President Donald Trump’s job is to lead the nation, but Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” describes the White House as “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch.
According to an excerpt from the book published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, administration staffers often have to engage in stealthy behavior to prevent Trump from being impulsive and to minimize disasters that could hurt the president and the country. In some cases, senior aides would reportedly pluck official papers from Trump’s desk before he could sign them.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper, telling colleagues he thought the president was “unhinged,” according to Woodward.
In one meeting, Kelly reportedly said Trump was “an idiot,” and it was “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, according to the book.
Woodward, best known for his acclaimed reporting on the Watergate scandal at the Post, describes multiple eyebrow-raising anecdotes about the Trump White House in “Fear.” You can read the full excerpt here, but some of the most shocking highlights include:
- John Dowd, Trump’s lead attorney with the Russia probe, led a practice session for Trump’s potential testimony with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to the book, the president stumbled, contradicted himself and lied so much during the practice session that he eventually lost his cool, ranting, “This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” before deciding, “I don’t really want to testify.”
- After Trump said “both sides” at the Charlottesville white supremacist rally were to blame for the violence that occurred in August 2017, advisers urged him to make another speech condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis. According to Woodward, he almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given.”
- Woodward also compared Trump’s paranoia about the Russia investigation as very similar to former President Richard Nixon’s final days as president. According to sources, the president was angered by Mueller’s appointment, saying “Everybody’s trying to get me.”
- During a dinner with various military leaders including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump falsely suggested Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cowardly took advantage of his father’s military rank to get early release from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam. When Mattis corrected his boss, Trump just replied, “Oh, okay.”
- Trump reportedly mocked Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ accent, saying, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”
Woodward’s book is scheduled for release Sept. 11. CNN reports that Trump is irritated that he wasn’t interviewed for the book.
The White House released a statement on Tuesday calling the book “fake news.”
“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad,” the statement read.
Kelly also released a statement claiming he never referred to the president as an idiot:
“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.’”