On September 5th, President Donald Trump and his close allies challenged the narrative of Bob Woodward’s new book. In it he is portrayed as “a 5th-grader” ready to make rash decisions such as the assassination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On September 4th, Trump tweeted saying that the contents of the book have been refuted, claiming that Woodward is a “Dem operative,” pointing to the timing of the nearing mid-term elections.
“The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise, other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?”
According to the claims in the book, senior aides such as Gary Cohn have had to “pluck” sensitive documents off Trump’s desk to prevent him from making hasty decisions. In an interview with the Daily Caller, Trump said most of the stories in the book were “nasty stuff” totally “made up” by famed Watergate reporter Woodward.
One of the excerpts in the book claimed that Trump ordered Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, following the 2017 Idlib chemical incident. “Let’s f**king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f**king lot of them,” Trump allegedly told Mattis. “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured,” the defense secretary allegedly told one of his senior staffers after that. In response to the claim, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley denied that Trump ever planned to have Assad killed. “I have not once ever heard the president talk about assassinating Assad,” she said.
Woodward in his book also claimed that Trump once asked Jim Mattis why the US military and financially supports South Korea. Afterwards, Mattis allegedly told a close associate that the President had the understand of a fifth or sixth grade student.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis personally rejected the claim made in the book. “In serving in this administration, the idea that I would show contempt for the elected Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone’s rich imagination,” he said.
The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly allegedly described Donald Trump as an “unhinged idiot.”
“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” Woodward cited the Chief of Staff. “I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” John Kelly completely rejected all claims.
In addition to Former Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn who, according to Woodward, once stole a draft letter that would withdraw the US from the South Korea trade agreement. Former staff secretary Rob Porter, who handled the flow of presidential papers, according to the book, used similar tactics on several occasions.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the entire book is a “fabricated stories” told by “disgruntled” former employees to make the president “look bad.”
According to the book, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was worried that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe might result in impeachment. He allegedly asked: “Donald, I’m worried about this investigation. Are you going to be around?”
Despite the denials by Trump and his aides, Woodward said that he “stands by” his reporting and the contents of his book.
To reinforce the notion that Donald Trump takes rash and hasty decisions, on September 4th the White House released a statement that said the US will respond “swiftly and appropriately” if Assad uses chemical weapons “again.”
“The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran,” the statement said. “Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” it continued.
The statement comes after on August 29th the Russian Ambassador to US Anatoly Antonov warned US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield and Washington’s new representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey of a possible chemical attack, staged by Syrian rebels, not the government. The attack was to happen in the Idlib province.
“We warned the United States against yet another unjustified and illegal act of aggression in Syria. Escalation of tensions in Syria is not in anyone’s national interests,” the embassy said in a statement.
Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that such an attack would be blamed on Damascus and will “serve as another reason for the US, the UK and France to hit Syrian government targets with air strikes.”
According to Konashenkov, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group is “preparing another provocation of the “use of chemical weapons” by Syrian government forces against the peaceful population of the Idlib province.” He said the group has delivered “eight chlorine tanks” to Jisr al-Shughur to “stage” the attack, and that the tanks were later taken to a village eight kilometers (5 miles) away. He also said that British services are also allegedly “actively involved” in the upcoming “provocation.” Konashenkov’s statement also added that a group of militants “trained in handling poisonous substances under the supervision of specialists from the private British military company Oliva” arrived in Jisr al-Shughur. British officials have denied any such involvement.
The chlorine tanks were reportedly delivered by White Helmets members. Members of the controversial “rescue group” were also behind the reports of a chemical attack in April 2018. The reports resulted in an airstrike by US and allies.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has warned of the possible staged chemical attack as early as August 25th. Prior to that U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Syria’s government against using chemical weapons and vowed a tough response if that happens.