When Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman effectively launched a coup and unseated his political rival in June, President Donald Trump took private credit. “We’ve put our man on top!” Trump told his friends, writes Michael Wolff in his forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had ousted his nephew Mohammad bin Nayef as crown prince and replaced him with his then-31-year-old son, bin Salman, shaking up the line of succession and turning on decades of custom within the royal family. The move was announced in the dead of night and was just another step in bin Salman’s rise to power in the kingdom in recent years. The king also removed bin Nayef, once a powerful figure in the country’s security apparatus, from his post as interior minister.
Just a month earlier, Trump had visited Saudi Arabia on his first overseas trip, meeting with leaders from across the Middle East and signing a $110 billion aspirational arms deal with the kingdom’s leaders. When bin Salman was named crown prince, Trump called and congratulated him on his “recent elevation.”
Wolff describes Trump’s Saudi trip as a “get-out-of-Dodge godsend,” as it was an escape from Washington shortly after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. “There couldn’t have been a better time to be making headlines far from Washington. A road trip could transform everything.”
The book is based on 18 months of interviews and access to Trump and his senior staff. But Wolff has a history of being an unreliable narrator, and questions have already been raised about the veracity of his claims. Trump, for his part, is outraged by the book, which contains damning passages about him and his family, attributed to the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. The president’s lawyer has demanded that Wolff and his publisher cease and desist publication of the book.