Bob Woodward’s new book: President Trump’s top advisers think he’s “an idiot” and “a fucking liar”

Bob Woodward’s new book: President Trump’s top advisers think he’s “an idiot” and “a fucking liar”
Bob Woodward.



The legendary Watergate reporter is back with a deeply reported new book on the Trump White House.

Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, doesn’t come out until Tuesday, September 11. But the Washington Post and CNN have both obtained the book and written up its most attention-grabbing parts, which make it sound very dramatic indeed.


The book is said to claim:



  • One month after Trump became president, he asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford for plans for a preemptive strike on North Korea.

  • After a chemical attack in April 2017 was tied to the Syrian regime and President Bashar al-Assad, Trump told Defense Secretary James Mattis that he wanted Assad assassinated, saying, “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in.”

  • During Trump’s practice session with his lawyers for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, he disastrously melted down — which led his then-attorney John Dowd to tell him, “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”


Much like Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, the book portrays President Trump as detested and scorned by many of his top advisers, who are said to see themselves as working to protect the country from someone they see as ignorant and irresponsible.



  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly purportedly called Trump an “idiot” and “off the rails,” and said “we’re in Crazytown.”

  • Mattis is described as telling associates that Trump acted like, and had the understanding of, “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

  • Former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn purportedly took trade-related documents off Trump’s desk to prevent him from signing them and causing crises.

  • Dowd is described as believing Trump to be a “fucking liar.”


Trump himself, meanwhile, is described insulting current or former aides such as Reince Priebus (“like a little rat”), H.R. McMaster (“like a beer salesman”), Jeff Sessions (“mentally retarded, he’s this dumb Southerner”), Wilbur Ross (“past your prime”), and Rudy Giuliani (“you’re like a little baby”).


Who are Bob Woodward’s sources?


After rising to prominence as one half of the legendary duo whose reporting of the Watergate scandal helped eventually bring down President Richard Nixon, Woodward has in recent decades written several deeply reported books chronicling internal deliberations of the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations.


For all these books, including the new one on Trump, Woodward conducts hundreds of hours of interviews with sources from the administration (or who are close to people in the administration). But his sourcing is what’s known as “deep background,” meaning he’ll often use the information he was provided but not say where it’s coming from, even vaguely. As for why people talk to him in the first place — he’s very famous, he’s really tenacious, and (perhaps most importantly) people assume everyone else is talking to him, so they should give him their own version of events.


Naturally, any new Woodward White House book sets off a Washington guessing game about who his sources are. The general thinking is that if someone is a prominent part of the book, and their interactions (and especially, their thoughts and opinions) are often described, they — or at least someone close to them — likely talked a lot.


In the early write-ups of the book, a few names — Kelly, Mattis, Cohn, Dowd, and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter — come up conspicuously often. Whether or not they spoke directly, it seems clear that Woodward is providing these aides’ versions of key events from Trump’s presidency.


The basic gist of the various anecdotes involving these aides seems to be similar: that Trump often says or does ignorant and outrageous things and they try their best to prevent him from screwing things up.


There are two main possible motivations for these leaks. One would be to honestly get the word out about what working with Trump is like. The second would be for these aides to try to rehabilitate their own reputations, positioning themselves as heroes. As Woodward would be the first to admit, sources’ motivations are often complex and self-interested.


But in contrast to Wolff’s loose and gossipy tome, Woodward’s book is expected to provide a great deal of specificity — facts, dates, reconstructions of meetings, and documents. He’s also more interested in policy, and the book will reportedly delve into how North Korea, Syria, and trade policy were made.


Still, anonymous sources may of course try to get away with spinning or misleading Woodward. That’s harder to do for, say, meetings with multiple people in the room — Woodward is a master of reconstructing internal meetings by cross-referencing what various attendees have given him. But when one particular person’s thoughts or motivations are described in detail, you should probably read it as what this person is telling Woodward rather than, necessarily, the honest truth.


One person who did not talk to Woodward is President Trump. In a bizarre phone discussion posted by the Washington Post Tuesday, Trump repeatedly insisted to Woodward in August — after the book manuscript was finished — that his aides never told him that Woodward wanted to interview him. (Woodward says he made that request repeatedly, to several Trump aides and associates of Trump.)


“It’s going to be accurate, I promise,” Woodward assured the president of the book.


“Yeah, okay. Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you,” Trump responded.