WASHINGTON — White House chief of staff John Kelly is denying an account in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book that he called President Donald Trump an “idiot.”
Kelly says, “The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true.”
In a separate statement, the White House is dismissing the book as “nothing more than fabricated stories.”
Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a statement: “This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad.”
She adds that President Donald Trump’s accomplishments don’t get enough coverage in the press, saying “Democrats and their allies in the media understand the president’s policies are working and with success like this, no one can beat him in 2020 — not even close.”
The upcoming book by Woodward says Kelly privately called Trump an “idiot” and presidential aides plucked sensitive documents off Trump’s desk and thought he was often unaware of foreign policy basics.
Book Title Is ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’
Those are some of the explosive anecdotes in “Fear: Trump in the White House.”
Woodward quotes an exasperated Kelly doubting Trump’s mental faculties, declaring during one meeting, “We’re in Crazytown.”
Trump’s former lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, is also said to have doubted Trump’s ability to avoid perjuring himself should he sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit,” Dowd is quoted telling the president.
What Woodward Claims Mattis Said About Trump
And Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is quoted explaining to Trump why the U.S. maintains troops on the South Korean peninsula to monitor the North’s missile activities. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis says.
Woodward recounts that Mattis told “close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.'”
Woodward also claims that Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council, boasted of removing papers off Trump’s desk to prevent their signature, including efforts by the president to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Staffers Cooperated with Woodward
The publication of Woodward’s book has been anticipated for weeks, and current and former White House officials estimate that nearly all of their colleagues cooperated with the noted journalist, who cut his teeth bringing down Richard Nixon’s presidency during Watergate.
But Trump did not speak to Woodward until after the book’s manuscript was completed. The Post released audio of Trump expressing surprise about the book in an August conversation with Woodward. Woodward tells Trump he had contacted multiple officials to attempt to interview Trump and was rebuffed.
Woodward’s Account Follows Michael Wolff’s Book
The book follows the January release of author Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which led to a rift between Trump and Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist who spoke with Wolff in terms highly critical of the president and his family. Wolff’s book attracted attention with its vivid anecdotes but suffered from numerous factual inaccuracies.
Woodward’s work also comes weeks after former White House aide and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman published an expose on her time in the West Wing, including audio recordings of her firing by Kelly and a follow-on conversation with the president in which he claimed to have been unaware of Kelly’s decision.
Trump has been increasingly critical of anonymous sources used by reporters covering his administration. Woodward’s account relies on so-called “deep background” conversations with sources, in which their identities are not disclosed.