Woodward’s reporting – which is largely based on 18 interviews with Donald Trump – show the president implicating himself with his own words, admitting, for example, that he knowingly downplayed Covid-19. Here are the most explosive revelations from Woodward’s book.
Trump knew coronavirus was a significant threat early on
During a 7 February phone call with Woodward, Trump reportedly recognized that the virus was dangerous. “It goes through the air. That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Woodward also reported that Trump said: “This is deadly stuff.”
Woodward’s reporting on Trump’s comments show the dramatic divide between the president’s apparent knowledge of coronavirus’s dangers and his public statements. Trump told the public on 27 February: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” Trump also compared Covid-19 to the seasonal flu in a 9 March tweet, writing: “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on” during flu season. “Think about that!”
Fears about war with North Korea
Trump’s national security team voiced concerns that the US might have neared nuclear war with North Korea amid heightened tensions in 2017. “We never knew whether it was real … or whether it was a bluff,” Woodward quoted the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, as saying.
Although it was unclear whether this threat was real, the possibility was so concerning that the then US defense secretary, James Mattis, slept in his clothes. Mattis, Woodward reported, wanted to be ready in the event North Korea fired weapons at the US. Mattis also went to the Washington National Cathedral on numerous occasions to pray amid concerns over potential conflict, Woodward said.
The US has a new secret weapons system
During one of Trump’s interviews with Woodward, he bragged about the US’s new weapons tech. “I have built a nuclear – a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before.”
Woodward claimed that other sources backed Trump’s statement, and that they were surprised Trump discussed it. It’s unclear why Trump shared apparently secret weapons information with Woodward.
‘Love letters’ to Kim Jong-un
Woodward acquired 27 “love letters” Trump exchanged with the North Korean dictator. Kim flattered Trump in these missives by repeatedly calling him “Your Excellency”; he also remarked that there’s a “deep and special friendship between us will work as a magical force”. Kim writes in one letter that meeting again would be “reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film”.
Top Trump officials thought Trump was dangerous
Former cabinet officials were alarmed by Trump’s impulsiveness and lack of focus. “The president has no moral compass,” Woodward quoted Mattis as saying. Mattis also reportedly said that Trump’s foreign policy moves showed enemies “how to destroy America. That’s what we’re showing them. How to isolate us from all of our allies. How to take us down. And it’s working very well.
“He’s dangerous,” Mattis reportedly said in conversation with ex-national intelligence director Dan Coats. “He’s unfit.”
Coats also thought that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had damaging information about the president. Coats “continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump”, Woodward said.