Politico

William Barr, Amy Coney Barrett land book deals


While some veterans of Donald Trump’s administration are having a tough time selling memoirs about their time in power, others with ties to Trump who didn’t embrace his election conspiracy theories have sold book deals.

William Barr, Trump’s former attorney general who resigned two days before Christmas after disagreeing publicly with Trump’s voter fraud conspiracy theories, recently sold a book about his time at the Justice Department, according to three people familiar with the deal.

This will be Barr’s first book and he started writing it within the last two months, according to one of the people.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s last pick for the Supreme Court, has also sold a book — garnering a $2 million advance for a tome about how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule, according to three publishing industry sources. The figure was “an eye-raising amount” for a Supreme Court justice and likely the most since book deals won by Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor, one of the people added.

A spokesperson for the court had no comment.

Geoffrey Berman, who tangled with Barr and whom Trump ousted as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, also has sold a book — for what one industry source described as “a lot of money” — about his time in office. The person described the book as “part Paul Giamatti and ‘Billions,’ and then sort of the Trump show in the Southern District.”

Berman, who investigated and prosecuted several of Trump’s associates, declined to comment.

Outside of the legal world, Scott Atlas, the health policy scholar from the Hoover Institution who was a coronavirus adviser to Trump and noted skeptic of sharp coronavirus restrictions, recently sold a book to Post Hill Press’s Bombardier Books. Atlas is represented by a new agency, called Athos, which was started by former DOJ and DHS official Alexei Woltornist and Jonathan Bronitsky, Barr’s former chief speechwriter and former director of strategy at Javelin, the D.C. literary agency.

Some other former Trump officials have had a tougher time trying to get decent enough book advances as they try to get published.

“It would be hard to imagine anyone on the inside offering us any wisdom, insight or even good storytelling that would educate, enrich or even entertain us at this point,” said D.C. literary agent Gail Ross. “Books are selling quite well today because they offer us those elements. I presume a couple may convince a publisher otherwise. For me, tall tales by Trump acolytes don’t cut it.”

It’s not clear what kind of tale Barr, for one, intends to tell. He has said little in public since his abrupt departure, and his resignation letter — which praised his boss for building “the strongest and most resilient economy in American history” — offered few clues as to the nature of his current relationship with Trump.

But he has left little doubt about his disdain for the Russia probe, a yearslong series of investigations the former attorney general framed as an abuse of power launched by partisan figures within the law enforcement bureaucracy and the outgoing Obama administration.

One obstacle for certain Trump alumni could be the ideology of those often making the decisions on major book deals: They tend to be Democrats disdainful of Trump and wary of underwriting a project that could lead to public blowback.

“I think [publishers] try to draw a line between those who are operating in reality or got off the train before it crashed and those who are living in Trump-world in an alternative reality, and for New York book publishing, which is a super woke environment for things like that. It’s going to be tough to publish a lot of Trump administration officials,” said one publishing insider.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s former firebrand trade adviser, ran into roadblocks in his initial attempts to sell a book with some publishers not expressing interest in the project, according to a publishing industry insider.

“Navarro was seen as a kook before this, so it’s not as if Peter Navarro would have an easy time selling a book prior to the administration,” said a different publishing source. Navarro wrote 13 books before his time at the White House, even using a fictional expert named Ron Vara in five of them.

But Navarro told POLITICO: “The reports of my publishing death are greatly exaggerated. I have a major publishing agreement with an attractive advance and my book will be out shortly after Labor Day.”

Navarro declined to say who the publisher was, but did say: “I can tell you it won’t be Simon and Schuster based on their unethical cancel culture treatment of Josh Hawley and his fine and powerful book on the social media oligarchs juxtaposed against their publication of the whitewashed book by Hunter Biden that conveniently ignores his sellout of America to communist China.”

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and former White House adviser, is also expected to write a book, but when one major publisher was asked by POLITICO if they would try to secure the publishing rights to it, the person wasn’t interested.

“In terms of trying to figure out his audience, I don’t think he has a lot of credibility with the MAGA audience, which is where you need these books to sell like hot cakes and then trying to publish it as liberal torture porn is not going to work either,” said the person. Kushner didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also been thinking through doing a book and has met with some agents, according to someone in the publishing industry. (CNN first reported he had met with agents.)

Some Trump figures have made millions selling their books, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who Simon and Schuster bought the rights for two books for reportedly $3 to 4 million. Pence was represented by David Vigliano, who has represented individuals like Newt Gingrich, Rick Gates, Val Kilmer and Joy Behar for their own books. Former Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway also recently won a multimillion-dollar book deal.

One publishing industry source noted that Pence’s book may not do nearly as well as he hopes.

“A lot of conservatives won’t come to that book,” the person said. “It might end up being even more appealing to the left, but the books that they want to buy are not necessarily books by the administration anymore.”

The person said that conservative readers are not eager to read behind-the-scenes looks at politics these days since they are locked out of power and are more interested in red-meat books attacking the left and President Joe Biden.

“There will only be a few more big books from the administration that succeed,” said the person. “I think Trump is fading much quicker from the national consciousness than people were banking on.”

Former Trump officials are also encountering a period of upheaval in the Washington book-placing world, with established players in the business finding themselves challenged by new upstarts.

Javelin, for instance, represented former House Speaker John Boehner, whose buzzy new memoir almost didn’t happen.

After leaving office, Boehner hired Washington superlawyer Bob Barnett to represent him, and Barnett and his colleagues talked to some publishers about the project. But Boehner decided not to go forward with the book after he got a couple offers that didn’t match what he was looking for, according to a publisher involved in the bidding process and another person familiar with the matter.

After Boehner in 2017 hired Javelin, founded by former Bush aides Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn, the firm completely rewrote the book proposal, making it more about Trump, and got him a mid-six figures advance. Barnett and a spokesperson for Boehner declined to comment.

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