It’s hardly a secret that under President Donald Trump, the White House has been reduced to a snake pit of petty infighting, ass kissing, and surrealist bunker-hunkering. But according to newly released excerpts from veteran reporter Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book Fear: Trump in the White House, obtained by both CNN and The Washington Post and due to be released next Tuesday, things sound even worse than we could have imagined.
Painting a picture of presidency caught in a slow moving “administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown,” Woodward’s book features anecdote after anecdote of senior White House staffers regularly insulting their boss. Among them is White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who reportedly referred to Trump during a meeting with aides as “an idiot.”
Kelly reportedly continued:
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.
It wasn’t just Kelly, either. “This was no longer a presidency. This is no longer a White House,” disgraced former White House aide Rob Porter allegedly said. “This is a man being who he is,” Former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, meanwhile, reportedly described Trump as “a professional liar.” And in the wake of Trump’s “both sides” comments following last year’s white supremacist attack in Charlottesville, after which Cohn reportedly threatened to resign, Woodward claims Kelly told Cohn: “If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times.”
Of course, insults are a two-way street in Trump’s orbit. Per Woodward, the president himself repeatedly dressed down his staff, including long-suffering Attorney General Jeff Sessions, about whom Trump said:
This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.
Or Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was told:
I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations. … You’re past your prime.
Or former chief of staff Reince Priebus, who Trump referred to as “like a little rat [who] just scurries around.”
Trump even made a special point of going after his then-supporter, now-attorney Rudy Giuliani, who he thought had done an inadequate job defending him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape leaked during the 2016 election.
“Rudy, you’re a baby,” Trump reportedly said. “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?”
Understandably, the Trump White House isn’t exactly the sort of place that encourages deep and meaningful friendships among colleagues. In one anecdote in Woodward’s book, former senior advisor Steve Bannon and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, also a White House advisor, got into a heated argument. “You’re a goddamn staffer!” Bannon reportedly shouted at her. “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!” Ivanka reportedly shouted back. “I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”
In addition to such displays of this terrific working environment, Woodward’s book also features alarming claims that Trump is truly clueless about actual policies and presidential actions. At one point, Woodward said, Cohn simply stole a document Trump intended to sign that would have to pulled America out of a trade deal with South Korea off Trump’s desk, without the president ever noticing. Cohn also reportedly bragged that he would do the same if a document to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA made it to the president’s desk.
As Trump himself would have the public believe, his administration is nothing less than a “smooth running machine.” And, ultimately, the president may end up having the last laugh. Horrifying as they are, the anecdotes in Woodward’s book only serve to accentuate the fault lines and chaos we’ve always known about the Trump White House. And so far, it hasn’t meant a damn thing.