From a conversation with THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.
The president's effort to shut my book down ranges somewhere between ludicrous and frightening.
It's ludicrous because it's not going to happen. There would be no model, no precedent, no realistic way for the president of the United States to succeed at an effort at prior restraint — to have the courts shut down the publication and distribution of my book — as part of his effort to sue for invasion of privacy or because someone might have libeled him.
Donald Trump is not making a national security argument here, as has been made by the government in other situations in which it tried to censor material before it could be read by the public. There is no way to make a national security argument about how he does his hair and his scalp reduction surgery; I don't think it's going to fly.
I've written about people like him for a long time and one of the things to understand is that, when you write about rich and powerful people, you get a lot of lawyer's letters. Because people like Trump have lawyers on retainer, they think What the hell; having a lawyer send a letter literally doesn't cost them anything. So I suspect that sending the letter to my publisher is part of his reflexive instincts here, but the two things, being the president of the United States and being Donald Trump, private citizen, cannot be separated now.
He may think they can, but that's part of the whole problem: He doesn't really regard being president as any different than running a real estate development company or a brand licensing company.
Just to increase the ludicrousness of his actions, obviously by attempting to halt the publication of my book, the president has seemingly done exactly what is most disadvantageous to his interests: He is helping to sell this book. (That brings us back to the larger point of the book itself, which is that he can't do his job. He just does not have the faculties, the analytic abilities or the emotional stability to achieve the end result at which he actually wants to arrive.)
So we can even go beyond calling his attempts to shut down my book “ludicrous”: It's farcical, and it's not going to happen. Of that we can be sure.
And yet, at the same time, the fact is that the President of the United States is trying to shut down the publication of a book simply because he doesn't like it, because it says negative things about him. That is a step in American political life that has never been taken; it’s obviously frightening. Where does it go from here? Where does it go after that?
But in Trump’s world, you exist on this bizarre spectrum of the frightening and the ludicrous, and that which is frightening is masked by the ludicrousness of it all.
Donald Trump believes that he can charm anyone: He believes that he's the seducer of the 20th century (though perhaps not of the 21st century), and he does believe that people love him and that he's irresistible. And so he went into politics thinking, "I'll win everybody over."
It’s not going terribly well: Washington is not a salesman's town. It’s a town of institutions, and those institutions protect themselves. But nevertheless, there he is, believing that he can break things and remake them and run a hustle like he did in New York.
Clearly, he senses that this book could be a mortal threat to that hustle, and so he's reacting. Donald Trump is a survivor and this is in keeping with his past of fighting fire and fury with fire and fury. This what everybody has to expect: If Trump is threatened by something, he will react in a near-violent way
One does take note when the president of the United States is singling you out and vilifying you in as extreme a way as you could possibly be vilified. But, at the same time, you say to yourself, But it's Donald Trump. And that's the sort of the paradigm of where we are at politically: It's all very scary, but he's a kind of a clown.
Michael Wolff is the author of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" (Holt, 2017) and a columnist with USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter, British GQ, New York Magazine and The Guardian.