Over the course of eight months, famed investigative journalist Bob Woodward brought his well-worn reporting formula to the task — sifting through the wreckage of the Trump presidency and providing us a clearer picture of Trump’s private thought process behind a myriad of issues that have plagued his administration.
In his new book, “Rage,” Woodward chronicles blunt reflections in audio recordings with President Donald Trump on everything from contested perspectives on the military to the coronavirus pandemic, race and white privilege. Trump even dishes openly about his relationships and fawning admiration of authoritarian leaders.
Mocking military “suckers” has become standard
Trump reportedly called the United States military “suckers” for paying heavy costs to shield South Korea.
“We’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist,” Trump said of South Korea in interviews with Woodward.
During a 2017 meeting, Woodward also quoted Trump telling White House economic adviser Peter Navarro that “my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”
He won’t drink the white privilege ‘Kool-aid’
When Woodward asked the President about white privilege, suggesting that as white men they had a responsibility to better “understand the anger and pain” felt by Black Americans, Trump took an incredulous tone that Woodward describes as mocking.
“No,” Trump said. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”
Bemoaning the lack of support from Black voters
“I’ve done a tremendous amount for the Black community,” Trump whined to Woodward on July 8, unable to see how his championing of Black issues had only amounted to lukewarm support from Black voters. “And, honestly, I’m not feeling any love.”
He doesn’t understand the Obama hype
Trump told Woodard he preferred to refer to President Barack Obama by his first and middle names, “Barack Hussein,” but admitted he wouldn’t do so in his predecessor’s company.
“I don’t think Obama’s smart,” Trump is said to have told Woodward. “I think he’s highly overrated. And I don’t think he’s a great speaker.”
Trump also added that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un thought Obama was “an asshole.”
Calls North Korean dictator “far beyond smart”
Unlike Obama, Trump reportedly said upon his first meeting with Kim in 2018 that he discerned the authoritarian regime leader to be “far beyond smart.”
Trump also reportedly compared Kim’s nuclear stockpile to a real estate target, saying: “It’s really like, you know, somebody that’s in love with a house and they just can’t sell it.”
Smitten with Kim’s flattery
Trump was enamored by Kim’s flattery, apparently telling Woodward that the North Korean leader had addressed him as “Excellency.”
“I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency’s hand,” Kim wrote in one letter to Trump on Christmas in 2018.
Woodward obtained 25 previously unpublished letters between the leaders.
According to Woodward, Trump painted himself as Kim’s confidant, saying that the North Korean leader “tells me everything.”
“You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it’s going to happen. It doesn’t take you 10 minutes and it doesn’t take you six weeks,” Trump is quoted as saying of his chemistry with Kim. “It’s like, whoa. OK. You know? It takes somewhat less than a second.”
The meaner, the better
Trump mused to Woodward about why he gets along best with hardened authoritarian leaders.
“It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,” he told Woodward. “You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?”
Trump shirks COVID blame
In their final interview, the President continued venting to Woodward, as he publicly faced widespread criticism about his bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic. The President had previously acknowledged to Woodward during an interview in the early spring that he was aware from the beginning that the virus was deadly. But he pouted on July 21 about why he was forced to shoulder its burden.
“The virus has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault,’” Trump said on July 21.
Brags that he protected Crown Prince: ‘I saved his ass’
Trump boasted to Woodward that he had served as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s protector amid accusations that the Saudi government had directed the assassination and dismembering of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
“I saved his ass,” Trump reportedly told Woodward. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”
Trump divulges details about new weapons: ‘stuff you have never heard about before’
“I have built a nuclear, a weapon, I have built a weapon system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Trump reportedly told Woodward.
“We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before,” Trump said, referring to the Russian and Chinese presidents. “There’s nobody. What we have is incredible.”
Trump constantly sought Woodward’s approval
According to CNN, Trump repeatedly asked Woodward whether he was going to write a “good book” during the 18 conversations they had from December to July.
The President’s approval seeking from Woodward continued during their final conversation ahead of the release of the legendary journalist’s book, when Trump appeared more concerned about Woodward’s portrayal of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic than his response to the public health crisis.
Trump insisted to Woodward that “nothing more could have been done” because he “acted early” in his response to COVID-19, but that “the market’s coming back very strong.”