Friday, August 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt twelve)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

The Florence Mills funeral was on a Sunday afternoon, and it was a beautiful procession, with the chorus girls from her show marching all in gray, and an airplane releasing flocks of blackbirds overhead.

The Countee Cullen wedding was another spectacle that had Harlem talking for a long time—the wedding of the leading lyric poet of the Negro Renaissance to Yolande DuBois, the daughter, and only child, of the leading old-guard Negro writer, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois. It was the social-literary event of the season, and very society. I was an usher—by virtue of being a poet. It was an Easter-time wedding, held at dusk in the church pastored by Countee Cullen’s father, one of the largest Negro churches in the world, but it didn’t begin to hold the crowd. The first floor was given over to holders of engraved invitations, and the balcony to the general public, and both were packed to capacity.

The bride had been teaching in Baltimore, and her bridesmaids all came from Maryland in a special car, looking very charning and pretty. We held a rehearsal of the wedding on Good Friday and it was my job to escort the bride’s mother to her seat. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a pair of tails, so I had to rent a set. In the rental shop the suit looked black, but once outside, it looked rusty green. It was one of those cheap, dull blacks that had faded with time, and the trousers were stove-piped. I felt very self-conscious in a green, rented pawnshop dress suit, so I said to myself: “I will never go into society again if I have to rent my clothes.” But, nevertheless, I enjoyed being in the wedding.



Thursday, August 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt eleven)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

That was really the end of the gay times of the New Negro era in Harlem, the period that had begun to reach its end when the crash came in 1929 and the white people had much less money to spend on themselves, and practically none to spend on Negroes, for the depression brought everybody down a peg or two. And the Negroes had but few pegs to fall.

But in those pre-crash days there were parties and parties. At the novelist, Jessie Fauset’s, parties there was always quite a different atmosphere from that at most other Harlem good-time gatherings. At Miss Fauset’s, a good time was shared by talking literature and reading poetry aloud and perhaps enjoying some conversation in French. White people were seldom present there unless they were very distinguished white people, because Jessie Fauset did not feel like opening her home to mere sightseers, or faddists momentarily in love with Negro life. At her house one would usually meet editors and students, writers and social workers, and serious people who liked book and the British Museum, and had perhaps been to Florence. (Italy, not Alabama.)



Wednesday, August 12, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt ten)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

White people began to come to Harlem in droves. For several years they packed the expensive Cotton Club on Lenox Avenue. But I was never there, because the Cotton Club was a Jim Crow club for gangsters and monied whites. They were not cordial to Negro patronage, unless you were a celebrity like Bojangles. So Harlem Negroes did not like the Cotton Club and never appreciated its Jim Crow policy in the very heart of their dark community. Nor did ordinary Negroes like the growing influx of whites toward Harlem after sundown, flooding the little cabarets and bars where formerly only colored people laughed and sang, and where now the strangers were given the best ringside tables to sit and stare at the Negro customers—like amusing animals in a zoo.

The Negroes said: “We can’t go downtown and sit and stare at you in your clubs. You won’t even let us in your clubs.” Buit they didn’t say it out loud—for Negroes are practically never rude to white people. So thousands of whites came to Harlem night after night, thinking the Negroes loved to have them there, and firmly believing that all Harlemites left their houses at sundown to sing and dance in cabarets, because most of the whites saw nothing but the cabarets, not the houses.



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt nine)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

The steward began to scrape the bottom of barrels and boxes. For breakfast we had musty oatmeal, full of little worms, hundreds of them, too many to pick out, so we ate them. The sailors went to mob the steward one morning, and chased him from the galley with knives. For once, the Captain sided with the men, and gave the steward an awful bawling out in front of the crew. For by that time the food shortage had reached the saloon where the Captain and the passengers ate, so the Captain was mad himself. The day we pulled into port in the Virgin Islands, all that the passengers had had for dinner the night before was canned sardines.

I felt sorry for Manuel, the Filipino boy from Mindanao, who served the passengers. He had worked hard the whole trip waiting on them, keeping their rooms spotlessly clean, preparing their baths, and even going to prayer meetings to sing hymns with the missionaries, because he was hoping they would tip him well when the boat got to New York. Manuel wanted to marry a Mexican girl in Fourteenth Street, and put a big payment down on new furniture for their flat. Now, the passengers were in an ungrateful mood, angrily pushing their plates away, and calling down the wrath of God on the owners of any steamship line that would send out a boat with such a crew and such a larger, blaming everybody from the mess boy to the Captain for it all. Sardines for dinner! Bah! They were certainly in no mood for tipping generously.



Monday, August 10, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt eight)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

At that time, 1923, the name of Marcus Garvey was known the length and breadth of the West Coast of Africa. And the Africans did not laugh at Marcus Garvey, as so many people laughed in New York. They hoped what they had heard about him was true—that he really would unify the black world, and free and exalt Africa. They did not understand the terrific complications of the Colonial Problem. They only knew the white man was there in Africa, heavy and oppressive on their backs. And they wanted him to go away.

“Our problems in America are very much like yours,” I told the Africans, “especially in the South. I am a Negro, too.”



Sunday, August 9, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt seven)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

The first day out of New York harbor, the sailors began to clean up the ship. All the filth and garbage that had accumulated in the harbor was dumped into the ocean, and the limpid blue-green of the sea received the garbage and swill, and didn’t seem to be dirtied at all. That is one of the many wonders of the sea—that the garbage and bilge water of ten thousand ships is dumped into it every day, and the sea is never dirty.

Soon our ship became bright and shining, the brass all polished, the decks chipped, and the bulkheads painted. And the crew became rested and clean, sleep all caught up after nights ashore in New York. The sun was very bright, a brisk breeze was blowing, the spray salt and cool, the waves foany-white, and the air like a tonic in the lungs. And nobody was afraid of being hungry or homeless or out of work or not needed in the scheme of things for six months as we headed toward Africa.



Saturday, August 8, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt six)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

Like the bullfights, I can never put on paper the thrill of that underground ride to Harlem. I had never been in a subway before and it fascinated me—the noise, the speed, the green lights ahead. At every station I kept watching for the sign: 135TH STREET. When I saw it, I held my breath. I came out onto the platform with two heavy bags and looked around. It was still early morning and people were going to work. Hundreds of colored people! I wanted to shake hands with them, speak to them. I hadn’t seen any colored people for so long—that is, any Negro colored people.

I went up the steps and out into the bright September sunlight. Harlem! I stood there, dropped my bags, took a deep breath and felt happy again. I registered at the Y.



Friday, August 7, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt five)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

My mother let me go to the station alone, and I felt pretty bad when I got on the train. I felt bad for the next three or four years, to tell the truth, and those were the years when I wrote most of my poetry. (For my best poems were all written when I felt the worst. When I was happy, I didn’t write anything.)



Thursday, August 6, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt four)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

That November the First World War ended. In Cleveland, everybody poured into the streets to celebrate the Armistice. Negroes, too, although Negroes were increasingly beginning to wonder where, for them, was that democracy they had fought to preserve. In Cleveland, a liberal city, the color line began to be drawn tighter and tighter. Theaters and restaurants in the downtown area began to refuse to accommodate colored people. Landlords doubled and tripled the rents at the approach of a dark tenant. And when the white soldiers came back from the war, Negroes were often discharged from their jobs and white men hired in their places.



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt three)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

I was reading Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and Edna Ferber and Dreiser, and de Maupassant in French. I never will forget the thrill of first understanding the French of de Maupassant. The soft snow was falling through one of his stories in the little book we used in school, and that I had worked over so long, before I really felt the snow falling there. Then all of a sudden one night the beauty and the meaning of the words in which he made the snow fall, came to me. I think it was de Maupassant who made me really want to be a writer and write stories about Negroes, so true that people in far-away lands would read them—even after I was dead.

But I did not dare write stories yet, although poems came to me now spontaneously, from somewhere inside. But there were no stories in my mind. I put the poems down quickly on anything I had at hand when they came into my head, and later I copied them in a notebook. But I began to be afraid to show my poems to anybody, because they had become very serious and very much a part of me. And I was afraid other people might not like them or understand them.



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt two)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

I was the Class Poet. It happened like this. They had elected all the class officers, but there was no one in our class who looked like a poet, or had ever written a poem. There were two Negro children in the class, myself and a girl. In America most white people think, of course, that all Negroes can sing and dance, and have a sense of rhythm. So my classmates, knowing that a poem had to have rhythm, elected me unanimously—thinking, no doubt, that I had some, being a Negro.

The day I was elected, I went home and wondered what I should write. Since we had eight teachers in our school, I thought there should be one verse for each teacher, with an especially good one for my favorite teacher, Miss Ethel Welsh. And since the teachers were to have eight verses, I felt the class should have eight, too. So my first poem was about the longest poem I ever wrote—sixteen verses, which were later cut down. In the first half of the poem, I said that our school had the finest teacher there ever were. And in the latter half, I said our class was the greatest class ever graduated. So at graduation, when I read the poem, naturally everybody applauded loudly.

That was the way I began to write poetry.



Monday, August 3, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes, excerpt one)

from The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes:

I am brown. My father was a darker brown. My mother an olive-yellow. On my father’s side, the white blood in his family came from a Jewish slave trader in Kentucky, Silas Cushenberry, of Clark County, who was his mother’s father; and Sam Clay, a distiller of Scotch descent, living in Henry County, who was his father’s father. So on my father’s side both male great-grandparents were white, and Sam Clay was said to be a relative of the great statesman, Henry Clay, his contemporary.

On my mother’s side, I had a paternal great-grandfather named Quarles—Captain Ralph Quarles—who was white and who lived in Louisa County, Virginia, before the Civil War, and who had several colored children by a colored housekeeper, who was his slave. The Quarles traced their ancestry back to Francis Quarles, famous Jacobean poet, who wrote A Feast for Worms.



Saturday, August 1, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt eleven)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

The UKA was full of know-nothing, low-life types who cared little about the philosophy that Shelton espoused. He didn’t like spending much time with them, for they compromised his vision. Now that he had no more contact with Wallace, he needed new excitements, new possibilities for action, and sophisticated new contacts. In 1972 an informant told the FBI that Shelton had met with Dr. Sallah El Dareer, an Arab-American leader in Birmingham, who wanted Shelton to help establish a camp to train anti-Israel insurgents. El Dareer told the informant “due to a lack of funds and his inability to satisfy the KKK’s material demands, he had not been able to start the training camp.”

Another informant told the FBI that Shelton confided to an associate that he planned to turn the UKA into an “out-in-the-open paramilitary organization and would, if necessary, be patterned after the German Gestapo.” He met with a group of Arab-American activists and told them that American Jews needed to have “fear put in them by the killing of a few Jewish leaders.” The Klan leader agreed to show an anti-Israel film at a Klan meeting and “distribute any available Arab literature.”



Friday, July 31, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt ten)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

In 1961, when Wallace was planning to run for governor, Lurleen had been diagnosed with cancer. Her physician told her husband of the diagnosis but not his patient. George withheld almost everything from his wife, including the fundamental facts of her health. So four years later when Lurleen’s doctor told her she had uterine cancer, she did not realize it was a recurrence. She had a hysterectomy that sought to remove all the malignancy, but Lurleen was in a weakened, vulnerable state. She was, however, a self-effacing, self-sacrificing woman who lived for her children and her husband. If George wanted her to run, she would run.

Given his wife’s condition, Wallace might have sought another paper candidate, but he was perfectly willing to risk his wife’s health and perhaps her life so that he might have control over the governorship for another four years.



Thursday, July 30, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt nine)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Chambliss had built many bombs before, but at the church the detonator apparently misfired, and the bomb did not go off in the middle of the night when no one was in the building. Instead, at 10:22 A.M. on Sunday, September 15, 1963, the large bomb destroyed a corner of the church, killing four girls: fourteen-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, and eleven-year-old Denise McNair; twenty-two others were injured.

The explosion sent a wave of flames streaking above the church, filling the building with smoke and debris. Out on the street, it blew a driver out of his car. It was the worst single act of violence in the history of the modern civil rights movement.



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt eight)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

On the frigid inaugural morning in January 1963, Wallace stood with a silk top hat in his hand as he proudly watched 15,000 Alabamans marching up Dexter Avenue. Not a single black person paraded past him. Nor was a single black person pictured in the 296-page official inaugural program. The tens of thousands of men and women who braved the twenty-five-degree weather to hear the inaugural address were also exclusively white. The most famous passage in the thirty-six-minute speech became as much an anthem of resistance as the song “Dixie.”

“I draw the line in the dust,” Wallace said, “and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation now . . . segregation tomorrow . . . and segregation forever.”



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt seven)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

In 1975 Time called Dees “the second most hated man in Alabama,” outranked only by federal judge Frank Johnson. He knew a lot of people would not be happy that he was becoming involved in the Michael Donald murder case. His conservative critics considered Dees a turncoat, a former segregationist who now hobnobbed with people he would have once shunned. It wasn’t just those on the right who had no use for him. Even Montgomery’s small liberal community had its problems with Dees. He was flamboyant and self-aggrandizing. He was nothing but a provocateur. He stole their light. He worked without their counsel. He never knew when enough was enough. And worst of all, and this was indisputably true, he didn’t give a damn what they thought about him.



Monday, July 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt six)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

When Chris Galanos returned from California and marched back into his Mobile office, he boasted in his bold, almost manic way that he had gotten Knowles to talk, and he had the case under control. The same was not true of his life. For months he had been ingesting prescribed Dexedrine diet pills in such numbers that they had changed almost everything in his public conduct. He thought he could manage his problem, but he had been pulled over by the police, who wrote him up for a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.

In early December, the week before the most important trial of his life, Galanos spent much of his time trying to get the misdemeanor dismissed. He was able to have the charges thrown out, but the whole matter had become public.



Sunday, July 26, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt five)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Figures considered his new boss, Jefferson “Jeff” Beauregard Sessions III, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama and a future United States senator, as a closet racist. Figures said that Sessions called him “boy,” the most demeaning of terms for a southern black man. And the Reagan appointee also said that he figured the Klan was okay until he learned some of its members smoked pot. Sessions said later he was only joking, but such comments made Figures even more suspicious of what even the most elevated people truly thought about his race. Yet Sessions believed almost as strongly as Figures that the Civil Rights Division should enter the case, and by his actions in that matter hardly seemed a racist.



Saturday, July 25, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt four)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Mobile fancied itself better on racial matters than the rest of Alabama, but from what Eddy was learning, that was not the case. When he first got to town, Eddy went into the Mobile police headquarters to meet with the detectives investigating the Donald murder. They threw the n word back and forth across the room like a Ping-Pong ball. That did not happen any longer among the cops Eddy knew, and as they were using this language, a black detective was sitting at his desk within earshot.

Eddy believed that four of the five main white detectives were probably racists. He was convinced that these men thought their primary task was to protect good, decent white people against a violent underclass of black drug dealers, pimps, robbers, welfare cheaters, and other hustlers. These officers, he feared, would be disinclined to indict Klan members for killing a young black man.



Friday, July 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt three)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Michael was a gentle, unassuming young man who rarely strayed far from his home in his mother’s cinder-block apartment in the projects. The development was called Orange Grove, and the best thing about it was the name.



Thursday, July 23, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt two)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Michael Donald’s body was still hanging from a tree when State Senator Michael Anthony Figures arrived on Herndon Avenue. A crowd stood across the street whispering anxiously about the horror. Most of them were black, and as their numbers kept growing, the Mobile police had blocked off the street and put up barriers to keep them back from the murder scene. The African Americans believed they were witnessing the archetypal crime against the black man. The assembly kept growing as people brought their children and their grandparents.

Figures knew there hadn’t been a racial lynching in many years, but he believed that he was at the scene of such a death. The thirty-three-year-old black politician and lawyer feared what might happen when black people across the Alabama city came to the same conclusion.



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, excerpt one)

from The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer:

Lynching had historically been the Klan’s emblematic act. But there had not been a hanging since 1955; the end of the era of lynching and the birth of the civil rights movement had coincided. By resurrecting it, the Klansmen were attempting to bring back the old times when hooded night riders roamed the southern night, meting out what they called justice to frightened, intimidated black people.

The Klan’s other strong symbol was the burning cross, and Bennie, Henry, and Knowles agreed that on the evening of the lynching, a fiery cross would illuminate the nighttime sky. They wanted black people to know that wherever they went, whatever they did, they too might feel a rope around their neck, and they should fear Klan justice.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt sixteen)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Ukraine remained basically quiet as we awaited their first round of presidential elections on March 31, but other matters began coming to the fore. Trump had complained about our Ambassador Yovanovitch, for some time, noting to me on March 21 during a telephone call covering a number of subjects that she was “bad-mouthing us like crazy” and that her only concern was LGBTQ matters. “She is saying bad shit about me and about you,” he added, saying he wanted her fired “today.” I said I would call Pompeo, who was in the Middle East; I tried several times to reach him but didn’t because of meeting schedules and time-zone differences. After Principals Committees later that afternoon, I pulled Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan aside to convey Trump’s direction, so he could inform Pompeo. Sullivan knew Trump wanted Yovanovitch fired, so he understood that this repetition of Trump’s instruction was serious.

A few days later, on March 25, Trump called me to the Oval, but I found him in his small dining room with Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow (another of his private attorneys), obviously enjoying discussing the reaction to Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation. At this meeting, I learned Giuliani was the source of the stories about Yovanovitch, who he said was being protected by a Deputy Assistant Secretary in State’s European bureau, George Kent (I don’t think Giuliani knew Kent’s job title accurately; Pompeo clarified it for me later). Trump again said Yovanovitch should be fired immediately. I reached Pompeo by phone in the late afternoon to relay this latest news, now with the update that it came from Giuliani. Pompeo said he had spoken with Giuliani before, and there were no facts supporting any of his allegations, although Pompeo didn’t doubt that, like 90 percent of the Foreign Service, Yovanovitch probably voted for Clinton. He said she was trying to reduce corruption in Ukraine and may well have been going after some of Giuliani’s clients. Pompeo said he would call Giuliani again and then speak to Trump. The next morning, I called Trump about several matters and asked if he and Pompeo had spoken on Yovanovitch. They had not, but he repeated he was “tired of her bad-mouthing us” and her saying he would be impeached and the like. “Really bad,” said Trump. I called Pompeo about nine forty-five a.m. to report this conversation. He again protested that Giuliani’s allegations simply weren’t true and said he would call Trump. I mentioned this to Trump later in the day, just so he knew he wasn’t being ignored.



Monday, July 20, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt fifteen)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

I left South Korea for Ulan Bator in the early afternoon, watching reports of the events in the DMZ as we flew. As foreshadowed by his earlier comments and the irresistible photo op presented, Trump walked into North Korea, with Kushner and Ivanka nearby. Kim looked delighted in the pictures, as he should have. What an incredible gift Trump had given him, coming to the DMZ for the personal publicity. The whole thing made me ill. It didn’t get better later when the media reported Trump had invited Kim to the White House. The Kim-Trump meeting itself lasted about fifty minutes, and the two leaders agreed working-level talks should resume again quickly. Of course, Biegun did not yet have a new counterpart; his former one was now likely lying somewhere in an unmarked grave, but no matter.



Sunday, July 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt fourteen)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

With 2020 being a presidential election year, it was inevitable that Trump’s performance in this global health emergency would become a campaign issue, which it did almost immediately. And there was plenty to criticize, starting with the Administration’s early, relentless assertion that the disease was “contained” and would have little or no economic effect. Larry Kudlow, Chairman of the National Economic Council, said, on February 25, “We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.” Market reactions to these kinds of assertions were decidedly negative, which may finally have woken the White House up to the seriousness of the problem. And obviously, in addition to the humanitarian implications, the economic and business consequences would certainly continue to reverberate through the November elections and beyond. Trump’s reflex effort to talk his way out of anything, however, even a public-health crisis, only undercut his and the nation’s credibility, with his statements looking more like political damage control than responsible public-health advice. One particularly egregious example was a news report that the Administration tried to classify certain public-health information regarding the United States on the spurious excuse that China was involved. Of course China was involved, which is a reason to disseminate the information broadly, not restrict it. This, Trump was reluctant to do throughout the crisis, for fear of adversely affecting the elusive definitive trade deal with China, or offending the ever-so-sensitive Xi Jinping.



Saturday, July 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt thirteen)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

China was also busily repressing ethnic minorities—in Tibet, for example—as it had been doing for decades. Beijing’s repression of the Uighurs also proceeded apace. Trump asked me at the 2018 White House Christmas dinner why we were considering sanctioning China because of its treatment of the Uighurs, a non-Han Chinese, largely Muslim people, who lived primarily in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province. Ross had warned me that morning Trump didn’t want sanctions because of the China trade negotiations. The issue of the Uighurs had been wending its way through the NSC process, but it was not yet ready for decision. It only got worse. At the opening dinner of the Osaka G20 meeting, with only interpreters present, Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do. Pottinger told me Trump said something very similar during the 2017 trip to China, which meant we could cross repression of the Uighurs off our list of possible reasons to sanction China, at least as long as trade negotiations continued.

Religious repression in China was also not on Trump’s agenda; whether it was the Catholic Church or Falun Gong, it didn’t register. That was not where Pence, Pompeo, and I were, but it was Trump’s call. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, pressing for Trump to do a religious freedom even at the upcoming September 2019 opening of the UN General Assembly, thought China was “horrible across the board,” which was just about right.



Friday, July 17, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt twelve)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

With the press gone, Xi said this is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. He said that some (unnamed) political figures in the United States were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war, this time between China and the United States. Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats, or some of us sitting on the US side of the table, I don’t know, but Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.

Trump then raised the negotiations’ collapse in May, urging China to return to the positions it had retracted. Breezing by China’s failure to do anything on fentanyl and its seizure of Canadian hostages (not to mention the American hostages), both discussed in Buenos Aires, Trump urged that the two sides start from where they had left off in May and pursue the negotiations to conclude the most exciting, largest deal ever made. Out of nowhere, Xi answered by comparing the impact of an unequal deal with us to the “humiliation” of the Treaty of Versailles, which had taken Shandong province from Germany but given it to Japan. Xi said with a straight face that if China suffered the same humiliation in our trade negotiations, there would be an upsurge of patriotic feeling in China, implicitly indicating that that feeling would be directed against the United States. Trump manifestly had no idea what Xi was referring to, but said that a treaty of non-equals was not in Xi’s blood. History being a very easy subject for Trump once it was broached, he implied China owed the US a favor for knocking Japan out of World War II. Xi then lectured us on how China fought for nineteen years, and relied mainly on themselves to defeat the Japanese aggressors. Of course, this was just as nonsensical; the Chinese Communists had spent most of the war ducking Japan and trying to undercut the Chinese Nationalists. The war ended when it did because we used atomic bombs, but Xi was reciting history from the Communist catechism, not that Trump understood that either.



Thursday, July 16, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt eleven)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Dinner started at five forty-five, after the mandatory session with the press mob for pictures, and lasted until eight o’clock. Xi began by telling Trump how wonderful he was, laying it on thick. Xi read steadily through note cards, doubtless all of it hashed out arduously in advance planning for this summit. For us, the President ad-libbed, with no one on the US side knowing what he would say from one minute to the next. One highlight came when Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on Presidents should be repealed for him. I was aware of no such chatter. Knowing Xi was effectively “President for life” in China, Trump was trying to compete with him. Later in the dinner, Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly. (Indeed, in a subsequent telephone conversation on December 29, Xi said expressly that China hoped Trump would have another term by amending the Constitution so he could stay longer.) Xi denied the idea of the “100-year marathon” to gain world dominance, or replace the United States, saying that was not China’s natural strategy. They respected our sovereignty and our interests in Asia, and merely wanted the 1.4 billion Chinese to enjoy a better life. How nice.

Xi finally shifted to substance, saying that since their November 1 phone call, their staffs had worked hard and reached consensus on the key economic issues. He then described China’s positions, essentially what Mnuchin had earlier urged we agree to: the US would roll back Trump’s existing tariffs; there would be no competitive currency manipulation; and we would agree not to engage in cyber thievery (how thoughtful). There were no winners in a trade war, said Xi, so we should eliminate the current tariffs, or at least agree there would be no new tariffs. “People expect this,” said Xi, and I feared at that moment that Trump would simply say yes to everything Xi had laid out. He came close, unilaterally offering that US tariffs would remain at 10 percent rather than rise to 25 percent as he had threatened. In exchange, Trump asked merely for some increases in farm-product purchases (to help with the crucial farm-state vote). If that could be agreed, all the tariffs would be reduced. Intellectual property was left to be worked out at some unspecified point. There would be a ninety-day period of negotiations to get everything done. It was breathtaking. Then he asked Lighthizer if he had left anything out, and Lighthizer did what he could to get the conversation back onto the place of reality, focusing on the structural issues and ripping apart the Chinese proposal so beloved by Mnuchin.



Wednesday, July 15, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt ten)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

In the midst of US trade delegations going to Beijing and Chinese delegations coming to Washington, Ross called me in mid-April, my second week on the job, to talk about ZTE, a Chinese telecom company. ZTE had committed massive violations of both our Iran and our North Korea sanctions, had been successfully prosecuted by Justice, and was operating under a criminal-consent decree monitoring and regulating its behavior. A court-appointed master overseeing the decree had just reported extensive violations, which could result in significant additional fines, as well as cutting ZTE off from the US market, which Ross was prepared to do. I didn’t consider this a trade issue but a law-enforcement matter. If ZTE had been a US company, we would have toasted them, and I saw no reason to hold back because ZTE was Chinese. Nonetheless, the State Department worried about offending China, so Ross wanted to know how to proceed the next day with a planned Commerce Department announcement. I told him to go ahead, which he did.

Within a few weeks, however, Trump was unhappy with Ross’s decision and wanted to modify the hefty penalties he had proposed, with Mnuchin quickly agreeing. I was appalled, because by rescinding what Ross had already told China, Trump was undercutting him (which, as I learned shortly, was standard operating procedure for Trump) and forgiving ZTE’s unacceptable criminal behavior. Even so, Trump decided to call Xi Jinping, just hours before announcing that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Trump began by complaining about China’s trade practices, which he believed were so unfair, and said China needed to buy more US agricultural products. Xi actually raised ZTE first, and Trump called our actions very strong, even harsh. He said he had told Ross to work something out for China. Xi replied that if that were done, he would owe Trump a favor and Trump immediately responded he was doing this because of Xi. I was stunned by the unreciprocated nature of the concession, and because, as Ross told me later, ZTE had almost been destroyed by the penalties imposed. Reversing the decision would be inexplicable. This was policy by personal whim and impulse.



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt nine)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

In an October 2019 interview, in the midst of the Ukraine impeachment crisis, Kelly said he had told Trump, “Whatever you do—and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place—I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth—don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.” Trump flatly denied Kelly had made such a statement: “John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.” And Stephanie Grisham, previously one of the First Lady’s Furies, now White House press secretary, pronounced ex cathedra, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.” These quotes speak volumes about the people who uttered them.

With Kelly’s departure and Mulvaney’s appointment, all effective efforts at managing the Executive Office of the President ceased. Both domestic policy strategy and political strategy, never strong suits, all but disappeared; personnel decisions deteriorated further, and the general chaos spread. The crisis over Ukraine followed. There was a lot of evidence that Kelly’s hypothesis was entirely correct.



Monday, July 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt eight)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

I told Trump about this North Korean eruption at about six thirty p.m., and he said our press line should be, “Whatever the situation is, is fine with me. If they would prefer to meet, I am ready. If they would prefer not to meet, that is okay with me too. I will fully understand.” I called again at seven o’clock and listened at length to Trump criticize the South Korean-US military exercise: he had been against it for a year, couldn’t understand why it cost so much and was so provocative, didn’t like flying B-52s from Guam to participate, and on and on and on. I couldn’t believe that the reason for these exercises—to be fully ready for a North Korean attack—hadn’t been explained before. If it had, it clearly hadn’t registered. Competent militaries exercise frequently. Especially in an alliance, joint training is critical so that the allied countries don’t cause problems for themselves in a time of crisis. “Fight tonight” was the slogan of US Forces Korea, reflecting its mission to deter and defeat aggression. A decrease in readiness could mean “fight next month,” which didn’t cut it. As I came to realize, however, Trump just didn’t want to hear about it. The exercises offended Kim Jong Un and were unnecessarily expensive. Case closed.

In the meantime, we were working on logistics for Singapore; on one critical point, Pompeo suggested that he, Kelly, and I be with Trump whenever he was around Kim, to which Kelly and I readily agreed. I also worried how cohesive we could be given the daily explosions everyone became inured to in the Trump White House. One such bizarre episode in mid-May involved disparaging remarks by Kelly Sadler, a White House communications staffer, about John McCain. Her comments, dismissing McCain and how he might vote on Gina Haspel’s nomination as CIA Director because “he’s dying anyway,” leaked to the press, immediately creating a storm. Trump wanted to promote Sadler, while others wanted to fire her, or at least make her apologize publicly for her insensitivity. Sadler refused and got away with it because Trump, who despised McCain, allowed her to. Sadler turned her own insensitivity into a weapon by accusing others of leaking, a frequent offensive tactic in the Trump White House. In an Oval Office meeting, Trump rewarded her with a hug and kiss. Although this debacle was hardly my issue, I went to see Kelly at one point, figuring that surely rational people could get an apology out of this insubordinate staffer. After a brief discussion, with just the two of us in his office, Kelly said, “You can’t imagine how desperate I am to get out of here. This is a bad place to work, as you will find out.” He was the first to see Trump in the morning and the last to see him at night, and I could only conjecture how many mistakes he had prevented during his tenure. Kelly attacked the press, fully justifiably in my view, and said, “They’re coming for you, too,” which I didn’t doubt.



Sunday, July 12, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt seven)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Shortly thereafter, Trump flipped again on Erdogan and Turkey. With the Brunson matter now six weeks behind us, the two leaders met bilaterally on December 1 at the Buenos Aires G20 summit, largely discussing Halkbank. Erdogan provided a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent of violating US Iran sanctions. Trump asked whether we could reach Acting US Attorney General Matt Whitaker, which I sidestepped. Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.

Of course, this was all nonsense, since the prosecutors were career Justice Department employees, who would have proceeded the same way if the Halkbank investigation started in the eighth year of Trump’s presidency rather than the eighth year of Obama’s. It was as though Trump was trying to show he had as much arbitrary authority as Erdogan, who had said twenty years earlier as mayor of Istanbul, “Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it to the stop you want, and then you get off.” Trump rolled on, claiming he didn’t want anything bad to happen to Erdogan or Turkey, and that he would work very hard on the issue. Erdogan also complained about Kurdish forces in Syria (which Trump didn’t address) and then raised Fethullah Gulen, asking yet again that he be extradited to Turkey. Trump hypothesized that Gulen would last for only one day if he were returned to Turkey. The Turks laughed but said Gulen needn’t worry, since Turkey had no death penalty. Fortunately, the bilateral ended shortly thereafter. Nothing good was going to come of this renewed bromance with yet another authoritarian foreign leader.



Saturday, July 11, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt six)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

At 9:35 a.m., I called Trump, who was as usual still in the Residence, and said we were 95 percent certain Brunson was out. Trump was ecstatic, immediately tweeting away, mixed in with a tweet about why Ivanka would be a great UN Ambassador. He wanted Brunson brought immediately to the White House, not stopping at the US medical facility at Landstuhl, Germany, for medical observation and care if necessary. Delays in getting the Pentagon plane to Izmir meant Brunson had to overnight in Germany anyway. In turn, that meant his visit to the White House would be Saturday afternoon, when North Carolina members of Congress, his home state, and additional family and friends would attend. After seeing the White House physician just to ensure they were ready for the wild scene about to unfold, Brunson and his wife walked to the West Wing. I spoke to them briefly, surprised to hear that Brunson had followed me for a long time and almost always agreed with me. The Brunsons went to the Residence to meet Trump and then walked with him along the colonnade to the Oval Office, where those assembled greeted them with cheers. The press mob entered as the pastor and the President talked. At the end, Brunson knelt next to Trump’s chair, put his arm on Trump’s shoulder, and prayed for him, which, needless to say, was the photo du jour. So the Brunson matter ended, but bilateral relations with Turkey were at their lowest ebb ever.



Friday, July 10, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt five)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Worryingly, however, Putin also said he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election “because he talked about bringing the US-Russian relationship back to normal,” a significant deviation from the standard public line that countries don’t interfere in others’ internal politics and would work with whomever was elected. That in turn paled before the Trump response near the end of the press conference, when Trump said, “My people came to me—Dan Coats came to me and some others—they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have—I have confidence in both parties… So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Kelly and I, sitting next to each other in the audience, were almost frozen to our seats by Trump’s answer. It was obvious that major corrective action would be needed because of this self-inflicted wound, but what exactly that would be was far from evident. The immediate media coverage was catastrophic.



Thursday, July 9, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt four)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

North Korea’s approach was different. Kim sent Trump one of his famous “love letters” at the beginning of August, criticizing the lack of progress since Singapore and suggesting the two of them get together again soon. Pompeo and I agreed such a meeting needed to be avoided at any cost, and certainly not before the November election. Under such political pressure, who knew what Trump might give away? We also agreed the best response to the letter was to say Pompeo was ready to return to Pyongyang at any time. When I showed Trump Kim Jong Un’s letter and explained our recommendation, however, Trump said immediately, “I should meet with Kim Jong Un. We should invite him to the White House.” This was a potential disaster of enormous magnitude. I suggested instead meeting in New York at September’s UN General Assembly opening, but Trump wasn’t having it: “No, there are too many things going on then.” By this time, others had come into the Oval, including Kelly, to whom I whispered on the way out, “There is no way he should meet again with Kim.” Kelly completely agreed. Pompeo, traveling in Asia, called in the late afternoon, and I explained what had happened. He said, “I want to see the picture of the look on your face when POTUS said he wanted a White House visit!” That would have been hard, I said, because they would first have had to peel me off the rug on the Oval Office floor. Trump tweeted to Kim that afternoon, “Thank you for your nice letter—I look forward to seeing you soon!” Although it was dicey, we drafted a letter Trump signed the next day, offering up Pompeo in Pyongyang. Trump said he didn’t like the idea, which he thought was insulting to Kim: “I disagree with you and Pompeo. It’s not fair to Kim Jong Un, and I hope it doesn’t ruin things,” he said as he wrote in his own hand at the bottom of the letter, “I look forward to seeing you soon.” At least he signed it.



Wednesday, July 8, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt three)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Trump personally still seemed undecided about whether he wanted Singapore to happen. As we discussed strategy before Pompeo left for New York to meet Kim Yong Chol, he went back and forth before concluding, “I would rather have it [Singapore] than not have it. But if we don’t get denuclearization, we can’t do anything else.” He said, “[If the meeting fails] I would impose massive tariffs [either he meant sanctions, or he was referring to China, not North Korea]. I have decided to delay them for now, but they are waiting.” Then came the bottom line: “I want to go. It will be great theater.” There was no discussion of Kim Yong Chol’s coming to the White House, and Pompeo and I agreed as we walked out of the Oval that we might yet escape. That, unfortunately, overlooked the lesser Kim, who, as Pompeo said to Kelly and me shortly after nine p.m. that evening, was “hell-bent on getting in front of Trump” to hand him a letter from Kim Jong Un. Kim Yong Chol was also obdurate on all the substantive issues. The only good news was that he had no use for Moon and no interest in a trilateral summit. This was between us, with no need for the South Koreans. We got Trump on the line, Pompeo reported on the dinner, and we came finally to Kim Yong Chol’s desire to hand him Kim Jong Un’s letter. “Very elegant,” Trump exclaimed, “let’s do it.” Kelly and I explained why we opposed it, but to no avail. Neither arguments about the potential political impact nor about Kim Yong Chol himself (a brutal killer, and the man very likely personally responsible for the effectively fatal torture of Otto Warmbier) made a dent. We tried later, with the Vice President’s agreement, at least to move the meeting out of the Oval Office, but that didn’t work either. I dug out a picture of Bill Clinton sitting in the Oval with two North Korean generals, to show Pyongyang had played this game before, and even that didn’t work.

State’s Diplomatic Security people drove the lesser Kim from New York for the one p.m. Oval meeting with Trump. We met to brief Trump, and Pence tried again to persuade him to hold it somewhere else, such as the Diplomatic Reception Room. Trump wasn’t listening. In fact, he began musing about taking Kim Yong Chol to the Lincoln Bedroom, which we also tried to talk him out of. I collected the US interpreter and walked over to the Residence’s South Entrance, where Kelly was already waiting to meet the North Koreans and escort them to the Oval. While we were there, a Secret Service agsnt told me the President wanted me back in the Oval. I was puzzled, but downright amazed when I walked into the Oval and ran into Pence, who said neither he nor I would be in the meeting with Kim. I could tell from both Pence and Ayers that they were somewhat in shock, and Ayers said Trump wanted “to keep the meeting small”; it would just be Trump, Pompeo, and the interpreter on the US side, and Kim and his interpreter on theirs. There would be the absolute minimum number of people present to hear what Trump said. By this time, Trump was in a near frenzy, piling up standard-issue White House gifts (such as cuff links) to give away. One box was slightly creased, and Trump told Madeleine Westerhout harshly, “You’ve ruined this one, get another one.” He then berated the White House official photographer, whom he wanted to stay only briefly while Kim Yong Chol was there. I had never seen Trump so wrought up. Pence said to me, “Why don’t you hang out in my office?” which was generous; neither of us thought that handling over Kim Jong Un’s letter would take more than a few minutes. I was still stunned at being excluded, but not more stunned than Pence, who was stoical throughout.



Tuesday, July 7, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt two)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

Mattis pushed relentlessly for his innocuous options. While Pence tried to help me out, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin strongly backed Mattis, although he manifestly had no idea what he was talking about. Nikki Haley explained that her husband was in the National Guard, so we should try to avoid military casualties. When McGahn against sought more information on the targets, Mattis flatly refused to provide it, even though McGahn was still asking for it only for his legal analysis, not to act as a targeteer, which was outside his purview (as were Mnuchin’s and Haley’s comments). It was stunning. McGahn told me later he didn’t challenge Mattis directly because he didn’t want to disrupt the meeting further; he was later able to get what he needed for his legal opinion. The best we could say, as Dunford phrased it, was that Trump had decided to strike “the heart of the [Syrian chemical-weapons] enterprise.” We would be firing over twice as many missiles as in 2017, and at more physical targets. Whether that would result in anything more than a few additional buildings’ being destroyed, however, was a very different question.

Even if the President had decided on the optimal strike, the decision-making process was completely unacceptable. We’d experienced a classic bureaucratic ploy by a classic bureaucrat, structuring the options and information to make only his options look acceptable in order to get his way. Of course, Trump didn’t help by not being clear about what he wanted, jumping randomly from one question to another, and generally frustrating efforts to have a coherent discussion about the consequences of making one choice rather than another. The media portrayed the meeting, the details of which were promptly leaked, as Mattis prevailing because of his “moderation.” In fact, the spirit of Stonewall Jackson lived in Mattis and his acolytes. (“There stands Jackson like a stone wall,” as the Confederates said at the First Battle of Bull Run.) Achieving a better outcome, however, would require more bureaucratic in-fighting and a further NSC meeting, thereby losing more critical time. That was a non-starter, and Mattis knew it. Indeed, Syria had already moved equipment and materials away from several targets we hoped to destroy. I was satisfied I had acted as an honest broker, but Mattis had been playing with marked cards. He knew how Trump responded in such situations far better than I did. As McGahn often whispered to me during our overlapping White House tenures, reflecting the contrast with our earlier experiences in government, “This is not the Bush Administration.”



Monday, July 6, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt one)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

I knew senior Trump campaign officials like Steve Bannon, Dave Bossie, and Kellyanne Conway from prior associations, and had spoken to them about joining a Trump Administration should one happen. Once the transition began, I thought it reasonable to offer my services as Secretary of State, as did others. When Chris Wallace came off the Fox set early on November 9, after the race was called, he shook my hand and said, smiling broadly, “Congratulations, Mr. Secretary.” Of course, there was no dearth of contenders to lead the State Department, which generated endless media speculation about who the “front-runner” was, starting with Newt Gingrich, proceeding to Rudy Giuliani, then Mitt Romney, and then back to Rudy. I had worked with and respected each of them, and each was credible in his own way. I paid special attention because there was constant chatter (not to mention pressure) that I should settle for being Deputy Secretary, obviously not my preference. What came next demonstrated Trumpian decision-making and provided (or should have) a cautionary lesson.



Saturday, July 4, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt sixteen)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

During that same May 2017 trip, Melania joined other G7 leaders’ spouse to tour the elegant Palazzo degli Elefanti in Catania, Sicily. At lunch, Melania was seated beside the-mayor Enzo Bianco. She spoke entirely in English, communicating to the mayor through her Italian interpreter. Bianco said that he thought it proper etiquette to converse in English with the first lady. But others involved in the planning of the trip said it would have been a nice gesture if Melania had spoken even a few words in Italian. Two months later, Melania and Trump visited Paris. Melania walked into a children’s hospital and brightly greeted the children with a cheerful, “Bonjour! Bonjour!” Then she sat down with the French kids and started chanting to them in English through an interpreter. “How are you? Nice to meet you,” she said to one little girl. Although she placed her hand over her heart and offered a “Je m’appelle Melania. Et toi?,” she then switched back to English. In August 2019, at a G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Melania picked up translation headphones to listen to a speech by French president Emmanuel Macron. CNN commentator Keith Boykin spotted the problem: “Wait. I thought Melania Trump spoke French fluently.”



Friday, July 3, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt fifteen)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

The inconsistent Trump political machine did not always look out for Melania. Her debut at the Republican National Convention was marred by an embarrassing mistake. Melania’s speech contained plagiarized lines from Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention keynote address in 2008. Although a Trump Organization employee, Meredith McIver, took the blame, several insiders say the person most responsible was Rick Gates, deputy chairman of the campaign. But Melania was the one who was left humiliated in public. (Gates has said he is not to blame for the speech. He was later sentenced to forty-five days in jail for making false statements to the FBI and conspiracy to commit financial fraud.)

Trump was furious. He felt his campaign had let Melania down and was heard angrily saying, “She got screwed. Who did this to her?” Corey Lewandowski told me that the speech blunder was especially terrible because Melania is a perfectionist.



Thursday, July 2, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt fourteen)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

I asked for an example of advice she has given her husband, but she demurred. I asked her to tell voters something that might surprise them about her. “I’m compassionate,” she said. “I am kind when people are kind.” I had thought that she might say something like she played the piano. Now I thought how sad it must be to believe others didn’t think she cared. “I love the truth,” she continued. “I’m telling the truth. I like fairness. I don’t like people when they say lies.” She said that she pays attention to details and is a perfectionist.

I asked her what she and her husband did together as a couple for fun. She said they watched movies at home or on their private jet. Her favorites? Gone with the Wind Sunset Boulevard An Affair to Remember. All classic movies about complicated love. (In 2020, as Trump complained that Parasite, a South Korean film, had won the Academy Award for Best Picture, he singled out two movies as great ones: Gone with the Wind and Sunset Boulevard.)



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt thirteen)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

Viktor sometimes ended up with Trump’s cast-off clothing. “They’re the same size and everything,” Morales said. One day in 2013, Amalija found a red hat in a pile where Trump had placed some items that he no longer wanted to wear. She thought Viktor could use it, so she picked it up and gave it to her husband. Viktor put it on one morning and wore it to the golf course, where he ran into Trump.

Employees knew that Trump had an unwritten rule that only he could wear his distinctive red caps—making him unmistakable anywhere on the property. When he saw Melania’s father in the cap, he became furious and demanded that he take it off and leave. The caddies and housekeepers who saw this scene unfold said it was an unforgettable moment. “Nobody could wear the red hat but [Trump],” Diaz said. “The whole world saw what Trump had done to his father-in-law,” Morales added. Viktor “was very embarrassed.” Diaz said that Viktor came back to the house and screamed about “that fucking guy.” Diaz said Melania’s mother tried to calm her husband down, but recalled that Melania remained silent.



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt twelve)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

Marriage thus far had not been a success story for Trump. His first one, to Ivana, ended badly. The second, to Marla, included the sting of having Marla caught on a beach late at night with one of his security guys. People close to Trump said they had never seen him so furious and humiliated. In January, Marla announced that she was publishing a memoir, All That Glitters Is Not Gold, and that it was not expected to be flattering to Trump. Trump is known for threatening to sue to try to stop books about him from being published. Marla’s memoir never appeared, eventually being withdrawn “by mutual consent.”

Jay Goldberg, Trump’s friend and lawyer who worked on his divorce from Ivana, said marriage hadn’t been an easy fit for Trump, who was always looking for the next thing. “I noticed in the relationship with Marla, the philosophy that there’s nothing that destroys love except for marriage… that if you have steak every night, you get tired of it,” Goldberg told me. “He was so in love with Marla when he was cheating on Ivana. Then once they got married, the fun of the chase was over.”



Monday, June 29, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt eleven)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

CBS newsman Dan Rather invited Trump and Melania to sit for a joint 60 Minutes interview. In a segment taped in December 1999 and aired on January 11, 2000, a visibly skeptical Rather grilled Trump about his unconventional views. Watching the interview in 2019, it is striking how little Trump has changed in both the words he uses and his demeanor. He’s been reading off the same script for decades, with Melania nearby, glowing with admiration. When Rather asked about Senator McCain’s war record, Trump said exactly what he would say on the campaign trail almost two decades later: “Does being captured make you a war hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.” He said other politicians are “dumber than a rock,” and that George W. Bush “doesn’t seem like Albert Einstein.”



Sunday, June 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt ten)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

Six months before Melania’s Sports Illustrated shoot in Mexico, the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant held its 1999 competition in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trump often invited his pals to be judges, and that year he asked Kylie Bax and world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield. Perhaps more important, he invited Diane Smith, the influential Sports Illustrated senior editor in charge of the swimsuit edition. Within months of the Miss Universe pageant, Melania, Bax, and Holyfield all appeared int eh 2000 swimsuit issue. (Male sports stars are sometimes featured posing with the bikini-clas women.)

A few weeks after the fall photo shoot, in late 1999, Sports Illustrated’s top editor, Bill Colson, received a phone call out of the blue: Donald Trump wanted to have lunch. Colson had never met Trump, and he thought it strange to be summoned by the celebrity developer. But everybody knew Trump was interested in sports, particularly golf and tennis, so perhaps it made sense that he wanted to chat with the editor of the biggest sports magazine in the country. Colson met him at Jean-Georges, the high-end restaurant housed in the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Central Park West. Colson engaged Trump on sports, and they chatted. But Colson said it soon became clear why he was there.

“Did it go well with Melania?” Trump said.



Saturday, June 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, excerpt nine)

from The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan:

She laid out her story: She was born and raised in a small town. At nineteen, she won a contest at Rome Cinecittà film studios. She left the architecture program at the University of Ljubljana before the end of her first year of studies to pursue modeling. She had lived in Milan, the Paris, and “for the past two years, my address is on Park Avenue in New York City.”

At times, her story seemed to veer into exaggeration or pure confection. She described a luxurious life as one of the highest-paid models in the world and added that she was “among the top 50” internationally, according to multiple articles published right after the press conference. “I know some of the top models personally, as well as other famous personalities, like Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi,” Melania said. “Sometimes we get together, or we see one another at various events.” The Vienna office of Elite models was representing her, she said, and “other big agencies are trying to get me. People all over the world know my name and my work.”