A number of new books about the Trump administration reveal former president Donald Trump’s thinking in high-pressure moments during his term and document contentious exchanges among some of the highest-ranking government officials.
The snippets provide an inside look at explosive encounters between members of Trump’s Cabinet and White House officials on the Jan. 6 insurrection, the November election, and protests against racism and police brutality in some American cities, among other topics.
Here’s a look at the incendiary exchanges that have come to light in recent months.
“I’ll Take Your Questions Now”
Trump told Putin that his tough stance was for the cameras
A forthcoming book by former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, one of the longest-serving aides in the Trump administration, alleges that during the 2019 meeting between the leaders at the Group of 20 Summit, Trump informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was going to be stern “for the cameras.”
“Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave we’ll talk. You understand,” Trump reportedly told Putin, according to multiple outlets that obtained a copy of the book.
Details about Melania Trump’s time as first lady
Following her stint as press secretary in the Trump administration, Grisham returned to Melania Trump’s office, where she began her White House tenure, allowing her insight into the relationship between the first lady and the president.
Grisham writes that Melania was angry after reports surfaced about her husband’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and hush money payments to cover it up.
“After the Stormy Daniels story broke and all the allegations that followed from other women, I felt that Mrs. Trump was basically unleashed,” Grisham write, according to The New York Times.
As a result, Melania reportedly left her husband out of photos and tweets and arrived to his first State of the Union address holding the arm of a handsome military aide Grisham picked, according to The Washington Post, because Melania said the floors of the Capitol were too slippery.
“I laughed to myself because I’d seen the woman navigate dirt roads in her heels,” Grisham wrote in the book, according to the Post.
Grisham writes that Melania didn’t believe her husband’s denials of the affair, but was mostly dismissive about them.
“This is Donald’s problem. He got himself into this mess. He can fix it by himself,” Melania said, according to the Post.
Grisham also sheds light on the fallout from Melania’s visit to a camp for child migrants in Texas in 2018, when she wore a jacket with “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” written on the back.
According to the Post, Melania and Grisham huddled for a damage-control session on the plane, Grisham wrote. When they returned to the White House, an aide told the two that the president wanted to see them, Grisham wrote, and Trump yelled at her about the decision in front of staff.
Trump asked “what the [expletive]” they thought they were doing, according to the Post, and came up with the idea to tweet a cover story about the jacket, saying it was a message directed to the media.
Top general made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart because he feared Trump may provoke war
In a book published Sept. 21, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report that General Mark Milley, fearful of Trump’s actions late in his term, twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the United States was not going to attack China. One call took place on Oct. 30, four days before the American election. The second call was on Jan. 8, less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration and two days after the insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of Trump.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told General Li Zuocheng in the first call, according to the book, excerpts of which were published in the Washington Post. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
According to the Post, Milley also told the Chinese general that he would warn him first if the US did launch an attack on China.
“General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley reportedly said.
The book’s authors also reported on a call between Milley and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which he told Pelosi that he believed Trump had suffered a “mental decline” after the election.
“Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost”
Trump comments on Hitler
Former president Donald Trump told his then-chief of staff John Kelly during a 2018 trip to Europe that Adolf Hitler “did a lot of good things,” a new book by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender alleges.
According to The Guardian, which obtained a copy of Bender’s “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” Trump made the remark during a trip to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and Kelly was “stunned” by the comment.
The comment took place during an “impromptu history lesson” in which Kelly “reminded the president which countries were on which side during the conflict” and “connected the dots from the first world war to the second world war and all of Hitler’s atrocities,” according to the book.
Liz Harrington, a Trump spokeswoman, denied Trump made the comment in a statement to The Guardian.
“This is totally false,” the statement said. “President Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”
Bender, citing unnamed sources, reported that Kelly “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” and emphasized Germany’s economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s.
Kelly pushed back again on Trump’s comments, the book claims, and told him that “the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.” Kelly also told Trump he “cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can’t.”
Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust, the systematic murder of more than six million Jews during World War II.
Trump suggests the military intervene in American cities
Another excerpt from the book reveals that during Oval Office meetings, Trump suggested the military intervene violently in protests in Seattle and Portland last summer, prompting pushback from the country’s top general.
The conversations outlined in the excerpts, which were obtained by CNN, include Trump discussing videos of police physically engaging with protesters and saying he wanted to see more of that, the book alleges.
“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump reportedly said to his top law enforcement and military officials, according to the book. “Crack their skulls!”
Trump also said he wanted the military to go in and “beat the [expletive] out” of the protesters, the book says.
“Just shoot them,” Trump said multiple times, according to the excerpts.
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley and Attorney General William Barr then pushed back on Trump’s comments.
“Well, shoot them in the leg, or maybe the foot,” Trump said in response, according to the excerpts. “But be hard on them!”
The excerpts also describe a contentious exchange between Milley and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser and close ally to the president. During a conversation in the Oval Office, Miller described the scenes on TV of the protests as similar to those that unfold in developing countries and said American cities had been turned into war zones, the book alleges.
“These cities are burning,” Miller reportedly said.
The comment enraged Milley, according to the book.
“Shut the [expletive] up, Stephen,” Milley said.
“Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency”
Trump’s reaction to the insurrection
Previews of the book by journalist Michael Wolff describe discussions surrounding how the White House should respond as the Jan. 6 insurrection unfolded and Trump’s comments to advisers in the hours after the violence, as well as Trump bashing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
One snippet, published in New York Magazine on June 28, also reveals Trump saying he “didn’t mean it literally” when he said during his Jan. 6 speech before the breach of the Capitol that he would join his supporters in marching to the building.
A secret service agent approached White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who confronted Trump about the comments when he finished his speech. But the president seemed unsure what Meadows was referring to, according to the excerpt.
“How would we do that?” Meadows reportedly said to Trump. “We can’t organize that. We can’t.”
“I didn’t mean it literally,” Trump responded.
After the violent mob broke into the Capitol, Trump reportedly said in a phone call with an adviser that his supporters looked like “idiots,” according to the book.
“This looks terrible,” Trump told adviser Jason Miller hours after the violence. “This is really bad. Who are these people? These aren’t our people, these idiots with these outfits. They look like Democrats.”
As Miller began to push Trump toward committing to a statement that suggested the administration would cooperate with the incoming Biden administration, Trump also appeared to shirk responsibility for the attack on the Capitol.
“We didn’t tell people to do something like this,” Trump told Miller, according to the book. “We told people to be peaceful. I even said ‘peaceful’ and ‘patriotic’ in my speech!”
Trump blasts Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
A Tuesday report by Axios previews an interview between Trump and Wolff in which Trump says he is disappointed in votes cast by Kavanaugh, who Trump nominated to serve on the highest court.
“There were so many others I could have appointed, and everyone wanted me to,” Trump reportedly told Wolff.
Trump also said he “saved” Kavanaugh, according to the book. In 2018, Kavanaugh faced an uncertain Senate confirmation after Christine Blasey Ford came forward to accuse him of sexual assault when they were teenagers and testified about her experience.
“Where would he be without me?” Trump said to Wolff, according the book. “I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.”
Barr’s heated conversation with Trump
In a story published June 27, former Attorney General William Barr tells ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl that he thought Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud were meritless.
In the interview, conducted for a forthcoming book by Karl and published in The Atlantic, Barr told Karl that he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the November election, because he thought Trump would lose. He said he expected that Trump would approach him about the allegations of fraud.
Barr launched an unofficial inquiry into some of Trump’s claims, despite feeling that it wasn’t true.
“My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time,” Barr said. “If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all [expletive].”
The interview details a heated conversation between Trump and Barr after Barr told an Associated Press reporter in December that there was not widespread fraud in the election that would have changed the outcome.
“I think you’ve noticed I haven’t been talking to you much,” Trump said to Barr, according to the interview. “I’ve been leaving you alone.”
Trump then asked Barr if he made those comments to the AP reporter, and Barr responded that he did.
“How the [expletive] could you do this to me? Why did you say it?” Trump asked him.
“Because it’s true,” Barr responded.
“You must hate Trump,” the president replied, referring to himself in the third person. “You must hate Trump.”
During the conversation, Trump referenced other examples of what he thought was election fraud, and Barr responded by calling the lawyers on the president’s team tasked with fighting the election results in court a “clown show.”
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr said to him, according to the book. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
Trump reportedly responded: “You may be right about that.”
After the confrontation, Barr agreed to stay on as attorney general, but then regretted the choice to stick around, Karl reports. Two weeks later, Barr went to the White House to tell Trump he was going to resign.
“I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year”
Trump’s ‘apoplectic’ reaction to election results
An excerpt of a book by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker published July 20 sets the scene inside the White House on Election Day in 2020, describing multiple White House officials growing concerned with the election forecast as the night wore on and the conversations that led to Trump’s early morning speech in which he prematurely declared victory and cast doubt on the integrity of the results.
According to the excerpt, published in The Washington Post, Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and Barr were worried about Trump’s reelection prospects as precincts continued to report results.
The book also described Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York City, pushing Trump to declare victory in multiple states as votes were still being counted, drawing pushback from Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Giuliani encouraged the campaign to say Trump had won Michigan and Pennsylvania, and Meadows responded by raising his voice and saying: “We can’t do that,” according to the book.
Later in the night, Giuliani encouraged Trump to declare victory again after Fox News became the first major network to call the state of Arizona in favor of Biden. The book details Trump’s outrage and a campaign by top officials, including Trumps’ son-in-law Jared Kushner, to get the network to reverse the announcement.
“What the [expletive] is Fox doing?” Trump reportedly screamed, while requesting Kushner call members of the Murdoch family, which owns Fox. A number of people in the White House reached out to Fox officials, including on-air personalities Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
The book describes Trump and his family becoming “apoplectic” as the night continued and results came in, with Trump falsely claiming “they’re stealing this thing from us” and questioning why votes were still being counted.
The book also revealed how Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, a lifelong Republican, told people close to him that he was rooting for Biden to win as he watched election coverage, even telling a friend “It looks good” as results in Biden’s favor came in.
Top military general feared Trump would try to use the military to stay in office after the election
Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was frequently concerned with how Trump would react if he lost the November election, reportedly telling aides he was afraid Trump would try to use the military to remain in office.
As Trump baselessly alleged election fraud, Milley compared Trump’s language to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building, which Hitler used to gain power, according to a preview of the exchange published in The Washington Post on Thursday. Milley’s concerns were first reported by CNN, which obtained a copy of the book.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the Führer.”
A spokesperson for Milley declined to comment to The Washington Post. Trump issued a statement on Thursday denying he ever planned a “coup.”
On Nov. 10, after a security briefing about a pro-Trump march protesting the election results, Milley reportedly said he was concerned about “brownshirts in the streets,” a reference to members of the militia that aided Hitler’s rise to power.
That night, a friend called Milley to say they were concerned Trump’s allies were attempting to “overturn the government,” according to the book.
Milley was so disturbed by the conversation that he called former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who Trump fired in 2018 after he had served in the administration for a little more than a year, and asked if a coup was forthcoming.
“What the [expletive] am I dealing with?” Milley asked McMaster, according to the book.
Milley, shaken by the conversations, began informally planning with other military leaders how they would stop Trump’s order to use the military in a way they felt was dangerous or illegal. To gain control of the government, someone would have to take over the CIA, FBI, and the Defense Department, all places where there were Trump-aligned officials, Milley thought, according to the book.
“They may try, but they’re not going to [expletive] succeed,” Milley reportedly told some of his closest deputies.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.