Bob Woodward: Trump's aides stole his papers 'to protect the country'

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Bob Woodward: Trump's aides stole his papers 'to protect the country'
By Jeremy Herb, Jamie Gangel and Dan Merica, CNN
Updated Sep 4, 2018
(CNN) - WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
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.
Woodward's 448-page book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," provides an unprecedented inside-the-room look through the eyes of the President's inner circle. From the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the White House residence, Woodward uses confidential background interviews to illustrate how some of the President's top advisers view him as a danger to national security and have sought to circumvent the commander in chief.
Many of the feuds and daily clashes have been well documented, but the picture painted by Trump's confidants, senior staff and Cabinet officials reveal that many of them see an even more alarming situation — worse than previously known or understood. Woodward offers a devastating portrait of a dysfunctional Trump White House, detailing how senior aides — both current and former Trump administration officials — grew exasperated with the President and increasingly worried about his erratic behavior, ignorance and penchant for lying.
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."
CNN obtained a copy of Woodward's book, scheduled for release September 11. The explosive revelations about Trump from those closest to him are likely to play into the November midterm election battle. The book also has stunning new details about Trump's obsession with the Russia probe, describing for the first time confidential conversations between the President's lawyers and Mueller. It recounts a dramatic session in the White House residence in which Trump failed a mock Mueller interview with his lawyers.
Woodward sums up the state of the Trump White House by writing that Trump was an "emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader." Woodward writes that the staff's decision to circumvent the President was "a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world."
Circumventing the President
The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the Oval Office desk.
The letter would have withdrawn the US from a critical trade agreement with South Korea. Trump's aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program: the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch within just seven seconds.
Woodward reports Cohn was "appalled" that Trump might sign the letter. "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."
Cohn was not alone. Former staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Cohn and used the same tactic on multiple occasions, Woodward writes. In addition to literally stealing or hiding documents from Trump's desk, they sought to stall and delay decisions or distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.
"A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren't such good ideas," said Porter, who as staff secretary handled the flow of presidential papers until he quit amid domestic violence allegations. He and others acted with the acquiescence of former chief of staff Reince Priebus, Woodward reports.
Woodward describes repeated attempts to bypass Trump as "no less than an administrative coup d'état."
The Russia obsession
Woodward's book relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in Trump's inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries and memos, including a note handwritten by Trump himself. Woodward explains that he talked with sources on "deep background," meaning he could use all the information but not say who provided it.
His reporting comes with the credibility of a long and storied history that separates this book from previous efforts on Trump. The author and Washington Post journalist has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.
In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump's lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test — a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify.
Woodward writes that Dowd saw the "full nightmare" of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an "aggrieved Shakespearean king."
But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd's reaction, Woodward writes. "You think I was struggling?" Trump asked.
Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump's current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller's office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn't possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.
"He just made something up. That's his nature," Dowd said to Mueller.
The passage is an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of Mueller's secretive operation — for the first time, Mueller's conversations with Trump's lawyers are captured.
"I need the president's testimony," Mueller said. "What was his intent on Comey? ... I want to see if there was corrupt intent."
Despite Dowd's efforts, Trump continued to insist he could testify. "I think the President of the United States cannot be seen taking the fifth," Trump said.
Dowd's argument was stark: "There's no way you can get through these. ... Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jump suit."
What he couldn't say to Trump, according to Woodward, was what Dowd believed to be true: "You're a fucking liar."
Trump's insults and humiliation
Throughout the book, Woodward portrays the President as a man obsessed with his standing in the media and with his core supporters. Trump appears to be lonely and increasingly paranoid, often watching hours of television in the White House residence. "They're out to get me," Trump said of Mueller's team.
Trump's closest advisers described him erupting in rage and profanity, and he seemed to enjoy humiliating others.
"This guy is mentally retarded," Trump said of Sessions. "He's this dumb southerner," Trump told Porter, mocking Sessions by feigning a southern accent.
Trump said that Priebus is "like a little rat. He just scurries around."
And Trump demeaned former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to his face, when Giuliani was the only campaign surrogate willing to defend then-candidate Trump on television after the "Access Hollywood" tape, a bombshell video where Trump described sexually assaulting women.
"Rudy, you're a baby," Trump told the man who is now his attorney. "I've never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You're like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?"
Trump's predecessors are not spared either. In a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump called President Barack Obama a "weak dick" for not acting in Syria, Woodward reports.
National security concerns
Woodward's book takes readers inside top-secret meetings. On July 27, 2017, Trump's national security leaders convened a gathering at "The Tank" in the Pentagon. The goal: an intervention to try to educate the President on the importance of allies and diplomacy.
Trump's philosophy on diplomacy was personal. "This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim," he said of North Korea.
His inner circle was worried about "The Big Problem," Woodward writes: Trump's lack of understanding that his crusade to impose tariffs could endanger global security.
But the meeting didn't go as planned.
Trump went off on his generals. "You should be killing guys. You don't need a strategy to kill people," Trump said of Afghanistan.
He questioned the wisdom of keeping US troops in South Korea.
"So Mr. President," Cohn said to Trump, "what would you need in the region to sleep well at night?"
"I wouldn't need a fucking thing," the President said. "And I'd sleep like a baby."
After Trump left the Tank, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared: "He's a fucking moron."
The book provides the context for the now-infamous quote that marked the beginning of the end for Tillerson's tenure. Tillerson tried to downplay the dispute -- "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that," he said at a news conference after NBC reported the remark — but he was ultimately fired via tweet.
Woodward also quotes an unnamed White House official who gave an even more dire assessment of the meeting: "It seems clear that many of the president's senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views."
A recurrent theme in Woodward's book is Trump's seeming disregard for national security concerns because of his obsession with money — trade deficits and the cost of troops overseas.
In meeting after meeting, Trump questions why the US has to pay for such a large troop presence in South Korea.
"We're doing this in order to prevent World War III," Mattis, the defense secretary, bluntly explained to Trump at one January 2018 meeting, which prompted Mattis to tell close associates afterward that Trump had the understanding of a "fifth or sixth grader."
Trump still wasn't convinced. "I think we could be so rich if we weren't stupid," he later said in the meeting, arguing the US was being played as "suckers," Woodward reports.
The 'Ernest Hemingway' of Twitter
Trump's tweets — and his infatuation with Twitter — are a theme throughout the book.
Woodward reveals that Trump ordered printouts of his tweets and studied them to find out which ones were most popular. "The most effective tweets were often the most shocking," Woodward writes.
Twitter was a source of great consternation for national security leaders, who feared — and warned Trump — "Twitter could get us into a war."
Appalled by some of his more outrageous posts, Trump's aides tried to form a Twitter "committee" to vet the President's tweets, but they failed to stop their boss.
Priebus, who was blindsided when Trump announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom as "the devil's workshop" and called the early morning hours and Sunday night — a time of many news-breaking tweets — "the witching hour."
Trump, however, saw himself as a Twitter wordsmith.
"It's a good thing," Trump said when Twitter expanded its character count to 280, "but it's a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters."
'A zoo without walls'
Finally, "Fear" is filled with slights, insults and takedowns from both family and staff that speak to the chaos, infighting and drama that Trump allows to fester around him.
Both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are targeted by the inner circle.
There is a pointed shot at Ivanka from the President's now-ostracized chief strategist Steve Bannon, who frequently clashed with the first daughter and her husband.
"You're nothing but a fucking staffer!" Bannon screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting, according to Woodward. "You walk around this place and act like you're in charge, and you're not. You're on staff!"
"I'm not a staffer!" she shouted back. "I'll never be a staffer. I'm the first daughter" — she really used the title, Woodward writes — "and I'm never going to be a staffer!"
Two of the harshest comments in the book are directed at Trump and come from his chiefs of staff.
After Trump's Charlottesville, Virginia, controversy, in which he failed to condemn white supremacists, Cohn tried to resign but was instead dressed down by Trump and accused of "treason."
Kelly, who is Trump's current chief of staff, told Cohn afterward, according to notes Cohn made of the exchange: "If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times."
And Priebus, Trump's first chief of staff, encapsulated the White House and the thrust of Woodward's book by describing the administration as a place with "natural predators at the table."
"When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls," Priebus is quoted as saying, "things start getting nasty and bloody."
TM & © 2018 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
A WarnerMedia Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Wow this president is a nightmare. Good read into a preview of Woodward's new book.

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/04/politics/bob-woodward-book-donald-trump-fear/index.html
 
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HomerJS

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While I 100% agree with what people are doing to protect the country from this maniac, it sounds like a soft coup is in effect.

I theorized this early in his term when it comes to the nuclear football, I bet there is a "Trump buffer" built in. In other words the sequence of steps that would normally occur when the President gives the order to launch is set to be interrupted by cooler, rational heads. Wouldn't be surprised if they disable it altogether. Set it up to blink the lights in case President Dummy opens the case.

This is one of those things that is good and bad at the same time.
 
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K1052

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Everybody should go read the WaPo story which is better written than the CNN piece. The stealing of papers off his desk so that he doesn't see them seems like the least of the problems....like Dowd being convinced so hard that Trump would go to prison if he testified that he quit or Trump telling Mattis to assassinate Assad.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/poli...f63ab8b1370_story.html?utm_term=.0fdddfd6963f


In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.

“This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.”

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a “traitor” for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions’s accent, Trump added, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

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.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing

Cohn came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cohn, who is Jewish, was especially shaken when one of his daughters found a swastika on her college dorm room.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.
 

fskimospy

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If this book is remotely accurate, and I am confident that it is, how can any sane person not want to remove this clown from office? He's stupid, willfully ignorant, irrational, and corrupt.

Look at this section:
Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”

“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.

Later that month, Dowd told Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.

“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.

“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”

The next morning, Dowd resigned.

The president's own counsel thinks Trump testifying would revel him to be a moron and that if he testifies he would end up in prison. That's the president right now.
 
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Phokus

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Everybody should go read the WaPo story which is better written than the CNN piece. The stealing of papers off his desk so that he doesn't see them seems like the least of the problems....like Dowd being convinced so hard that Trump would go to prison if he testified that he quit or Trump telling Mattis to assassinate Assad.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/poli...f63ab8b1370_story.html?utm_term=.0fdddfd6963f

I was going to post this... this is the most insane shit i've read and you couldn't make this shit up in a fictional book or movie.
 
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WelshBloke

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I'm not surprised that all this stuff happened or that there's a book about it. I'm just surprised that it's come out before he left office. I'm guessing that the auther was worried about competition from the shear number of books exploring how incompetent Trump is that'll be released when he leaves office! :)

Do you think Trump ever worries about what history will think of him?
 

snoopy7548

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I take back some of the things I've said before; Trump is 100% fit for office. :confused_old:
 

Commodus

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This validates what many already feared -- that Trump is so incompetent that his staff has to intervene to prevent him from doing something fundamentally stupid (even by his low standards).

Also, it's somewhat telling that Trump not only failed a simulated Mueller interview, but didn't even understand that he failed. You get the impression that he'd either inadvertently confess crimes or would perjure himself in such an obvious way that he'd go down regardless of what he actually did.
 

snoopy7548

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This validates what many already feared -- that Trump is so incompetent that his staff has to intervene to prevent him from doing something fundamentally stupid (even by his low standards).

Also, it's somewhat telling that Trump not only failed a simulated Mueller interview, but didn't even understand that he failed. You get the impression that he'd either inadvertently confess crimes or would perjure himself in such an obvious way that he'd go down regardless of what he actually did.

I think it would go something like this, "OK, you got me, I colluded with Russia. I admitted it, so now I get off. Once you come clean, you're clean, no one can do anything and it's forgiven. Honesty is all that matters."
 

Linux23

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Bob Woodward: Trump's aides stole his papers 'to protect the country'

https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/04/politics/bob-woodward-book-donald-trump-fear/index.html
Everybody should go read the WaPo story which is better written than the CNN piece. The stealing of papers off his desk so that he doesn't see them seems like the least of the problems....like Dowd being convinced so hard that Trump would go to prison if he testified that he quit or Trump telling Mattis to assassinate Assad.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/poli...f63ab8b1370_story.html?utm_term=.0fdddfd6963f
Yes it seems to be a little more detailed.
 
Feb 4, 2009
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Gets better. Woodward got such complete access against the Presidents advisers advice, because Woodward said nice things about Trump and wanted to document this historic White House.
 

WelshBloke

Lifer
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It should not be lost the Woodward has said he recorded everything. He apparently can back all of this up.
Yeah. You don't publish this without something to back you up. He might not be able to corroborate all of it but as long as he's got some and Trump doesn't know what it is he's golden.
 

Stokely

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This is pretty much exactly what I envisioned (and frankly hoped for) when Trump took office--that competent people would treat him like the ignorant childish fool he is and run the country. Any good leader delegates anyway, though in this case it's being delegated for him.

As much as I hate the GOP, I also don't want a demented crook who never saw a person or thing he didn't want to fuck over running the country and possibly the world.
 

Hayabusa Rider

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Yeah. You don't publish this without something to back you up. He might not be able to corroborate all of it but as long as he's got some and Trump doesn't know what it is he's golden.

I've read Woodward for, well a really really really long time, and his record speaks for itself. Wolff, Omarosa, was questionable and while others may be reliable none are as authoritative with good reason than Woodward.
 

K1052

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WaPo just published the audio and transcript of a call where Trump called Woodward in Aug to complain that he wasn't asked to be interviewed for the book. He was through multiple people including Conway who is on the fucking call. A lie so thin it can't survive the length of a single phone call. As usual Trump sounds like the moron he is.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/poli...urnalist-bob-woodward/?utm_term=.235fb5480d9f

It's clear that Woodward has ALL the receipts for this thing.
 
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Dulanic

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The sad part is we have gotten to party > country. Otherwise he would have been removed. They are afraid of his base, which I don't get. His base is going to vote R no matter what.
 
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Hayabusa Rider

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WaPo just published the audio and transcript of a call where Trump called Woodward in Aug to complain that he wasn't asked to be interviewed for the book. He was through multiple people including Conway who is on the fucking call. A lie so thin it can't survive the length of a single phone call. As usual Trump sounds like the moron he is.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/poli...urnalist-bob-woodward/?utm_term=.235fb5480d9f

It's clear that Woodward has ALL the receipts for this thing.


I just finished the audio so any complaints on the part of Trump about not talking to Woodward are crap. He went as far up the chain as was permitted and was refused. Kellyanne knows who Woodward is and decided she wouldn't mention a word to Trump? Yeah, I bet.