An explosive book by journalist Bob Woodward has revealed new accounts of backbiting and insults among
Woodward, relying on his usual methods of deeply sourced reporting with use of information provided on ‘background’ – presents White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis each deriding the president’s mental capacity.
Kelly called Trump an ‘idiot’ and said in a meeting with a small group the president was ‘unhinged,’ according to the Washington Post, Woodward’s longtime employer, which got a copy.
‘He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had,’ Kelly said when he blew a fuse at a meeting, according to Woodward.
Bob Woodward’s new book has chief of staff John Kelly calling President Trump an ‘idiot’ who has ‘gone off the rails’
Project fear: Extracts from veteran Watergate reporter Bob Woodard’s new book set off explosions across the political world. He had been welcomed to Trump Tower and asked the White House for an interview with Trump. Trump spoke to him on the phone last week and said ‘you’ve always been fair’ – then claimed Tuesday they had not spoken and Woodward had ‘credibility’ issues
In one episode, Trump questioned the utility of U.S. early warning systems in Alaska to identify a nuclear attack from North Korea.
When Trump asked about it, Mattis schooled him: ‘We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III.
Mattis then told colleagues Trump had the mental ability of ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’
But Trump also dished back at his subordinates.
He fumed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and even reportedly mocked the region he came from, in addition to calling him a ‘traitor’ for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
‘This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama,’ Trump said.
Previous accounts during Trump’s first year had former secretary of state Rex Tillerson calling Trump a ‘moron,’ and Tillerson did not explicitly deny it. This would mean three of Trump’s most senior advisors have ridiculed his mental capacity.
The book, in an extract
THE WOODWARD REPORT: WHAT THEY SAID ON TRUMP…
JOHN KELLY, CHIEF OF STAFF: ‘He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails.
We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.’
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: ‘Fifth- or sixth-grader’
REX TILLERSON, EX-SECRETARY OF STATE: ‘He’s a f***ing moron.’
JOHN DOWN, EX-PERSONAL ATTORNEY: ‘F***ing liar.’
JOHN DOWD, EX-PERSONAL ATTORNEY, ON HOW TRANSCRIPT OF A MUELLER INTERVIEW WOULD BE DESCRIBED BY FOREIGN LEADERS: ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’
GARY COHN, EX-CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: ‘A professional liar’
ROB PORTER, EX-STAFF SECRETARY WHO QUIT WHEN BOTH EX-WIVES ACCUSED HIM OF ABUSE: ‘A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.’
But instead of what senior advisers called ‘The Big Problem’, the president’s lack of grasp of diplomacy and alliances, he attacked them, telling senior generals about Afghanistan : ‘You should be killing guys. You don’t need a strategy to kill people.’
Then he questioned why the U.S. needed troops in South Korea.
He was asked by Gary Cohn, then his most senior economic adviser, what level of military commitment in South Korea would be needed for him to sleep at night.
‘I wouldn’t need a f***ing thing. And I’d sleep like a baby.’
It was at the end of the meeting that Tillerson gave his verdict – which he then refused to deny.
The book recounts another meeting of the National Security Council at which Trump was told about an intelligence operation which is part of the U.S. presence in South Korea and means a missile launch by the North can be detected in seven seconds, instead of 15 minutes using resource in Alaska.
He questioned why the money needed to be spent and Mattis told him: ‘We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III.’
After the meeting Mattis told ‘close associates’ that Trump ‘acted like – and had the understanding of – “a fifth- or sixth-grader’.’
… AND WHAT DONALD TRUMP SAID ABOUT THEM…
BARACK OBAMA: ‘Weak d**k’
RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY: ‘Rudy, you’re a baby. I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?’
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: ‘I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations. You’re past your prime.’
H.R MCMASTER, EX-NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: ‘Like a beer salesman.’
REINCE PRIEBUS, EX-CHIEF OF STAFF: ‘Like a little rat. He just scurries around.
AFTER EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT FATAH AL-SISSI ASKED IF HE WAS GOING TO BE AROUND: ‘Like a kick in the nuts.’
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN DICTATOR: ‘Let’s f***ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f***ing lot of them’
… AND WHAT THEY SAID TO EACH OTHER
STEVE BANNON TO IVANKA TRUMP: ‘You’re nothing but a f***ing staffer! You walk around this place and act like you’re on charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!’
IVANKA TRUMP TO STEVE BANNON: ‘I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter and I’m never going to be a staffer!’
JOHN KELLY TO GARY COHN: ‘If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his a** six different times.’
JOHN DOWN TO ROBERT MUELLER: ‘He just made something up. That’s his nature.’
Mattis was also to tell ‘friends’: ‘Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for.’
Woodward reports that Mattis ignored a direct order in April 2017 to kill Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
‘Let’s f***ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f***ing lot of them,’ Trump said to Mattis a call made after the chemical attack on Khan Shaykun, which killed dozens and injured hundreds more.
Mattis told Trump he would ‘get right on it’, but then told a senior aide: ‘We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.’
The book also recounts efforts by former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn to try to head-off what he considered rash or ill-advised policy moves by Trump – and compares them to a ‘nervous breakdown’ in the administration.
Cohn ‘stole a letter off Trump’s desk’ to prevent the president from executing a letter of withdrawal from a South Korean trade deal. Cohn told others he did it ‘to protect the country’.
He advocated doing the same when Rob Porter, the now disgraced staff secretary who quit after DailyMail.com revealed both his ex-wives accused him of physical abuse, was told to draft a letter pulling out of NAFTA.
The book identifies Porter as engaging in some of the same tactics, CNN reported.
‘A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas,’ he said.
Also detailed is how Cohn threatened to quit in August 2017, believing the president to be a ‘professional liar’ and disgusted over his handling of the far-right violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
One of Cohn’s daughters found a swastika in her college dorm room, Woodward reports, and the Jewish adviser met Trump to hand him a resignation letter.
But Trump told him: ‘This is treason,’ and Cohn stayed.
That prompted Kelly to tell Cohn: ‘I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his a** six different times.’
The book even ventures into the advice Trump got from his former lead lawyer on the Russia investigation, John Dowd.
‘Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit,’ he advised Trump, according to the book.
Trump appeared unlikely to take his advice, telling him: ‘I’ll be a real good witness.’
Down told him outright: ‘You are not a good witness. Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.’ The attorney quit the next day.
The president was also seemingly oblivious to how he performed during a dry run practice interview.
Dowd is described as seeing the “full nightmare” of how a Mueller interview might go, with Trump acting like an “aggrieved Shakespearean king.”
But Trump was clueless about how he came off. “You think I was struggling?’ he reportedly asked his then-lawyer.
Earlier, Dowd had also explained to special counsel Robert Mueller face-to-face why he didn’t want his client to testify.
Dowd told him: ‘I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, “I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?”‘
According to Woodward, Mueller replied: ‘John, I understand.’
Trump’s reaction to Dowd is unrecorded – but Dowd’s personal view of the president was simple: ‘You’re a f***ing liar.’
But his public flaying of Rudy Giuliani is, in an incident which took place when the notorious ‘grab ’em by the p***y’ Access Hollywood tape of Trump was released.
Giuliani was a rare public advocate for Trump but the-then candidate told him: ‘Rudy, you’re a baby.
‘I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?’
Trump was more generous about himself, saying when Twitter doubled its character count: ‘It’s a good thing but it’s a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.’
And he was privately as scathing of Obama as might be expected, telling Lindsay Graham, the Republican senator, that the ex-president was a ‘limp d***’ for his foreign policy.
The White House pushed back with a statement that said the book contained ‘fabricated stories’ with Kelly directly denying the ‘idiot’ comment – but leaving other claims from the book unchallenged.
‘This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner,’ Trump reportedly said of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia probe
Former director of the U.S. National Economic Council Gary Cohn snatched a letter off Trump’s desk to keep him from precipitously moving to pull out of a trade deal
Defense Secretary Mattis said Trump acted like ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader’ after Trump failed to understand the importance of a warning system stationed in Alaska; Trump said his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, scurries around ‘like a rat’
Legal trouble: Trump savaged Rudy Giuliani before the election, saying ‘They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed.’ But his ex-personal attorney John Dowd quit the day after telling him: ‘You are not a good witness. Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.’
The long statement also listed ‘Trump Administration Accomplishments’ that weren’t directly relevant to the initial reports about the book.
‘This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad,’ said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
‘While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, President Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people.
‘Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results,’ she said.
‘Democrats and their allies in the media understand the President’s policies are working and with success like this, no one can beat him in 2020 – not even close,’ she added, addressing the president’s reelection, rather than the upcoming mid-terms.
The White House released a statement from Kelly saying: ‘The idea I ever called the President an idiot is not true.
‘As I stated back in May and still firmly stand behind: “I spend more time with the President than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship.”
‘He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS. I’m committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.’
Trump also trashed the book in an interview with the
INCONVENIENT: Trump defended Woodward in a 2013 tweet
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer pushed back against Trump’s claim that perhaps Woodward made up disparaging material
‘It’s just another bad book. He’s had a lot of credibility problems,’ Trump said of Woodward.
‘I probably would have preferred to speak to him, but maybe not. I think it probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the book. He wanted to write the book a certain way.’
Trump continued: ‘It’s just nasty stuff. I never spoke to him. Maybe I wasn’t given messages that he called. I probably would have spoken to him if he’d called, if he’d gotten through. For some reason I didn’t get messages on it.’
According to another anecdote in the book, Trump told former staff secretary Rob Porter former chief of staff Reince Priebus was ‘like a little rat. He just scurries around.’
In turn Priebus called the president’s bedroom ‘the devil’s workshop’ because that was where Trump was when he composed his most news-making tweets.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, 80, a billionaire investor, wasn’t spared Trump’s criticism.
‘I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations. … You’re past your prime,’ Trump told him.
The release of yet another bombshell book sent the White House communications shop into immediate emergency mode.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was seen walking into the Oval Office Tuesday. She declined a request for comment.
The Washington Post released a recorded August 14 phone call between the famously well-sourced author and the president.
In the call, Trump sounds irked that he never was able to speak to Woodward for his book. ‘I never got a call. I never got a message,’ the president said at first.’
Woodward told him he had lunch with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway where he pressed her on getting a Trump interview. He also said he sent a request through press aide Raj Shah. He also said he sent a message through Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Trump allowed he did get a brief message from Graham. He put Conway on the call, who said she passed the request through channels, but did not say she spoke to Trump about it.
‘Senator Graham actually mentioned it to me quickly on one meeting. And you know, that is true,’ Trump said.
‘It’s really too bad because nobody told me about it and I would have loved to have spoken to you,’ Trump said.
‘Did you speak to Madeleine,’ Trump asked Woodward. ‘Madeleine is the key. She’s the secret,’ Trump said, in a reference to Madeleine Westerhout, his personal secretary. Woodward says he didn’t.
‘I broke my spear on it trying to get to you,’ Woodward tells him later in the call, which Woodward told the president he was recording at the top.
‘I talked to Raj. He was going to work it out,’ Woodward said, referencing press aide Raj Shah.
Trump put Conway on the call. She told Woodward: ‘I did. I presented it to the people here who make those decisions,’ without naming names. ‘It would have been nice, Bob, if you called for me in my office,’ Trump said.
He also diminished the access of his deputy press secretary. ‘Rah, I hardly have – I don’t speak to Raj.
‘That’s okay, I’ll just end up with another bad book. What can I tell you.’