President Trump denigrated senior American military officials when he told his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, during a meeting in 2017 that his top generals were weak and overly concerned with their relationships with allies, according to a new book by the journalist Bob Woodward.
And in a discussion with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Trump called the United States military “suckers” for paying extensive costs to protect South Korea.
“We’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist,” Mr. Trump said of South Korea, to a stunned Mr. Woodward.
In the 2017 meeting, Mr. Woodward quoted Mr. Trump as telling Mr. Navarro that “my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”
At another point in Mr. Woodward’s book, “Rage,” Mr. Trump’s former defense secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis is quoted as telling the former director of national intelligence that Mr. Trump is “dangerous” and “unfit” for the presidency. And the former director of national intelligence believed Russia had “something” on Mr. Trump.
Mr. Mattis and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, struggled with how to communicate the threat they felt Mr. Trump presented to the nation’s security. Mr. Coats was haunted by Mr. Trump’s tweets and believed that Mr. Trump’s gentle approach to Russia reflected something more sinister.
“Maybe at some point we’re going to have to stand up and speak out,” Mr. Mattis told Mr. Coats during a conversation in May 2019, according to the book, which goes on sale next week. “There may be a time when we have to take collective action.”
When Mr. Mattis quit after Mr. Trump wanted to withdraw troops fighting the Islamic State in the Middle East, according to Mr. Woodward the general reflected, “When I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid, strategically jeopardizing our place in the world and everything else, that’s when I quit.”
Mr. Trump provided Mr. Woodward with the details of letters between himself and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, in which the two men are fawning toward one another. Mr. Kim wrote in one letter that their relationship was like a “fantasy film.”
Describing their chemistry to Mr. Woodward, Mr. Trump said, “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. It’s like, whoa. OK. You know? It takes somewhat less than a second.”
Mr. Coats, who learned he was being fired from his position in July 2019 from a New York Times article that posted online while he was on the golf course at Mr. Trump’s private club, was chewed out by Mr. Trump after a briefing with reporters about the threat that Russia presented to the nation’s elections systems. Mr. Coats had gone further than he and the president had discussed beforehand.
“What was that briefing?” he asked, apparently upset about all the focus on Russia. “Why’d you do that?”
Mr. Trump complained about the various investigations into his campaign and Russia and, according to the book, leaned on Mr. Coats to either curtail the federal investigation or to publicly echo the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that there was no conspiracy. Mr. Coats tried to explain that that was beyond what he had visibility into, according to the book.
At one point, Mr. Trump moaned that the investigations were hindering his abilities as president.
“Putin said to me in a meeting, he said, it’s a shame, because I know it’s very hard for you to make a deal with us. I said, you’re right,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Woodward repeatedly tried to coax a reflective answer from Mr. Trump about his presidency and his understanding of race in America. But Mr. Trump would only say over and over that the economy had been positive for Black people before the coronavirus led to an economic crisis.
When Mr. Woodward pointed out that both he and Mr. Trump were “white, privileged,” and asked if Mr. Trump could see that they both have to “work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country,” Mr. Trump replied, “No,” and added, “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, also spoke extensively to Mr. Woodward. When asked about the writings that best tell the story of the Trump presidency, Mr. Kushner pointed to a column by the Wall Street Journal opinion writer Peggy Noonan in which she said Mr. Trump is “crazy” but “it’s working,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” He compared his father-in-law to the Cheshire cat.
In a conversation with an associate, Mr. Kushner describes his father-in-law as good at getting people to react to their own detriment, gleefully citing the defenses that Democrats issued of the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, of Baltimore, Md., and his city, after the president attacked Mr. Cummings.
“The Democrats are so crazy, they’re basically defending Baltimore,” said Mr. Kushner, whose family’s real-estate company is a notorious landlord in the city. “When you get to the next election, he’s tied them to all these stupid positions because they’d rather attack him than actually be rational.”
Mr. Kushner dismissed previous advisers who had left as “overconfident idiots,” and told Mr. Trump that in the final stretch of his term, “This is really when you’ll appreciate having the neurotic Jews around.”