President Donald Trump’s closest aides have taken extraordinary measures in the White House to try to stop what they saw as his most dangerous impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn’t sign them, according to a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward.
Chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Woodward reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis describes Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.” And Trump’s former personal lawyer John Dowd describes the President as “a fucking liar,” telling Trump he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.
“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. “I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
More excerpts from Axios:
Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and former staff secretary Rob Porter repeatedly stole or hid documents from Trump’s desk, including a draft letter that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea.
“I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”
“After Syrian leader 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 fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.”
Woodward says in the book that he conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with participants and witnesses in the conversations he writes about. He also had tapped notes, diaries and government documents.
The interviews were granted on the condition of “deep background,” which according to Woodward meant that while he could write what happened, he could not reveals the sources of particular stories.
Mattis is depicted in the book as being “particularly exasperated and alarmed” by having to tell Trump that “we’re doing this in order to prevent World War III” to justify the presence of U.S. military on the Korean peninsula.