Of the many questions that have been raised by Michael Wolff's tell-all book about President Trump's first year in office, the most basic one has yet to receive a satisfactory answer: How in the world did Wolff pull this off, traipsing in and out of the White House at will and securing sit-down interviews with basically every notable member of the administration, without one member of the president's inner circle figuring out that the finished product would portray their boss as an unhinged lunatic in the midst of a steep cognitive decline?
The answer, as it turns out, is that Wolff stuck to the same plan executed by everyone who, at one point or another, has found themselves in Trump's good graces: playing to his ego, fibbing a little, and correctly gambling that everyone with the power to stop him would assume that someone else would look into it. According to Bloomberg, Wolff informed the White House that his working title for what eventually became Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was, in fact, The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration. And the very first person with whom Wolff ingratiated himself, and the magic words he uttered in order to do so? You'll never guess!
Wolff’s entree began with Trump himself, who phoned the author in early February to compliment him on a CNN appearance in which Wolff criticized media coverage of the new president.
All it takes to earn the president's trust, apparently, is telling him something you know he desperately wants to hear. After Wolff met with Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks to deliver a formal book pitch, several aides told Bloomberg that Hicks gave them permission to talk to Wolff, as long as they made "positive" comments for it. During the interviews that ensued, Wolff told hesitant subjects that he'd known Trump a long time, and that Trump referred to him as "the best"—reassurances that were evidently sufficient for them to believe that they could spill their guts to him without facing any repercussions.
[F]or the first six months of Trump’s presidency no one in his White House—including then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer—stopped Wolff from repeatedly scheduling appointments in the West Wing. He visited about 17 times, according to a person familiar with the matter. Nor did they monitor what Trump’s aides were telling the controversial author.
Neither Spicer or anyone else on the White House communications staff ever raised any alarms about Wolff’s prior work, including [a very critical Rupert] Murdoch biography, or warned the staff to be cautious in conversations with him.
A simple Google search would have made clear that treating Wolff as an obedient in-house scribe is probably an ill-advised decision. Even so, no one in the White House communications office lifted a finger for six months. It is utterly delightful that the story of how Wolff got his access is the most compelling bit of evidence yet for the central thesis of his book, which is that everyone in this administration is a naive, gullible rube whose only goal is making it through another day without being fired by a man they don't think is fit to serve as president. If anyone in the West Wing would arrange for me to have an all-access pass so that I can write Nuclear Fraud: How Hillary Clinton Convinced Every Ounce of Uranium She Gave to Russia to Illegally Vote for Her in Virginia or even Fit to Serve: Why the President Definitely, Actually Weighs 239 Pounds, If Not Less, please contact me at your earliest convenience.