Trump Says He’s a ‘Stable Genius,’ Labels Wolff Book ‘Fiction’

Updated on
  • President comments from Republican retreat at Camp David
  • Author says Trump’s aides, confidants see him ‘like a child’
Bloomberg’s Kevin Cirilli discusses the new book about President Trump from Michael Wolff.

Donald Trump said he’s a “very stable genius,” a day after a new book about the president’s first year in the White House -- dismissed by Trump as “fiction” -- claimed that many of his top aides and confidants consider him unfit to hold office.

“Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames,” Trump said on Twitter early Saturday.

Trump speaks at Camp David Jan. 6.

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Trump is at the Camp David presidential retreat in rural Maryland, where he held meetings Friday afternoon and Saturday with top Republican lawmakers, White House aides and several Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on legislative goals for the year and other pressing matters.

In the tweets, Trump added that he’d gone from being a very successful businessman to top TV star “....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!”

Trump defended his mental abilities at a press conference at Camp David on Saturday, recapping his path from the “best” university, where he said he was an “excellent” student, to a successful business and television career before pursuing politics.

Dysfunction and Chaos

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, speaking to reporters on the sidelines, said he hadn’t seen the president’s latest tweets but that Trump feels he can use Twitter to get his perspective directly to the public.

The comments follow the release of Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury,” which details dysfunction, chaos and incompetence in the Trump White House -- claims the administration has denied. Wolff said in an interview with NBC Friday that “100 percent of the people around” the president question his intelligence and fitness for office.

“I consider it a work of fiction,” Trump said of the book at his press conference.

Physical Scheduled

Trump, 71, is scheduled for a physical on Jan. 12 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, consistent with the practice of previous presidents.

In his Twitter messages Trump said his detractors, including Democrats and the media, were shifting from stories about Russian collusion with members of his campaign team, which he’s repeatedly denied, to focusing on his fitness for office.

Those critics “are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence,” Trump told his 46 million Twitter followers.

Reagan, the 40th U.S. president, disclosed in November 1994, almost six years after leaving office, that he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease earlier that year. He died in 2004.

The “stable genius” comment followed several days in which Trump, having returned to Washington on Jan. 1 after spending the Christmas holidays at his club in Florida, produced a series of inflammatory and seemingly scatter-shot tweets.

‘Bigger’ Button

This week alone he boasted about having “a much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, took credit for the absence of commercial plane crashes in 2017, and urged “Jail!” for Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Clinton. In the same Jan. 2 message, Trump assailed the “Deep State Justice Department” -- the latest in a series of confrontational comments about the U.S. law enforcement agency.

The publication of Wolff’s book, initially via explosive excerpts focused on Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and in its entirety on Friday, sapped the momentum with which the president entered 2018 after the passage of a Republican tax overhaul bill in late December.

Defensive Mode

Instead of focusing on legislative priorities ahead of mid-term elections in November, Trump and the White House spent the week in defensive mode. That included a public falling out with Bannon, since nicknamed “Sloppy Steve” by the president, and the dispatch of a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt & Co. stop distribution of the book. The company instead moved up the publication date by several days.

This weekend’s retreat will be a chance to refocus. The White House late Friday distributed photographs of Trump flanked by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at a working dinner, and holding court at a meeting with lawmakers, aides and Vice President Mike Pence.

McConnell, speaking beside Trump on Saturday, said 2017 had been the “most consequential” year for right-of-center Americans, largely thanks to Trump.

On Thursday, Trump on Twitter called the book “phony” and “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.” He followed that at Camp David by saying Wolff’s interviews with him were “imaginary” and adding that he wishes U.S. libel laws were stronger.

“Libel laws are very weak in this country. If they were strong it would be very helpful,” Trump said.

Wolff has been making the rounds to discuss his work. Wolff, whose previous books include a biography of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, said he stands by everything in “Fire and Fury” and has notes and recordings to back it up.

“They all say he is like a child,” Wolff told NBC. “What they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him.”

“This man does not read, does not listen. He’s like a pinball, just shooting off the sides,” Wolff added. “They say he’s a moron, an idiot.”

“It’s absolutely outrageous to make these types of allegations” about Trump’s mental fitness, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News on Friday.

They’re “desperate attempts” to attack Trump, she said. “What’s I think is really mentally unstable” is people not seeing the progress the president is making.

While the president said he never spoke to Wolff for the book, the author said he spoke to Trump during the campaign and after the inauguration. “Whether he realized it was an interview or not,” the conversations weren’t off the record, Wolff said.

Wolff said that his sources told him Trump repeats stories over an increasingly short time period, and that he sometimes doesn’t recognize longtime friends.

Trump’s campaign released a letter from his doctor in September 2016, several weeks before the election, saying he was in “excellent physical health.” The upcoming physical will be his first known exam by a government doctor since taking office. Past presidents have also undergone periodic exams by government physicians who released statements afterward.

— With assistance by Laura Curtis, and Jennifer Epstein

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE