Open Thread: A Scorpion Among Them, Taking Notes

Because they’re all scorpions in the Oval Office, these days! The Guardian, to its credit, seems to have broken the Wolff story first, and NYMag has a gripping authorized you-are-there excerpt (possibly bumped up, after the the firestorm started). But The Hollywood Reporter scored an excerpt made by Wolff himself, and it is jaw-dropping. He seems to have invited himself into the Oval Office, not just for an afternoon, but repeatedly. The Trump family didn’t pay any attention to the guy on the couch, taking notes (recordings!), because they’re used to treating all random strangers in their quarters as The Help (i.e., invisible to their exalted attention). And all the other operators hanging around — Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, et al — were afraid to challenge Wolff, for fear that he might have more clout than they did… or, at least, that drawing attention to him might draw unwanted attention to them. “”You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House”:

I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch…

The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.
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(Another Wolff) Open Thread: King Leer in Winter


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And he’s surrounded by the loveliest people. This tidbit has gotta sting…

BIG ambitions, our Princess Ivanka —

I wouldn’t worry too much about that succession, just yet, Javanka…


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Open Thread: Michael Wolff, Luckiest Fameball of 2018

True, the year is yet young. But Wolff has already made his mark on the calendar highlights reel — in much the same way, his critics would say, as a little dog leaves his mark on the leg of the couch — and that seems to be pretty much what Wolff lives for. A description by Michelle Cottle, for TNR, back in 2004:

It’s difficult for non-New Yorkers to fully grasp the Michael Wolff phenomenon. In the most literal terms, Wolff, from 1998 until he decamped for Vanity Fair this winter, wrote the weekly “This Media Life” column for New York magazine, spinning out stylish, pointed observations on everything from Viacom’s power struggles to Rupert Murdoch’s love life. From the start, Wolff was adamant about being neither a media reporter (working the phones isn’t really his style) nor a media critic (“that dour schoolmarm figure”). Instead, he put himself at the center of the story, giving readers a first-person glimpse of the inner workings of the media biz as it happened to, and all around, him. Uninterested in the working press, Wolff’s special focus (fixation, even) has always been on the power players–the moguls–most of whom he has relentlessly and repeatedly skewered, scraping away the sheen of power and money to reveal the warts, flab, and psychic scars plaguing that rarefied breed of (in Wolff’s view) super-wealthy narcissists who buy, run, and ruin media companies for the gratification of their insatiable egos…

So should Washington’s political chieftains be concerned that the scourge of New York’s mogul class–the man who claims partial credit for Michael Eisner’s current job crisis–has them in his sights? Not really. Whatever his gifts in chronicling the follies and foibles of the Manhattan media elite, Wolff is neither as insightful nor as entertaining when dissecting politics. As New York journalists are the first to acknowledge, Wolff is the quintessential New York creation, fixated on culture, style, buzz, and money, money, money. (For Wolff, nothing is more erotic than a multibillionaire.) Though not of the mogul class, he arguably understands the culture and mindset in which it thrives better than almost anyone. The same cannot be said of politics…

So last decade! A certain ‘Manhattan media elite’ (okay, media elite target) now squats in the Oval Office… and Michael Wolff, presciently, made sure to be there when the occupation started. As it is with Donny Dollhands, it’s not whether the stories in his new book are “true” or “false”; it’s how much attention those stories can draw. Quite a lot!

From Paul Farhi, at the Washington Post, “Michael Wolff tells a juicy tale in his new Trump book. But should we believe it?”:

A provocateur and media polemicist, Wolff has a penchant for stirring up an argument and pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate, according to his critics. He has been accused of not just re-creating scenes in his books and columns, but of creating them wholesale…

According to an unauthorized report in the Guardian newspaper and a lengthy excerpt in New York magazine, Wolff portrays Trump and his closest aides as astonished by his electoral victory in 2016, and wholly unprepared for office. Trump, he reports, had no idea who former House speaker John A. Boehner was when Roger Ailes, a campaign adviser, recommended him as chief of staff. Top advisers and allies doubted the president’s intelligence and openly mocked him.
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Thank You, Repubs Open Thread: Poster Boy for the GOP Tax Scam

All hail Dave Roth, who first introduced Political Twitter to this remarkable member of the Lucky Sperm Club…

Spin has some video:

The Post describes the Wyatt Ingraham signature aesthetic as “out-there patterns and colors” which is a charitable way of saying that these are the busy shirts a middle-manager who fancies himself the office comedian wears on casual Friday. The remarkable part of this vanity endeavor is the short video Koch produced to sell the brand, construct his own self-mythology, and peel the curtain back on his creative process. One of the video’s boldest choices entails a Koch heir sitting for his talking head interview wearing a shirt emblazoned with bags of money, as if that image alone couldn’t resurrect the guillotine.

“My father said to me, ‘Wyatt, you can do whatever you want to in life. Just make sure you do it well and do it with passion,” the designer said to the camera, without a hint of self-awareness. The sons of literal billionaires do typically get to do whatever they want in life. That’s the perk of being born into a Scrooge McDuck vault full of gold coins…

This guy so totally needed further protection from the estate tax. Hey, it’s not as though he were capable of surviving without a deep, deep cushion of daddy’s money…

What’s the lives and health of thousands of sick kids and poor people, compared to such visions of pure CLASS?



Saturday Evening Cheap Shots Open Thread: Further Adventures of Milo Y, Boy Provocateur

Well, that was quick — and on a weekend, too. Turns out that Tucker “Walking Proof That the Best Schools Can’t Fix Stupid” Carlson may not have “standards”, as the term is usually recognized, but he’s getting quicker at spotting a publicity disaster in the making:

The Daily Caller has fired its opinion editor amid controversy over the site’s publishing of a column by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, the editor-in-chief confirmed to a CNN reporter Saturday.

Geoffrey Ingersoll, the right-leaning news site’s top editor, confirmed Saturday to CNN’s Oliver Darcy that opinion editor Rob Mariani was fired. The confirmation came shortly after Yiannopoulos posted about his column ending on Facebook…

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And here I’d been saving this little amuse-bouche for a late-night larf. Points to ThinkProgress and Mr. Legum…

In the letter announcing his resignation, Mercer specifically calls out Milo Yiannopoulos, a popular, controversial former Breitbart senior editor, saying he has only caused “pain and divisiveness.”…

Yiannopoulos served as a key intermediary between white nationalists and Breitbart. He published a lengthy feature piece that served as a guide to so-called “alt-right” that he allowed prominent white nationalists to edit before publication, and was caught on video in the company of known white nationalist Richard Spencer as he signals a “Sieg Heil” salute in front of a crowd — both of which were revealed in a recent Buzzfeed expose.

These revelations and Mercer’s disavowal hasn’t hurt Yiannopoulos’ reputation in some circles, however, as he was just given a new weekly column at The Daily Caller, a conservative publication ran by Fox News host Tucker Carlson…

Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart in February following outrage over past comments he made regarding pedophilia.

And what was Yiannpoulos’ first column for The Daily Caller? An article titled “A Round Of Applause For Kevin Spacey,” a reference to the recent allegations made by men who claimed Spacey preyed on them sexually when they were minors. In it, Yiannopoulos claims that Spacey’s response to come out as gay rather than take responsibility for his actions is the reason why “identity politics” is bad for the country, which Yiannopoulos frequently blames on the left…

And it gets “better”…



Things I Did Not Know: Mercer-nary Objectives?

We were all, understandably, agog yesterday over Robert Mercer’s sudden decision to step down from his hedge fund (and also cut Breitbart loose). But I was working my ADD-addled way through the tweetstreams late at night, and read for the first time about Mr. Mercer’s disagreements with the IRS:

Suddenly, the government’s seven-year pursuit of Renaissance Technologies LLC is blanketed in political intrigue, now that the hedge fund’s reclusive, anti-establishment co-chief executive, Robert Mercer, has morphed into a political force who might be owed a big presidential favor.

With Trump in the Oval Office, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who has become his public voice, seem armed with political firepower every which way you look – and that’s even though presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, their former senior executive and political strategist, appears to have recently lost influence.

Since the IRS found in 2010 that a complicated banking method used by Renaissance and about 10 other hedge funds was a tax-avoidance scheme, Mercer has gotten increasingly active in politics. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, he doled out more than $22 million to outside conservative groups seeking to influence last year’s elections, while advocating the abolition of the IRS and much of the federal government.

The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah Mercer, also has donated millions of dollars to conservative nonprofit groups that have called for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, an Obama administration holdover whose five-year term expires in November…

IRS leader Koskinen has said publicly that he intends to finish his term. On his watch, the agency hasn’t been cowed by the Mercers.

The IRS recently released a little-noticed advisory stating that its top targets in future business audits will include so-called “basket options,” the instruments that Renaissance and some other hedge funds have used to convert short-term capital gains to long-term profits that have lower tax rates…

More detail from an Oct. 27 Bloomberg article:

Members of the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Appeals are scheduled to meet with lawyers for Renaissance in New York on Nov. 7, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The meeting kicks off a review by an independent branch of the tax agency and suggests a resolution may be years away.

Although the dollar amount at issue has never been made public, Senate investigators estimated that Renaissance employees may have pocketed about $6.8 billion through what a bipartisan panel in 2014 called an “abusive” tax shelter. Renaissance executives maintain the transactions at issue were within the law and weren’t driven by tax savings…

Trump named David Kautter to become acting IRS commissioner after the term of John Koskinen, an appointee of Barack Obama, expires Nov. 12. Kautter doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Rootstrikers, a group critical of the Trump administration, began a petition drive Friday opposing the Kautter appointment, calling it an “end run around the Senate” that “could lead to a massive payback for billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer.”…
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Sunday Evening Open Thread: Saying the Quiet Parts Out Loud


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Even the Most Racist Guy in Congress can’t avoid the Trump Reverse-Midas touch. The Sun-King joke is waaaaaay off-brand for Steve “Pig Muck” King, who was campaigning on an I love the poorly educated, they’re my base! platform back when DJ’s daddy was still an aspiring reality-show host.

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Apart from pointing & jeering, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend?