP, CNN, Yahoo!, and The New Yorker—and all declined to do anything with it. To be clear: anything at all. 25/
Meanwhile, the second BBC World News Correspondent Paul Wood saw Steele's MI6-derived HUMINT—in January '17—he did what a journalist would do: he called the CIA and they quickly confirmed Russia had kompromat on Trump. Why didn't the 5 outlets do this? 26/…
Wolff's notes on the Orbis Dossier are weak—it just wasn't his focus. But he does a real disservice to the topic by saying that the media, which sat on the Dossier during the election—wouldn't even call the CIA—somehow was proven to be anti-Trump by covering it post-election. 27/
How is it "pursuing any avenue" for five U.S. media outlets fed the most explosive and important political story of any of our lifetimes to *refuse to pick up the phone and call the CIA* for all of September 2016, October 2016, November 2016, December 2016, and January 2017? 28/
Here, I'll write the lede for you:

"The former Russia desk-chief for MI6—using the Russian HUMINT he developed during his years with MI6—told five media outlets that his sources say Putin has 'kompromat' on Trump. We called the CIA; they've confirmed the claim as accurate." 29/
ATTENTION Bob Mueller: if you haven't already, investigate this. On the *very day* (1/11) Trump bragged of having just received a $2 billion offer from the UAE, his secret NatSec advisor, Erik Prince, was meeting in the Seychelles *with the Russians and the UAE* about a deal. 30/
Obviously Mueller knows about Prince's clandestine negotiations with the Russians in January '17—on which trip he was acting as a Trump emissary, per reports—but did everyone realize that Trump may have inadvertently outed that deal *publicly* while negotiations were ongoing? 31/
Remember: with Trump, you always hunt for the truth, not the lies—because almost everything is a lie. Trump only tells the *truth* inadvertently. Of course he didn't "turn down" a Dubai deal—Don was in Dubai doing business the very next month. But was news of an *offer* true? 32/
This Trump quote is a great example of how Trump thinks on the fly—which is almost always, Wolff avers. He starts by focusing on Russia liking him; realizes that's bad; adds in "China"; realizes that's not enough distance; adds in "Japan and Mexico," too. Totally transparent. 33/
He even ends with, "all countries." So he starts with just Russia, and in four steps—in real time—he's saying *every* country on Earth will respect America more because of him.

But of course his *real* thought was about Russia—the rest of it was pure Trumpian backpedalling. 34/
Some will see in Wolff's recitation of things Jared was told to have his father *not* do—don't piss off the press, the GOP, Congressmen, or the intel community—the irony of Trump doing all of these. I see that, but also the beginning of Trump's "Deep State" conspiracy theory. 35/
Ha! The importance of reading the next few paragraphs before you tweet. Wolff saw too that we're really talking about Trump's "Deep State" paranoia, here. 36/
But here's Wolff being *way* too credulous—again. What Kushner *actually* did, besides a photo-op (that Trump ruined) at the CIA, is meet secretly with Flynn and Kislyak in early December to plot an intel-community workaround. To say Kushner aimed to reach out is *laughable*. 37/
Reading that George W. Bush, sitting behind Trump during his Inaugural Address, called the speech "some weird shit" is the first time I've laughed all day. 38/
SPICER on TRUMP: "He does not give a fuck."

Just what I was hoping for in the man with his tiny fingers on America's nuclear button. 39/
By the way, I'm still doing this live-read of FIRE AND FURY. It's just that there's a lot of cruft here, much of it clearly supplied by Bannon and certainly *about* Bannon. Back-scenes stuff that's interesting but not newsworthy.

Will post more as I find it, hopefully soon! 40/
Wolff confirms Kushner as an early Trump campaign leaker—to, of all people/outlets, Joe Scarborough and MSNBC. 41/
Wolff says Ivanka—also, Jared—were/are "in effect the real Chiefs of Staff" for President Trump. Great—so when do we start focusing on Ivanka in the Trump-Russia investigation, given that she's been in on every meeting from Day 1? Why is she getting a forever-after free pass? 42/
For all Wolff's focus on Kushner—let me say, a very sympathetic treatment in which Kushner is seen largely as a Trump lackey rather than a capable independent actor—he skips over what Jared was doing *in the transition*. My read: he was acting on orders, not as a rogue actor. 43/
Nothing in the somewhat offhand psychological profile Wolff offers of Kushner suggests that Kushner would have thought to set up an espionage-statute-defying backchannel to the Kremlin or complicated dealings with Putin's banker. It has Flynn's, Don's, and Trump's mark on it. 44/
This takes me back to Trump's "Jared is handling it" remark on Russia. I don't think you could read this book and think Trump meant that Jared had *come up with* a plan; rather, Jared knew his father-in-law's wishes and was, Trump assured Ailes, capable of carrying them out. 45/
And as Wolff makes clear, it wasn't *Jared* who was deeply suspicious of the intelligence community, such that he would want a clandestine workaround via Kislyak and a Russian SCIF—that was all *Trump*.

As was the desperate need—per Bannon—to please and get close to Putin. 46/
Don't misunderstand: Wolff still has Kushner as a wily, privileged bootlicker, but also one smart enough to see if he ever went rogue on his father-in-law on Russia it could be the end of the opportunity he considered a White House job to be. So December '16—he was on orders. 47/
(For the record, at this point I'd rather be reading Black Bolt right now. Finished the new Saga yesterday. Absolutely fantastic, as usual—Brian K. Vaughan, like Matt Fraction, is a genius, and that's not a word I throw around loosely.) 48/
Question: if Trump told Flynn to negotiate with Kislyak in late December—as Flynn's confidant told ABC News he did (which part of Ross's report was never retracted)—why wouldn't he also have told Flynn to negotiate SCIF access with Kislyak (alongside Jared) in early December? 49/
And if Trump was sending Kushner and Flynn to negotiate SCIF access to Putin *at the same time as* he was sending the latter to negotiate *sanctions* with Putin, is there any reason we shouldn't see those negotiations as linked? As real estate-world, policy-for-access graft? 50/
And to be clear, Trump's 15-year history with Putin isn't that he seeks access to him for the advancement of any political cause, but personal profit. So: let me access Putin to help open up the Russia market for Trump Org, and we'll take care of these pesky sanctions on you. 51/
More surprising news from Wolff's book: not only was reputed Putin girlfriend Wendi Deng a longtime pal of Jared and Ivanka, she was the sherpa who guided their relationship to marriage. Seems like a big deal when these are the "real" Chiefs of Staff in the White House, yes? 52/
It is astounding—astounding—that, per Wolff, Trump *simply wouldn't let go* of the idea that he'd nominate Rudy Giuliani to the Supreme Court instead of Gorsuch. My theory has been that he owed Giuliani for work in October '16 getting FBI and NYPD leaks. I think Wolff agrees. 53/
Nothing in the book offers Trump as a man who'd remember his debts once he got into the White House. But somehow—for some reason—even after unceremoniously dumping his pal Christie from a promised VP spot and then the transition, he knew he *owed Giuliani*. It's very curious. 54/
In this respect, Giuliani was treated like Sessions—a co-conspirator who needed to be kept close and rewarded—and very much *unlike* equally close friend Christie, who had nothing to do with Trump's Russia shenanigans and, frankly, was treated exactly like that post-election. 55/
I have to say, Trump denying-not-denying the February 2017 NYT story about his first days in the White House by insisting he didn't own a bathrobe sounds a lot like him denying the Steele Dossier by saying a germophobe wouldn't *watch* women pee (but is that true, really)? 56/
And yet the latter event is much, much more distressing—as what man would think he was refuting, in its entirety, the single most damning document ever produced about a sitting president by making a dubious claim about whether people are sexually attracted to what they fear? 57/
I'm in FIRE AND FURY's Russia chapter and there's nothing approaching news yet, unless it's that Wolff—odd for a journalist—indulges Trump's fantasy that the core accusation isn't a sanctions-for-aid negotiation but an easily batted away "active hacking assistance" claim. 58/
I've been following the Russia investigation for over a year and have never *once* heard what Wolff seems to imply is a ubiquitous theory among anti-Trumpers: that Trump hid his Russian business deals because of (wait for it) "their paucity." Huh? Who fed Wolff this theory? 59/
I guess my point is that so far the Russia chapter of FIRE AND FURY is a weird mix of Googling, Trump propaganda, and coverage of the story as though it were a horse-race for media types. I'm hoping things will improve, because this is mighty thin—and the probe is damn meaty. 60/
Case-in-point: Wolff notes the alternate spelling of Felix Sater's last name—but not that Sater *created* the alternate spelling to frustrate Googlers from discovering his criminal past. And he mentions Trump denying knowing Sater but not that it was a lie he told under oath. 61/
In Wolff's telling, Carter Page—presumably like Papadopoulos—"showed up on a hastily assembled list of national security advisors." Meanwhile—in reality—Papadopoulos said he had a phone and in-person interview, and likely passed on key Kremlin messages before getting his job. 62/
Wolff on Flynn: he was fired by Obama for "unknown reasons" (no, they were not unknown, but indeed widely known and communicated to Trump) and "was photographed at a dinner with Putin" (nothing so passive; he was a Trump advisor at the time and Trump likely knew of the trip). 63/
Wolff says one of the prime theories of anti-Trumpers is the Kremlin and Trump worked together to hack the DNC. Folks, I've been on this beat for a year now and I've heard no such accusation and have seen absolutely no evidence of this thus far—this is a Trumpist red herring. 64/
The Trump-as-starfucker theory of the Russia case is also one I haven't heard—nor is Wolff's description of who Trump hung with at the Miss Universe pageant correct. Nobodies? No—Putin sent his permits man. And a Trump Tower Moscow deal was made. These are agreed-upon facts. 65/
Russian media reported the Trump Tower Moscow deal the day after the pageant; Trump tweeted about it. Bloomberg and others report that Putin sent Vlad Kozhin (his permits man) in his place, along with a gift via the Agalarovs. Putin may have spoken to Trump via speakerphone. 66/
The "theories of the case" investigators/journalists are operating under in researching Trump's Russia ties—and you always develop a theory of the case in investigations, which you refine over time—are largely absent from FIRE AND FURY. We get a Trumpworld(ish) view, instead. 67/
Wolff so assiduously repeats White House staffers' line on Russia—that there's nothing there—that one really can't tell if Wolff sees himself as recording their weak impressions of their boss's private dealings or accurately recounting how an insider should look at the issue. 68/
Wolff says Flynn—in February '17—became the "first actual link between Russia and the White House." Can't imagine a worse sentence. At best—and this isn't even true—he was the first link the public knew about. But FBI/CIA—&c—knew a ton. And frankly I'd say the public did too. 69/
I won't belaboring this point about Wolff and Russia, except to say that the Russia chapter is bad—badly researched, badly written—unless you're a Trumpist, in which case you must regard it as the least damaging chapter on Russia imaginable and be very, very thankful for it. 70/
Now *this* is good stuff—it's true and confronts head-on Trump's claim that Flynn was just a guy who worked for him for "25 days." No—Flynn wasn't put on the public NatSec team(s) so he could, secretly, *be* the NatSec team (the *real* one). And his access to Trump was total. 71/
But *no* to this—as we know from major media reports Flynn was *on* the transition team in the first place because of Kushner (and Ivanka). So the idea that Kushner soldiered through the transition (during which he held secret meetings with Flynn) warding off Flynn is untrue. 72/
Uh, *what*?

Was this before or after Trump refused to fire Flynn, threatened to re-hire him, tried to stop his prosecution, called him to tell him to "stay strong," floated a pardon, fired Comey for prosecuting him, and had his lawyers enter into a cooperation deal with his? 73/
This idea that Trump was willing to let Flynn go to jail if the FBI would just *like* him again is... well, it's an alternate universe, is what it is.

In *this* one, the *opposite* thing happened. The opposite of *all* of that. 74/
Who did Flynn speak to between the time—on February 8—he told NSC spokesman Mike Anton the quote he gave the Post denying talking sanctions with Kislyak was fine, and the call he made "a few hours later" to Anton to try to walk that back? Who helped him manage that situation? 75/
I don't have enough *eyeroll* in my sockets for this excerpt. It's risible, honestly.

Yes, what did Flynn "rope" Trump—the poor fawn!—into? Horrors!

Michael, there's some starry-eyed mid-level staffer BS you flag for the circular file and keep out of your book. C'mon, man. 76/

Except for the eyewitness report of Trump trying to rig the 2002 Miss Universe pageant to give the crown to Putin's girlfriend—which he then did.

Oh—and everything that happened from 2002 through 2015: deals with Russian mafia, suspicious Russian payments, you know. 77/
I don't mean to be flippant. It's just that this "No one saw any signs Trump had connections to Russia until mid-February of 2017!" line is absolutely without truth or value or truth-value. It comes from Bannon's mouth—presumably—and is beyond self-serving: it's *devious*. 78/
I'm a third of the way in; other news came out today, slowing the read. Going to pause for now and resume later.

Summary impression: Wolff makes Trump look like a fool but lands few *major* punches. The significance of the worst fact—Trump didn't aim to win—has been missed. 79/
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