Trump’s former lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, doubted the president’s ability to avoid perjuring himself should he be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, an upcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward claims.
“Fear: Trump in the White House,” excerpts of which were published Tuesday by The Washington Post, paints a damning portrait of an uneducated, angry, and paranoid president, whose worst impulses aides and cabinet members constantly strive to manage in what Woodward described as “an administrative coup d’etat.”
The book says Chief of Staff John Kelly privately called Trump an “idiot,” and presidential aides plucked sensitive documents off Trump’s desk while believing he was often unaware of foreign policy basics.
Woodward describes how Dowd held a prep session with Trump in which he confronted the US leader with questions he would likely face with Mueller.
Dowd’s tough questioning apparently got on Trump’s nerves, as the president eventually launched into a 30-minute tirade in which he lambasted the investigation as “a goddamn hoax.”
Dowd reportedly told Trump later: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”
Woodward says the book is based on detailed interviews with administration officials and witnesses.
Woodward, who along with Carl Bernstein exposed the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, also quotes an exasperated Kelly doubting Trump’s mental faculties, declaring during one meeting, “We’re in Crazytown.”
“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 allegedly said.
After a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a crowd of people protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides” of the demonstration. He was widely censured by officials from across the political spectrum, and later clarified that he condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacy.
However according to Woodward, he later told aides that clarification “was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given.”
When then-economic adviser Gary Cohn presented Trump with a resignation letter over the president’s conduct on Charlottesville, Trump reportedly told him: “This is treason.” Cohn eventually decided to remain in the White House, though he eventually quit in March of this year over the president’s decision to levy global trade tariffs.
Woodward says Kelly sympathized with Cohn, telling him: “I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times.”
In one anecdote, Trump questioned his National Security Council on January 19 about why the United States maintained a costly presence on the Korean peninsula.
“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis felt it necessary to inform him.
After that meeting, according to Woodward, Mattis said to colleagues that Trump had the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader” — a 10- or 11-year-old child.
The book shows aides routinely ignoring or acting to block orders by the US president.
Gary Cohn, who was the chief White House economic adviser, went so far last year as to steal an order from Trump’s desk that, if the president had signed it, would have cancelled the US-South Korea trade agreement.
According to Woodward, after an April 2017 chemical attack attributed to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, Trump called Mattis and told him he wanted to assassinate the Syrian leader.
“Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump reportedly said.
Though Mattis was said to have told Trump he would look into the matter, he allegedly turned to an aide after hanging up and said: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”
The looming release of Woodward’s book, according to reports, has had the White House on edge for weeks.
The writer has published powerful and often embarrassing insider books on presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The book is scheduled for official launch on September 11.