In the author’s new book, Landside: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, published next week, he recounts Mr Trump’s last months in office during which time he reportedly rejected advice from Jared Kushner to take the pandemic more seriously, despite polls showing a majority of Americans saw masks and testing as the best way to reopen the economy.
In an excerpt published in The Times, Wolff writes: “The scowling president dug in. ‘I know my people. They won’t have it. They don’t believe it. No mask mandates!’ He clenched his shoulders and lifted his hands to ward off the mask mandate, his whole body seeming to revolt at the very notion.
“Trying to move Trump one way often resulted in moving him the other. But the president suddenly went from sourness to delight. He had another way of dealing with Covid. If the Democrats were using Covid against him, he would use it against them: they could just use Covid as a reason to delay the election. ‘People can’t get to the polls. It’s a national emergency. Right?’”
Wolff writes that Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tried to explain that there was no mechanism for delaying the election.
“I’m thinking about calling it off,’ said Trump.
“The prep?” said Christie.
“No, the election — too much virus.”
“Well, you can’t do that, man,” said Christie, a former US attorney, half chuckling. “You do know, you can’t declare martial law. You do know that, right?”
The paragraph concludes: “It was both alarming and awkward that he might not.”
Mr Trump appeared reluctant to fully commit to the 2020 election, commenting before a single ballot had been cast that the mail-in voting process would be “catastrophic”. President Barack Obama accused Mr Trump of criticising postal voting to “undermine the election”.
Joe Biden won the 2020 election by more than 7m votes in the popular vote and by 74 electoral college seats. Mr Trump, however, made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, a notion that provoked the violent riot in the US Capitol.
Despite insisting that the Democrats had not won the election, his team failed to prove any significant instances of voter fraud. Mr Trump has had dozens of legal challenges to overturn votes rejected. His insistence that the election was stolen, most notably at a rally ahead of the Capitol riot, prompted an impeachment charge – the second he faced during his presidency.
Mr Trump became the first American president to be impeached twice, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the first instance and incitement of insurrection during his second impeachment. However, he was acquitted by the Senate both times.
It is only in recent weeks that the former president admitted he “didn’t win” the 2020 election, but Mr Trump has continued to pursue the “big lie” that Biden’s victory was the result of electoral fraud.
“We were supposed to win easily, 64 million votes,” Mr Trump said to Fox News host Sean Hannity in mid-June. “We got 75 million votes and we didn’t win, but let’s see what happens on that…
“I think the election was unbelievably unfair, but I want [Biden] to go out and do well for our country.”