- Michael Wolff is the author of three books on Trump. His latest is the best-seller “Landslide.”
- He says Trump is delusional and won’t listen to what he doesn’t want to hear.
- So no one has gone up to him and plainly told him he lost fair and square to Joe Biden.
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It seems as if your theory of Trump is that he’s a not-bright insane person with a gift for reading a crowd.
Yes. He’s like many actors I have known in my time: not too bright in their own particular reality, with extraordinary gifts for getting on the wavelength of their audience.
Does he know that he lost the election fair and square?
He does not know. Now, whether he has managed to successfully convince himself or whether from the get-go he was so focused on hearing what he wanted to hear, he is absolutely certain. Absolutely certain that he won the election and that if he did not win it, it could only be that it was stolen from him. And that everybody else also sees it that way. So this is delusional, which is the word I use fairly often in the book.
You also say he’s mentally deranged.
Yes. I would say that seems the obvious conclusion.
I kept waiting for someone in the book to just go out to him and say “You lost.”
When you haven’t been in his presence, it’s very hard then to actually describe for someone the fact that he is incapable of listening. He just doesn’t hear anything that he doesn’t want to hear. He’s unable to acknowledge any deviation, any slightest departure, any merest qualification of something different than what he thinks or wants to think.
So no one has just gone up to him and said, “Sir, you lost this election”?
Exactly so. You cannot say anything to Trump that he doesn’t want to hear. Everybody knows that. So to do that would mark you as incompetent or a fool or a silly person. It just doesn’t happen.
Now, there’s a set of billionaire types – sort of what passes for friends – who have at least described to me instances in which they have tried to, if not exactly level with him, bring him around to a new understanding. But also the feeling that you come away from those descriptions is that even these people can’t get over the barrier of saying: “You’re an idiot. You’re a fool. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Partly because it would require that kind of extreme language. And, given that he was the president of the United States, and given that everybody knows he doesn’t listen anyway.
And given, of course, that people who are talking to him want to remain in his favor.
It’s almost another power of his, if every time he encounters someone they can’t bring themselves to be direct about the circumstances.
Completely. But just think of it as talking to a crazy person, a person whose capacity to parse reality in some logical way is so diminished that you have to humor them, essentially. Everybody knows that reality can’t get through here, so the best you can do is work at the edges.
In your first book about Trump, you called Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump “Jarvanka.” Everyone knows it’s “Javanka.” Did you hear about that criticism?
Yeah. And I don’t know what to say about it. I know that Steve Bannon invented the term, and that’s the term he used with me. You know, did it somehow change underneath? I don’t know. I think I was probably one of the first people to put it into print. So who knows? I don’t know. I have no knowledge there. I said to Steve, “Is it Javanka or is it Jarvanka?” And he said, “Javanka, Jarvanka, let’s call the whole thing off.” So I don’t know.