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The D.C. Brief
By Philip Elliott
Washington Correspondent, TIME

You’re Not Imagining It: Trump Books Are Coming Out at a Rapid Clip

If you feel like you can’t keep up with all of the bombshell books about President Donald Trump and his Administration, you’re not alone. In terms of raw numbers, there’s been an average of roughly one book about Trump and his inner circle released every single day for the last 188 weeks.

Last week, we had a tell-all from a former friend and aide to First Lady Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Today, we have former Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s searing account of the dastardly deeds he undertook on behalf of his former pal. And next week, we’ll have the second Trump-era tome of master Washington insider Bob Woodward. All three are on Amazon’s bestseller list. Among the site’s top 25 books of all varieties, seven are Trump related. The sheer volume of books about an incumbent administration is at a pace twice as fast as we saw at this point during Barack Obama’s first term.

A couple of things may explain this glut of writing about Trump. First, he’s unlike anything America has produced before: a former reality-show star and accidental President who has shown little, if any, respect for the norms of his current gig. His Administration is perhaps the most dysfunctional since President Jimmy Carter served as his own chief of staff for more than two years. Trump is surrounded by top officials and junior aides alike who are short on genuine loyalty and heavy on personal agendas. It seems as though every disagreement is leaked to reporters in virtually real time. And the President himself has taken no steps to calm tensions inside his White House. If anything, he fuels them.

That means there has been no shortage of information coming from inside the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Some aides have taken the extraordinary steps of recording their conversations, such as former Apprentice contestant-turned-top aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and Mrs. Trump’s former friend Winston Wolkoff. Both used them to write fast-selling books. Similarly, Mary L. Trump, the President’s niece, taped her conversations with her aunt and turned them into a Trump-on-Trump skirmish and one of the quickest-selling books in years. Others have covered their tracks, instead feeding their juicy stories to journalists and authors who are creating a real-time history of this era in ways unmatched in recent years.

Taken together, most of these books paint a negative picture of the President and those around him. But not all. A subset of these books are hagiographies of Trump. Donald Trump Jr. is now a New York Times best-selling author, thanks to a bulk buy from the Republican National Committee. His second book released in under a year, which is about Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is Amazon’s Number-One New Release right now. A subset of Fox News personalities’ books have worked overtime to discredit Robert Mueller’s probe of the President’s conduct and subsequent impeachment. And right-wing pundits, like those on the left, have always found baked-in audiences eager to share their grievances. So not all of the more than 1,200 books related to Trump released since Inauguration Day — per a New York Times tally — have been hate-reads.

But most are. And if the last four years have taught us nothing, it is this: Voters may have more unflattering information available about any modern presidential contender in recent history and still be unmoved by it. America heard Trump bragging about sexual assault before the 2016 election and still carried 47% of white women. Since then, we have learned that Cohen paid-off an adult actress to buy her silence about an affair with the President, that he leveraged every bit of his official power for personal political gain, and he seems incapable of changing his hard-nosed approach to life even in the face of a pandemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans. Despite all this, he is still positioned to be competitive this fall.

Are any of these books really making a difference, or are they just giving us sagging bookshelves buried in incendiary accounts of this presidency? As much as his critics may hate it, the publishing pace confirms one central theme of recent history: there is no escaping Trump’s shadow.


Here's what else we're watching in Washington.

Trump Is Selling Fear. The Market May Not Be Buying

TIME’s Brian Bennett goes deep inside how Trump is using fear as a cornerstone for his re-election bid — and how limiting that tactic may prove. The voters who are responding to that message seem to already be on the Trump Train; undecided voters aren’t as likely to board it based on something scary. Read more here.

The Trump Campaign Hits Cash Crunch After Building a Billion-Dollar Machine

The unthinkable is happening to the President’s re-election bid: belt-tightening and budget cuts as the once-unmatched fundraising operation seems to be gasping to keep up with all of the money going out the door. “You have to spend money to make money,” the R.N.C.’s chief of staff told The New York Times. Read more here.

Putin Critic Wakes From Coma, Recovering

Kremlin irritant Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with a nerve agent in August, seems to be on the mend, according to The Washington Post. An outspoken foe of Vladimir Putin, Navalny was on a trip promoting anti-corruption measures when he fell ill. The Kremlin has denied any involvement. Read more here.

‘This Virus is Really Diabolical’

In its latest exceptional installment about COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal explains how the coronavirus outsmarted some of the world’s best scientists — and continues to baffle them. One reason: it mutates about every two weeks. Read more here.

In Race for Cyber War, U.S. and China Dominate

A new study out today from Harvard shows a wide chasm between the rest of the world and the abilities of Washington and Beijing to meddle in the cyber world. The report also illustrates that there is a disparity between intent and capacity when it comes to technical talents. Read more here.

 
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