Best-selling author Michael Lewis’s latest book reveals US President Donald Trump’s first call from a foreign leader after he won the presidency in 2016 was from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, and that he responded by enthusing about The Bangles song “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
After a presidential election, there is a strict protocol to run the order in which foreign leaders are allowed to speak to the new president-elect.
But Sissi apparently jumped the line, initiated a call, and was the first world leader to speak to Trump after an operator at Trump Tower put his call through.
“Trump was like…I love the Bangles! You know that song ‘Walk like an Egyptian’?” recalled one of his advisers, according to Lewis in an excerpt from his new book The Fifth Risk in the Guardian on Friday. The book comes out next week.
The book delivers scathing insights into the chaos that surrounded Trump’s “bungled transition” to the White House and the destabilizing effect it has had on his presidency.
Lewis, author of “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” describes how Trump resisted the construction of a transition policy in advance due to his concerns that money raised by transition team head Chris Christie would impact on his own fundraising.
After initially refusing to pay transition planning costs out of his own pocket or from campaign funds, Trump gave Christie permission to raise money. “But not too much!” the then-candidate said.
After reading a news article reporting that the team had raised several million dollars, Lewis reports, Trump was “apoplectic.”
He immediately called campaign chief Steve Bannon to come and meet with him and Christie.
“Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?” Lewis writes.
“Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. Months before the election, the law said, the nominees of the two major parties were expected to prepare to take control of the government,” Lewis reports.
“To which Trump replied: Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition.
“Shut it down, said Trump. Shut down the transition.”
According to the book, Trump considered the money that people donated to his campaign, effectively, to be his own. He thought the planning and forethought pointless. At one point he turned to Christie and said: “Chris, you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.”
Christie was later fired from his position by Bannon. Lewis writes that Trump, known for his “You’re Fired!” catchphrase on TV show “The Apprentice,” in fact “avoids personal confrontation.”
When Christie challenged Bannon on his firing, Bannon reportedly conceded “it was Jared” who was responsible.
Another Trump adviser Paul Manafort — now a convicted felon for bank and tax fraud — told Christie: “The kid is paranoid about you.”
Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, is widely thought to hold a grudge against Christie after his father, Charles Kushner, was sent to jail for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering while Christie was a federal prosecutor.
Christie’s investigation revealed that the senior Kushner suspected his brother-in-law was cooperating with Christie, so he hired a prostitute to seduce his family member, videotaped the sexual encounter and then sent the tape to his sister.
Trump apparently thought that in the wake of Christie’s firing, he was able to take care of the transition alone.
“I was fucking nervous as shit,” Bannon later told friends, according to Lewis. “I go, ‘Holy fuck, this guy [Trump] doesn’t know anything. And he doesn’t give a shit.’”
Lewis also describes the mood in the room the night of Trump’s unexpected election win.
“Mike Pence went to kiss his wife, Karen, and she turned away from him. ‘You got what you wanted, Mike,’ she said. ‘Now leave me alone.’ She wouldn’t so much as say hello to Trump.”
Trump, Lewis indicates, emphatically did not expect to win the presidency and was unprepared for victory. When the election was called in his favor, Lewis writes, “Trump himself just stared at the TV without saying anything, like a man with a pair of twos whose bluff has been called. His campaign hadn’t even bothered to prepare an acceptance speech. It was not hard to see why Trump hadn’t seen the point in preparing to take over the federal government: why study for a test you will never need to take? Why take the risk of discovering you might, at your very best, be a C student? This was the real part of becoming president of the US. And, Christie thought, it scared the crap out of the president-elect.”