Bombshell book ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’ paints disturbing picture

UPDATE — 9/7, 1:02 p.m. EDT: An anonymous “senior” Trump administration official authored a New York Times op-ed Wednesday claiming White House personnel “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of (Trump’s) agenda and his worst inclinations.”

“[T]he president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” the piece reads. “That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

On Friday, President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate a DOJ investigation to reveal the identity of the author, calling it a “national security” issue.

 

On Tuesday, The Washington Post dropped bombshell excerpts from the latest book of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward. The much anticipated book, Fear: Trump in the White House, is due to be released on Sept. 11.

The Post‘s article highlights stories of staged practice sessions for Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, episodes of anger, paranoia and “an administrative coup d’etat” that included staffers removing papers from President Trump’s desk to keep him from seeing or signing them.

Woodward describes the Trump White House as “confounded by the president’s lack of understanding about how government functions and his inability and unwillingness to learn.”

In one of the more animated descriptions of a dysfunctional White House, Woodward writes that Chief of Staff John Kelly frequently loses his temper and told colleagues he thought Trump was “unhinged.”

In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump:

“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.”

The article goes on to describe insults of various cabinet members and administration officials:

A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a “traitor” for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions’s accent, Trump added: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. . . . He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

More frighteningly, the book reports on Trump’s supposed response to serious national security issues:

After Syrian President 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 f*****g kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f*****g 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.

According to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, while the book adds little to the understanding of Trump’s presidency, it does reinforce the stories told by author Michael Wolff and former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman, which depict a chaotic and wildly dysfunctional administration.

In preparation for the book, Woodward conducted hundreds of hours of interviews on deep background — meaning that the stories would be used, but the sources would not be revealed — with dozens of administration officials, as well as memos, documents, diaries, and notes, which in some cases were written by Trump himself, according to CNN.

It’s no surprise, given the disastrous picture Woodward paints of a White House and administration on the brink, that Trump supporters were quick to dismiss the book:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released the following statement:

“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad. 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. 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.”

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told CNBC any administration officials who are quoted as making damaging comments about the president should “go get another job.”

“If they said it, they should be questioning why they are there. Why don’t they go get another job?” Giuliani said. “That’s the kind of disloyalty that leads to you leaving, not staying and undermining the president.”

However, others who have borne the brunt of a Woodward expose were quick to point out the author’s reputation for accuracy.

Later in the afternoon, Trump began a Twitter response campaign that would continue well into the night, including statements from his chief of staff and secretary of defense:

Additional denials were issued by the president’s legal team in statement and interviews with TIME:

Dowd told TIME in a statement he did not refer to Trump as a “liar” or tell the president he was likely to end up in an “orange jumpsuit” if Trump agreed to an interview with Mueller, as described in the Post‘s description of the book.

“There was no so called ‘practice session’ or ‘reenactment’ of a mock interview at the Special Counsel’s office,” Dowd said. Sekulow, who Woodward describes as attending the March meeting with Mueller, backed up Dowd’s denial, saying he never attended such a meeting. Sekulow also said Trump’s legal team did not have Trump practice answering mock questions.

With many of the major bombshells denied by the parties involved, Trump continued his Twitter binge Wednesday morning, suggesting Woodward might be guilty of libel and that Congress should do something about it:

In a statement to The Washington Post, Woodward said: “I stand by my reporting.”

 

[Washington Post] [CNN] [Newsweek] [Fox News] [Photo courtesy AFP via BBC]

 

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