Look away now, if you don’t want to know how it ends.
That Act — Act One — is over. And soon maybe the Trump presidency will be, too. “I don’t think it can last. Everybody is after this guy.”
The burnished quiet of London’s Claridge’s Hotel feels an odd place to map out the immolation of a President, but talking to me Wolff doesn’t hold back.
The magazine writer whose book got the scoop every White House reporter wanted — “they are all p***** [off] … they felt that they owned this story” — sets out like a chess master the moves he thinks will happen between now and November, when mid-term elections may settle the President’s fate.
Move one could come around July, when Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel probing Trump’s election links with Russia, “returns an obstruction of justice case”.
Not against Trump but “probably” against his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose emergence, says Wolff, along with his wife Ivanka as one of the most powerful people in the world is “totally absurd”.
If that happens, move two will follow: Muller “sends this report to Congress, and that is essentially the election — the Democrats saying this man must be impeached”.
Would Americans vote to topple him? Wolff thinks they might. Poll numbers, he says, “look bad for Trump, extremely, extremely bad” — though there’s always a chance the people would pick Trump’s side as an underdog.
And if there is a crashing defeat, when faced with the prospect of impeachment, he says the President “could very well resign” — before going on, as the master of media reinvention, to declare victory and start the next stage of his life as the most famous man in the world. “But up until then it is just going to be bloody, bloody, bloody.”
If Trump implodes like this, Wolff will surely claim some of the credit. Fire and Fury’s publication last month ripped into the President’s confidence like nothing else since his election.
“Everybody around him was totally freaking out because he was uncontrollable on the subject of this book,” he says.
Boastful — but also true. Since then Wolff has become Exhibit Number One for everyone who wants to wish Trump out of office. Strangers come up to him in the streets. “I live in New York city and I feel the love.”
He’s now on a tour of Europe, 10 cities in 14 days. Political books don’t often catch alight like this.
So surely the Special Counsel has come calling in search of evidence? No, Wolff says — but he has questioned others about at least one episode described in the book.
Someone else who hasn’t yet called is Trump himself. Wolff’s near-unchecked access to the White House came down like a shutter last autumn.
But, with a self-assuredness that falls only a touch short of the President’s, he thinks Trump will blink first. “I perfectly expect that he will call me up sometime soon and claim credit for this book.”
Wolff is the sort of big-brand writer whose certainties could drive you to fury, if his sources and stories weren’t so good. He’s a buzz-cut, black-rimmed glasses, business-class kind of guy, the sort that drops the names of people he knows in power as equals.
You can’t imagine him on the daily news beat and he freely admits to disregarding the routines of journalism: framing things in rational detail.
With his book, Wolff says, he wanted to jump straight to telling a stunning story as a novelist might. “I’m doing the thing, I’m thinking Tom Wolfe, I’m thinking [Norman] Mailer.”
Arrogant? Yes. But maybe also the only way to respond to the alternative reality of the new America. “This is Donald Trump, it is the story, it is like World War Two for Godssake.”
It will be told soon in film, he says and maybe the script writer will be Armando Iannucci, who interviewed him on stage in London on Friday night and whose skill at skewering modern politics, both in Britain and the US in the brilliant show Veep, was Wolff’s guide “throughout this whole thing”.
But watching his event with Iannucci — the first time they had met — something worried me. Everyone — speakers and audience alike — wanted to laugh at the President, rather than fear him. Wolff can certainly play Trump for comedy.
“The fact that he has no f****** idea, that it is all random, that it is all vastly more unhinged than anyone is prepared for” is a kind of joke, he says.
“Donald Trump literally believes in nothing.” Political obsessives trapped in the “hyper-rationality” of the media cannot compute this. “Maybe the public understand something better, this is comic,” he says.
Perhaps. But Trump is comedy armed with a nuclear weapon. “I think we should be more afraid” Wolff agrees. So could the President — faced, perhaps, with impeachment or just a bad night in bed with a hamburger and Fox News — blow up the planet? He barely blinks. “I don’t think that he can start a war, I just literally don’t think he has the abilities to marshal all that you have to do.”
That’s sort of reassuring. So is his claim that maybe, even if he tried, the President couldn’t make the bomb go off. “He can’t really push the button … we don’t even know if there is a button.”
Put it Wolff’s way, and the administration amounts to a few clueless third-raters in the White House against “four million people in government”, including a military which has been captured by data-obsessed generals who cannot stop bewildering their semi-literate commander-in-chief with PowerPoint. “It literally makes no sense, they do their presentations and he leaves.”
The “even weirder reality” of Trump’s time so far, he adds, is that “nothing basically has happened”.
A media class obsessed with politics has found it hard to understand that maybe it doesn’t matter. “It is not a story about politics, it is truly not about politics, Trump has fundamentally no interest in politics at all,” he says.
“The ultimate message here might be that Government is less important than we believe, political reporters think it is everything but maybe it is not.”
Someone who was obsessed with it — and crashed in slow motion in the White House under Wolff’s gaze — is former adviser Steve Bannon. The best source for Wolff’s book, Bannon failed to turn Trump into the smash-the-system zealot he wanted. In the end, the President just couldn’t be bothered.
Wolff has more time for Bannon than for the winners of that power struggle, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who he considers have managed to present themselves as the rational face of the administration while getting every key decision wrong.
“These two literally had no background in this, zero,” he says. “They are socialites, let’s face it that’s what they are…New York Democrats.”
And meanwhile what about Britain? What did he hear Trump’s people say about us, I ask. Surely we still count? Not much. He struggles to think of a time Theresa May’s name was even mentioned in the White House. Perhaps once, he concedes — and that was “not significant”.
Would Trump recognise our Prime Minister, if shown a photo of her? “Possibly not.” Would he be able to pick out the UK on a map? He “quite possibly wouldn’t”.
So much, then, for the special relationship. What about their personal one? “He would appear to her as a kind of a Martian and she wouldn’t know what to do,” he speculates.
But his advice about how she should behave to make progress is clear.
“Often he gets along better with women than with men but those women have to be able to get along with him on his terms, so if you could see a situation in which Theresa May would be willing to bat her eyes at Donald Trump and to flirt in some way and to suggest she could become an office wife to Donald Trump then she would get a deal.”
To May’s credit, I can’t imagine her as anyone’s office wife. But that deal might be the trade deal we could need after Brexit. It could be done, he says.
“If Trump wants something from the UK and it is willing to deliver he will give whatever the UK wants.”
But at a price. “I’m trying to see the comic potential, if your economic future was dependent on what Donald Trump might or might not do that is a scary position to be in.”
We are, perhaps, close to that scary position. And there are only three Brits Trump and his team seem to rate.
One is Nigel Farage — Wolff heard “a lot of discussion about Farage”, a man who performed “peacock kind of things” to make friends with the US Right.
The second is Boris Johnson. “Bannon was pretty fond of Boris,” he says — though with Trump it might be different.
“I don’t think Trump could understand what Boris says, the accent and the several conversations that Boris is conducting at once.” In this, Trump is not alone.
The third is unexpected. Tony Blair. He came calling at the White House not long after the election. The former Prime Minister absolutely denies Wolff’s story, that he offered (the book says) a “juicy rumour” about British surveillance and was keen on a role as Middle East peace envoy.
But “Jared and Tony have this kind of something, he gets along with Jared,” Wolff asserts. “He wanted in, he wanted support, he wanted a piece of Jared’s Middle East portfolio.”
In his book he says the two met last February. But surely Blair would not have been satisfied with the sidekick? He would have wanted to see the President too, I suggest.
“He met Trump and he met Jared,” Wolff answers — going further in his claims than he does in his book. “I saw him with Jared separately and I knew he was meeting with Trump.”
When we put this to Tony Blair, a spokeswoman said the former Prime Minister had never met Mr Trump or spoken to him, including by telephone. The denial covered Mr Trump’s entire life, not just his period as President, she said.
Now Wolff is on the outside of the White House, what next? A book on Act One must be followed by ones on Acts Two and Three? “Obviously I can’t get back in,” he says. “I am trying to get my head around how you might do it and I don’t yet know.”
That’s not a denial. The story is extraordinary — and Wolff, you sense, will be there to tell it.