Game of Thorns

The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's Winning Strategy


By Doug Wead

Read by Doug Wead

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Here is the first, insider, account of the precipitous fall of Hillary Clinton. How the scandals of a lifetime finally reached critical mass. How, in the last few days of the campaign, some on her staff saw the ghostly shroud of defeat creeping over them but were helpless to act, frozen by the self-denial of the group.

Here is an explanation of why the national media and their corporate owners kept Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren out of the race. Why they wanted their investment in the Clinton’s to work and how they were willing to go to great lengths to make that happen.

Don’t have time to read the thousands of leaked emails from inside the Clinton machine?

The author has done it for you and has come back from the experience with a stunning peek into the world of a political leader who privately declared that she wanted a hemisphere “with open trade and open borders.”

Finally, here is the story of the rise of Donald Trump.

How his opponents sought to derail him.

This is the story of how Donald Trump’s message and brand transcended the traps laid by his enemies. How, against all odds, he won the presidency. And here are the details of his plan to make American great again.






Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.


On October 20, 2016, backstage at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner in New York City, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stood with Cardinal Timothy Dolan to say a short prayer. The Smith Dinner was a rite of passage for presidential candidates. They each exchanged barbs and roasted the other, all in good humor. Most observers would conclude that Hillary Clinton clearly won the hearts and minds at the dinner that night, while critics would savage Donald Trump, saying that he came off as petty and out of place.

The audience did not know, but just after the prayer, before the trio walked out onstage to introductions, Mr. Trump turned to Hillary Clinton and spoke to her softly. "You know you are one tough and talented woman," he said. For Donald Trump, it was the ultimate compliment. "This has been a good experience," he added, "This whole campaign, as tough as it has been."1

Hillary seemed momentarily nonplussed, then said, "Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterward."2

It was easy for her to say. The next day a Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project gave Hillary Clinton a 95 percent chance of winning the presidency. She was the most likely winner in the Electoral College, with a tally of 326 votes to only 212 for Donald Trump.3


Only eight days after the Al Smith Dinner in New York City, on October 28, 2016, the FBI director, James Comey, announced that the agency was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton's secret emails.4 The election was only eleven days away. Previously, in July, the FBI chief had summed up the bureau's investigation, calling Clinton's handling of classified materials on her private email server as extremely careless but not criminal.

Only moments after Comey's announcement, Donald Trump reacted. He was on a stage in Manchester, New Hampshire. Trump told a boisterous, cheering audience, "They are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America."5 Trump was uncharacteristically solemn and he was sticking to his script for a change.

Within two hours of the Comey announcement, Hillary Clinton held a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa. She was wearing a favorite dark blue jacket that an enthusiastic follower once insisted would one day be displayed in the Smithsonian Instutution as the jacket worn on the campaign trail by the first woman elected president of the United States. A battery of American flags were draped behind her onstage.

Hillary boldly called for the FBI to release what they had. She told reporters, "Voting is under way, so the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately." Said Clinton, it was "imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay."6

Then sounding a tone that was very presidential and dignified, she concluded, "I look forward to moving [on] … to focus on the important challenges facing the American people, wining on November 8, and working with all Americans to build a better future for our country."7

But there was nothing dignified about the reopening of the FBI investigation. Nor the extenuating circumstances. FBI Director Comey explained that his agents had stumbled on to the new emails during a probe on an unrelated case. Agents had discovered the emails on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, a former congressman and the estranged husband of Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin. Weiner was being investigated by the FBI after sending an illicit, sexual text message to a fifteen-year-old girl in North Carolina.8

Hillary Clinton considered Weiner's wife, Huma, as another daughter. She was so close that there had been discussion of giving her a bedroom in the family quarters of the White House so she could be accessible to Hillary.9 Apparently there were tens of thousands of emails on Weiner's computer, and many of them were copies of classified emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Abedin was bewildered, saying she hadn't used the computer for ten years. It appeared that the issue would not be resolved before the election.

The US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and the deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, disagreed with James Comey's decision to alert Congress about the finding.10 But Loretta Lynch and the Obama Justice Department had little credibility or sense of public trust left in its tank. During the previous summer, when the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton was supposedly reaching its climactic conclusion, Attorney General Lynch had met with Hillary's husband, former president Bill Clinton, aboard a private plane on the tarmac at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Both said that the talks were "primarily social," but a story in Politico described even some Democrats as "struggling to stomach the optics."11 The American justice system appeared to be broken.

As to his new probe, Comey said, "We don't ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed." Then Comey added, "I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record."12

Many would argue that Hillary Clinton knew full well that the ugly details related to Anthony Weiner would not be helpful. But it was better to stand fearlessly, with nothing to hide, than to shrink from the exposure as if one were guilty of something.

In answering her last question, at a very choreographed, brief, and scripted news conference, Hillary took her own dig at the FBI, suggesting it was now a tool of Republicans. "If they're going to be sending this kind of letter that is only going, originally, to Republican members of the House, [then] they need to share whatever facts they have with the American people."13

It was not true. The FBI was loaded with Democrats and Hillary Clinton supporters. The lead investigator into her emails was an avowed Democrat whose wife had run for the state senate in Virginia as a Democrat. The Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, had helped funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into her campaign, the campaign of the wife of the FBI agent in charge of investigating Hillary.14

What was true was that the FBI, as an institution, had many very good reasons to be skeptical of Hillary Clinton. She and the FBI had experienced a long and sometimes contentious relationship. She was not afraid of it. She saw it as a bureaucracy that could not conclude anything quickly or decisively and certainly would not dare to do so now, only days away from the voting. She was calling its bluff.

The Thursday before the election, Hillary Clinton was asked if she would ask for the resignation of FBI Director Comey, were she elected president.

She refused to answer the question.15

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Comey's announcement, Hillary Clinton's internal, twice-daily surveys, showed that the numbers were holding steady. Even so, the Comey letter was clearly a worrisome event. At the very least, it could suppress voter turnout.


What the public and most journalists seemed to miss was the long and storied history of the Clintons and the FBI. It started years before the email crisis and the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Early in public life, Bill Clinton had been accused of using select officers of the Arkansas State Troopers as his own personal police force. They not only protected the Clintons, they also ran errands, picked up laundry, and, according to their testimony, ran interference for Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs. According to the troopers, Clinton, as attorney general and later as governor of the state, often dispatched officers to procure attractive women, ask for their phone numbers, and try to set them up for private liaisons. The troopers sometimes arranged for motel rooms, drove the governor to the points of rendezvous in state-owned vehicles, and sometimes loaned him their own automobiles to avoid the scrutiny of anyone who had become overly curious.16

When the Clintons moved into the White House, it may have been natural for them to try to use the FBI and the Secret Service as an extension of their own personal power. Both proud agencies strongly resisted. Very quickly the relationship devolved into something more negative. One Secret Service agent recalls greeting the first lady as they passed on the West Colonnade, outside the West Wing.

"Good morning, first lady," the officer said.

"Go fuck yourself," the first lady allegedly answered. The story was apparently corroborated by other officers with similar stories.17

In my interview with a White House service staff member, I learned that the first lady had a pejorative nickname used by her security detail. "I was on my first road trip and was astonished when the lead officer, a female, said, 'Wait right here until I get the first bitch.' It struck me as incredibly unprofessional and disrespectful, but within a few weeks I would completely understand."18

A flight attendant on Air Force One gave a graphic account of Mrs. Clinton's famous temper. While President Ronald Reagan enjoyed jelly beans as snacks, it seemed that President Bill Clinton liked to have supplies of raisins, peanut butter M & M's, and Wrigley's Doublemint chewing gum. The plane had landed and the flight attendant was rushing to the front door to prepare the air stair for the First Lady to disembark. To be late for his task would be sorely noted by supervisors.

As he rushed by what was called "vip one," where Mrs. Clinton was seated, she called out, "Do you have something for my chewing gum?"

"Just a minute, mam," the attendant answered, getting to the door and getting it opened and the stair in position. He thought he could circle back and find something to take her gum. But she brushed past him and descended the stairs, with a beaming smile and a wave of her hand to greeters below. He assumed all was well. When he retreated to clean the cabin, there on her table was her chewing gum flattened down and stretched out, stuck in place to do its maximum damage. The message was clear, "When I ask for something, you better get it."19

On another occasion she discovered that she had left her sunglasses behind. The Marine One helicopter was going to lift off and this time the president was on board, so there was no waiting. The first lady broke into a profanity filled tirade, "I want my Goddamn sunglasses NOW!" But no one on staff could find them. During the short flight, the first lady began to violently kick the door of the helicopter. Personnel later worked on trying to clean the black marks from her shoes.

One staff supervisor told me, "It was very clear to us, that the Clintons saw us as working for them personally, not for the country, or the government, or our own agency, or our various commands. We were their personal property."20

As the reader will learn in future chapters, when the Clintons tried to remove White House employees in the Travel Office, they sought help from the FBI to get it done. In this case, Hillary Clinton was intent on trying to replace long-serving White House employees with her own campaign workers and Hollywood friends, thus securing for them the lucrative charter flight income. Again and again, White House staff pressured the FBI to find something incriminating to justify the action. There is no doubt that the agency resented being drawn into this personal Clinton drama. But when Clinton staff started leveling criminal complaints against the long-standing White House employees, they had no choice but to get involved.

What resulted was a multimillion-dollar investigation that ruined the lives of the White House workers, some of whom had served successive American presidents since John F. Kennedy. Their personally-signed photos from presidents were thrown in the trash and they were escorted from the building. Their legal fees would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When a jury eventually found them innocent, the central target of the investigation dropped his head and sobbed with relief. Later, at a restaurant in Virginia, some FBI agents actually cheered the acquittal of the man they had investigated under pressure from the White House and bemoaned what was happening to their beloved FBI.

Filegate was a scandal that involved the Clintons' obtaining thousands of personal FBI files of Republican politicians and former White House officials. It led to a congressional inquiry and embarrassing public testimony from the FBI itself, with outrage that the agency had again become the political tool of the Clintons.

When the Whitewater investigation began, Hillary Clinton's own subpoenaed billing records at the Rose Law Firm went missing. They were eventually found, two years later, in Hillary Clinton's possession. They had been in the private family quarters of the White House. It stunned the public and sparked another FBI investigation. The FBI found Hillary Clinton's fingerprints all over the documents, but the Justice Department took no action in the case. Hillary Clinton went into the history books as the only first lady to ever be fingerprinted by the FBI. She was not happy.

With the FBI and the Secret Service reluctant to become the Clintons' personal palace guards, the Clintons simply created their own. The White House Security Office was led by two former campaign staffers, Craig Livingstone and Anthony Marceca. More about this duo later, but suffice it to mention here that they immediately began to improperly access FBI files belonging to the political targets of the Clintons.21 Incredibly, in the middle of the Filegate scandal, it was learned that Marceca had allegedly accessed his own FBI files, where he learned that two women had made accusations against him. Armed with this insider FBI information, Marceca apparently confronted the women and sued them for slander.22

The Clintons professed complete ignorance about the so-called White House Security Office, as if it had materialized on its own, but according to an FBI report, the two men who ran it had been given their positions by Hillary Clinton.

When Vince Foster took his own life, the FBI was kept out of the investigation by President Clinton for several crucial days. Clinton wanted the park rangers to handle the case. They bungled it, losing, for example, the crime scene photos which lead to endless conspiracy theories.

Vince Foster's suicide note was found six days after his death, in his own briefcase, in his White House office. The note included Foster's negative appraisal of the FBI, saying that it had lied in its report to the attorney general about Travelgate. It showed how toxic and bitter the relationship between the Clintons and the FBI had become in their first year in the White House.

When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, it was the FBI that had to have an agent present in the Map Room of the White House when blood was drawn from the president, to determine his DNA. And it was an FBI laboratory that compared the president's DNA with the semen stain on Monica Lewinsky's famous blue dress.

Pursuing the cases of the many women alleging affairs with Bill Clinton was a tour of the dark side of power. While the FBI had no prurient interest in the morality or immorality of Bill Clinton's private sex life, the independent counsel's office, operating at the behest of the Justice Department, was pursuing charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. And that necessarily involved the FBI listening to the women's anguished stories.

As the reader will learn, in every case, the women had been outed by others. They had not wanted to come forward. Yet they were being portrayed as nuts, sluts, gold diggers out for money, or partisans put up to their assignments by Republican troublemakers. Hillary would call it "a vast right-wing conspiracy."23

What the FBI found instead was a long string of concerted attacks, orchestrated by the Clintons against the women who had come forward. The evidence was stunning. Jack Palladino, a former law school classmate of Hillary Clinton, was hired to investigate the women. He was paid $100,000. Palladino openly bragged that he would destroy the reputation of one of the women "beyond all recognition."24

The women claimed that their car tires were shot out by nail guns. That strangers met them on the jogging path, calling out the names of their children. That the postman and others in their small towns warned of creepy-looking people asking about them around the neighborhood. Car windows were shot out from the inside of one of the cars, with the spent shotgun shells inside, lying on the floor. A beloved cat went missing, and a few weeks later a torched cat's skull was found on a front porch.

More troubling and relevant for the FBI were the stories of strangers who offered the women federal jobs if they would keep quiet. And when they declined to take the bribes and insisted on testifying truthfully under oath against the president, they would subsequently be fired from the jobs they had. When inquiries were made, the bosses of the women who had fired them would admit to outside pressure.

Many of the women, including Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Juanita Broaddrick, were audited by the IRS for the first time in their lives.25

One of the terrified victims contacted the FBI with a corroborating witness. When she was approached by a low-level Democratic Party official who had a message for her, Sally Perdue wisely arranged in advance for a coworker to sit nearby and surreptitiously listen in on the conversation. The Democratic official warned Perdue to keep her mouth shut. If she did, she would get a federal job, he promised. If she didn't, they knew where she jogged each day and they couldn't promise that someone might not "break her pretty little legs."

Both Sally Perdue and her coworker, who was the second witness to this conversation, filed affidavits with the FBI field office, presumably in Saint Louis. When Sally left the office, a car attempted to hit her, but she avoided it in the last few seconds. Surveillance cameras outside the FBI building may have offered further information. Perdue claims that the car had no license plates.

Juanita Broaddrick told her story of being pinned to the bed of her hotel room and raped by Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her friend Norma Rogers found her afterward, huddled in her room, weeping and trembling. What could they do? Go to the police? Bill Clinton was then the attorney general of Arkansas, the chief law enforcement officer in the state. They grabbed their things, checked out of the hotel and immediately fled Little Rock.

The independent counsel asked the FBI to investigate the Juanita Broaddrick story, knowing that it was twenty years old and the statute of limitations had expired for a charge of rape. The investigators wanted to know only if Bill Clinton had asked her to lie about her testimony. Or had offered her bribes. He had not. The final FBI report on Juanita Broaddrick was stamped "inconclusive," but the testimony was so heartrending that word soon spread and several Republican senators asked to read it. The report was provided to them by FBI agents and the senators were required to read the documents in a sealed room. Several senators chose to read the report the day before the vote on impeachment.

In the 1990s, the FBI broke a story that involved massive amounts of foreign money flooding into the Clinton and Democratic National Committee coffers. Some of it was traced back to the People's Republic of China. Some could be traced to companies owned by the Chinese military and security forces.

The FBI was not monitoring the Clintons and the Democrats; they were listening in on conversations taking place in the Chinese embassy. It was through an investigation of Chinese espionage against the United States that the FBI stumbled onto a plan to influence the American presidential elections. The FBI was simply following the trail of money when it unexpectedly led them back to the Clinton White House.

A congressional hearing produced witnesses and participants who had incredible tales to tell the American people. One of those witnesses, receiving death threats, was reportedly promised protection by the Los Angeles office of the FBI. But, at the last minute, the Los Angeles office was told to cancel all protection. The witness's attorney received a package suggesting that his client could plead the Fifth Amendment. He refused. Out of 120 witnesses, he was the only one willing to talk about what had happened.

"Today, I have mixed feelings about the President and the First Lady but I can't help but think that they used me as much as I used them,"26 said Johnny Chung, one of the principal figures in the Clinton Chinagate scandal. His testimony was carried live on national television. He spoke with disgust about officials at the Democratic National Committee who had begun to condemn him for funneling money from China, when he said they knew very well about the origin of the money.

Before finishing his testimony, he spoke of a menacing message he had received from an American source: "If you keep your mouth shut, you and your family will be safe." He said that a message from the Chinese government was more polite and indirect, more subtle, but otherwise similar. "It said, me and my family would be safe if I didn't talk."27

Such stories sound far-fetched, the creation of fringe conspiracy theorists. But they were sometimes sufficiently believable to the FBI agents themselves, that those agents crossed the line and walked away from government careers in disgust. One agent told a Clinton victim of sexual assault that her public testimony probably saved her life.

Bill Clinton would later be asked by a friend if he had ordered the IRS to audit the women who had accused him of sexual assault or the women who had eventually come forward with stories of infidelity? Women like Paula Jones?

"I didn't have anything to do with it," Clinton replied, referring to their ongoing travails with the government. "And I know nobody around here had to do with her getting audited by the IRS. But, independently, it stands to some reason. She doesn't have any visible means of support and is always traveling around and driving a new car, no job, so forth."28

But neither did Bill Clinton order his government to stop any harassment or perceived punishment of the women who were claiming to be victims of his sexual assault. He didn't order the IRS to stand down, for example. In fact, he let it be known that he approved of its action. That it was warranted. Nor did he put Johnny Chung in protective custody after he openly declared that he and his family had been threatened. Someone in government had actually called off the FBI, which had apparently wanted to protect him.

The commissioner of the IRS during the Clinton administration was Margaret Milner Richardson. She had worked on the Clinton campaign and served on the administration's transition team for the Justice Department. She was also a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton.29 As commissioner, Richardson was accused by conservatives of targeting individuals and organizations for audit whom the Clintons considered political enemies, often with alleged threats of property seizure. The NRA, the American Spectator, and the Western Journalism Center were all alleged targets. As were Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones. Was Hillary Clinton using her influence and friendship with Richardson to threaten detractors into silence?30 Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson resigned on January 9, 1997.31 She denied any political pressure to leave.

While most of the committed professionals at the FBI stuck to their own business or even looked the other way, some were troubled. Heads of state, kings, presidents, mafia chieftains, corporate bosses, seldom had to direct their subordinates about what to do in complicated ethical matters.

One of history's most famous stories has King Henry II exploding in exasperation at the ignorance of his own entourage, seemingly incompetent in discerning the obvious, that his rival, the Archbishop of Canterbury, should be dispatched. "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" the king supposedly shouted in frustration.

Catching his drift, four knights in his entourage galloped off to find the king's antagonist the archbishop Thomas Becket, and butchered him near the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. It happened in 1170. And the story has become a metaphor for many similar instances.

If the FBI was not afraid that the Clintons themselves would order wrongdoing, it understood full well that the government was full of people who wanted to be helpful to persons in power.


  • "Read this compelling book to find out why she lost and he won-an outcome that will prove to be best for our nation."—Gary J. Byrne, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crisis of Character
  • "A great book... GAME OF THORNS gets you behind the scenes...I mean REALLY behind the scenes. Doug is respected by he has access to everybody....It's going to be a best seller. I don't care if you're left or right on this... it's an amazing tick-tock of what went wrong and it is from a presidential historian -- not some cockamamie person."—Neil Cavuto, Cavuto Coast to Coast
  • "GAME OF THORNS is a fascinating study of 2016 US presidential elections. Wead busts all myths created and supported by what has come to be known as fake news. Wead convincingly shows that President Trump won the elections because of a superior strategy in spite of all odds in favor of Hillary Clinton. GAME OF THORNS is a deeply researched book and provides deep insight into the election strategies of both President Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as the American election system. GAME OF THORNS is the best book on the 2016 presidential elections and is likely to remain so in the future. It is a must read to understand American politics."—The Washington Book Review

On Sale
Feb 28, 2017
Hachette Audio

Doug Wead

About the Author

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author who has written more than thirty books. He has served as an adviser to two American presidents, co-authored a book with one of them and served on senior staff at the White House. He lives outside of Washington, D.C. with his wife, Myriam.

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