Kellyanne Conway joined Donald Trump’s orbit after Ted Cruz’s presidential bid collapsed and Paul Manafort wore out his welcome. The Trump White House was a snake pit. Like most Trump memoirs, Conway’s book revels in selective recall as well as settling scores. After all, this is the woman who coined the term “alternative facts”.
Conway strafes Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff. Her disdain is unvarnished, her language tart. Her book? Readable.
Conway labels Bannon a “leaking dirigible” and an “unpaternal, paternalistic bore of a boor”. She dings his aesthetics and questions his stability. Confronted with the possibility Bannon might receive a presidential pardon, Conway says, she told him Trump didn’t owe him anything.
“You were a leaker,” she remembers saying. “You were terrible to [Trump] in the press … You were the only source for at least two books riddled with lies.”
He got the pardon anyway.
Some who feel Conway’s sting are very close to home. She sticks a knife in her own husband, George, for trashing Trump and embarrassing her. Between the two men, Conway posits that Trump was the one who remained loyal. She may wish to reconsider. Her book has kindled Trump’s wrath.
“I may have been the first person Donald Trump trusted in his inner circle who told him that he had come up short this time,” Conway writes, about the 2020 defeat Trump has refused to admit. But Trump denies she said any such thing.
“If she had I wouldn’t have dealt with her any longer – she would have been wrong – could go back to her crazy husband,” he “truthed” on Thursday on his own ersatz Twitter, Truth Social.
In 2019, Cliff Sims, once a junior White House staffer, framed things this way in his memoir, Team of Vipers: “Kellyanne stood in a class of own in terms of her machinations – I had to admire her sheer gall.”
In Here’s the Deal, Kellyanne soft-pedals Green but is far less charitable to Sims. She rehashes his departure from the White House, dismisses him as a lightweight and gloats over Trump targeting him with a “brutal” takedown on Twitter.
Left unsaid is that Sims played a significant role at the 2020 Republican convention, drafting speeches for two Trump children. And whatever his sins, he came to be re-embraced by senior Trump staff even after he challenged a Trump-induced non-disclosure agreement in court.
On a matter of greater importance, Conway lauds Bob Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, the conservative mega-donors who invested in Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct psychographic profiling company which was linked to Bannon.
Rebekah Mercer allegedly provided connective tissue for the January 6 insurrection, via Parler. Conway omits such details. Not surprisingly, she also ignores Bob Mercer’s tax woes. In 2021, with his business partners, Mercer reportedly entered into a $7bn settlement with the IRS.
Like many in Trumpworld, Conway hits Facebook for its role in the 2020 election. But she omits the nexus between Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant and Cambridge Analytica, in 2016 and beyond. The two businesses shared more than a passing acquaintance.
Cambridge Analytica illegally harvested personal data from Facebook. Conway takes Bannon to task for profiting from his investment in Cambridge Analytica but stays mum about the Mercers’ ownership.
In 2016, the Cruz campaign spent more than $5.8m on Cambridge Analytica services. That same year, the unseen hand of the company put its sticky fingers on the scales of Brexit. This past week, the attorney general for the District of Columbia launched a lawsuit against Facebook in connection with the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
Here’s the Deal also contains its fair share of semi-veiled ethnic reductionism. Conway writes of how she “made her bones” – a term with mafia origins – in Trump’s 2016 campaign. Elsewhere, she deploys “clever”, “shrewd” and “calculating” to describe Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who is Jewish. At the same time, she shares a desire to keep things “classy”.
Some realities cut too close to the bone. Despite acknowledging Trump’s loss in 2020, Conway is silent on his infamous post-election call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in which he sought to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
The only thing missing was the president telling Raffensperger he was receiving an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Unsurprisingly, Conway has few kind words for Biden. She recounts the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and rightly tags his administration for inflation. But she also blames the president for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and for Iran threatening nuclear breakout.
Hello, alternative facts. In February, Trump praised Vladimir Putin as smart and denigrated Nato. These days, Putin is under siege and Nato is the club to join. This somehow escapes Conway’s attention.
As for Tehran, Axios reports that senior Israeli military officials now view Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as having “brought Iran closer to a nuclear weapon and created a worse situation”. An attempt to placate Trump’s base had a cost.
Conway remains in the arena. Here’s the Deal doubles as an audition for a campaign slot in 2024. In Trumpworld, few are ever permanently banished. Conway should ask Steve Bannon. He could tell her some things.
Here’s the Deal is published in the US by Simon & Schuster