One of the most explosive contentions of Michael Wolff's forthcoming book — dissected eagerly by the press and accepted eagerly by the Left — seems to be incompatible with the overarching narrative of Russian collusion.
In an excerpt of "Fire and Fury" released in New York Magazine on Wednesday, Wolff assigned to President Trump's campaign the unlikely quality of being ultimately unconcerned with securing victory. Wolff devoted an entire passage to describing senior campaign staff's ambivalence about actually winning.
"Not only would Trump not be president," Wolff wrote, "almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue." He described Trump as "sanguine" at the end of the campaign, claiming his "ultimate goal ... had never been to win." Wolff further reported Trump, expecting to fall to Hillary Clinton, told Roger Ailes: "I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won."
Consider this selection from Wolff's book, in which Trump was reportedly "horrified" as the reality he won the election crystalized on election night:
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.
There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump.
If that is true (and Trump's camp has since denied the general claim his campaign did not wish to actually defeat Clinton), it would seem to create problems for the narrative of Russian collusion. If there was an understanding among senior members of the Trump campaign, from Jared Kushner to Steve Bannon to the candidate himself, that his candidacy was insincere, primarily intended to function more as a campaign for publicity than for the presidency, why would those same people have also been coordinating with forces in the Russian government to boost his chances of winning? Put simply, if they did not want to win, why would they have been actively making risky moves to do so?
In a world where Donald Trump did not sincerely want to be president, why would he have personally directed his campaign to seek or accept Russia's assistance in making him president?
None of this is to say there is no conceivable way the two possibilities are both true — perhaps Wolff is right in suggesting some members of the campaign hoped and expected to lose, leaving open the possibility that others who did want to win pursued opportunities to coordinate with Russia. But as Wolff's many explosive contentions are dissected, at least superficially, this glaring incompatibility with a narrative so forceful it launched a special counsel investigation seems worth keeping in mind.