Journalist Michael Wolff's book about the Trump administration is not slated to be published until next week, but it has already caused quite a stir. Consequently, Donald Trump sent a cease and desist letter to Wolff and his publisher via his lawyer, demanding that they "cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination" of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
In a letter obtained by ABC News on Thursday, Charles Harder — Trump's lawyer — accused Wolff of "actual malice," which he defines as "reckless disregard for the truth." "We are investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr. Trump," Harder wrote.
According to Harder's letter, Wolff's book did not have viable sources "for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump." Harder accused Wolff of lying about the sources he interviewed, arguing that some of his alleged sources "stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff" and others "are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements." Harder did not name any of these sources in the letter, but he added that some of them were "known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump."
Harder also sent a similar letter to former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday, after Bannon reportedly made disparaging comments about the president and his family in interviews with Wolff. However, as though he foresaw Harder's allegations that Wolff was dishonest about his sources, Wolff wrote an extensive column for The Hollywood Reporter detailing exactly how he got his information.
According to Wolff, Trump was not particularly enthusiastic about his desire to write a book, but he also didn't try to stop him. As a result of this "non-disapproval," as Wolff explained, he was able to spend a significant amount of time in the West Wing, observing officials and meeting with various senior staffers. He reportedly even spent time in the most private rooms of the West Wing, such as Reince Priebus' office when he was still chief of staff.
But just in case Wolff's account of his writing process was not sufficient, he reportedly taped his interviews with top officials, including Bannon and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh. According to Axios, Wolff has dozens of hours of tapes, so that his sources cannot deny statements that are attributed to them in the book.
That Wolff claims to have tapes of his conversations with Bannon is especially important, given that Trump released a statement directly responding to the comments Wolff attributes to Bannon in his book. Among other comments Bannon made about the president and his family, he reportedly called Ivanka Trump "dumb as a brick," and described her as a "nonevent on the campaign." On Wednesday, Donald Trump blasted Bannon for pretending "to have had influence" in the Trump administration in order to help "write phony books."
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.
Meanwhile, White Press press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has described Fire and Fury as "trashy tabloid fiction ... filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House." However, she alleged during Wednesday's White House press briefing that 95 percent of the interviews Wolff conducted with administration officials were organized at Bannon's request; still, Sanders added that Wolff never sat down with Trump himself.
And although Trump has lashed out at Bannon after seeing the latter's comments, Sanders went a different route. "I know that the book has a lot of things so far of what we've seen that are completely untrue," she said on Wednesday.
Fire and Fury is expected to be released on Jan. 9, and in the meantime, Trump is currently threatening Bannon and Wolff with various legal tactics. However, legal experts have told CNN that any actual lawsuits are highly unlikely.