Donald Trump's lawyers have moved to prevent publication of an explosive "insider's account" of his presidency, due to be published next week.
Author Michael Wolff and his US publishers at Henry Holt and Company have been served a cease and desist notice to quash the publication of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
The letter demands Wolff and his publisher immediately "cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination" of the forthcoming book. It goes on to say Trump's legal team are "investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr. Trump", raising the issue of possible defamation and invasion of privacy.
The book - due to be published simultaneously in the UK by Little, Brown, on 9th January - is based on more than 200 interviews and includes a claim that Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. It also calls into question Trump's suitability for office.
The legal action is based on an article Wolff published on New York Magazine's website entitled "Donald Trump Didn't Want to be President", as well as various excerpts of the book published elsewhere. The New York Magazine had official serial rights to the book and moved publication forward from next week after the Guardian broke an embargo to publish a story based on the title's contents on Wednesday (3rd January).
The legal document served to Steve Rubin, president and publisher at Henry Holt, and Wolff, argues the book lacks sufficient citation of sources "for many of its most damaging statements about Mr Trump". It also says "alleged 'sources'" have made statements about Trump who "are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr Trump".
Under a section entitled "Mr Trump's Demands", the notice asks for a total ban on further publication of the title, including any excerpts or summaries. Trump also makes demands for a complete retraction and apology, according to the letter, as well as the full text of the unpublished book.
Material from the title was leaked ahead of publication on Wednesday (3rd January) after the Guardian retrieved an early copy from a bookseller based in New England. The article prompted Trump's legal team to act initially against Bannon on Wednesday (3rd January) by issuing a cease and desist letter. The president also issued a formal statement saying Bannon "lost his mind" when he was fired from his post. By Thursday (4th January), cease and desist letters were also issued against Wolff and his publishers at Henry Holt, published in the Washington Post.
Little, Brown is yet to respond to The Bookseller's requests for comment about whether publication of Fire and Fury will proceed in the UK as planned next week. Neither Wolff or his US publisher Henry Holt and Co have responded either. Meanwhile, UK booksellers have said they have not received any communication from the publisher about whether to stop taking orders of the title or change their plans to stock it next week.
Pre-order sales of the book have soared on Amazon in the UK and the US and at Waterstones following the media storm. The book is currently ranked at number one on Amazon.com.