Trump at CPAC
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If there’s one bit of good news for the president in Bob Woodward’s book, it’s that the early publicity includes excerpts so disturbing that it will take a lot of urgently needed focus off of the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. For example, there are two really choice quotes from the president’s chief of staff. The first isn’t exactly fresh news, but I don’t think we’ve seen the whole quote before:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

The next one is a bit graphic.

[Gary] Cohn [the president’s then chief economic adviser] came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cohn, who is Jewish, was especially shaken when one of his daughters found a swastika on her college dorm room.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.

When Cohn met with Trump to deliver his resignation letter after Charlottesville, the president told him, “This is treason,” and persuaded his economic adviser to stay on. Kelly then confided to Cohn that he shared Cohn’s horror at Trump’s handling of the tragedy — and shared Cohn’s fury with Trump.

“I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times,” Kelly told Cohn, according to Woodward. Kelly himself has threatened to quit several times, but has not done so.

There’s a lot more of stuff like this in the book, including from Defense Secretary James Mattis (said Trump has the understanding of — “a fifth- or sixth-grader”), former chief of staff Reince Priebus (compared Trump to the devil), and Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd (Trump is an “idiot” and “a goddamn dumbbell”). But it’s John Kelly who interests me the most. Trump already knew that Kelly had badmouthed him rather extensively and said he was terrible and a waste of time. Why was he allowed to continue serving as chief of staff? Why did he want to continue?

But now that he’s quoted as saying if he were Gary Cohn after Charlottesville that he would have shoved his resignation six separate times up the president’s ass, I can’t believe he won’t be let go.

Except, I actually can believe it because I’ve learned that I can believe anything with this president. Like, I can believe the transcript of the call Bob Woodward had in early August with President Trump and Kellyanne Conway. It’s kind of hilarious, actually, if you don’t take into account the heart attack seriousness of the fact that one of the participants is in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Woodward’s book is further confirmation that the president is not fit to serve and that everyone who is a close witness already knows this. The Senate knows it, too, which is why I don’t think they’re going to be some partisan bulwark in the end.

In fact, they’re the most important audience for this book. They’ll actually read it and discuss it, which is more than most voters will do.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at