DOJ staffers who don’t support Trump agenda are “Trump women”, officials earning six figures are dismissed as poor
In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff reveals Donald Trump’s fascination and confusion over bureaucratic professionals. The out-of-touch president is amazed that anyone would work for such a pittance as three or four times the average US salary.
In chapter 7, commenting on Trump’s antagonism towards Sally Yates and other Department of Justice career officials, Wolff wrote:
Here was an elemental divide between Trump and career governmental employees. He could understand politicians. But he was finding it hard to get a hand on these bureaucrat types, their temperament and motives. He couldn’t grasp what they wanted. Why would they, or anyone, be a permanent government employee. ‘They max out at what, 200 grand, tops?’ he said, expressing something like wonder.
Trump can only understand power and use of power to enrich oneself. “He could understand politicians.” Politicians get to be courted. They get to go on the Sunday shows. They get to write themselves tax cuts and trade their votes for personal benefits.
But career professionals just get to keep the country running and maintain the institutions of democracy. They aren’t even dedicated to pursuing an ideological agenda. For Trump, it is literally inconceivable how anyone could care about serving the public. Particularly when the salary they take is a pittance compared to what could be made conning white working class aspirers into enrolling in threadbare “real estate courses.”
His view, on that point, is also at odds with a long-held view of conservative Republicans that government employees are paid too much. As someone cooped up in a blindingly gaudy 1980’s apartment, Trump has no clue how ordinary Americans live.
The chapter also reveals the Trump administration’s contemptuous sexism towards women in power. Trump staffers already hated Yates from the start due to stereotypes about “Obama women” and “Hillary women.”
The transition report said Trump wouldn’t like the 56-year-old Atlanta-born University of Georgia career Justice Department lawyer slated to step up to acting Attorney General. There was something about a particular kind of “Obama person.” Something about the way they walked and held themselves. Superiority. And something about a certain kind of “Obama women” who would rub Trump the wrong way. “Obama women, being a good tip off. Hillary women, another.” Later this would be extended to “DOJ women.”
The passage only implies it, but it appears clear this “something” about “Obama women” is that they don’t walk on eggshells and kiss ass around their boss like emasculated “Trump men” do. “Superiority.” Which is to say a sense of self-respect and competence.
Earlier in the book, it was said that Trump constantly insulted Corey Lewandowski’s intelligence and capabilities in front of the staff while Lewandowski was working as his campaign manager. Even after Lewandowski was fired (though reportedly remained on the payroll), he continued to lusciously praise Trump every opportunity on CNN and as recently as December 2017 released a laudatory book.
Of short-lived Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Wolff wrote, “He took Trump’s verbal abuse about his height and stature affably—or at least stoically.”
Trump’s other staffers would butter up Trump in his presence and never critique anything he did—even when critique of poor proposals could have helped avoid disaster.
When Joe Scarborough visited the White House the second week and asked how he felt the travel ban had gone, Scarborough’s mild criticism was taken as an affront by Trump. Scarborough felt as if it was the first time anyone had criticized it to his face. Trump’s insincere question had merely been an invitation for praise. “I could have invited Hannity,” he said—raising the name of a pundit who really would never criticize any of his actions.
A staffer quoted by Wolff said of Yates’ warning (a warning it would have been helpful for their own interests to heed) about then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s conversation with Russian diplomats:
In one White House view, Yates’ tattling was little more than “like she found out her girl friend’s husband flirted with somebody else and, standing on principle, had to tell on him.”
An interesting comparison given the sexist framework from which staffers were already viewing Yates and much of the DOJ, even more so given Trump’s own multiple affairs, including the most recent revelations that he had an affair with porn actress “Stormy Daniels” months after his youngest child was born. The journalists who reported on it must have been real Sally Yateses.
Finally, there was one more quote later in the chapter:
”The DOJ is filled with women prosecutors like Yates who hate him.”
Book quotes transcribed from Audible.