The president wanted to go over “messaging” strategy for the upcoming barrage of lawsuits Giuliani was planning to launch. This mostly meant organizing surrogates for national and local media, a job that fell in part to campaign aide Erin Perrine, herself a frequent TV spokeswoman for the president.
Trump had once walked into the television greenroom at the Rosslyn headquarters and found Perrine (pronounced Peh-REE-nee) in the makeup chair. “My favorite person, my favorite person” — indeed, he had been particularly enthusiastic about her television performances — “Erin Pe-ree-nee! You know what, great idea, you should change your name to just ‘Pe-reen.’ A classic name. Perfect TV name.”
Perrine now waited with Jason Miller, Bill Stepien, and Justin Clark in the Cabinet Room, across from the Oval Office. Trump was in with some of his usual assortment of attendants: Eric Herschmann, Dan Scavino, Mike Pence, and Marc Short, with Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and aide Johnny McEntee milling in and out and Mark Meadows, recovering from COVID, there by phone.
Giuliani was also on speakerphone. In his intense, barely-take-a-breath, mouthful-of-spit, speeding-motor voice, such that it was particularly hard to make out what he was saying on the poor speakerphone audio, Giuliani pressed the case that the president’s lawyers had fucked up the recount process in Georgia and that they weren’t paying attention to the even greater issue of the wholesale corruption of the voting machines.
Giuliani had a point about the campaign lawyers: what the president was being offered by his lawyers was a long and winding road of complicated process. Election lawyers — and that’s what Matt Morgan and Clark precisely were — are playbook and procedure guys. In Wisconsin alone, before they could get into court, they had to go through the recount process — and pay for it! As much as $8 million! Days would turn into weeks, weeks would turn into a month or more, boring everyone, including the media. And by then, Joe Biden would be president.
They needed, Giuliani was now nearly shouting, to break through. They needed confrontation, disruption. To go to the mattresses.
Trump often seemed amused to let others, in cockfight fashion, do battle, and now he sent Scavino to bring in Justin Clark from across the hall, telling Clark that Rudy was saying the campaign’s lawyers were asleep at the switch.
“You have to file a suit in Georgia,” insisted the disembodied Giuliani.
“We are going to get dismissed,” said an impatient Clark, open in his contempt for the former mayor, trying to spell out the specific procedures for challenging an election in Georgia. “Georgia election law requires you to do this post-certification. They’ve just started the hand recount.” That is, you could sue only after the recount was completed.
“We should never have requested the recount,” declared Giuliani.
“Regardless, we have to wait.”
“They are lying to you, Mr. President. Your people are lying to you,” Giuliani pressed.
“Jesus, Rudy, you are such a fucking asshole,” said Clark, hardly able to take Giuliani seriously and walking out of the meeting and back to the Cabinet Room.
In the ebb and flow and restless style of the Trump Oval Office, the group from the Cabinet Room now shortly joined the Oval Office group — with the president, as though it were a new idea, repeating his brilliant notion about Erin Perrine changing her name.
The president, at a pitch somewhere between deep offense and theatrical hyperbole, moved briefly off the election fraud to recap another point he would often make — that he deserved another term because of the “Russia hoax.” “Can we demand that?” he asked Giuliani.
Rudy, on his part, seemed to have forgotten Clark and the Georgia issue, and was now banging hard on the subject of the Dominion voting machines, where Trump (and Hannity) had left off the day before.
The Dominion machines had moved from a story of what local officials characterized as “human error” involving a few thousand votes in a small county in Michigan — acknowledged and corrected almost immediately on Election Night — to the center of a great conspiracy. Not only was the company owned by the same people funding the Clinton Global Initiative, Rudy heatedly explained, but George Soros, that liberal billionaire and bête noire of the conspiracy imagination, had a role in its financing. What’s more, their machines were made with Chinese parts. Here was a theory apparently associated with QAnon and other internet conspiracy channels — i.e. the machines were programmed to switch millions of Trump votes to Biden votes and were part of a campaign of foreign interference — that had then surfaced in the credulous report on OAN that Trump had retweeted the previous morning.
The meeting drew the current sides in the White House: there were people yet hoping to maintain their reputations and professional standing, and then there was Giuliani, who was willing to surrender or burn his. Indeed, he had long since done that.
The former quickly assembled a report assessing Giuliani’s claims about Dominion, disputing virtually all of them. This was circulated in the West Wing and pointedly shared with Giuliani. He ignored it.
Excerpted from LANDSLIDE: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff. Published by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright © 2021 by Burnrate LLC. All rights reserved.