Every week he will be deciphering the intricacies of the presidential race, focusing on the likes of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Vivek Ramaswamy, Elon Musk, Lachlan Murdoch, Mark Zuckerberg, Ron DeSantis, Kristi Noem and, of course, Donald Trump.
Michael is the foremost political journalist in America, a man whose reporting is so incendiary that Trump once even tried to have him banned (unsuccessfully, of course).
Wolff wrote for me for over a decade when I was editing GQ, 10 years in which he covered every major figure in US politics and media, as well as many established figures in Britain.
In his time he investigated everyone from Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner to Jeffrey Epstein, Vanity Fair’s Tina Brown and Alan Rusbridger (the dour and intractable former editor of The Guardian), and wrote reams about the New York Times, Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch and, of course, Trump.
There was no subject that was beyond him, no one he was scared of taking on. If I told him that one of his targets had called me to complain, or had accosted me in a restaurant, or got one of their lackeys to berate me, he would simply smile. “So it worked, then?” he would say.
When Wolff turned his gimlet eye on Rusbridger for his 2014 piece The Guardian At The Gate, about the paper’s protracted attempt to break America, he got under the skin of the story as only he could.
His knowledge of the paper’s internal politics, his ability to coolly appraise the characters involved, and his witheringly unequivocal analysis made it an instant must-read. I’m not sure the sanctimonious Rusbridger ever forgave him.
For that matter, I still encounter people who bring up a piece he wrote about Christopher Hitchens’s transformation from socialist wizard to moral sage. It outraged Hitchens’s devotees, and became an internet sensation.
He has been called — disparagingly — a “media provocateur”, but when media organisations queue up to call you “pathetic”, “disgusting”, “twisted”, and for writing articles based on “zero evidence”, then you know you must be doing something right. He has fallen out with many of the people he has written about.
After Michael’s piece about former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown, she refused to speak to him again; which, considering that they both stay at Claridge’s when in London, has often resulted in some rather embarrassing encounters in the breakfast bar.
Trump’s bizarre ascension to the White House was initially benchmarked as a vote against the apparent liberalism of the Obama administration, as an understandable, if unacceptable reaction to what had gone before. Even those who were appalled by his electoral success begrudgingly understood why it had happened.
Not only did Wolff know precisely why Trump had been elected, but he was also savvy enough to get himself invited into the White House when Trump took office.
He turned his encounters with Trump into a book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. With unprecedented access, Wolff told the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time, unravelling a period that was fraught with tension, fear and speculation.
Wolff’s material revealed an administration already in meltdown, telling a tale that was by turns stormy, outrageous and never less than mesmerising.
In his book, Wolff provided a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office, including what Trump’s staff really thought of him, what inspired Trump to claim he was wire-tapped by Obama, why chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner couldn’t be left in the same room, who was really directing the Trump administration’s strategy in the wake of Bannon’s firing, and — bizarrely — what the Trump administration had in common with the movie The Producers.
It was clear that Trump’s advisers had never read a word that Wolff had written before they allowed him in, as if they had he wouldn’t have been allowed within 50 miles of DC. I had breakfast with Wolff in New York just a few weeks before his White House visits, and nearly choked on my eggs when he told me about his coup.
“You, in the White House?” I spluttered. “That’s like letting a fox sleep in the chicken coop.”
Fire and Fury was a global bestseller.
I first met Michael Wolff back in the early Noughties at a Condé Nast conference in Venice. He was the star attraction, delivering an inspirational talk on the back of his successful 1998 book, Burn Rate, about his failed adventure as a digital entrepreneur.
He was a terrific, if slightly laconic, speaker, and I loved him. We stayed in touch and would see each other occasionally in London or New York. I was warned not to trust him, under no circumstances tell him anything in confidence, and certainly never to hire him. He was — I was told — underhand, duplicitous, conniving, and potentially dangerous. Brilliant, I thought, and hired him as soon as I could.
He turned out to be a raging success, and proved to be particularly adept at getting under the skin of American politicians while also developing a searing, idiosyncratic way of looking at US media. Which is why he has now joined the Evening Standard, where he will be telling us all there is to know about the forthcoming US election.
I suggest you hold on tight as it’s going to be one hell of a ride.