Jul 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump unloads on Kavanaugh in new Michael Wolff book

Cover of Michael Wolff's book

Cover: Henry Holt

Former President Donald Trump, in a book out Tuesday by Michael Wolff, says he is "very disappointed" in votes by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, his own hard-won nominee, and that he "hasn’t had the courage you need to be a great justice."

Driving the news: "There were so many others I could have appointed, and everyone wanted me to," Trump told Wolff in an interview for the cheekily titled "Landslide."

  • "Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn't even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him."

Between the lines: After the election, as Axios' Jonathan Swan reported in his "Off the Rails" series, Trump saved his worst venom for people who he believed owed him because he got them their jobs.

  • He would rant endlessly about the treachery of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, reminding people of how he shot up in the primary polls after Trump endorsed him.
  • Over lunches in the private dining room adjoining the Oval Office, Trump used to reminisce about how he saved Kavanaugh by sticking by him.
  • For Kavanaugh to not do Trump’s bidding on the matter of ultimate importance — overturning the election — was, in Trump's mind, a betrayal of the highest order.

Wolff writes that Trump feels betrayed by all three justices he put on the court, including Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, but "reserved particular bile for Kavanaugh."

  • Recalling the brutal confirmation fight, Trump said: "Practically every senator called me ... and said, 'Cut him loose, sir, cut him loose. He’s killing us, Kavanaugh.' ... I said, 'I can’t do that.'"
  • "I had plenty of time to pick somebody else," Trump continued. "I went through that thing and fought like hell for Kavanaugh — and I saved his life, and I saved his career. At great expense to myself ... okay? I fought for that guy and kept him."

"I don’t want anything ... but I am very disappointed in him, in his rulings," Trump said.

  • "I can’t even believe what's happening. I'm very disappointed in Kavanaugh. I just told you something I haven’t told a lot of people. In retrospect, he just hasn't had the courage you need to be a great justice. I’m basing this on more than just the election."

Wolff gives an entertaining account of what it was like for the book authors who were given Trump interviews at Mar-a-Lago:

It's called the Living Room, but it's in fact the Mar-a-Lago lobby, a vaulted-ceiling rococo grand entrance, part hunting lodge, part Renaissance palazzo. But it is really the throne room. ... He sits, in regulation dark suit and shiny baby-blue or fire-red tie, on a low chair in the center of the room, his legs almost daintily curled to the side, seeing a lineup of supplicants or chatting on the phone, all public conversations.

And why would Trump talk to Wolff, who wrote two earlier bestsellers with devastating accounts of Trump dysfunction?

  • "The fact that he was talking to me might only reasonably be explained by his absolute belief that his voice alone has reality-altering powers," Wolff writes.
  • Trump told Wolff: "I don’t blame you. I blame my people."
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