Exclusive Excerpt–Bossie/Lewandowski Book Details Donald Trump’s Campaign Border Trip, Inside the President’s Plane
“I want you to know I have the greatest air force in the world,” Trump began, unprompted, in Corey’s first meeting with the candidate. “I’ve got a 757, I’ve got a Citation X. And I’ve got three helicopters.” Corey sat there with a half smile on his face, not knowing quite how to respond.
When Donald Trump listed the aircraft he had during Corey’s job interview, Corey shrugged it off as a random boast. But Trump wasn’t boasting. He was pointing out the military equipment he had for the war ahead. A candidate with a jet has a formidable advantage over rivals without one. A candidate with an air force was going to be tough to beat.
And we’re not talking cargo planes here.
Trump Force One is a 24-karat-plated, plush-leather adorned, first-class aircraft complete with a master bedroom, dining room, galley, big-screen TV, and concert-level sound system. The Rolls Royce engines on the 757 can blow the wings off most commercial airliners. It has every amenity you can imagine. And though the jet was the crown jewel of the fleet, there were also other gems, including the Cessna Citation X, the fastest corporate jet available, and the multitude of helicopters.
When you flew with Trump, you flew first class times ten. Except, that is, when it came time to eat.
The first time Dave told his wife Susan that he was going to be on Trump Force One, she asked him to take some photos of what they served him to eat on the plane. She had read somewhere that Mr. Trump had a personal chef who traveled with him. When dinner came on the flight, Dave pulled out his BlackBerry and snapped a picture of the bag of McDonald’s hamburgers and unopened package of Oreo cookies and emailed it to Susan.
On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke. There were also ancillary groups, including Vienna Fingers and the ubiquitous Oreo, before the boycott (after it was Hydrox). The reason the package of Oreos was unopened was because Mr. Trump would never eat from a previously opened package. If you’ve seen the Seinfeld episode in which George double-dips his chip, you have a pretty good idea of the boss’s reasoning. Packages of cookies, along with small airliner-size bags of pretzels and potato chips, filled the plane’s cupboards. An army might march on its stomach, but Trump’s team flew on junk food. And those snacks would have to sustain us during long flights and even longer days.
The candidate would hardly ever eat lunch and would eat dinner only after he finished the last event of the day. We’d be in the jet or on the road from seven or eight a.m., make however many scheduled stops we had, and after the last one, perhaps around nine p.m., Mr. Trump would clap his hands and say, “Let’s eat!” And the food needed to be hot and ready for him. Some of the time, especially when he was pleased with his performance at a rally or event, he’d say, “Do you think I deserve a malted today? I think I deserve one.” Trump, a city kid, grew up drinking malteds, so that’s what he always called a milkshake. Whatever you want to call it, it better be there and it better still be thick.
When traveling in the air with the boss, you also learned pretty quickly to like Elton John. Donald Trump really likes Elton John. Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci got in all sorts of hot water—which is not at all an unfamiliar position for him—when he told an interviewer that Elton John would play at President Trump’s inaugural. It had been wishful thinking on Mooch’s part, probably because he’d been on the plane when the boss had “Tiny Dancer” or “Rocket Man” playing as loud as the concert-level speakers could bring it. We’re telling you, when the boss cranks up Elton, you can’t hear yourself think. The music is loud enough to rattle your brain.
Still, suffering through a brain-rattling “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is far more preferable than the boss going off over something on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC—and yes, we would even watch MSNBC, perhaps just to hear what the liberals were saying about him.
One of our most important trips of the campaign was to Laredo, Texas. Stephen Miller, who had been the communications director for Jeff Sessions in the US Senate before joining our team, was the one who initially helped us draft our immigration policy. We also have to give much credit to Ann Coulter, who was a significant influence and held us accountable for our immigration policy. Miller became our top policy guy, and it was Miller who gave us the contact information for officials in the border patrol union. The local union boss invited Mr. Trump to Laredo to see the border for himself.
We knew the trip was going to be a big deal, and we knew the press would go wild over it, but we didn’t realize just how big of a deal it would be. When we said earlier that we rolled into town, we mean we rolled. A presidential motorcycle brigade escorted our motorcade of several SUVs with blacked-out windows and two full-scale coach buses carrying credentialed media. At least twenty police cruisers trailed us. Our convoy included multiple unmarked cars and light armor-plated vehicles with military weapons. They closed the border for a full hour during Mr. Trump’s visit.
They had snipers on the roofs of nearby buildings. And this was all for Donald Trump, who at the time held an official position no higher than John Q. Citizen.
Mr. Trump spent much of the time in Laredo talking to border agents. “We can’t do our jobs,” they told him. “You elect me,” the boss said, “and I’ll take your handcuffs off.”
The trip was also right in Ted Cruz’s backyard. The senator was scheduled to join us on the trip, but at the last minute his team pulled out of the event, citing important issues in Washington. Good thing. The boss sucked up all the oxygen this side of the Rio Grande. There was such a feeding frenzy among the press, an overzealous cameraman split Corey’s head open with his Nikon.
Over and over again at rallies across the country, Donald Trump’s biggest applause line was, “Oh, we’re gonna build a wall.” The line had been trial tested in front of hundreds of thousands of people. We knew it was an issue as hot as the Laredo sun.
The border visit was one of the great photo ops in political history. One hundred and twenty credential media broadcast, published, posted, and tweeted indelible images of a man determined to keep our borders safe. But as politically historic as the trip was, maybe the most lasting symbol was something that the boss wore on his head. On that day, a white MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat became one of the great iconic politcal symbols.
The hat, of course, would become a sensation and one of our biggest early fund-raising tools. No marketing firm, no poll testing. For our first buy, Mr. Trump told Amanda Miller to call his merchandise guy and order a thousand. By September, the New York Times was calling it “the must-have accessory of the summer.” By April the following spring, the campaign had sold 500,000. And there were five times as many knockoffs sold (ours were American made). The boss signed thousands of them. Even the knockoffs. At rallies, hats formed a red, white, and ultimately camouflage sea of change and helped signify that we were no longer just a campaign, but a movement.