As discussed on today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, let’s walk through the sequence of events that notorious author Michael Wolff — last seen being mocked as a fabulist on Saturday Night Live — expects readers to believe.
In his new book, Wolff writes that the office of special counsel Robert Mueller “drew up a three-count outline of the president’s alleged abuses, under the title ‘United States of America against Donald J Trump, Defendant.’ The document sat on the special counsel’s desk, Wolff writes, for almost a year.” Wolff claims that the document charged the president with obstructing a federal investigation, tampering with a witness, and retaliating against a witness. Wolff also claims that Mueller’s office prepared a draft memorandum of law opposing an anticipated motion to dismiss.
It would be remarkable for the revelation of those charges – what Wolff describes as a “draft indictment” — to not leak at all for an entire year, but Mueller reportedly ran a tight ship, so let’s assume that’s possible for the sake of argument.
Wolff writes that after his team completed all of that work, Mueller chose to simply not pursue the charges. He also apparently did not mention the preparation of these charges in his report, and no one on Mueller’s team leaked anything about those prepared charges, either when Attorney General Barr summarized the report, upon the report’s release to the public, or in the weeks since.
But the part that really strains credulity is that in Wolff’s version of events, “sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel,” who have the documents detailing the draft indictment, suddenly are holding the political equivalent of a bundle of dynamite. They have an opportunity to go to any journalist in the world with a scoop that would shake the administration to its foundations. Washington is crawling with well-established, trusted reporters who have been reporting on this story for the better part of two years.
And those sources chose not to go to the Wall Street Journal, or New York Times, or Washington Post, but instead give it to . . . Michael Wolff. The guy with longstanding questions about the reliability of his reporting. The guy who famously claimed Donald Trump and Nikki Haley were having an affair and then backed away from the claim once confronted about it. The guy who pretends his earpiece isn’t working when he gets tough questions.
And these “sources close to the Office of the Special Counsel” chose to give this mega-scoop to Wolff, so he can sell more books.
I joked today whether Wolff’s book would be shelved in the fiction or nonfiction sections of bookstores. A bit more seriously, the mainstream media’s treatment of Wolff’s new book will be a good indicator of whether those institutions that once touted Fire and Fury learned anything from experience.