‘A Bunch of Dopes and Babies’: Inside the Meeting Where Trump Unloaded on Generals

A new book describes an unhinged meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which Trump excoriated generals as "losers" who "don't know how to win anymore."
January 17, 2020, 3:19pm
President Donald Trump speaks during an event on prayer in public schools, in the Oval Office of the White House

A new book shows just how ruthless and cruel President Donald Trump can be when addressing members of the military, revealing that he once yelled at military leaders that they were "a bunch of dopes and babies.”

The Washington Post on Friday published an excerpt from the book “A Very Stable Genius” — written by Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker — that’s scheduled to be published later this month. The excerpt revisits a tirade from July 20, 2017, when Trump met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff inside “The Tank,” a famous secure room in the Pentagon.


The room was full of high-profile U.S. leaders who have since left the Trump administration: then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford Jr., then deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, Vice President Mike Pence, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and then Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. Leaders from every military branch were present as well.

Mattis reportedly tried to explain to Trump why NATO was important. To make a long story short: the president ultimately responded with insults against the U.S. military leaders in the room.

“You’re all losers,” Trump told them, according to the Post excerpt. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”

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Trump’s tirade continued. He reportedly wondered aloud why the U.S. wasn’t getting paid off for having troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “Where is the fucking oil?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump later yelled, according to the excerpt from the book. “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

This outburst went unchallenged, until Tillerson spoke up, according to the Post.

“No, that’s just wrong,” he said. “Mr. President, you’re totally wrong. None of that is true.”

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Later, the then secretary of state would tell some trusted allies he thought the president was a “fucking moron” — an explosive quote that would eventually get out the public.

Since the July 2017 meeting, there has been a staggering amount of turnover among the leadership in The Tank. Of course, staggering turnover is a hallmark of the Trump administration.

But some of the folks he berated have since returned fire. Mattis, for instance, jabbed the president for his draft dodging via bone spurs.

“I earned my spurs on the battlefield,” Mattis said during a speech last October. “Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.”

Trump, meanwhile, hasn’t shied away from insulting military leaders. For instance, he laid into retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year, after McChrystal criticized the president.

"'General' McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama," Trump tweeted last January. "Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!"

Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during an event on prayer in public schools, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)