Legendary Watergate journalist Bob Woodward has a book coming out next month that details the first year and a half of Donald Trump's presidency, and excerpts published by the Washington Post and CNN on Tuesday depict a White House in the midst of a "nervous breakdown," sparked by a man who top aides have referred to as "an idiot," a "fucking moron," a "professional liar," and "a goddamn dumbbell" who has the understanding of "a fifth- or sixth-grader."
"He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown."
—John Kelly, White House chief of staffAccording to the Post—where Woodward has worked as a reporter and editor for decades—the "thrust" of Fear: Trump in the White House "mostly focuses on substantive decisions and internal disagreements, including tensions with North Korea as well as the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan."
But these substantive decisions and disagreements often produced startling moments in which the president revealed his total ignorance and lack of fitness for office.
"He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything," White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly complained during a small group meeting. "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."
This is one of the most disturbing accounts of what is going on in the White House that we've seen yet. If one-tenth of it is accurate, we are, in a very real sense, in the midst of a national emergency. https://t.co/9W9Yo5ib7I
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 4, 2018
Here are some of the most revealing and disturbing excerpts from Woodward's book, which will be published on Sept. 11.
"Let's fucking kill him!"
After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accused of carrying out a chemical attack against civilians last April, Trump told Defense Secretary James Mattis that he wanted to invade Syria and assassinate Assad, Woodward writes.
"Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them," Trump reportedly told Mattis in a phone call.
According to Woodward's account—which he says is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with top White House officials—Mattis told Trump he would get right on it, but then hung up the phone and told a senior aide, "We're not going to do any of that."
"You don't need a strategy to kill people."
During a meeting last July, Trump's national security advisers attempted to "educate" the president on foreign policy.
The gathering quickly went awry, however, when Trump decided to unload on his generals for attempting to discuss Afghanistan strategy.
"You should be killing guys. You don't need a strategy to kill people," Trump said, according to Woodward.
"Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jumpsuit."
Despite Trump's reported insistence that he would be "a real good witness" in an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president's former lawyer John Dowd—who resigned in March—firmly believed that Trump would commit perjury if he talked to Mueller.
According to Woodward, Dowd explained to Mueller in January that he did not want the president to do an interview because he didn't want to "sit there and let him look like an idiot."
The president's attorney also worried that if a transcript of the interview leaked, as it inevitably would, people would say, "I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?"
Dowd later pleaded with Trump directly: "Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jumpsuit."
"He's this dumb Southerner"
Trump has a well-known habit of berating Attorney General Jeff Sessions in public, but according to Woodward, Trump uses far more abrasive and offensive language to ridicule Sessions behind closed doors.
"This guy is mentally retarded," Trump said of the former Alabama senator he picked to lead the Justice Department. "He's this dumb Southerner... He couldn't even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama."
"An administrative coup d'etat"
Reportedly alarmed by Trump's volatile combination of ignorance and impulsiveness, Woodward reports that top White House aides devised a strategy of stealing documents from the president's desk so he wouldn't see or sign them.
In Woodward's account, last spring former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn swiped "a letter off Trump's desk" the president planned to sign that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea.
Cohn later told an associate that Trump never noticed the letter was missing.