Cliff Sims, who served as special assistant to ’45,’ writes about ‘500 extraordinary days’ under Donald Trump
An upcoming book portrays a White House staff under President Donald Trump that was “absolutely out of control” at times and often at each other’s throats, according to excerpts published on Tuesday.
Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, which goes on sale next week, was written by Cliff Sims, who served as a special assistant to the 45th president.
The Washington Post, National Public Radio and Axios published excerpts from the 384-page book by Sims, who worked on Trump’s campaign before joining the White House as Director of Message Strategy.
According to the Post, the book features “expletive-filled scenes of chaos, dysfunction and duplicity among the president, his family members and administration officials.” The book is “neither a sycophantic portrayal of the president nor a blistering account written to settle scores,” the Post said, and Sims does not spare himself from criticism, confessing to being “nakedly ambitious.”
“It’s impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff—again, myself included—was at times,” Sims writes. The president cultivated chaos among his advisers, Sims writes, but he says “it’s dang near impossible to spend one-on-one time with Donald Trump and not end up liking him.”
The book recounts Trump’s reaction to criticism by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of his handling of an August 2017 rally by white supremacists in Virginia. According to the book, as Ryan spoke on television, Trump demanded that an assistant get the Wisconsin congressman on the phone. “Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a– for decades?” the book quoted Trump as telling Ryan. “Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty.’ Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?” Trump said.
Sims recounts the first day in the White House when Trump was railing about news reports that the crowd at his inauguration had been relatively small. Sims wrote a draft of a statement for White House spokesman Sean Spicer and had to quickly rewrite it after his computer crashed. Spicer, he writes, ended up “walking into his own execution” when he appeared before the White House press corps to claim—falsely—that the crowd for Trump’s inauguration had been the largest in history.
Trump was deeply suspicious of his own staff, Sims writes, and he once helped the president and his longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller draw up an “enemies list.” Trump told them, “We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-feeders.”
Sims describes conversations with White House chief of staff John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general who was brought in to bring order to the White House. “This is the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had,” Sims said Kelly confided in him at one point. “People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired,” Kelly said. “If that ever happened, it would be the best day I’ve had since I walked into this place.”
Kelly left the White House this month.
Trump is depicted in the book as easily bored. As Ryan, the House speaker, was giving a presentation on health care in the Oval Office, an impatient Trump walked out and went to another room to watch television. Vice President Mike Pence was sent to persuade him to return.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway comes in for biting criticism with Sims describing her as the “American Sniper of West Wing marksmen” whose agenda is “survival over all others, including the president.”
According to National Public Radio, Sims realized, after failing to secure a promotion, that his days were numbered in a White House rife with infighting. “[Trump] hadn’t lifted a finger for countless loyal aides before me and… wouldn’t for countless aides to come.” Sims concludes he had “let my personal relationship to the president blind me to the one unfailing truth that applied to anyone with whom he didn’t share a last name: we were all disposable.”
According to The New York Times, Sims received a seven-figure advance from publisher Thomas Dunne Books.