Fear: Trump in The White House By Bob Woodward

The headline revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, which was released Tuesday, are troubling ones. The book describes disturbing behavior by the president of the United States and claims that many of his aides actively work to counter what they see as his most destructive instructions.

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But though the book contains many new, never-before-reported details — Woodward reports that Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and considered sending a tweet his aides worried could cause war with North Korea — the book is unmistakably the product of the sources who talked the most to the Washington Post reporter. And those sources have their own agendas.

It’s barely a stretch to say Fear reads as Rob Porter, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Lindsey Graham, and John Dowd’s account of the Trump administration. Woodward doesn’t explicitly identify any of these six people as his sources, but he provides pages and pages of their thoughts and motivations.

So yes, Fear offers insight into a dysfunctional policy process, with new details of President Trump ranting, raving, and clashing with aides behind the scenes. But it also tells the particular story that Woodward’s major sources have chosen to tell him, and reflects their points of view and priorities.

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White House chief of staff John Kelly frequently lost his temper and referred to President Donald Trump as “unhinged” and an “idiot,” author Bob Woodward writes in his new book “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

Kelly, in a statement Tuesday, denied the claims as simply “not true.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also refuted the book’s claims.

The book also describes a president obsessed, angry and paranoid about the Russian investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post said it obtained a copy of the 448-page book before its release. Woodward, an associate editor at the Post, rose to stardom with his coverage of the Watergate break-in that brought down President Richard Nixon.

Woodward cites as his sources hundreds of hours of interviews with mostly unnamed Trump aides and others. According to the book, Kelly often vented his frustration with Trump.

“He’s an idiot,” Kelly is quoted as saying. “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.”

The Post reports that a recurring theme of the book is the efforts of Trump aides to control his impulses, hiding papers so Trump can’t sign them and talking the president down from what were viewed as bad ideas.

The book claims that at one point, Trump’s then-personal attorney John Dowd felt he had to convince Trump that he would commit perjury if he talked to Mueller. So Dowd staged a practice grilling that provoked a string of contradictions and lies.

“This thing’s a … hoax,” Trump finally said, before deciding he didn’t want to testify after all.

Kelly said in his statement that “the idea I ever called the President an idiot is not true . . . . As I stated back in May and still firmly stand behind: ‘I spend more time with the President than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS.'”

“I’m committed to the President, his agenda, and our country,” Kelly said. “This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

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Woodward writes that Trump’s national security team was concerned the president showed little interest in world affairs. Trump even complained about the military spending involved in joint exercises and other activities aimed at maintaining a strong presence on the Korean Peninsula.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly told the president.

“Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president … had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader,’?” Woodward writes.

Trump has become famous for mocking political foes – referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as little rocket man – but the book shows he can be equally tough on his allies. Trump is quoted as describing Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, as “a little rat. He just scurries around.”

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster was victimized for his wardrobe, with Trump saying he wore cheap suits “like a beer salesman.” And he was harsh and blunt with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, telling him “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations. … You’re past your prime.”

Woodward says he sought to interview Trump for the book, but his team declined. Later, however, Trump reached out to Woodward seeking an interview in a phone call the author recorded.

Woodward said he asked Kellyanne Conway and others with the White House for access to the president but was rejected.

“Well, a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or – you know, they are busy,” Trump responded. “I’m busy. But I don’t mind talking to you.”

Woodward warned the president that it was a “tough” book.

“Right. Well, I assume that means it’s going to be a negative book,” Trump responds. “But you know, I’m some – I’m sort of 50 percent used to that. (Laughter) That’s all right. Some are good and some are bad. Sounds like this is going to be a bad one.”

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