- In journalist Bob Woodward’s second book on President Donald Trump’s administration, Trump is quoted in March acknowledging that he was intentionally downplaying the threat of the coronavirus.
- Trump is also quoted in the book dismissing the idea of white privilege and accusing Woodward of drinking “the Kool-Aid” for grappling with his own privilege.
- Several top current and former aides to the president are quoted calling him “dangerous,” “unfit” to be commander in chief, lacking a “moral compass,” and potentially compromised by Russia.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Journalist Bob Woodward’s second book on President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House, titled “Rage,” includes a slew of bombshell revelations, including Trump’s admission that he misled the American public about the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump made a host of noteworthy and controversial statements during 18 on-the-record interviews he conducted with Woodward between December and July. And Woodward quotes some of the president’s most powerful former advisers, including former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, condemning Trump’s leadership.
Trump admits he played down the pandemic
In a recorded conversation with Woodward on February 7, Trump said the coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus” and that people could contract the virus just by breathing in air.
For weeks after that conversation, Trump repeatedly told the public that the coronavirus was no worse than the seasonal flu.
“We’ve had horrible flus. I mean, think of it. We average 36,000 people — death, death,” Trump told Fox News in late March. “I’m not talking about cases. I’m talking about death, 36,000 deaths a year. People die, 36 — from the flu. But we’ve never closed down the country for the flu.”
The president told Woodward in a conversation on March 19 that he was intentionally “playing down” the risks and threat of the coronavirus in his messaging to the public. Trump has been widely accused of minimizing the threat of the virus to prop up financial markets.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in a recorded call. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
The president added that “plenty of young people” were vulnerable to the virus, “not just old people.”
The US has now had more than 6.3 million cases of the virus and nearly 190,000 confirmed deaths.
—Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 9, 2020
Letters with North Korean dictator
Trump’s self-described love of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is also detailed in the book.
Woodward reports excerpts of Trump and Kim’s letters for the first time in “Rage,” as well as quotes from Trump on his relationship with Kim.
After they met for the first time in 2018 at the Singapore summit, Kim wrote to Trump that he would like “another historic meeting between myself and Your Excellency reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film.”
Kim’s use of “Your Excellency” when referring to the US president was a recurring motif.
“I feel pleased to have formed good ties with such a powerful and preeminent statesman as Your Excellency,” Kim wrote in another letter, according to Woodward.
Kim also demonstrated a tactile appreciation of Trump in another letter Woodward unearthed, recalling “that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency’s hand at the beautiful and sacred location as the whole world watched with great interest and hope to relive the honor of that day.”
Trump reciprocated the affection, telling Woodward he found Kim “far beyond smart.”
According to Woodward, Trump bragged about how Kim “tells me everything,” including a gory tale of how he managed to get his uncle killed.
Trump bragged about a secret nuclear weapon
In one of their interviews, Woodward says Trump boasted to him about a secret nuclear weapon, adding aides later told him anonymously that they were surprised Trump disclosed it at all.
Trump’s nuclear brag came with his usual set of tangents.
“I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Woodward quotes Trump as saying. “We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody — what we have is incredible.”
The president has mentioned a “super duper missile” before, which uses hypersonic technology, a Defense Department official told CNN in July.
One theory, according to Inside Defense, is “that the weapon in question is the low-yield D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile armed with the W76-2 warhead.”
Trump calls generals a ‘bunch of p—ies,’ book says
According to Woodward, an aide to Mattis, Trump’s former secretary of defense, heard the president say in a meeting, “My f—ing generals are a bunch of p—ies.”
The veteran journalist says in the book that the president clashed with his military advisers because they prioritized international alliances over his efforts on trade.
Last week, The Atlantic reported bombshell allegations that Trump repeatedly disparaged members of the US military, calling soldiers who died on the battlefield “losers” and “suckers.”
Trump’s former defense secretary calls him ‘dangerous’
Mattis told Woodward that Trump was “dangerous,” “unfit” to be commander in chief, and has “no moral compass.” Mattis resigned from his post in December 2018 after sharply disagreeing with Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
“I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid,” Mattis said of the withdrawal, according to the book.
On another occasion, Mattis told then-Director of National Intelligence Coats, “There may come a time when we have to take collective action,” Woodward writes, saying Mattis was worried about the danger Trump posed to the country while in office.
Coats, Trump’s former director of national intelligence, suspected ‘Putin had something on Trump’
Coats came into the White House as a former senator from Indiana recruited by a fellow Hoosier, Vice President Mike Pence.
While Pence urged Coats to stay and put aside his concerns about Trump’s coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Woodward describes Coats as being dogged by a lingering suspicion.
According to Woodward, Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump.”
“How else to explain the president’s behavior? Coats could see no other explanation,” Woodward adds.
Trump dismisses idea of white privilege
Woodward also asked Trump about the national reckoning with racism following the police killing of George Floyd.
In some of the audio from Woodward’s interviews, he tells Trump, “We share one thing in common: We’re white, privileged …
“Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me and I think lots of white privileged people in a cave, and we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly Black people feel in this country?”
“No,” Trump responds with a chuckle. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you.”
Fauci slams Trump’s attention span and virus response
Dr. Anthony Fauci also plays a part in Woodward’s book, with the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert complaining about the president to associates.
“His sole purpose is to get reelected,” Fauci told an associate, according to Woodward.
Fauci also decried Trump’s “rudderless” leadership and said “his attention span is like a minus number,” according to quotes first published in The Washington Post.
In a Fox News appearance later on Wednesday afternoon, Fauci said he didn’t remember making those comments.
“You know, if you notice, it was others have said that,” Fauci said. “So, you know, you should ask others. I don’t recall that at all.”