President Donald Trump wanted to assassinate Bashar Assad, called Jeff Sessions “retarded,” and was once prevented from enacting a new trade policy by a staffer who stole the document from his desk, according to an explosive new book from Bob Woodward, the journalist famous for uncovering the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s downfall.
The 448-page forthcoming book chronicles a “nervous breakdown” of the Trump White House, with Woodward giving an account of an increasingly unhinged president that, according to a newly released transcript, culminated in a “Who’s on First”-style call with Trump over why he didn't submit to an interview.
Woodward spoke with current and former White House staffers, most of them anonymous, to compile the account, which was obtained and summarized today by the Washington Post.Here are some of the most noteworthy takeaways so far:
How Trump really governs:
Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said to his generals, according to Woodward.
Former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn would steal documents from Trump’s desk to influence the president’s decision. “I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk,” Cohn said, according to Woodward. Trump would not notice that the papers were missing.
What Trump’s people really think of him:
Cohn eventually came to regard Trump as a “professional liar” and contemplated resigning from the White House after the president equated leftist protesters to white supremacists who held a rally in Charlottesville. “This is treason,” Trump reportedly told Cohn when he tried to deliver his resignation letter to the president. White House chief of staff John Kelly apparently shared Cohn’s frustrations, saying he would have “taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times,” according to Woodward.
Kelly on Trump: “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.”
What Trump really thinks of his people:
Trump on Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”
Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon reportedly had a heated exchange in the White House. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not,” Bannon reportedly said. “You’re on staff!” Ivanka, not pleased, responded: “I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”
The final debrief:
- Woodward sought to speak with Trump for the book, to no avail, until he had already submitted a manuscript. The president later called Woodward to complain he hadn’t been consulted, despite Woodward reaching out through a host of Trump gatekeepers, including Kellyanne Conway, Raj Shah, and Sen. Lindsey Graham. “I’ll speak to Kellyanne. I am a little surprised that she wouldn’t have told me,” Trump said, according to a Washington Post transcript of the call. “In fact, she just walked in. [to Kellyanne] I’m talking to Bob Woodward. He said that he told you. About speaking to me. But you never told me. Why didn’t you tell me?” Conway later jumps on the call to say she had “put in the request,” where it was vetoed, instead of bringing it to the president directly. Trump then complains that another “bad book” is coming out about him. “Big deal,” the president said.
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump walks toward Marine One while departing from the White House on August 31, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.