Five key takeaways from Bob Woodward’s book on Trump’s White House
Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated book, “Fear,” hits shelves Tuesday.
The book has been making headlines since the Washington Post reported on it last week, and leaked details seemed to portray a White House in chaos, with a president who appeared to be unwilling to learn the duties of his office.
Soon after details were reported, the White House released a statement dismissing the book as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad.” And President Trump has repeatedly criticized the book and Woodward on Twitter.
The 448-page book paints a darker picture of Oval Office dysfunction, according to a Globe review of an advance copy. Here are five key moments from the book, including appearances by New England figures.
Why Mitt Romney lost in 2012
Romney appears at least three different times in the book, but the first mention on page 42 describes at least part of the reason why Trump thinks Romney lost in 2012 — he spent too much time in transition meetings and not enough campaigning.
“That’s why he lost. You’re jinxing me,” Trump is said to have told Chris Christie when he discovered that he was fund-raising for his transition team.
Trump accused Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, of stealing from him, Woodward says, claiming that he needed money for his campaign.
“Where the f—k is the money?” Woodward writes of the conversation. At the end of the tense meeting, Trump told Christie, who was to be the head of the transition team, that he was shutting it down.
“I told you from day one it was just an honorary title. You’re jinxing me. I’m not going to spend a second on it,” he said, Woodward says.
Steve Bannon, who was also in the meeting, told Trump that a transition might make sense and that shutting down the team would signal a lack of confidence in his ability to win the presidential election, Woodward writes.
“Trump agreed, finally and reluctantly, to a slimmed-down, skeletal version of the transition,” Woodward writes.
‘Candy store’ tax bill
The passing of the contentious tax bill last year played out in a public battle between Democrats and Republicans, but there were fights inside the Trump administration as well.
Woodward says that then-chief economic adviser Gary Cohn “saw that he could do anything on the tax reform bill as long as Trump could call it a win,” after a phone call in which he gave Trump “a complicated technical description of the advantages of” a proposed corporate tax rate.
Cohn also came to the conclusion that “getting votes in the Senate was all about giving individual senators their favorite loopholes or tax breaks,” Woodward writes.
“It’s a candy store,” Woodward quotes Cohn as saying.
Susan Collins of Maine is named as one of the senators who insisted on a specific deduction — in this case for teachers who bought supplies for their classrooms.
“The final bill was a dizzying labyrinth of numbers, rules, and categories,” Woodward writes.
A social committee, of sorts
The president’s Twitter habit comes up frequently in the book. Woodward notes that Trump sees the social media platform as his “megaphone.”
“This is who I am. This is how I communicate. It’s the reason I got elected. It’s the reason that I’m successful,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
However, following a 2017 tweet in which Trump attacked MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, alleging that her face was “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” there was concern among White House staffers that Trump could lose crucial GOP votes, such as Collins, the Maine senator.
So, Woodward says, Hope Hicks, Rob Porter, Cohn, and social media director Dan Scavino proposed a committee to vet the president’s tweets.
Trump would go on to “ignore most reviews or vetting and did what he wanted,” Woodward says.
Iran, Russia, and nukes
Trump campaigned on the promise to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, but at first relented that he was “stuck with it.”
Although then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed the president that Iran was not in violation of the agreement, Trump insisted on pulling out, ordering Tillerson to “make the case that this agreement is done and finished,” Woodward writes.
Defense Secretary General James Mattis “still saw Iran as the key destabilizing influence in the region,” but he did not want war, Woodward says.
“Russia had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO,” Woodward writes. “Mattis, with agreement from [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph] Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States.”
Dunford, a Boston-area native, makes several appearances in the book, often expressing concern about the administration’s foreign policy stances, particularly in war-prone regions.
President Trump’s remarks in 2018 that immigrants from Haiti and African nations come from “shithole countries” drew an immediate backlash, but, according to Woodward, it’s not a new saying.
Trump, after campaigning in Little Haiti in Miami, said, “I really felt for these people. They came from such a shithole,” Woodward writes.
When the president was confronted this year about his comments, he initially denied it, and then there were conflicting reports about whether he said “shithole” or “shithouse.” But in April, when President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was visiting, Trump was offered the opportunity to deny the comment. Instead, the president said there are “some countries that are in very bad shape.”