* Allan looked at me like I was crazy. “I tuned him [Mike Wallace] out. I didn’t hear any of it. If you are going to listen to everything he says, you will go crazy, so I figured out a way to go into a cone of silence.”
Allan was a talented filmmaker and had married Mike’s former secretary. He appeared calm on the outside, but he lost most of his hair in his twenties.
Mike’s abuse, I was to learn, affected people in different ways.
The least harmful way was that your back went out. Allan walked around with a back brace. The tension of the job led other producers to develop heart disease or cancer at an early age. One lucky producer “only” got ulcers, which he nicknamed Myron, Mike’s real name. For me, my back would go into spasms during my entire time working with Wallace. I would end up sleeping on many hotel room floors to reduce the pain, including years later, during my honeymoon.
I realized that the real trick of being a successful producer was to save a story that was going to hell. Producing was easy when subjects showed up on time, the correspondents got a good night’s sleep and prepared for the interview, and the subject was full of wit and energy.
That rarely happened. Usually correspondents showed up pissed off, angry that they actually had to work; the main interview subject decided to bring his lawyer, who interrupted constantly; and the cameraman got distracted and doesn’t notice that the subject was moving around in his chair and was going out of frame.
* In 2016 during a trip to Chicago, Sharpton visited Jackson unannounced at his offices—the student visiting the mentor. Jackson was in a three-piece suit, watching daytime soap operas. They spent an hour together and the phone never rang once. Jackson was now alone, his hands shaking from Parkinson’s disease, his lifestyle and hustles finally having caught up to him. Sharpton told me the sad scene will stay with him forever.
Sharpton often thought about Jackson’s fall from grace and changed his act.
* When I first came to Washington, I was overly impressed by congressmen and senators. But after a while I found most of them to lack authenticity. Many of the legislators would say and do whatever it took to get on 60 Minutes, which made their beliefs and motives suspect. I discovered that the more you know about politicians, the worse they appear.
* One time he [Ed Bradley] went to one of his producers and told him that he wanted to do a story in San Diego.
“Why San Diego?” the producer asked.
“Because the best blow job I ever received was from this girl in San Francisco. And I asked her where she learned to do that, and she said from her sister in San Diego.”
Every producer he worked with had a favorite story. Bradley once agreed to substitute as anchor of the CBS Evening News for a week. They told him that he would be on twenty-four-hour call if any news broke. Bradley didn’t like that.
“We’ll only call you if something really bad happens, like the president is shot,” the evening news show producer told him.
The way Bradley told the story, that night at about two in the morning, he was with a woman in bed when the phone rang.…
Bradley shot up and said to his female companion, “The president has been shot.”
It turned out to be a wrong number.
* “Charlie [Rose], would you sleep with a woman who was sixty years old?” I asked.
“Are you crazy?”
“That is a woman who is fifteen years younger than you,” I replied.
“You have no idea what my life is like,” he said.
Charlie clearly hadn’t looked in the mirror for a while.
“Charlie, you are seventy-five. You are old enough to be some of these younger women’s grandfather. They want to hang out with you, talk to you, go to parties with you. They don’t want to fuck you.”
He got up and left my office.
* The Charlie Rose show played the entire three-hour interview spread over five nights. A year of meetings, late-night calls, and honoring his confidences had paid off. It was, in Bannon’s word, epic. But the story created a monster. Bannon took the interview momentum and began to speak and act like a presidential candidate. A narcissist, he told me that he wanted to run for president if Trump decided he didn’t want a second term. He ticked off the rich right-wing money people who would fund his campaign—the Mercers, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers.
His criticism of Trump privately to me took on a different tone. He believed Trump was suffering from early stage dementia and that there was a real possibility he would be removed from office by the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, where the cabinet could vote that the president was no longer mentally capable of carrying out his duties. Bannon began to push that story hard.
Bannon said that the president had no attention span, didn’t read, and now doesn’t listen. He said Trump repeats himself a lot, telling the same story minutes after he told it before.
I sent him part of a David Brooks column from The New York Times : “The Republican senators went to the White House and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they knew which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.”
“You need to do the 25th amendment piece … BTW brother I never steer u wrong,” he texted back.
But Bannon began to push removing Trump via the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to some of his friends and biggest Trump backers. In the summer of 2017, he went to the Long Island home of Bob Mercer and briefed him on his trying to build up a consensus to remove Trump from office. He mentioned a Sunday prayer service some cabinet officials attended, along with Vice President Pence, as a place where the conspiracy to remove Trump could begin. Mercer dismissed the talk and began to have serious doubts about Bannon.
* The next time I saw him, Bannon was at the Bryant Park Hotel, a place known on Wall Street to go for discreet affairs, before catching a train at Grand Central. Bannon was occupying a small room and being guarded by a security person who looked like he had just come from the Hells Angels. That day Bannon had given an off-the-record speech on China to a small group at the Council on Foreign Relations. His topic was mostly the same and can best be summarized as “the Chinese are going to clean our clocks unless we do something about it.”
Later that day, Bannon wanted me to meet his new girlfriend at a small French restaurant on the East Side called Le Veau d’Or. He entered the restaurant with a small security force and an attractive brunette.
His girlfriend was about twenty years younger than Steve and he was smitten. He had already bought her a car and a house and later texted me that “She could be the next ex Mrs. Bannon she is very very cool—first time I’ve enjoyed anything outside of work in 30 years.”
Bannon tried to support the president as a way of building up his own brand, but it conflicted with his true feelings about Trump’s family. I had read an early version of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, and it quoted Bannon as saying Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower before the election “was treasonous.” It was apparent that Bannon believed he could throw Trump’s kids under the bus and still be a Trump loyalist.
The day after the Wolff revelations came out, Bannon said on his radio show that he still supported Trump. Five hours after he said that, he emailed me a story from Politico on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: how it can be used to remove Trump from office. The article he sent claimed a psychiatrist had briefed U.S. senators as to Trump’s mental incapacity.
Bannon was living in an alternate reality.
He supported Trump while pushing stories to get him removed. Maybe the most accurate thing Trump said all year was in response to Bannon’s comments about his son’s “treasonous” activities: “Steve not only lost his job; he lost his mind.”
* She [Rebekah Mercer] took a liking to me, in part, because of the exposés I did about Congress. I also was not a leftist ideologue like some of my colleagues. I certainly believe global warming is real, and left unchecked, will devastate the planet, but I am willing to listen to how those who don’t believe in it got there. As a result, those who frequented her condo opened up to me, the stranger in their midst.
One such person was Bob Cohen, a famous New York matrimonial lawyer. He had represented the ex-Trump wives, Ivana and Marla Maples. After Rebekah introduced me to him, the eighty-year-old, former marathon-running attorney felt like bragging. He said that he now represented Melania Trump.
“But she is not divorced,” I said, a bit puzzled.
“I had gotten her a postnup agreement.”
I was puzzled again. “What is a postnup?” I asked.
“You know what a prenup is?”
“Well, a postnup is after you have a prenup. After Donald got elected, he said I can’t be president without a first lady, so he added four years to her existing agreement,” Cohen said with a big smile. “I got her millions more added to her deal.”
It was implied from Cohen that had Trump lost, he might have separated from Melania. But it is not good optics to be a president without a wife, so Trump renegotiated his agreement to ensure she had a financial incentive to remain. It was clear that if Trump won in 2020, there would be yet another renegotiation.
* Rebekah had direct access to Trump before the 2016 election and advised on his cabinet picks. But 2020 was different. She had withdrawn her financial support of Trump because he didn’t deliver on his promise to take on the entrenched corruption on both sides of the aisle. The political swamp had only grown during the Trump presidency. She also was offended that Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale had been spending millions on fancy cars and expensive real estate and he and his company were being paid millions by the campaign. She didn’t want her contributions to benefit his lifestyle.
If she had her misgivings about Trump, I was surprised she didn’t support Vice President Pence as a second choice to Trump.
She gave me a look. “You know he talks to G-d,” she said.
“A lot of people talk to G-d. What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“G-d answers,” she said.
“Like the burning bush?” I asked.
I realized it is very hard to disagree with someone who says he got his orders from G-d.
* Trump had invited [Dylan] Howard and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker for dinner on July 12, 2017. Howard told me that while touring the Executive residence of the White House, when he was just outside the Lincoln Bedroom, the president said to him, “Editor man, I’m glad I’ve been good for business.”
He then asked if the former Playboy model Karen McDougal still loved him. “Of course she does,” Howard said. Trump seemed pleased.
Trump then told Howard the secret nickname he had for her, “the Hoover Dam,” Trump said, “because she was always so wet.”
* The Palm Beach culture was never more evident than when Patriots owner Robert Kraft got busted, along with other wealthy people, for going to a low-rent massage parlor to get a hand job. I had gotten to know Dave Aronberg, a young, ambitious Palm Beach County prosecutor who had made a name for himself aggressively prosecuting doctors who recklessly prescribed insane amounts of opioids to patients.
Aronberg’s team got a tip that Chinese massage parlors, which had taken the place of the pain management clinics that once dotted South Florida strip malls, were now engaged in sex for pay. The local police set up cameras inside one called the Orchids of Asia Day Spa after they noticed eight men in golf carts showing up and acting, in the words of the police, “as if they were about to score.”
One of those who would later go was Kraft. He claimed that he couldn’t get a massage at the Breakers, a fancy upscale hotel-condo complex in Palm Beach, so a friend volunteered to drive him to the place for a massage.
Kraft was at the location twice and was caught on surveillance, getting masturbated by a Chinese female and anally stimulated.