Trump? It was like a clown car on fire driving into a fireworks factory! That’s the hilariously devastating verdict of one of his most senior aides in a tell-all memoir, writes TOM LEONARD
- Former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote book on his presidency
- She described it as ‘a clown car on fire running at full speed into a warehouse full of fireworks’
- Book includes details about state banquet he attended at Buckingham Palace
As guests sat down to a state banquet in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace in June 2019, President Trump, in white tie and sitting next to the Queen, praised the ‘eternal friendship’ between the U.S. and the UK.
It seemed, for once, that decorum reigned over the most chaotic presidency in American history.
And yet behind the scenes in the run-up to the dinner, things were far from regal, according to the president’s then press secretary, Stephanie Grisham.
In a new book that has managed to humiliate an administration that seemed beyond embarrassment, she says all four of Trump’s adult children expected to be invited to the state banquet, along with their spouses and partners.
Stephanie Grisham has a lot to tell, having survived the full four-year term in the Trump White House, an administration she describes as ‘a clown car on fire running at full speed into a warehouse full of fireworks’
They believed they should also attend a dinner at the U.S. ambassador’s residence attended by Prince Charles.
‘Everyone began manoeuvring almost immediately,’ she recalls. Trump aides feared that some of this bunch were really not fit to be presented to the Queen.
‘We are going to look like the Beverly Hillbillies,’ wailed senior White House official Lindsay Reynolds. ‘We’ll be an embarrassment to the whole country.’
Even before the family left America, there was trouble. When Trump’s sons Donald Jr and Eric complained after Miss Reynolds prevented them from flying to the UK on Air Force One, the president exploded and told her never to ‘**** with his kids again’.
As guests sat down to a state banquet in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace in June 2019, President Trump, in white tie and sitting next to the Queen, praised the ‘eternal friendship’ between the U.S. and the UK
Meanwhile, Trump’s ambitious daughter Ivanka and her Machiavellian husband Jared Kushner were battling to join the President and First Lady when the Queen greeted them at the palace.
Mrs Trump, a stickler for protocol and no fan of Ivanka, was having none of it. ‘It didn’t dawn on me at first but, over the course of the next few days, I finally figured out what was going on,’ says Grisham. ‘Jared and Ivanka thought they were the royal family of the United States, on the same level as William and Kate in the United Kingdom. We didn’t call her “the Princess” for nothing, after all.’
In the event, there was no room for the pushy pair in the helicopter to the palace.
It’s just one of many colourful episodes from his presidency that Grisham details in her tell-all book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now.
In a new book that has managed to humiliate an administration that seemed beyond embarrassment, she says all four of Trump’s adult children expected to be invited to the state banquet, along with their spouses and partners
She certainly has a lot to tell, having survived the full four-year term in the Trump White House, an administration she describes as ‘a clown car on fire running at full speed into a warehouse full of fireworks’.
Mr Trump has dismissed the book as ‘another pitiful attempt to cash in on the president’s strength and sell lies about the Trump family’ and described its author as a ‘disgruntled former employee’ who has written a ‘book full of falsehoods’.
Mrs Trump accused Grisham of seeking ‘relevance and money’ through ‘mistruth and betrayal’, and described her as ‘a deceitful and troubled individual who doesn’t deserve anyone’s trust.’
But Grisham was, at various times, Trump’s press secretary and Mrs Trump’s spokesman, confidante and chief of staff.
PUTIN: He hired this translator just to distract the President
Observers say she had a ringside seat and won’t have had to rely on hearsay. This isn’t the first expose from a Trump insider but it may be the most damning. Grisham says she witnessed everything from Trump’s lascivious interest in a press office aide to his ‘bonkers’ behaviour with world leaders, crawling to Vladimir Putin and once devoting much of a working breakfast with Boris Johnson to discussing the strength of kangaroos. Terrified that Trump may run again for the presidency in 2024, Grisham says she has decided to ‘break her silence’.
The 45-year-old mother of two, described this week by a rival as ‘a female Machiavelli with a penchant for Justin Bieber’, says she first met Trump at the 2016 Iowa State Fair.
Working as one of his campaign press officers, she emerged from a lavatory to find the future president waiting to go in. He asked her to keep mum about his using the ladies’ lavatory. ‘It can be our secret,’ he said. She would soon be privy to many more. Grisham feels that working for him was a ‘classic abuse relationship’ as he ‘was the distant, erratic father we all wanted to please’.
He could be incredibly charming and generous but his ‘temper was terrifying’ and could be directed at anyone.
She reveals that when the president was in a furious mood, his aides would quickly send for a colleague who Trump dubbed ‘the Music Man’.
His job was to calm him down by putting on the president’s favourite songs such as Memory from Cats and the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. ‘It was sort of like soothing the savage beast,’ says Grisham.
Trump was ‘obsessed’ with James Brown’s It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, but she adds: ‘I talked him out of including the song in his rallies because it wouldn’t have been a good look for him.’ Given the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and philandering he faced, which he has denied, it certainly wouldn’t.
Grisham adds one more entry to the charge sheet, claiming Trump took an ‘unusual interest in a young, highly attractive’ female member of her press team who he tried to flatter by saying she should be on TV. On Air Force One flights, Trump would often ask for her to be brought to his office cabin, once allegedly saying: ‘Let’s bring her up and look at her ass.’
Grisham says she made sure she came along so they were never alone together.
She believes Putin exploited the president’s weakness for a pretty face, recounting a meeting between the two at the 2019 Osaka G20 summit, at which Fiona Hill, Trump’s British-born Russia expert, ‘leaned over and asked me if I had noticed Putin’s translator, who was a very attractive brunette woman with long hair, a pretty face, and a wonderful figure’.
Miss Hill, she says, ‘proceeded to tell me that she suspected the woman had been selected by Putin specifically to distract our president’.
According to Grisham, Putin needn’t have worried as Trump was desperate to impress the Kremlin hardman.
MACRON: Donald said he was just a 120lb ‘wuss guy’
Despite the fact Russia was under pressure for human rights abuses and interfering in the 2016 presidential election, she says Trump assured the autocrat: ‘OK, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras and after they leave we’ll talk. You understand.’
Putin responded ‘calmly’ to this extraordinary gesture, she adds. Trump ‘always seemed to want dictators to respect him’.
He seemed less bothered about democratically-elected allies — especially when they weren’t built like a KGB thug.
Grisham recalls Trump saying of Emmanuel Macron: ‘He’s a wuss guy. He’s all of 120 pounds of fury.’
The only Western European leader he had any time for, she says, was Boris Johnson. ‘Conversations between those two, both pudgy white guys with crazy hair, redefined the word “random”,’ she writes. ‘Johnson once told us over breakfast [at the G20] that Australia was “the most deadly country — spiders, snakes, crocodiles and kangaroos”. Then they discussed how powerful kangaroos were at considerable length.’
The conversation turned to a politician who’d just had surgery to remove a gallbladder. ‘“Can you put a new gallbladder in?” Johnson asked, chomping away on scrambled eggs and sausage. “I don’t know what a gallbladder does.” “It has something to do with alcohol,” Trump replied.’
STORMY DANIELS: One thing he hated was her description of his ‘toadstool’
But the latter had an almost childlike propensity to say the first thing that came into his head to foreign leaders, drastically changing the subject whenever he got bored, Grisham recalls.
In a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his aides, Trump broke off from discussing aircraft sales and asked, out of the blue: ‘Have any of you seen Midnight Express? That’s a dark movie for you guys.’
Mention of the thriller about a U.S. drug smuggler’s brutal spell in a Turkish prison was met with silence and a few embarrassed laughs.
She could never stop him going wildly off on a tangent but Grisham could at least provide help on other fronts. She once had to lend him some face powder as the president’s personal aide hadn’t brought the ‘usual arsenal of products’ on a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Answering one of the abiding mysteries about Trump, his orange complexion, Grisham confirms he applies make-up to his face every morning. He also spends ages every day with a ‘comb, a hair dryer and a ****-ton of hair spray’ to achieve his coiffure. He cuts his hair himself with a pair of scissors that ‘could probably cut a ribbon at an opening of one of his properties’, says Grisham.
She sheds new light, too, on that other great enigma — the First Lady.
BORIS: They discussed kangaroos at length
She insists Melania’s air of mystery was entirely intentional: ‘She didn’t want anyone to know her. She didn’t care most of the time what people thought.’
Neither talkative nor reflective, the sphinx-like ex-model was obsessed with aesthetics, she says — so obsessed that she once insisted a man dressed in a giant bunny suit for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll strip off his ‘tacky’ costume minutes before he was due to hop about on the White House lawn and entertain hundreds of children.
Mrs Trump, a homebird, spent so much time tucked away upstairs in the Trumps’ White House quarters that the Secret Service nicknamed her ‘Rapunzel’, says Grisham. She says Melania effectively had two children — her son Barron and her photo albums she spent hours organising.
One reason for her reclusiveness, Grisham suggests, was that the Slovenian emigre was ‘acutely self-conscious’ about her accent, still thick after decades in the U.S.
She struggled with written English and grammar, getting Grisham to write everything from her tweets to condolence letters.
‘Perhaps because she was uncertain of her English, she stuck to five or six standard phrases and sentences that she repeated.’
Princess Michael: royals never welcomed Diana
Trump ‘liked the Queen a lot, but he was apparently not as big a fan of Charles,’ reveals Grisham.
The president said their conversation at a private tea at Clarence House was ‘terrible’, adding with a roll of his eyes: ‘Nothing but climate change.’
According to Grisham, Mrs Trump laughed and said of her husband: ‘Oh, yes, he was very bored.’ She, on the other hand, said she had a lovely time.
At a Buckingham Palace banquet, Grisham sat next to Princess Michael of Kent, who confided that she’d never changed any of her children’s nappies and that the Royal Family had never been welcoming to Princess Diana, who’d been ‘miserable in the marriage right from the start’.
Grisham said she kept wondering ‘Should she be telling me this?’.
Later, Prince Harry ‘joked with me about the “stuffiness” of the evening’, while the then British Ambassador to Washington Kim Darroch asked her: ‘How do you do it? Work for a man like your president?’
At least Mr Trump, whose Scottish-born mother revered the Royal Family, was on best behaviour that night.
It was Grisham who had the unenviable job of informing Melania of Press claims that porn star Stormy Daniels had been paid hush-money to not discuss an affair she claimed to have had with Trump. Grisham was ‘amazed at how calm she was’ but says Melania ‘was basically unleashed’ after the scandal, finding ways to omit Trump from photos and searching for ways to get under his skin.
‘She also tweeted out a photo of herself on the arm of a handsome military aide — and I remember thinking, “OK, it is on”,’ says Grisham. ‘Finally I thought I was seeing her anger, albeit in a passive-aggressive and still private way.’
Mrs Trump later insisted on travelling to their Florida Mar-a-Lago home separately from Trump, allegedly telling Grisham she didn’t want to ‘look like Hillary Clinton’, who was seen holding hands with Bill after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.
Grisham suggests that one of the things that most upset Mr Trump about the scandal was Stormy’s claims about his penis — that it was small and ‘like a toadstool’.
Grisham claims he rang her specifically to refute that description. ‘Everything down there is fine,’ he told her. ‘Uh, yes, Sir,’ she replied, lost for how to respond.
As for Melania, she became more absorbed by her albums, having a photographer take endless photos of her ‘posing and walking around, inspecting the decor or straightening dishes’ at functions.
On 2020 election night, Grisham found her in bed fast asleep. When in January protesters stormed the Capitol, Grisham pleaded with her to call for calm but, overseeing a photoshoot of a rug, she refused.
After years fighting comparisons of her to Marie Antoinette, Grisham says she ‘finally saw the doomed French queen. Dismissive. Defeated. Detached.’ It was the last straw and she resigned.
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