On Tuesday, The Washington Post published excerpts of the famed journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book on Donald Trump’s White House. The excerpts reveal a White House in turmoil: Several current and former administration officials and aides are quoted expressing a lack of confidence in the president. Most notably, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has, up until now, maintained a relatively low profile, expressed a lack of confidence in Trump’s abilities to lead, comparing his understanding to that of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.” In a statement, Chief of Staff John Kelly denied that he had called Trump an “idiot,” saying, “He and I both know this story is total BS.”
Trump is also quoted in the book criticizing several of his top officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he refers to as “mentally retarded”; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whom Trump told was “past your prime”; and former National-Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, whose choice in suits Trump compared to “a beer salesman.”
Below, a selection of quotes from Woodward’s forthcoming book.
Defense Secretary James Mattis
Following a contentious National Security Council meeting, Mattis told people close to him that the president had the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”
Chief of Staff John Kelly
“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.”
Former Top Economic Adviser Gary Cohn
“A professional liar.”
Former Personal Attorney John Dowd
“You are not a good witness … Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you,” Dowd told Trump in a meeting in which he counseled the president not to agree to an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Earlier, Dowd told Mueller why he didn’t want Trump to testify. “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’”
Dowd also reportedly referred to Trump as “a fucking liar.”
Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
While serving as chief of staff, Priebus expressed discontent with the president’s social-media habits. He called the president’s bedroom—where he watches cable news—“the devil’s workshop,” and referred to the hours when Trump tweets as “the witching hour.”
“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, things start getting nasty and bloody,” Priebus said, referring to the White House.
Former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter
“It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually … Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken,” Porter said, referring to top administration officials’—including Mattis’s— practice of ignoring Trump’s directions on foreign-policy matters when they considered them to be too extreme.
“This was no longer a presidency. This is no longer a White House. This is a man being who he is.”