“She had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers. … The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One, and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future.”
That was the writer Michael Wolff, in his dubiously sourced but indubitably bestselling book Fire and Fury, commenting on the working relationship between the United States’s president, Donald Trump, and its ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. In the book, which has been described by reviewers perhaps most often as “explosive” and next-most-often as “questionably true,” Wolff further claimed that loyalists to Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, feared “Haley’s hold on the president”—and that the UN ambassador, should Trump fail to win another term in office, had fed her own presidential ambitions with the idea “that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”
With requisite submission: It’s one of those throwaway phrases that may well, in retrospect, prove distinctly revealing. During an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher last week, part of the publicity tour for a book that hardly needs it, Wolff claimed to be in possession of information that was “incendiary”—indeed, so incendiary that he could not, in good conscience, publish it in the book itself. Donald Trump, Wolff claimed, is (currently) having an affair. Of this, the author elaborated, he was “absolutely sure”—but he lacked, he admitted, the smoking gun (or, in this case, he joked, the “blue dress”) that would prove it beyond a doubt. And, so, Wolff would not, in the name of responsible journalism, name names. What he would do, however, was give the viewers of Real Time—and by extension anyone armed with curiosity, savvy, and ostensibly a $17.99 copy of Fire and Fury—a clue so they could figure out for themselves the identity of the president’s alleged paramour. All they’d need to do was … give a close reading to a passage toward the end of Wolff’s book.