WASHINGTON — As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting ‘’lead to target’' to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.
‘’He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,’’ according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for meetings with Trump, which confused the former president.
‘’The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,’’ Haberman writes in ‘’Confidence Man,’’ an extensive book about Trump’s time in New York and as president.
The 607-page book, which has long been awaited by many of Trump’s aides, is set to be published Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post. The book details unusual and erratic interactions between Trump and world leaders, members of Congress, as well as his aides, along with behind-the-scenes accounts of his time as a businessman.
Presented with a detailed accounting of the book’s reporting, a Trump spokesman did not directly respond. ‘’While coastal elites obsess over boring books chock full of anonymously sourced fairytales, America is a nation in decline. President Trump is focused on Saving America, and there’s nothing the Fake News can do about it,’’ said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman.
Haberman interviewed Trump three times for the book — in which he claimed to not have taken any important documents from the White House, among other statements — and it includes his written answers to her questions. The book delves into some of the most contentious episodes of his presidency, including his impeachment trials, the weeks after the election when he tried to overturn the results, and his mishandling of the novel coronavirus, among other topics.
Throughout the book, Trump is portrayed as transactional and narcissistic — at times charming, at other times cruel — but always attuned to his own political fortunes, no matter the issue. During his meeting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama in 2016, he eschewed policy and asked Obama how he kept his approval ratings high, according to the book. He told advisers that he needs people such as Pennsylvania Senate nominee Mehmet Oz in office in case the election is challenged in 2024 or they try to impeach him again.
Trump was often crass and profane about world leaders and others in his orbit. He referred to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel using an obscenity, according to the book. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was dying in 2020, the book says, Trump would sarcastically raise his hands to the sky in prayer and say: ‘’Please God. Please watch over her. Every life is precious,’’ before asking an aide: ‘’How much longer do you think she has?’’
When former New Jersey governor Chris Christie pressed Trump to more forcefully condemn white supremacists, particularly avowed white supremacist David Duke, during his 2016 campaign, Trump said he would — but he was in no rush. ‘’A lot of these people vote,’’ Trump said, describing some of the white supremacists, before ending the call.
The book shows Trump frequently praising Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for his strength and even ‘’laughing’' when aides grew mad that he tweeted a proposal for a joint cyber unit with Russia that would have ‘’effectively let the Russians into the US investigations of hacking,’’ Haberman writes.
In another part of the book, Trump shows his lack of care about classified markings. Aides tried to stop Trump from tweeting a photo of an Iranian facility until they could remove classified details, Haberman writes. But he liked how the image looked and proceeded. ‘’If you take out the classification, that’s the sexy part,’’ he told aides, she writes.
And as Trump played down the coronavirus in early 2020, he privately acknowledged its severity and cast himself as the victim, according to Haberman’s book.
‘’Can you believe this happened to me?’’ he said, fearing the political impact on his presidency.
Trump was appalled by the sight of protective face masks, telling aides to remove them in his presence throughout 2020. ‘’Get that thing off,’’ he said during one meeting, using a profanity, according to Haberman’s book. Trump repeatedly wanted credit for vaccines but told aides he could not get the credit he deserved because of the ‘’radical right,’’ referring to his supporters.
He repeatedly encouraged aides to avoid the topic of the coronavirus because he viewed it as a political loser for him. ‘’Don’t talk about it on TV,’’ he told the Republican National Committee’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, according to the book, even as the virus dominated the news. ‘’Don’t make such a big deal out of this,’’ Trump said of the pandemic in one March 2020 conversation with then-Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. ‘’You’re gonna make it a problem.’’
Trump gave former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani control of his legal team because his other lawyers were not willing to go far enough to overturn the 2020 election, Haberman writes. ‘’Okay, Rudy, you’re in charge. Go wild, do anything you want. I don’t care,’’ Trump said over the phone, as he pushed him to help overturn the results. ‘’My lawyers are terrible.’’ He frequently berated White House counsel Pat Cipollone, according to the book.