Writing for New York Magazine, Michael Wolff - author of the soon-to-be-released book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" - recounts election night within the Trump campaign and tells the story of how Donald Trump went from expecting to cash in on his presidential run to believing he had what it took to be President of the United States of America.
No member of the Trump campaign believed Trump would win - nor did any of them think he should. The goal was not the presidency but to enhance their brands, land cushy jobs, and end the ride more famous than they began.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.
“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”
If it seemed that Trump failed to take the election seriously, it was because he was not seriously running to win. He didn't have to worry about conflicts of interest or following political norms, like releasing tax returns, because he was hoping to lose.
Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
And winning was losing: "Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears—and not of joy."
There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.