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‘Fucking Idiot’: Murdoch mocked Trump after phone call on immigration, book claims

Author Michael Wolff describes alleged foul-mouthed comment by media mogul after discussing visas with the then president-elect

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Idiot’: Murdoch mocked Trump after phone call on immigration, book claims” was written by David Smith in Washington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 18.04 UTC

Rupert Murdoch described Donald Trump as “a fucking idiot” over his contradictory views on immigration policy, a new book reveals.

The remark is contained in a fly-on-the-wall account of internecine warfare in the White House written by Michael Wolff, a Murdoch biographer, a copy of which has been seen by the Guardian.

Wolff describes a Trump Tower meeting on 14 December 2016 – during the presidential transition – involving Trump and executives from Silicon Valley companies including Alphabet (parent of Google), Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Among the issues at stake was a potential crackdown by the incoming president on H-1B visas, the main visa used to hire foreign talent to tech companies.

Later that afternoon, Wolff writes, Trump called Murdoch, who asked how the meeting had gone.

“Oh, great, just great,” the president-elect said, according to Wolff’s account. “Really, really good. These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favourable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”

The book records Murdoch’s reply: “Donald, for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”

Trump is quoted as saying the companies “really need these H-1B visas”.

Wolff writes that Murdoch suggested a more liberal stance on H-1B visas would sit oddly with Trump’s hardline stance on immigration, to which the president-elect replied: “We’ll figure it out.”

Wolff writes that Murdoch shrugged as he got off the phone, and said: “What a fucking idiot.”

H-1B visas admit 65,000 workers plus 20,000 graduate student workers each year. Most are awarded to outsourcing firms, which critics say exploit loopholes to fill lower-level IT jobs with foreign workers, often at lower pay.

Promising to “Buy American, Hire American”, Trump offered varying positions on the issue several times during the election campaign. Last month his administration proposed eliminating a regulation that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work.

Murdoch’s remark is a rare, revealing moment of discord in his lockstep alliance with the president. According to New York Times reports last year, the two men speak “on the phone every week” or “almost every day”. Murdoch’s conservative Fox News has been a powerful cheerleader for Trump, who has frequently returned the compliment, urging his supporters to watch it.

The White House confirmed last month that Trump had spoken with Murdoch, 86, to congratulate him on the proposed sale of a significant chunk of 21st Century Fox to Disney for .4bn. According to Vanity Fair magazine, Trump spoke with Murdoch before the deal “to make sure Murdoch wasn’t selling Fox News”.

Trump has opposed AT&T’s attempted takeover of Time Warner, which owns CNN, the network often branded “fake news” by the president. The justice department has filed a lawsuit to block the bn deal.

Wolff, a media columnist, is the author of the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News. His new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, published next week, offers an insight into the close ties between the Trump and Murdoch empires.

Wolff also describes a dinner where John Bolton, a favourite of the then Fox News chief executive, Roger Ailes, was touted for the job of national security adviser. Ailes is quoted as saying: “He’s a bomb thrower. And a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel? [The eventual appointee Michael] Flynn is a little nutty on Iran. [The eventual secretary of state Rex] Tillerson just knows oil.”

Steve Bannon, head of Trump’s election campaign and about to become his chief strategist, reportedly provided a bizarre objection based on facial hair: “Bolton’s mustache is a problem. Trump doesn’t think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste.”

Ailes died last May, aged 77. The book suggests there was anger that Trump failed to call Ailes’s widow, Beth. Sean Hannity, a pro-Trump host on Fox News, is quoted as asking: “What the fuck is wrong with him?”

Earlier on Wednesday the Guardian, which obtained Fire and Fury from a bookseller in New England, reported that Bannon told Wolff Donald Trump Jr’s June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. Bannon also reportedly predicted of the Russia investigation: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

The book describes a poisonous atmosphere at the White House, with bitter infighting between factions. Wolff, who previously conducted interviews with Trump in June 2016 and Steve Bannon in November 2016 that were published in the Hollywood Reporter, gained unique access to the West Wing.

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Kremlin “pleased” with Helsinki summit, US and Western intelligence assesses

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CNN Reports:

Russian officials were “pleased” with the Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, US and Western intelligence agencies have found, according to two intelligence sources with knowledge of the assessments.

The assessments, based on a broad range of intelligence, indicate that the Kremlin believes the July 16 summit delivered a better outcome than it had expected, but that Moscow is perplexed that Trump is not delivering more Russia-friendly policies in its aftermath.

The intelligence sources say the Russians were particularly satisfied with the press conference the two leaders gave in Helsinki after Trump and Putin met for about two hours without staff and accompanied only by translators. In the 45-minute press conference, Trump discredited US intelligence and American policies more broadly, saying “the United States has been foolish” about ties with Russia, a country that has engaged in ongoing attacks on US democracy.

A spokesperson for the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to request for comment.

The administration’s decision last week to impose sanctions on Russia for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter left Russian officials puzzled that the President is not delivering more favorable policies.

Trump has repeatedly called for warmer relations with Moscow, but the Kremlin is neglecting to factor in the considerable role that Congress and others play in US policy-making, a Western intelligence official said.

Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s comments last week reflected the deflated Russian hopes for improved ties with Washington or at least less punitive US policies.

“President Putin said in Helsinki that Russia still has hopes for the creation of a constructive relationship with Washington…We are sorry that often we are not met with cooperation on this account,” Peskov said Aug. 9 in a regular press call with reporters.

Peskov’s comments contrasted sharply with the evaluation Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered immediately after the summit, when he said that the talks had been “better than super.”

Trump’s performance in Helsinki sparked unusually public criticism, even from within his own party.

The administration’s decision to impose the sanctions followed a July 26 letter from GOP Congressman Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging the White House to comply with a law requiring the US to levy sanctions against countries that violate the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.

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