Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," set for official release by Henry Holt & Co. on Jan. 9, has dominated the news cycle over the last day, thanks to editors at The Guardian getting their hands on an advance copy and immediately quoting some of its juiciest bits—see for example, "Trump Tower meeting with Russians 'treasonous', Bannon says in explosive book"—followed by New York Magazine rushing to publish its authorized excerpt on its website yesterday (originally meant to go live a bit later; the excerpt will be the magazine's cover story this coming Monday). [UPDATE: Henry Holt & Co. has announced that it's moving up the "Fire and Fury" release date to Friday, Jan. 5.]
Late Wednesday, President Trump's lawyer sent former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon—a major Wolff source—a cease-and-desist letter. As ABC News' John Santucci reports,
The letter comes after excerpts from a forthcoming book by journalist Michael Wolff were made public Wednesday, causing a stir. Trump attorney Charles J. Harder of the firm Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP, said in a statement, "This law firm represents President Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. On behalf of our clients, legal notice was issued today to Stephen K. Bannon, that his actions of communicating with author Michael Wolff regarding an upcoming book give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients. Legal action is imminent."
That action, of course, just makes "Fire and Fury" an even hotter property. And now this morning, Trump has, astonishingly, decided to pour more fuel on the marketing fire. Per NPR:
President Trump's attorney has sent a letter to both Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt demanding that they "immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination" of Wolff's book about the Trump White House, "Fire and Fury."— NPR (@NPR) January 4, 2018
If you want a quick informed opinion on that move, here: "Yes, The Trump Cease & Desist Letter Over The Bannon Book Is Stupid" (subhead: "Just like every other legal document prepared by this administration"), per the Above the Law legal blog. As the site's Executive Editor Elie Mystal writes,
Reporting on the Trump administration is like a game of Clue. Today, it's Charles J. Harder with the cease and desist over the Michael Wolff book that includes tell-alls from Steve Bannon. Tomorrow, it could be Don McGahn filing a lawsuit against snow for "false imprisonment" of the President in D.C. The details of each successive eruption of legal fallacy hardly even matter. The man employs hundreds of lawyers and none of them seem to be able to make a cogent legal argument.
Trump filings are just like this blizzard. It's a flurry of white stuff that stings and freezes, but if you try to really wrestle with any individual piece, it just kinds of melts away, like there was nothing there to begin with.
We're all gonna die.
In other words, all that this latest cease-and-desist will do is guarantee that Michael Wolff will continue to dominate the news cycle for at least another 24 hours and Henry Holt will sell a lot more copies of "Fire and Fury."
Full disclosure: Michael is an old friend and former colleague of mine (I was his longtime editor at New York Magazine) and I've been trading texts with him about all this yesterday and today (and I talked with him frequently as he working on the book last year).
Here's his latest response, via text, to today's drama:
This is nutso.
Also, I just noticed that Michael updated his Facebook status to note that,
Fire and Fury is #1 on Amazon.