Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng deliver gossip as well as the goods from behind the scenes of our national reality show
In July 2018, the Daily Beasts Lachlan Markay posted a short piece about a mysterious $375,000 contribution from Global Energy Producers to America First Action, a pro-Trump Super Pac. Eighteen months later, federal agents arrested Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman en route to Dulles airport; they were holding one-way tickets. Republican politicians who took their cash are offloading it as if it were doused with coronavirus and the president has suddenly forgotten the name of their former patron: Rudy Giuliani.
With Beast White House correspondent Asawin Suebsaeng, Markay now delivers a breezy look at Trumpworld and our nations capital. Their book is constructed out of fresh reporting, prior columns and gossip, lots of it. It is filled with tales of greed, envy and near violence, together with schemes, outbursts and profanity.
Think of it as non-fiction beach reading for our impeachment winter.
Few are spared. Donald Trumps insecurities and temper, Steve Bannons foul mouth and Jared Kushners habit of knowing less than he thinks he does all are on display. Sinking in the Swamp contains at least a weeks worth of material for The Daily Show.
It chronicles the presidents fear of assassination, as he repeatedly asks if the White House windows are bulletproof. You sure? Trump would repeat. Tweets about your favorite president, me! belie a man who knows hes despised by nearly half the country.
Item. In the closing days of the 2016 election, Trump unloaded on David Bossie, the deputy campaign manager, who repeatedly tried to rein in the candidates tweets. Although Kellyanne Conway was technically Bossies superior, it was he who reportedly possessed nuts-and-bolts depth. Still, according to Markay and Suebsaeng, Trump went from unamused to perturbed, then lost it: GET HIM THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!! GET HIM THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.
That Bossie was instrumental in delivering Pennsylvania and Wisconsin mattered little. He would be banished, relegated to the Citizens United political action committee, penning books praising the president but never to serve in the White House. Gratitude? Not exactly.
Item. In May 2017, a day after the president fired the FBI director, James Comey, Bannon screamed at a TV screen tuned to CNN: THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT RUSSIA? THEY CAN SUCK MY MOTHERFUCKING DICK!
Yet for all of Bannons bluster, he reportedly counseled against firing Comey, terming it the biggest mistake maybe in modern political history. Unlike his ex-employer and his son-in-law, Bannon possessed a sense of history and an appreciation for irony.
As for Trump, he was envious and angered by the attention Saturday Night Live lavished on Bannon. According to the authors, SNL helped contribute to Trump souring on his counsellor, providing a catalyst for his early departure from the West Wing. Like the deity of the Decalogue, there shall be no other gods before Him for He is a jealous god.
Trump also has difficulty discerning between friend and foe. Sinking in the Swamp captures him dumping on Fox News Sean Hannity for his ultra-sycophantic interviewing style, referring to Hannitys questions as dumb.
But then again, Hannity has been caught saying of the president: What the fuck is wrong with him? That was after Trump failed to offer condolences to the widow of Roger Ailes, Hannitys former boss. The camera doesnt always tell the whole story.
Item. Jared Kushners knowledge of Nato isnt the greatest. Markay and Suebsaeng relay that the presidents son-in-law did not seem to know what Nato actually did. In the run-up to a Nato trip in May 2017, Kushner spewed to assembled reporters a word salad reminiscent of the presidents own rambling when it came to issues and minutiae with which he couldnt be bothered.
A dauphin whose father bought his kid into Harvard was apparently ignorant of article 5, the Nato treaty clause that stipulates an attack on one member is an attack on all. Hanging with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salman doesnt make you a foreign policy maven. On the other hand, if youre married to the presidents daughter it need not matter. As for Kushners vaunted deal of the century? Its appeal appears limited.
Sinking in the Swamp also records some lighter moments, such as Suebsaeng and Cliff Sims, a Trump White House refugee and tell-all writer, nearly getting into a fist-fight at the bar of Trumps DC hotel. Sims would be expelled from Eden on the Potomac after allegedly surreptitiously recording a meeting with the president, which he then reportedly replayed to others.
Other vignettes include actor Jon Voight mistaking Swin for Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, in a phone call. Voight and Suebsaeng eventually met in person at the religiously infused Values Voters Summit. The actor was stunned but polite.
Almost on cue, the book concludes with the closing lines from Goodfellas, the authors saying most every bagman and water carrier for this president ends up a Henry Hill, the mobster who in Martin Scorseses movie finds himself in a witness protection program, lamenting his fall from grace. In the movie, Hill announces: We ran everything Today, everything is different I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
Or not. Not everyone in Trumps orbit is Michael Cohen or Roger Stone.
The president stands acquitted by the Senate, his approval at a high-water mark, the Democratic field looking dwarfed and in disarray. Another book on the mob, the late Jimmy Breslins The Gang that Couldnt Shoot Straight, would be apt reading.
The debacle of the Iowa caucuses will be relived and replayed through November. What lies between our never-ending reality show and the sands of Romes Colosseum? Time and technology. Little more.