The right-wing provocateur and longtime confidant to Donald Trump talks about his new book on the 2016 race and the President’s war on the press
What has struck you most about Trump’s first days in office?
He has already made historic moves to reverse the policies of his predecessor. He may be the first person in history to be overruled by a federal judge only days after he took office. He has proven that he’s going to be an activist. He is not going to stop using the bully pulpit of his Twitter feed. And he is not going to be isolated by his handlers.
Has he made any mistakes in your view?
It’s his nature. His nature is not going to change. It’s not surprising to me that he’s feisty and combative and he’s not taking any crap. That’s Trump. So I’m not going to characterize them as mistakes. They just are.
What’s the motive of the war on the press that the White House has launched?
Look, this is a page out of the Nixon playbook. The people who voted for Trump resent the press. They no longer trust the press. This election was the tipping point. In a weird way CNN becoming so hysterical in their attacks on Trump just further fuels this narrative.
It didn’t end well for Nixon. Why will it end better for Trump?
It could have ended well. Nixon got re-elected carrying 49 states despite the fact that most of the media despised him. It’s the politics of polarization. He’s speaking to the people who elected him.
You note in your book that Nixon was among the first people to encourage Trump to run for President. You’ve worked for both of them. How are they similar?
They’re both pragmatists. They’re really not ideologues. Trump is kind of a populist conservative; Nixon took populist conservative positions.
The New York Times reported that you’re among a couple of Trump associates under federal investigation for alleged ties to Russia. Is there any truth to those reports–have you been contacted by anyone in the intelligence community?
I have not been contacted by anybody in law enforcement. There is absolutely no foundation to this whatsoever. The intelligence community could not have found email transmissions or financial transactions involving me and the Russians and the Trump campaign because there are none. I have no Russian clients. I have no Russian contacts. I have no Russian money. I have no Russian influences. I do like Russian vodka. This thing is a canard. Were the Russians hacking us? Maybe. But did they affect the election in any way? No.
One of the things people are pointing to is that you said during a speech in Florida last August that you have communicated with Julian Assange. And you predicted the document dump. What’s your connection with WikiLeaks?
As I explain in the book, I have a mutual friend who’s a journalist and was in London and communicated with him. When he came back, he told me that Assange has devastating political dynamite on Hillary Clinton and he’s going to begin releasing it. I asked when. He said as soon as Wednesday. So I posted that. That [Tuesday], Assange had a press thing where he announced they would have disclosures for the next 10 weeks. So everything I said was true.
You’ve claimed you may have been poisoned. Are you feeling better?
I am feeling better. For almost 17 days in a row I had a fever of over 100°F. Blood tests went to the CDC. They found an exogenous substance in my blood that had the characteristics of polonium.
I’m sorry to hear that. You said you thought you’d been poisoned in connection with the Russian hacking investigation. Do you have any evidence?
No. I’ll never figure out who tried to poison me. Let’s face it: there would be too many suspects.
This appears in the February 20, 2017 issue of TIME.