Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.

“Who’s that?” asked Trump.

As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.

After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”

“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.

“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”

Excerpted from Michael Wollf’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

–David Smith, Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday as having “lost his mind” in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.

Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with his former aide at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannon’s comments came to light.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.

–Steve Holland, Trump breaks with Bannon, says former White House aide ‘lost his mind’

Mr. Trump’s difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government.

His vision of executive leadership was shaped close to home, by experiences with Democratic clubhouse politicians as a young developer in New York. One figure stands out to Mr. Trump: an unnamed party boss — his friends assume he is referring to the legendary Brooklyn fixer Meade Esposito — whom he remembered keeping a baseball bat under his desk to enforce his power. To the adviser who recounted it, the story revealed what Mr. Trump expected being president would be like — ruling by fiat, exacting tribute and cutting back room deals.

But while he is unlikely to change who he is on a fundamental level, advisers said they saw a novice who was gradually learning that the presidency does not work that way. And he is coming to realize, they said, the need to woo, not whack, leaders of his own party to get things done.

During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. “I don’t work for you, Mr. President,” Mr. Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, likewise bristled when Mr. Trump cut in during methodical presentations in the Oval Office. “Don’t interrupt me,” Mr. McConnell told the president during a discussion of health care.

—Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker, Inside Trump’s Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation

[T]he debate about whether to turn inward or to engage with the world has been resurrected by Donald Trump. He insists that he is not an isolationist but he describes US foreign policy in unilateral, transactional terms and has championed “America First” — a phrase originally associated with opposition to Roosevelt’s desire to fight Hitler.

The most prominent spokesman for the 1940s America First Committee, the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh, accused Jewish groups of “agitating for war” and was himself accused of being pro-Nazi.

Embracing the phrase “America First” does not in itself indicate fascism, but there is more to the picture than that.

For Lindbergh and Roosevelt, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. In 1944 American troops waded through the surf of Normandy’s beaches and into the path of Nazi bullets.

Half a lifetime later, at Pointe du Hoc on the English Channel, Ronald Reagan commemorated their sacrifice with the words: “Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.”

Of course, the United States has not always lived up to its own ideals.

This week marks the 153rd anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, when US troops murdered and mutilated women and children of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in Colorado, just one atrocity among many as white Europeans vanquished the native peoples of the New World.

Then a country founded on genocide and slavery covered its ears for shameful ages before it heard Martin Luther King’s insistence that it “make real the promises of democracy” for African Americans. Woodrow Wilson, for one, used fine words but he introduced racist policies too. Even now, that promise of democracy remains only partially fulfilled.

The US has been guilty of bombing civilians, of torture and imprisonment without trial and of subverting the very democracy it professes to hold sacred when it does not like what democracy delivers.

A question comes to mind: did American soldiers fight and die on the beaches of Normandy so their president could promote fascism?

It is an astonishing question, absurd even. To many it may seem offensive even to ask.

But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.

–James Cook, Giving succour to the far right, Trump breaks with American ideals

Many of the array of psychologists, psychiatrists and family therapists I talked to for this story have a question Mary Trump actually once asked herself, at a moment when she was feeling something less than pride in her celebrity son.

This was in 1990. Donald Trump was divorcing his first wife, philandering with the model Marla Maples and floundering in hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, facing high-profile humiliation and ruin in his early 40s. Mary Trump, on the other hand, was approaching 80. Once a poor immigrant from the remote, desolate northwest corner of Scotland, and the product of the strict mores of the country’s Presbyterian Church, she had been married to the business-centric Fred Trump for more than half a century, residing with him and their five children and their live-in in a large, red-brick, white-columned house positioned regally atop a grassy hill. She had worked tirelessly, volunteering at a local hospital, staying active at schools, charities and social clubs, and steering her rose-colored Rolls-Royce to the family’s outer-borough apartment buildings to collect coins from the laundry machines. She and her husband had sent their fourth and most incorrigible child, who as a boy threw cake at kids at parties and erasers at his teachers at his private elementary school, first to Sunday morning Bible classes, like his siblings—and then, unlike his siblings, to a stringent military academy an hour and a half upstate shortly after he turned 13. Now, in the twilight of her life, beset with debilitating bone loss, she was being sucked into his tawdry, nonstop soap opera, rendered a bit player in a media frenzy, captured by paparazzi while sitting in the rear of her chauffeured car, looking steely and peeved.

That year, according to Vanity Fair, Mary Trump asked Ivana Trump, her soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law, a pointed question. “What kind of son have I created?”

Michael Kruse, The Mystery of Mary Trump

Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.

Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. To demonstrate how little lay people know, Kelly provided a long, detailed explanation of what happens when a soldier is killed in battle: the body is wrapped in whatever is handy, flown by helicopter, then packed in ice, then flown again, then repacked, then flown, then embalmed and dressed in uniform with medals, and then flown home. Kelly provided a similar amount of detail about how family members are notified of the death, when, and by whom. He even recommended a film that dramatized the process of transporting the body of a real-life marine, Private First Class Chance Phelps. This was a Trumpian moment, from the phrasing—“a very, very good movie”—to the message. Kelly stressed that Phelps “was killed under my command, right next to me”; in other words, Kelly’s real-life experience was recreated for television, and that, he seemed to think, bolstered his authority.

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one per cent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”

The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one per cent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven per cent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one per cent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom. No Soviet general would have dared utter the kind of statement that’s attributed to General George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. Kelly went on a rambling explication of speaking to the President not once but twice about how to make the call to Myeshia Johnson. After Kelly’s son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, the chief of staff recalled, his own best friend had consoled him by saying that his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one per cent.” Trump apparently tried to replicate this message when he told Johnson that her husband, La David, had known what he was signing up for. The negative reaction to this comment, Kelly said, had “stunned” him.

A week earlier, Kelly had taken over the White House press briefing in an attempt to quash another scandal and ended up using the phrase “I was sent in,” twice, in reference to his job in the White House. Now he seemed to be saying that, since he was sent in to control the President and the President had, this time, more or less carried out his instructions, the President should not be criticized.

–Masha Gessen, John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup