Bob Woodward’s reporting helped bring down Richard Nixon - and now he’s turning his focus to Trump with his latest book Fear: Trump in the White House, due to be released in full on 11 September
Another day, another damning tell-all book about the absolutely terrifying state of affairs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This time it’s the turn of legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, who has published excerpts of his bombshell 448-page book Fear: Trump in the White House, scheduled to be released on 11 September, in the Washington Post on Tuesday.
The revelations, which have been denied by Trump and those close to him, paint a picture of a White House struggling to survive as it battles constant turmoil.
Woodward’s presidential exposés have at this point become an expected Washington tradition and he’s written many such books about Obama, Bush and Clinton – but these new details of chaos and infighting are eyebrow-raising even from the reporter who was central in bringing down Richard Nixon.
These are some of the most shocking revelations:
1. Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad
According to the book, Trump told defense secretary Jim Mattis that he wanted to have Assad assassinated after the Syrian president, in April 2017, launched a chemical attack on civilians. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump reportedly said.
While you can argue about the moral and practical consequences of killing the leader of a foreign country (don’t forget that Assad is one of history’s most violent and gruesome dictators), it’s undeniable that such a move would be a startling and worrying escalation of violence.
2. Trump’s aides and advisors stole documents from Trump’s desk to stop him from signing them
In what Woodward describes as “no less than an administrative coup d’état,” people close to Trump reportedly swiped key letters and documents from his Oval Office desk to stop him signing them.
One reported example of this is when White House economic adviser Gary Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that would have withdrawn the US from its free trade agreement with South Korea, as well as another letter on withdrawing from Nafta.
Trump never noticed the first letter went missing, according to the book.
“I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told a friend. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”
3. Trump’s lawyer begged him not to testify before Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation because he came across like an ‘aggrieved Shakespearean king’ and could end up in ‘an orange jumpsuit’
One of the biggest concerns of the Trump administration so far has been the fallout from Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation. Key figures including Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort are looking at potential jail time for breaking the law – and there are still questions about Trump himself being implicated in wrongdoing.
And Robert Mueller has been doing his best to secure an interview with the president, something his lawyer have defiantly warned against.
According to the book, one of Trump’s lawyers John Dowd held a mock interview session with the president that revealed the “full nightmare” of a potential Mueller interview, and Dowd felt Trump acted like an “aggrieved Shakespearean king.”
Dowd’s advice was clear: “There’s no way you can get through these. … Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jump suit.”
The lawyer resigned the next day.
4. Trump’s top military guy compared the president to a ‘fifth or sixth grader’
Secretary of Defense - and former US Marine Corps general - Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis reportedly compared Trump’s knowledge of world affairs to that of a “fifth or sixth grader,” after the president questioned why American troops were still stationed in the Korean peninsula.
5. Trump called his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘mentally retarded’ and a ‘dumb southerner’
The president has repeatedly clashed with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, mainly because he recused himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian collusion, which Trump reckons has made the legal situation much worse for himself and his allies.
But the private attacks against Sessions revealed in this book paint an even more poisonous relationship.
According to the Guardian, not only did Trump reportedly deride Sessions as “a traitor” for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, but he mocked his accent and southern origins. “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb southerner,” Trump said, according to the book.
6. Trump (shock horror!) actually cares about the safety of American troops
The book isn’t all bad for Trump and, in fact, one passage presents him as a thoughtful and caring person, which must surely be the most surprising revelation of all.
The president reportedly dressed down top generals and army figures for their handling of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, asking angrily: “How many more deaths? How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?”
7. Trump thinks he’s the ‘Ernest Hemingway’ of Twitter – but people close to him fear it could ‘get us into war’
Trump is clearly an obsessive fan of the social media platform and even had thoughts on Twitter expanding its character limit to 280, saying: “It’s a good thing but it’s a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”
But those around Trump thought very differently.
Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who found out about his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom where Trump composes many of his Tweet-storms as “the devil’s workshop.”
And national security leaders warned: “Twitter could get us into a war.”
8. Ivanka Trump thinks very highly of herself
It’s no secret that the current White House is a toxic work environment and the bitching and backstabbing that goes on there is legendary.
And one of the biggest beefs was between former adviser Steve Bannon and husband-wife duo Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. “You’re nothing but a fucking staffer!” Bannon reportedly screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”
“I’m not a staffer!” she shouted back. “I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter and I’m never going to be a staffer!”
Even though this portrayal of White House instability isn’t great for Trump, the timing could actually be pretty helpful coming, as it does, right as Trump is trying to rush through his controversial Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.
If Kavanaugh, a hardcore conservative, is approved by the Senate this could drastically shift the all-important Supreme Court right-ward, with long lasting consequences for important things like abortion and gay marriage.
In response to the book, the White House issued a statement on Tuesday saying: “This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad.”
And Trump has launched a very typical tirade, as well:
We’re looking forward to the next book where it’s revealed Trump is in fact a Russian alien who wants to nuke the sun. That’s basically the point we’re at now, isn’t it?