It is relatively easy to get White House staffers to leak mind-blowing anecdotes about President Trump’s various derangements, and for that very reason, it is hard to find new anecdotes that register on the crazy-Trump scale. CNN and (unsurprisingly) the Washington Post have obtained early versions of Bob Woodward’s version of tales from the court of the mad king, and even by the high standard set by the many previous insider accounts, his portrait of Trump’s delusional state appears to be especially harrowing.
Woodward confirms that Trump’s former secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, described him as a “fucking moron,” a fact that has been reported previously. He adds several more officials to the list of people who have blurted out this obvious conclusion.
After security officials tried fruitlessly to explain to Trump the importance of American defenses in South Korea, including a system that reduces the warning time of a North Korean missile attack from 15 minutes to seven seconds, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told associates that Trump “acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”
Former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn seemed to believe that Trump actually lacks object permanence. To prevent the president from signing a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea, he stole the letter from Trump’s desk. Trump “did not notice it was missing,” the Post reports.
Chief of Staff John Kelly has called Trump an idiot and also crazy:
“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.”
Trump’s lawyer John Dowd has likewise called his client an idiot. Somewhat more audaciously, he has argued that Trump should not have to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, because the transcript would leak, and foreign leaders would see that Trump is an idiot:
Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “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?’”
Another Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, tried to argue to Robert Mueller that Trump could not be asked to give an interview because he is a compulsive liar. They literally explained to Mueller how they conducted a mock interview with Trump, and he was so unable to tell the truth that they considered him mentally disqualified from testifying:
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.
It seems somehow unfair to let somebody remain on the job as president because he’s such a compulsive liar he can”t be allowed to testify under oath.
Trump also demeaned the wartime service of John McCain, stating “that the former Navy pilot had been a coward for taking early release from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam because of his father’s military rank and leaving others behind.”
This is in fact the opposite of the truth. The whole point of what makes McCain’s imprisonment so heroic is that North Vietnam offered to give him early release on account of his father’s rank, believing it would demoralize other members of the military, and McCain refused, even withstanding torture rather than give in and accept freedom. This is the most important and well-known fact about McCain and Trump got it backward. It’s like attacking Harriet Tubman for her refusal to help escaped slaves.
Woodward has repeatedly scolded the media for its unfairness to Trump, and expressed skepticism about the Russia investigation. Another reporter who did the same thing, before proceeding to publish a book stuffed with harrowing inside tidbits about Trump’s dysfunction, is Michael Wolff. Perhaps both of them were shrewdly planting favorable commentary in order to warm up potential sources. Wolff’s book, and its too-amazing-to-be-real anecdotes, was met with a fair amount of skepticism from the mainstream media. The additional support from Woodward seems to confirm its essential thrust, if not every detail. However dumb and crazy you might think Trump is, the reality always turns out to be even worse.