Bob Woodward — one of the journalists whose reporting on the Watergate scandal helped bring down Richard Nixon’s presidency — is tackling President Donald Trump’s administration in his latest book.
On Tuesday, copies of the book titled, Fear: Trump in the White House was leaked to reporters with the president calling many parts of the book made up.
In an article published by The New York Times, one of the biggest revelations made in the book by Woodward is that President Trump had ordered the assassination of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
According to Woodward, Trump wanted to have Assad assassinated last year but Defense Secretary James Mattis ignored the request.
According to the book, 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.”
While on the subject of Syria, the US president supposedly said, if there is a slaughter in the Idlib province of Syria, the US will be very angry.
“There cannot be a slaughter,” Trump said. “If it is a slaughter the world is going to get very, very angry and the United States is going to get very angry too.”
On the subject of North Korea, Woodward writes, Trump supposedly told a top White House staffer Rob Porter about how he wanted to handle the ongoing nuclear tensions with North Korea.
“This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim,” Trump said.
Trump had planned to tweet that he would consider removing all US military dependents from South Korea, a move that could’ve been interpreted in North Korea as meaning an imminent attack was coming.
The potential tweet “scared the daylights” out of Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.
Moreover, the Russian investigation which has become central to Trump’s presidency has apparently become a source of “a headache for Trump” and his team.
In his book, Woodward writes, Trump sat down with John Dowd, then an outside lawyer advising the president on the White House’s interactions with Robert S Mueller III, the special counsel.
The idea behind the meeting was to stage a mock interview between the president and Mueller, who was angling to question Trump.
During the session, Trump repeatedly lied and contradicted himself, insulted the former FBI director James B Comey, then exploded in anger, ranting for a half-hour about the investigation being a “hoax”, Woodward writes in his book.
While Trump’s defence secretary thinks the president acts like a “fifth or sixth grader.”
According to Woodward, after a testy meeting on South Korea, in which Trump questioned why the US backs it financially and militarily, Mattis told associates that the president acted and understood things like “a fifth or sixth grader.”
“Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis reportedly joked to friends in another instance.
The secretary, of course, denied making these statements.
“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Moreover, Woodward writes that Trump “ordered printouts of his recent tweets that had received a high number of likes, 200,000 or more.”
Trump told Porter he would be able to flesh out his thoughts more when Twitter expanded the character count from 140 to 280 in November 2017.
The president is also said to be distrustful of human intelligence gathering, saying, “I don’t believe in human sources. These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country.”