Like others, I have enjoyed reading the titillating, racy stories that have issued forth from bestselling books about the Trump White House. At times I felt nagging pangs of doubt, wondering why the stories always have come from anonymous sources.
Doesn't anyone ever go on record nowadays? And why were so many stories later denied by their cited sources? So when I got the opportunity to write an insider history of the Trump White House I fairly tripped over my own feet to get through the doors.
“Michael Beschloss came to Mar-a-Lago right after I won the election,” the president told me, referring to the bestselling presidential historian. “He kissed my a-- for a week, now he’s on television getting paid money to attack me.”
What I discovered inside the Trump bubble was quite different from what had been reported. No, Melania and Donald were not estranged, they were tender lovers, who playfully teased each other. On almost any subject -- North Korea, China, Mueller -- the president brought up her name.
Publicly, the whole family talks about what a privilege it is to serve the country, but privately they have no illusions about the horror they are going through. The president sometimes eases the tension by teasing the first lady, saying, sarcastically, with puffed up importance, “Melania, honey, look at this incredible journey I have brought you on.”
“It’s like a joke between them,” Lara Trump told me. “Everyone is attacking all of us and she’s smeared for no reason other than pure jealousy and he says, ‘Hon, isn’t this amazing?’
“And she’s like, ‘Oh yeah, thank you so much.’ “It’s hilarious. I love it.”
What about the theory that Donald Trump decided to run for president after the April 30, 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner? Everyone in the family from the president on down dismissed the idea and then proceeded to tell me how it really happened.
What about that famous story of Bannon and Priebus and Ivanka Trump? When Bannon supposedly shouted to Ivanka, “You are just a f------ staffer?”
“Never happened,” Ivanka told me calmly.
“There’s no truth to it?” I persisted. It sold 100,000 books.
It turns out that the real stories of what has been happening inside Trump-world are far more interesting than the fake ones
“None whatsoever,” she said. “My life is too important for me to waste in rivalries and in personal vendettas. I choose to think the best of people. Most of all, I choose to be happy. I have no time for bitterness.”
While I spent two years interviewing the family, a new book was published claiming to have the real story on how Donald Trump had chosen Mike Pence as his running mate. It was totally false.
“Want to know what really happened?” Eric Trump asked me. And he then related the details of that night he and his father had steaks together with Mike and Karen Pence, at the Capital Grille at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis.
It turns out that the real stories of what has been happening inside Trump-world are far more interesting than the fake ones. The president let me read his private correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He gave me his theories on who hatched the Russian collusion conspiracy and why they did it.
So, with all the pressures, with talk of impeachment, what’s it like inside the White House these days?
“There are two kinds of staffers,” Jared Kushner told me. “Those who want to help Trump save the world, and those who want to save the world from Trump.”
Donald Trump is the sixth president I have interviewed and I came away impressed. Some will say that he is only lucky. He was lucky to win the nomination and the election. He was lucky to see what every great economist in the world had missed about the GDP, lucky at finding jobs that no one else could find, lucky at bringing back hostages that other presidents had left languishing in foreign prisons, lucky at achieving energy independence, lucky at defeating ISIS so easily.
Trump is, arguably, the first president in 40 years to avoid starting a hot war. You can say he is lucky. I say he is great.
Impeachment looms but the earlier, ridiculous claims that he is a Russian spy may have, ironically, inoculated him for history.
What’s it like in the eye of the Trump storm?
Calm and peaceful. “All of us hold out hope that the right thing will happen in the end,” Lara Trump told me. “Maybe we will all be long gone but, eventually, we will be vindicated and validated.”