"Crazytown" White House

Jun 2013
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#1
1. Jeremy Herb is a national security reporter covering Congress for CNN Politics. Jamie Gangel, an award-winning veteran correspondent, joined CNN in August 2015. Dan Merica is a CNN Political Reporter based in Washington, D.C., covering the 2018 midterm elections and the Trump administration.

The following are excerpts from an article, by Jeremy Herb, Jamie Gangel and Dan Merica, dated September 5, 2018 under the headline "Bob Woodward: Trump's aides stole his papers 'to protect the country'".

(Begin excerpts)
President Donald Trump's closest aides have taken extraordinary measures in the White House to try to stop what they saw as his most dangerous impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn't sign them, according to a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward.

Woodward's 448-page book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," provides an unprecedented inside-the-room look through the eyes of the President's inner circle. From the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the White House residence, Woodward uses confidential background interviews to illustrate how some of the President's top advisers view him as a danger to national security and have sought to circumvent the commander in chief.

Many of the feuds and daily clashes have been well documented, but the picture painted by Trump's confidants, senior staff and Cabinet officials reveal that many of them see an even more alarming situation — worse than previously known or understood. Woodward offers a devastating portrait of a dysfunctional Trump White House, detailing how senior aides — both current and former Trump administration officials — grew exasperated with the President and increasingly worried about his erratic behavior, ignorance and penchant for lying.

Chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as an "idiot" and "unhinged," Woodward reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis describes Trump as having the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader." And Trump's former personal lawyer John Dowd describes the President as "a fxxxxng liar," telling Trump he would end up in an "orange jump suit" if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.

"He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in crazytown," Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. "I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had."

CNN obtained a copy of Woodward's book, scheduled for release September 11. The explosive revelations about Trump from those closest to him are likely to play into the November midterm election battle. The book also has stunning new details about Trump's obsession with the Russia probe, describing for the first time confidential conversations between the President's lawyers and Mueller. It recounts a dramatic session in the White House residence in which Trump failed a mock Mueller interview with his lawyers.....

Woodward, however, said he stood by his reporting in a statement obtained by CNN.

He sums up the state of the Trump White House by writing that Trump was an "emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader." Woodward writes that the staff's decision to circumvent the President was "a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world."

Circumventing the President

The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the Oval Office desk.

The letter would have withdrawn the US from a critical trade agreement with South Korea. Trump's aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program: the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch within just seven seconds.

Woodward reports Cohn was "appalled" that Trump might sign the letter. "I stole it off his desk," Cohn told an associate. "I wouldn't let him see it. He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country."

Cohn was not alone. Former staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Cohn and used the same tactic on multiple occasions, Woodward writes. In addition to literally stealing or hiding documents from Trump's desk, they sought to stall and delay decisions or distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.

"A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren't such good ideas," said Porter, who as staff secretary handled the flow of presidential papers until he quit amid domestic violence allegations. He and others acted with the acquiescence of former chief of staff Reince Priebus, Woodward reports.

Woodward describes repeated attempts to bypass Trump as "no less than an administrative coup d'état."

The Russia obsession

Woodward's book relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in Trump's inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries and memos, including a note handwritten by Trump himself. Woodward explains that he talked with sources on "deep background," meaning he could use all the information but not say who provided it.

His reporting comes with the credibility of a long and storied history that separates this book from previous efforts on Trump. The author and Washington Post journalist has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump's lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test — a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify.

Woodward writes that Dowd saw the "full nightmare" of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an "aggrieved Shakespearean king."

But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd's reaction, Woodward writes. "You think I was struggling?" Trump asked.

Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump's current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller's office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn't possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

"He just made something up. That's his nature," Dowd said to Mueller.

The passage is an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of Mueller's secretive operation — for the first time, Mueller's conversations with Trump's lawyers are captured.

"I need the president's testimony," Mueller said. "What was his intent on Comey? ... I want to see if there was corrupt intent."

Despite Dowd's efforts, Trump continued to insist he could testify. "I think the President of the United States cannot be seen taking the fifth," Trump said.

Dowd's argument was stark: "There's no way you can get through these. ... Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jump suit."

What he couldn't say to Trump, according to Woodward, was what Dowd believed to be true: "You're a fxxxxng liar."....

Trump's insults and humiliation

Throughout the book, Woodward portrays the President as a man obsessed with his standing in the media and with his core supporters. Trump appears to be lonely and increasingly paranoid, often watching hours of television in the White House residence. "They're out to get me," Trump said of Mueller's team.

Trump's closest advisers described him erupting in rage and profanity, and he seemed to enjoy humiliating others.

"This guy is mentally retarded," Trump said of Sessions. "He's this dumb southerner," Trump told Porter, mocking Sessions by feigning a southern accent.

Trump said that Priebus is "like a little rat. He just scurries around."

And Trump demeaned former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to his face, when Giuliani was the only campaign surrogate willing to defend then-candidate Trump on television after the "Access Hollywood" tape, a bombshell video where Trump described sexually assaulting women.

"Rudy, you're a baby," Trump told the man who is now his attorney. "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?"

Trump's predecessors are not spared either. In a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump called President Barack Obama a "weak dick" for not acting in Syria, Woodward reports.

National security concerns

Woodward's book takes readers inside top-secret meetings. On July 27, 2017, Trump's national security leaders convened a gathering at "The Tank" in the Pentagon. The goal: an intervention to try to educate the President on the importance of allies and diplomacy.

Trump's philosophy on diplomacy was personal. "This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim," he said of North Korea.

His inner circle was worried about "The Big Problem," Woodward writes: Trump's lack of understanding that his crusade to impose tariffs could endanger global security.

But the meeting didn't go as planned.

Trump went off on his generals. "You should be killing guys. You don't need a strategy to kill people," Trump said of Afghanistan.

He questioned the wisdom of keeping US troops in South Korea.

"So Mr. President," Cohn said to Trump, "what would you need in the region to sleep well at night?"

"I wouldn't need a fxxxxng thing," the President said. "And I'd sleep like a baby."

After Trump left the Tank, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared: "He's a fxxxxng moron."...
 
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#2
Woodward also quotes an unnamed White House official who gave an even more dire assessment of the meeting: "It seems clear that many of the president's senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views."

A recurrent theme in Woodward's book is Trump's seeming disregard for national security concerns because of his obsession with money — trade deficits and the cost of troops overseas.

In meeting after meeting, Trump questions why the US has to pay for such a large troop presence in South Korea.

"We're doing this in order to prevent World War III," Mattis, the defense secretary, bluntly explained to Trump at one January 2018 meeting, which prompted Mattis to tell close associates afterward that Trump had the understanding of a "fifth or sixth grader."

Trump still wasn't convinced. "I think we could be so rich if we weren't stupid," he later said in the meeting, arguing the US was being played as "sxxxers," Woodward reports.
The 'Ernest Hemingway' of Twitter

Trump's tweets — and his infatuation with Twitter — are a theme throughout the book.

Woodward reveals that Trump ordered printouts of his tweets and studied them to find out which ones were most popular. "The most effective tweets were often the most shocking," Woodward writes.

Twitter was a source of great consternation for national security leaders, who feared — and warned Trump — "Twitter could get us into a war."

Appalled by some of his more outrageous posts, Trump's aides tried to form a Twitter "committee" to vet the President's tweets, but they failed to stop their boss.

Priebus, who was blindsided when Trump announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom as "the devil's workshop" and called the early morning hours and Sunday night — a time of many news-breaking tweets — "the witching hour."

Trump, however, saw himself as a Twitter wordsmith.

"It's a good thing," Trump said when Twitter expanded its character count to 280, "but it's a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters."
'A zoo without walls'

Finally, "Fear" is filled with slights, insults and takedowns from both family and staff that speak to the chaos, infighting and drama that Trump allows to fester around him.

Both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are targeted by the inner circle.

There is a pointed shot at Ivanka from the President's now-ostracized chief strategist Steve Bannon, who frequently clashed with the first daughter and her husband.

"You're nothing but a fxxxxng staffer!" Bannon screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting, according to Woodward. "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!" she shouted back. "I'll never be a staffer. I'm the first daughter" — she really used the title, Woodward writes — "and I'm never going to be a staffer!"

Two of the harshest comments in the book are directed at Trump and come from his chiefs of staff.

After Trump's Charlottesville, Virginia, controversy, in which he failed to condemn white supremacists, Cohn tried to resign but was instead dressed down by Trump and accused of "treason."

Kelly, who is Trump's current chief of staff, told Cohn afterward, according to notes Cohn made of the exchange: "If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his axx six different times."

And Priebus, Trump's first chief of staff, encapsulated the White House and the thrust of Woodward's book by describing the administration as a place with "natural predators at the table."

"When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls," Priebus is quoted as saying, "things start getting nasty and bloody." (End excerpts)

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/04/politics/bob-woodward-book-donald-trump-fear/index.html
 
Jun 2013
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#3
2. The following are excerpts from an anonymous Op-Ed essay dated September 5, 2018 under the headline "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration" and subheading "I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations". The author is a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to the New York Times and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.

(Begin excerpts)
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals....

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans. (End excerpts)

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html
 

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