Veiled Threats | Crooked Media
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July 22, 2021
Veiled Threats

In This Episode

“The White House loves giving out phony titles to socialites and friends! I know this one guy, they called him Secretary of the Interior.”

The long awaited vote on the League of Nations is just days away, and President Wilson is back in charge. And Edith is… thrilled? Yeah, let’s go with thrilled.



[loc. White House Oval Office]


Edith: [hums Hail to the Chief]


Woodrow: All right Edith. [laughs] I don’t need the pomp and circumstance of a whole inauguration.


Edith, voice over: The president was back, sitting in his chair, giving orders, running the world, with his most nimble, brilliant adviser at his side. It was hard not to get excited.


Edith: Do you realize how many newspapers wasted their time preparing your obituary? And now here you are, strong is the day we met, sitting behind that desk. So come on, give me a little speech. Here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only the [laughs] president of the United States.


Woodrow: My fellow Americans . . . four score and seven years ago.


Edith: Hey, let’s not steal from lesser presidents.


Edith, voice over: Things had finally returned to what they were before, a true partnership. I no longer had to be alone in this fight. Well, I mean, not counting Trudie, Marshall, Tumulty, the lady who makes my bed every morning—I want to call her Jennifer.


Edith: Well, as you know, the League of Nations’ vote is in four days. My plan was to get Marshall to whip any stragglers still voting with Lodge. I think we still need to flip Walsh, Gore—


Woodrow: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No lobbying, no lobbying. It’s all talk. It’s all dinners. And for what? We need to go directly to the American people. They still support me, right?


Edith: Oh, yeah, of course they love you. It’s just not my first instinct. But yes, the bully pulpit. I’m a fan of any kind of bullying. So smart. God, miss this brain.


Edith, voice over: Just like I said, it was a true partnership. 50/50, back to what it was before.


Edith: Tumulty, I just spoke to Woodrow. We’re going to enact a two pronged attack.


Tumulty: Two prongs, very smart. Have you thought of using a third prong?


Edith: Here’s the plan. Woodrow will appeal directly to the American people while at the same time Marshall lobbies the Senate.


Edith, voice over: Yes, of course, Woodrow did say that lobbying was ineffective, but it was my job as his advisor to give it a shot behind the scenes. I only had one thing left to worry about. Trudie. I’m not sure why, but ever since the incidents with Fall and Seibold, Trudie had been well, like this:


Trudie: Sounds good, Edith. Un huh. If you say so, Edith. Whatever you say, Edith.


Edith, voice over: I missed her, so I handled it.


Edith: Marshall, I need you to take Trudie with you to lobby the Senate.


Edith, voice over: I thought all she needed was a little boost of confidence. Trudie loves helping and Marshall had nothing but respect for her acumen.


Marshall: Trudie?! The kid who stole Senator Fall’s when she got too drunk to speak. Wait, does this have anything to do with the way she’s been acting lately?


Edith: I have no idea what you’re referring to, but also. No.


Marshall: Uh huh, uh huh. Okay, you know what? I’m going to do what you say, because you’re asking nicely and also because I don’t care enough to continue arguing.


Edith: Great. I wish everyone had your indifference.


Woodrow: Goddam Pen. Tumulty. Tumulty!


Tumulty: Sir?


Woodrow: I haven’t done that in a while, calling for you. It feels nice.


Tumulty: No one in Washington is better at shouting than you, sir.


Woodrow: Thank you! [laughs] I’m trying to figure something out. I’d love to speak with Lansing if he’s not too busy.


Tumulty: Lansing, sir? He was, you fired him.


Woodrow: Oh. Oh, yes. Yes, I did. Yeah, of course I remember. Is Marshall around?


Tumulty: He’s at lunch over at Occidental. Lobbying Senator Walsh.


Woodrow: Lobbying?  Thought I said no lobbying.


Edith, voice over: OK, Tumulty, here’s where you sense a threat, deflect with a snarky quip, everyone laughs and moves on. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances—


Tumulty: Sir. Sir, the First Lady said you requested a two-prong attack: lobbying and the bully pulpit.


Edith, voice over: God damn it. He told the truth.


Woodrow: What?! No. No, I didn’t. I’m sure of it. I know I didn’t. I didn’t. Tumulty, I remember. I didn’t.


Tumulty: OK, Mr. President. Noted.


Woodrow: Fetch me the first lady.


[loc. Occidental Restaurant]


Edith, voice over: Unfortunately, prong two was already well underway. Their first stop: take Senator Walsh of Massachusetts out to dinner and convince him to vote for the League. When I told Trudie about her task, you should have seen her. She got so excited, she requested her own job title.


Trudie: I’m Trudie Grayson, acting Deputy Chief of Authority.


Walsh: Uh huh. Sounds fake. Really fake.


Marshall: Oh. You know how the White House loves giving out phony titles to socialites and friends. I know there’s one guy, they called him Secretary of the Interior. [laughs] Yeah. Excuse me, Garcon.


Edith, voice over: My instructions for them was simple. The senator had a tough reelection fight.


Marshall: I know it’s technically a no no, but a little birdie told me you have a secret reserve.


Edith, voice over: Find out what he wants, promise him double.


Marshall: You might bring in my friend here a double?


Edith, voice over: Not the kind of double, but close enough


Waiter: Right away, sir.


Walsh: Actually. Excuse me. Waiter strike that. I’m not drinking.


Waiter: Very well, sir. And for the lady?


Trudie: Oh! I’d love a double—


Marshall: None for her. We’re good, thanks.


Waiter: Yes, sir.


Walsh: I know what you’re trying to do, Marshall.


Marshall: Have a good time on the company time?


Walsh: No. You want to get me drunk until I change my mind on the League, which I won’t.


Trudie: Where those appetizers.


Marshall: On, come on Senator, loosen up. You know, the founding fathers wrote the Constitution blackout drunk. When they woke up the next morning, they were like, wait, what the fuck is an emolument?


Walsh: You’re trying to pull the same trick on me that you did with the Dillingham-Hardwick vote, which I’ve regretted every day since.


Marshall: Walsh, listen.


Walsh: I have a busy day. I should probably be off.


Trudie: Wait, Senator. Marshall’s right. I am just a socialite, but that’s why I wanted to speak to you. You see, my husband and I have been thinking of leaving Washington and I’ve been begging him to let us move to Massachusetts. But he is insisting on Connecticut.


Walsh: No, Connecticut. He must be joking.


Trudie: The man will not shut up about Hartford. So I was hoping you might be able to help me figure out how to convince him Massachusetts is better than Connecticut.


Walsh: Well, we did already order. No booze, no politics.


Marshall: Yes, of course, Senator.


[loc. White House Oval Office]


Edith: Woodrow, you sent for me?


Woodrow: Yes. Can you sit a minute?


Edith, voice over: Tumulty had warned me that Woodrow seemed upset, but I know Woodrow and I knew he’d understand.


Edith: Honey, if this is about the lobbying, I should clarify that I, I, I must have misheard you.


Woodrow: Edith. Did you switch out my chair in the Oval Office?


Edith: Oh, yeah. Is is that what this is? Your old chair was uncomfortable and while you were asleep—.


Woodrow: Asleep? Yes, I know I was indisposed for a brief period of time, but I’m going to make sure everything goes back to how I like it. I know you got used to doing things a certain way while I was ill, but I’m better now. Do you understand?


Edith: I’m not sure I do, actually.


Woodrow: From now on, if there’s any decisions to be made about a chair or about official legislative tactics, they go through me. I communicate them to Tumulty.


Edith, voice over: Like I said, Woodrow was back in his rightful place. He was capable. So I trusted his decisions.


Edith: I of, of course. Of course.


Woodrow: Can you send in Tumulty on your way out? I need to dictate a letter.


Edith: Oh, of course, a letter. What, what, what kind of letters?


Woodrow: Edith. You’ve already done so much. You really did a great job, honey, but I don’t need you to speak for me anymore.


Edith: OK, great. I’ll go get Tumulty.


Edith, voice over: And I did, because you know me, I was just there to serve my husband.


[new day]


Edith, voice over: Despite all the good Woodrow did with his life, with his presidency, I really believe that goddamn letter might be the low point of his entire career


Woodrow: [dictating] To the honorable majority leader, Henry Cabot Lodge, and to all members of Congress, I submit to you a great and solemn proposal. I have no doubt the American people support the League. In fact, I would gladly wager my presidency on this belief. My proposal is simple: I’m asking all members of Congress to resign immediately.


Tumulty: I’m sorry, sir. I want to clarify I got that right. You said you want all members of Congress to resign.


Woodrow: Yes, that’s right. Let me finish.


Tumulty: Of course, Mr. President.


Woodrow: [dictating] Immediately after, we shall hold a snap election as a referendum on League ratification. If the American people reelect the opposing congressmen, thereby voicing their disapproval of my leadership, I vow to resign from the presidency immediately.


Tumulty: Wait, what? Mr. President, you’ll resign? Is this . . . correct?


Woodrow: Yes, that’s what I said. Keep writing. [dictating] I am confident in making this gamble. The question remains, are Senator Lodge and his supporters equally confident? Signed Woodrow Wilson, President of etc.


Edith, voice over: I love my husband, but there are letters written in blood that were less unhinged than that one. At least Marshall and Trudie were having a relatively normal time.


Waiter: Here you are, garden salad, oysters Rockefeller and deviled eggs.


Walsh: Of course, we place the Oysters Rockefeller as far from me as possible. Treat them well over there, Trudie.


Trudie: Oh! You don’t like deviled eggs.


Marshall: The man famously hates them.


Walsh: I wouldn’t eat one if my career depended on it.


Trudie: [laughs] That’d be funny, right, if your career actually depended on it?


Walsh: Sure, I guess.


Trudie: But you will enjoy these Oysters Rockefeller, right?


Walsh: Yes, that’s why I ordered them.


Marshall: How about we just shift the plate?


Trudie: Would you say you enjoy these oysters almost as much as your constituents would enjoy a campaign visit from Woodrow?


Walsh: What? What are you talking about?


Marshall: Yeah, what are you talking about?


Trudie: Sorry, I’m just being silly, but I’d love to pass you these oysters. It’d be great if you got something you really like. But I have control over these oysters. It wouldn’t make sense to just hand them over without getting anything in return.


Walsh: OK, how about I give you an egg and you give me an oyster?


Trudie: That doesn’t work for me.


Marshall: Trudie, give the man an oyster.


Trudie: Oh, I know! How about instead you eat a deviled egg?


Walsh: I have no idea what’s going on.


Trudie: It’s just a fun little game. But let’s say you do something you don’t want to do, like eat a deviled egg or vote for the League of Nations, and we give you something you want, like an Oysters Rockefeller or a campaign visit from President Wilson. Won’t the people of Massachusetts be so happy to see it?


Marshall: See what?! Him eat an oyster?


Walsh: Wait, Marshall please. What if I ask for two Oysters Rockefeller?


Trudie: Why stop at two? Why not five?


Walsh: Five campaign visits from Wilson? Really?


Trudie: I hear Massachusetts is a wonderful place to visit, so why the hell not?


Marshall: Huh. Holy shit. Keep going, kid. You’re a natural


Walsh: Now you’re serious?


Trudie: I’m serious. Are you serious enough to eat that deviled egg. [Walsh eats the egg] There you go. How’d it taste?


Walsh: Awful.


Trudie: Yeah, but now the bad parts over, and you can have as many oysters as you want. Here you are.


Edith, voice over: I’m proud to say I think I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive influence on Judy.


[loc. White House Tumulty’s office]


Edith, voice over: I was walking by, trying to rest, I swear, when I heard Tumulty’s phone ringing, but no Tumulty in sight.


Edith: Tumulty?


Edith, voice over: I wasn’t intentionally inserting myself into presidential matters, but somebody had to answer it.


Edith: Office of the president, First Lady Wilson speaking.


Marshall: Uh, Edith? I thought I’d get Tumulty.


Edith: Hello, Marshall. Seems like I’m the only one who works here anymore.


Marshall: I got good news for you. Trudie is a goddamn genius. I was practically taking the whole lunch, but she dug up my corpse and got us that vote. She was phenomenal. We were thinking of moving on to the Capitol so she could work her magic. That OK with you?


Edith, voice over: It was not my job to communicate for the president anymore. It’s what Woodrow wanted. And I do what Woodrow wants, always.


Edith: That decision is a decision that would not fall within my purview, but if you were to make that decision on your own, it would be a decision that would be good.


Marshall: Edith, are you being held hostage or something? I mean, cough twice if you are. Like this [coughs]


Edith: No. It’s hard to explain, but—


Edith, voice over: That’s when I noticed something peculiar on Tumulty’s desk. He had a legal pad with a top sheet ripped clean off, and on the new top sheet imprinted forcefully were the words “to the Honorable Majority Leader.”


Edith: What the fuck?!


Marshall: What! Edith? Edith? Cough twice . . .


Edith, voice over: I immediately grabbed a pencil from the desk and began rubbing it against that pad as quickly as I could. For six months I did everything I could to make sure everyone in my orbit had the President’s best interest in mind, whether it was Nel or Fall or Lansing, I did what I had to do for Woodrow. But in that moment, at that desk, rubbing a pencil against the page like a child etching a gravestone, I finally realized the truth. The President no longer had the President’s best interest in mind.


Edith: Marshall. Listen to me. Go win as many votes as you can, now. [hangs up phone]


[loc. White House Oval Office]


Edith, voice over: I was delirious. My head was spinning. I felt like kicking down the door and raging against Woodrow until he demanded the letter be burned. But all of that emotion, all of that fury, it melted away when I approached the Oval Office and heard this through a crack in the door.


Woodrow: “At daybreak on the bleak sea beach, a fisherman stood aghast to see the form of a maiden fair, lllll, llu, llhg. God fucking dammit! Just make the sound.


Edith: Woodrow. Woodrow, are you OK?


Woodrow: Hmm? Oh, hello, Edith. I was reading.


Edith: You’re putting your tongue too far back in your mouth. Lashed, lashed. The la la la sound is made in the front of the mouth.


Woodrow: La.


Edith: Lashed.


Woodrow: La la.


Edith: La la.


Woodrow: Lashed.


Edith: That’s it. That’s it.


Woodrow: God, Edith. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.


Edith: Please, Woodrow, tell me that you haven’t sent this letter yet.


Woodrow: Letter?


Edith: To Lodge, right here the letter about resigning?


Woodrow: Oh, oh. Oh, right. Yes. Don’t worry. Tumulty’s already on his way to the Capitol with it.


Edith: Oh Woodrow. What have you done?


Woodrow: What have I done? I’ve been reading my poetry.


Edith: No, I meant. Yeah, right, right, dear. Remember, it’s in the, it’s in the front of your mouth. La la, la, la, la, la, la. You’ll get it, dear.


[loc. White House driveway]


Edith: Edgar! I need my car as soon as humanly possible.


Valet: Madam First Lady, I don’t think—.


Edith: A carriage, a pumpkin, a goddamn donkey, anything! I need to get to the Capitol.


Valet: Unfortunately Madam, Pennsylvania Ave. is full of anti-League protesters. Nothing but foot traffic will be able to pass for the next few hours.


Edith: Ugh! I hate it when people peaceably assemble.


[loc. Capitol office]


Trudie: Senator Gore, my name is Trudie Grayson and this is Vice President Marshall, who will be acting as my secretary, I’ll still be taking notes though because I brought my favorite pen and I don’t trust him not to lose it.


Sen. Gore: You’re a cheeky one, aren’t you?


Marshall: Senator Thomas, defeat the Lodge reservations and then you get to be the loudest voice in the room to save the League.


Sen. Thomas: I could never be louder than you, Mr. Vice President.


Trudie: You may be asking yourself, why is the best friend of the First Lady out here on Capitol Hill? Well, I’m also the wife of the president’s doctor.


Sen. Flannigan: As an Irishman, I want to make sure Ireland is taken care of. If you do that, Woodrow has my vote.


Sen. Shields: Woodrow sent his most charming ambassador that’s for sure. I will be voting for the League of Nations.


[loc. Pennsylvania Ave]


Edith: No, oh, where are you?


Edith, voice over: So I couldn’t just sprint down the National Mall. I needed to cover my face. Unfortunately for me, I had so much tragedy in my life, I always kept a very special veil handy, my mourning veil. So I ran two miles to the U.S. Capitol in costume.


Protesters: No more wars! No more League!


Edith: Wife in mourning coming through! Excuse me.


Protestor: Everybody make way, make way. She’s in mourning.


Edith: I miss my husband and I’m in a hurry.


Protestor: Come on, everyone. Let her through. Let the widow through.


Edith: Your right to protest does not take precedence over my right to grieve.


Protesters: No more war! No more League!


[loc. Capitol steps]


Marshall: How about a little celebratory drink?


Trudie: Sure. Is there a place nearby?


Marshall: Yep, my pocket. I always carry a flask on me, Trudie.


Trudie: I wish we had glasses, then we could clink.


Marshall: Trudie, you’re lucky. Just like everyone else in Washington, I got deep pockets stuffed with things that would shock the public. Voila! Shot glasses.


Trudie: You keep those in your pocket?


Marshall: You never know when you need to clink and today we need to clink.


Trudie: To passing my first bill through Congress.


Marshall: And all those unfillable promises we made.


Trudie: What do you mean unfillable? Edith told me Woodrow will do whatever they ask for and more.


Marshall: Oh, sweetheart, Woodrow’s never going to know what we promised them. Hell, I don’t even remember. By the end of this week we will have helped, you know pass a peace treaty and created a big ole Earth Congress.


Trudie: Right. Right. It’s good. This is good.


Marshall: It’s good!


Trudie: But you seem unconvinced.


Marshall: No, it’s. It’s fine. It’s just, I’m, all right. I’m doing all this because I don’t want to be president. You’re doing it because you want to make Edith proud. Edith is doing it because—


Trudie: Because she cares about Woodrow.


Marshall: Edith is the same as Lodge, is the same as Woodrow, is the same as me, is the same as you. We’re all just people doing our best to look out for ourselves. Not sure that’s good, but what the hell do I know. Maybe it is good. Look, look at that flailing broad in the mourning veil. Death makes people do weird shit, when my brother lost his wife, he really got into a model train set.


Trudie: Wait, what?


Marshall: Yeah, model trains. They’re like normal trains, but smaller.


Trudie: No, not that. The lady. Is that, Edith?


Marshall: What? No way.


Trudie: That’s her. Hold my drink.


Marshall: Where you going?


Trudie: If that’s Edith, I think she needs my help.


Marshall: OK. All right. Godspeed, Trudie. God, Godspeed.


[loc Capitol hallway]


Tour Guide: And we’ve reached the exit. Any questions before we end the tour?


Student: Yeah. Does the president ever come to the Capitol?


Guide: Not often, no. The president works in the White House less than a mile down the road.


Edith: [panting] What are you teaching these kids? It’s two miles.


Edith, voice over: I didn’t have much time to find Tumulty before that letter reached Lodge’s desk. The Capitol’s a labyrinth, full of strange stone staircases and oversize mahogany doors. That’s why the men who work here always looked like they’re dying. There are fewer windows here than there are in a coffin.


Edith: [panting] Oh God.


Edith, voice over: As I ascended a stairwell and rounded a corner towards the largest chamber, I was moments from knocking when I spotted him down the hall walking towards me with the letter in hand.


[loc. Capital hallway, different part]


Trudie, voice over: I had spent the last six hours wandering around the Senate with the Vice President, and while my father always told me I wasn’t very good with directions, I actually remembered it all pretty easily. Sometimes when people say a thing about you, you believe it because you assume they know you better, because they see you every day. But I see myself everyday, too, in mirrors, in puddles, in certain soups. And in this moment, I saw myself knowing how to get around the Senate like it was no problem, even though I was super worried about my friend, I could still think clearly. I knew I’d be able to catch her on the stairs. I just didn’t expect what I saw.


Edith: I said, give me the letter.


Tumulty: With all due respect, this is an order from the president. That’s who I work for.


Edith: Oh! Yes, Tumulty, you work for the president. It’s a little confusing then why there are months of memos with your signature illegally putting into action orders that did not come from the president.


Tumulty: You asked me to sign those.


Edith: Oh, I certainly don’t remember it that way. I can’t imagine a Senate committee would think the First Lady capable of such things. The letter Tumulty.


Tumulty: Very well. May I be excused?


Edith: Yeah. Go. Oh, thank God.


Trudie: Um, Edith? What’s going on? Is Woodrow OK? Why are you in mourning?


Edith: Huh? Oh, the outfit? No, Woodrow’s fine, I just, I wore this so I wouldn’t be noticed.


Trudie: Oh, that, well, I’m still confused, but that’s normal. I’m often confused.


Edith: I heard you were great today.


Trudie: Oh, thanks. Um, what’s that letter?


Edith: This?


Trudie: It’s from the president. Right? It looks important.


Edith: Oh, yes, it is. And that is why, that is why it can never be delivered. He was going to throw everything away Trudie. All the incredible work you did today, all the work we did over the past few months. I couldn’t let that happen. Trudie? What’s wrong?


Trudie: It’s just, this is weird. No? You’re in a morning veil and you’re covered in sweat from running a mile to steal a letter to the Senate Majority Leader written by the president.


Edith: It was more than a mile.


Trudie: OK, well, that’s also weird that that’s what upset you about what I just said.


Edith: Truly, please, not now. You have no idea the day.


Trudie: Edith, why are you doing this?


Edith: You know why I’m doing everything I can for my country and for Woodrow.


Trudie: No. Why are you doing this?


Edith: You haven’t noticed that Woodrow has not really been present lately. And frankly, I don’t know if he ever will. And someone has to make sure that everything is running—


Trudie: Are you the one who’s supposed to be doing this? I mean, what about Marshall?


Edith: You really think that Marshall? [laughs] I see it’s not supposed to be me, right? You’re right, but just because it’s not supposed to be me doesn’t mean I’m not the best person for the job. Do you think I’m not the best person for the job?


Trudie: No. Yeah, I do, of course, Edith. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. Right? Like if that letter is as bad as you say and Woodrow is not coming back, don’t people have a right to know?


Edith: What’s gotten into you lately, Trudie? What are you even saying?


Trudie: I’m saying I think you should deliver that letter.


Edith: What? No. no.


Trudie: You grabbed his hand, Edith. I watched you. He said no and grabbed his hand.


Edith: What are you talking about?


Trudie: Are you really doing this for Woodrow or are you doing this for for—.


Edith: Trudy! Trudie, just take the letter. Take it. There’s no one in the world I trust more than you. So if you think this “I need to deliver this letter” then, well, the Senate Majority Leader’s office is right there.


Trudie: Edith, I—


Edith: I trust you to do whatever is right. But before you do, before you put an end to all this that you no longer think is right, I want you to remember way back in autumn, just a few days after Woodrow’s fall and we were sitting in the Oval Office and how excited you were that finally, even if just for a bit, we got to make the decisions for once. Our whole lives, we’ve had to defer and agree and nod. And finally, for once, we get to call the shots. What am I doing this for Trudie? What? This is what you always wanted, right? What you said you wanted. We felt that together. If you think that we should throw that away because we’re not supposed to be doing this stuff well, well, then I trust you to make the call no matter what you decide, I love you.


Trudie, voice over: I guess maybe what people say about me is true. Maybe I am just a little dummy who follows directions.


Trudie: You’re right, Edith, and I’m sure you’re right. So let’s just go home.


Edith, voice over: Thank God Trudie did what Trudie always does, she listened to reason and put that letter in her purse. And we stroll back to the White House arm in arm.


[loc. White House President’s bedroom]


Woodrow: Hmm. Oh, there you are. They brought me my old chair while you were gone.


Edith: Good, good. Just as you remember?


Woodrow: Better. How did my letter go over? What’s everybody saying?


Edith: You were right, Mr. President. They loved it.


Woodrow: I knew they would.


Trudie, voice over: People say a lot of stuff about other people, and it’s not always good to believe it, but everything everyone says about Edith? Well, it’s all true.