Bob Woodward, the Washington Post investigative journalist who was instrumental in exposing the Nixon Watergate scandal in 1972, is about to release a new book called Fear: Trump in the White House, which is described as being “the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.” In writing the book, Woodward drew from hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with firsthand sources including administration officials, who provided among other things, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and other assorted documents.
Fear is being released on September 11, but in the meantime, excerpts are starting to surface, and they are about as damning as you would expect from the likes of Woodward. The bombshell look into the current administration reveals a White House in a constant state of disarray and turmoil, with those closest to President Donald Trump regarding him with anything from annoyed irritation to outright contempt.
We’ve rounded up the most bonkers nuggets so far, which are likely only going to be the tip of the iceberg.
Chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Woodward reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis describes Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.” And Trump’s former personal lawyer John Dowd describes the President as “a fucking liar,” telling Trump he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.
“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. “I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Likewise, Trump seems to command about the same amount of respect from Secretary of Defense James Mattis:
After Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.
In fact, the president’s aides reportedly and regularly take matters into their own hands to prevent Trump to prevent him from making potentially disastrous decisions:
[Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn], a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.
To discourage Trump from testifying before Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former attorney John Dowd attempted a practice interview to show him what a bad idea it was, but unfortunately it was all in vain:
Woodward writes that Dowd saw the “full nightmare” of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an “aggrieved Shakespearean king.”
But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd’s reaction, Woodward writes. “You think I was struggling?” Trump asked.
Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller’s office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn’t possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.
“He just made something up. That’s his nature,” Dowd said to Mueller.
He of the “best words” also apparently fancies himself the “Ernest Hemingway” of Twitter, and attempts by national security leaders to vet Trump’s tweets have proven unsuccessful:
[Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus], who was blindsided when Trump announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom as “the devil’s workshop” and called the early morning hours and Sunday night — a time of many news-breaking tweets — “the witching hour.”
Trump, however, saw himself as a Twitter wordsmith.
“It’s a good thing,” Trump said when Twitter expanded its character count to 280, “but it’s a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”
Speaking of Twitter, the president has yet to publicly comment on the new revelations from the forthcoming book, but it seems only a matter of time before he makes his umbrage known.