In Depth

Donald Trump: the most explosive highlights from Bob Woodward’s book

Watergate reporter’s new tell-all depicts an administration in state of ‘nervous breakdown’

A new account of the Donald Trump administration from esteemed American journalist Bob Woodward has plunged the US president into further controversy.

The Washington Post has published a report detailing key findings from the book, titled Fear: Trump in the White House, a week before its release - and says it depicts the White House as being in a state of “nervous breakdown”.

Given Woodward’s “powerful journalistic brand, from his seminal role in exposing Watergate through a series of insider portraits of a succession of presidents – including Bill Clinton, the younger George Bush and Barack Obama – Fear is likely to carry an even greater punch” than other recent Trump books, says The Guardian.

The president has already attempted to discredit Woodward’s account on Twitter, calling it “nothing more than fabricated stories”.

Here are some of the more eye-catching claims in the book:

Trump didn’t understand significance of the Korean Peninsula

Trump’s advisers “are always trying to teach the president”, says The Washington Post’s Robert Costa. “That’s the way Woodward paints it on so many different fronts,” he told the National Public Radio (NPR) news site.

One example depicts Trump, at a National Security Council meeting on 19 January, failing to understand the need for a huge military presence on the Korean Peninsula.

On the one hand, “you have the president questioning different aspects of the relationship with South Korea, questioning why does the US have a relationship with South Korea on trade”, says Costa. And then you have Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis “saying that you need to have a relationship with South Korea to stop World War III from unfolding in that area of the world”.

Trump wanted to assassinate Syria’s president

The book charts how top officials work together to thwart Trump from carrying out his more outlandish desires, reports The Guardian.

Trump is said to have told Mattis that he wanted to have Bashar al-Assad assassinated, following the Syrian president’s regime alleged chemical attack on civilians in April 2017.

“Let’s f***ing kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f***ing lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told Trump that he would “get right on it”, the book claims, but instead came up with a plan for a limited air strike that did not threaten Assad personally.

Trump called Jeff Sessions ‘mentally retarded’

Trump “has long been angry about Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation early on”, says the Daily Mirror.

According to Woodward’s book, Trump said to his staff secretary Rob Porter that Attorney General Sessions was a “traitor”, and added: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner... He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump’s lawyer quit following mock Mueller probe session

Woodward writes that Trump’s lawyer John Dowd staged a practice session of a mock special counsel interview in case the president was called to testify before Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Trump is reported to have fared so poorly when responding to the tough questioning that Dowd told him: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

When Trump disagreed, insisting he’d be a “real good witness”, Dowd reportedly told him: “Mr President, I just can’t help you.”

Trump’s chief of staff called him an idiot

General John Kelly “was brought into the White House team to introduce some discipline both to Trump and his staff”, says the Mirror - but reportedly fumed at one meeting: “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.”

However, in a statement from the White House issued earlier this week, Kelly said: “The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true.”

Buy Fear: Trump in the White House now from The Week Bookshop for just £17 (RRP £20) 

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