The Slatest

Oh Good, Donald Trump Might Have Dirt on Roger Ailes

Donald Trump greets reporters in the spin room following a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3 in Detroit.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Just when you thought Donald Trump’s on-again-off-again, Megyn Kelly–loathing, Sean Hannity–loving relationship with Fox News couldn’t get any weirder, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports that Trump may be sitting on a (sure, why not) trump card in his dealings with the network:

An odd bit of coincidence had given him a card to play against Fox founder Roger Ailes. In 2014, I published a biography of Ailes, which upset the famously paranoid executive. Several months before it landed in stores, Ailes fired his longtime PR adviser Brian Lewis, accusing him of being a source. During Lewis’s severance negotiations, Lewis hired Judd Burstein, a powerhouse litigator, and claimed he had “bombs” that would destroy Ailes and Fox News. That’s when Trump got involved.

“When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me,” Trump said. Burstein, it turned out, had worked for Trump briefly in the ’90s, and Ailes asked Trump to mediate. Trump ran the negotiations out of his office at Trump Tower. “Roger had lawyers, very expensive lawyers, and they couldn’t do anything. I solved the problem.” Fox paid Lewis millions to go away quietly, and Trump, I’m told, learned everything Lewis had planned to leak. If Ailes ever truly went to war against Trump, Trump would have the arsenal to launch a retaliatory strike.

That juicy detail is buried in the middle of Sherman’s entertaining cover story on Trump’s unorthodox campaign, and we don’t learn any more about just what those “bombs” may be, or who told Sherman that Trump knows the launch codes. Still, it adds an interesting wrinkle in the awkward—though mutually beneficial—relationship between the Republican Party’s cable news network of choice and the man the GOP establishment is desperate to stop.

Sherman’s reporting also unearthed a couple other nuggets of note, including that the editor-in-chief of the New York Observer (owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner) helped write the speech the celebrity billionaire gave at AIPAC last month and that Team Trump built a “Wall of Shame” at its New York HQ that includes awkward photos of each of Trump’s since-departed Republican rivals. (Though based on the accompanying photo, it appears as though Jim Gilmore never made the wall, which isn’t exactly a mark against Sherman’s working theory that Trump is “one of the greatest political savants of the modern era.”)

The detail that most piqued my interest, though, was Trump’s suggestion that he’d pick a running mate from within the world of politics. “I don’t want to have two people outside of politics,” he told Sherman, without dropping any specific names. Somewhere Chris Christie is looking awkwardly into a mirror.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.