Tuesday 25 September 2018

'Unhinged' and the 'intellectual capacity of a fifth-grader' - Trump slams latest fly-on-the-wall White House book

Watergate journalist's revelations paint picture of an 'idiot' leader

Donald Trump (Niall Carson/PA)
Donald Trump (Niall Carson/PA)

Ben Riley-Smith in Washington

Donald Trump's most senior aides and appointees privately said he was "unhinged", an "idiot" and has the intellectual capacity of a "fifth-grader", according to an explosive new book.

The US president's senior aides are also quoted expressing fears that he could come across as a "goddamn dumbbell" and has gone "off the rails".

His top economic adviser reportedly even "stole" letters from his desk to stop the president making dramatic changes in America's trade policy.

The explosive claims come from a new book by Bob Woodward, the reporter who helped bring down Richard Nixon as president by exposing the Watergate scandal.

Copies of the 448-page book, which was based on hundreds of hours of interviews and is titled 'Fear: Trump in the White House', were obtained by 'The Washington Post' and CNN.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: "This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad."

Mr Trump dismissed the publication last night as "just another bad book" and "nasty stuff".

The president claimed Mr Woodward had "a lot of credibility problems", adding: "I probably would have preferred to speak to him, but maybe not. I think it probably wouldn't have made a difference in the book."

He went on: "It's just nasty stuff. I never spoke to him. Maybe I wasn't given messages that he called."

Mr Trump also said that the claim Gary Cohn had removed papers from his desk was "false", suggesting the sources for the story were "disgruntled employees or just made up".

The book exerts paint a damning portrait of a president prone to rages whose struggles to understand national security issues have left aides despairing.

Some of the most senior figures in Mr Trump's administration are quoted in the book disparaging the president's intellectual abilities.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is said to have told a small group meeting: "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."

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, is said to have been exasperated after trying to explain the importance of America's military presence in the Korean Peninsula, which allows a North Korean missile launch to be detected in seven seconds.

Mr Mattis reportedly told Mr Trump: "We're doing this in order to prevent World War III." But privately he allegedly commented that Mr Trump had the understanding of "a fifth or sixth-grader".

Mr Kelly issued a statement saying: "The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true." He also repeated a previous comment criticising the "pathetic" attempt to "smear" those close to the president.

Mr Cohn, Mr Trump's most senior economic adviser before his departure earlier this year, reportedly went to remarkable lengths to curb the president's instincts.

Mr Cohn allegedly was "appalled" by a draft letter formalising America's withdrawal from a trade agreement with South Korea and so "stole it" from Mr Trump's desk.

Mr Cohn is quoted as telling an associate: "He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country."

The former adviser pulled a similar move over Mr Trump's plans to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the book claims.

Mr Cohn supposedly told Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who drafted a letter on the policy change: "I can stop this. I'll just take the paper off his desk."

Mr Trump's erratic instincts and lack of curiosity about national security issues have alarmed senior foreign policy advisers, according to Mr Woodward's book.

The president reportedly told Mr Mattis to assassinate Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, in April 2017 after he used chemical weapons.

Mr Trump is quoted as saying: "Let's f***ing kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the f***ing lot of them." Mr Mattis reportedly told a senior aide after the call: "We're not going to do any of that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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