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'We're in Crazytown' — Woodward's Trump book

September 4, 2018

Former Watergate reporter Bob Woodward's new book on Trump reveals a dysfunctional White House. Aides criticize the president's behavior, and according to Defense Secretary Mattis, Trump is like a fifth or sixth grader.

Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Dietsch

According to a new book by famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, the White House under US President Donald Trump is mired in a perpetual "nervous breakdown" with staff constantly seeking to control a leader whose anger and paranoia can paralyze operations for days.

Journalist Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward: His Watergate reporting led to Nixon's resignationImage: picture alliance/AP Photo/C. Owen

In his book "Fear: Trump in the White House," Woodward claims that Trump's chief of staff privately called the president an "idiot" and that aides sometimes plucked sensitive documents off Trump's desk, hoping to keep him from taking rash actions.

Details from the book were published by The Washington Post on Tuesday. The book is an examination of Trump's first 18 months in office.

Understanding of 'a fifth- or sixth-grader'

In the book, Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly is quoted as having doubted Trump's mental faculties, declaring during one meeting, "We're in Crazytown."

Jim Mattis in Singapor
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly had to explain to Trump why US forces were in South KoreaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is quoted as explaining to Trump why the US maintains troops on the Korean peninsula to monitor the North's missile activities. "We're doing this in order to prevent World War III," Mattis supposedly said.

Woodward writes that Mattis told "close associates that the president acted like, and had the understanding of, 'a fifth- or sixth-grader.'" He also cites former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's infamous reported comment that Trump was a "moron." Tillerson was fired by tweet not long after.

Woodward also claims that Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council, boasted of removing papers off Trump's desk to prevent their signature, including efforts by the president to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed details made public ahead of the book's release when asked in Tuesday's press briefing. 

"This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad," Sanders said. 

A major publishing event

The publication of Woodward's book has been anticipated for weeks, and current and former White House officials estimate that nearly all of their colleagues cooperated with the noted journalist. Woodward and his fellow reporter Carl Bernstein were largely responsible for bringing down Richard Nixon's presidency by uncovering the Watergate scandal. Woodward has also written books about former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Trump did not speak to Woodward until after the book's manuscript was completed. The Washington Post also released audio of Trump and Woodward discussing at some length the failure to arrange an interview.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post
Woodward (l.) and fellow Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post newsroomImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Woodward does not name his sources. However, he apparently had extensive access to many White House insiders and describes some of Trump's top aides and cabinet members as having a deep disdain for the chief executive.

The book is being released after former "Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman published an expose on her time in the West Wing.

Trump has been increasingly critical of anonymous sources used by reporters covering his administration.

The coming release of Woodward's book, according to reports, has had the White House on edge for weeks.

av/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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