'If George Washington came back from the dead': In new book, Trump brags that even a founding father might not have beaten him
WASHINGTON - Donald Trump bragged that even George Washington - one of the nation's founding fathers and routinely high on the list of great American presidents by historians - might not have beaten him in an election.
“I Alone Can Fix It” Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker brag about his pre-pandemic presidency: “I think it would be hard if George Washington came back from the dead and he Abraham Lincoln has been elected Vice President, I think it would have been very difficult for them to beat me. "
The bragging rights are perfectly normal for Trump in "I Alone," the latest release to pull the curtain back on Trump's disastrous fourth year in office, and the Washington Post duo's second book on that administration.
The new book by Leonnig and Rucker picks up where their first volume, their first book about Trump, “A Very Stable Genius” leaves off - a deep insight into almost three years of Trump's leadership. Aside from the fact that this time around, the couple had a two and a half hour interview with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he firmly believed he was America's greatest president.
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About the 2020 election and John McCain
Unsurprisingly, Trump is still falsely convinced that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him and has particular anger with his Republican counterparts, living and dead. Unasked, Trump begins a tirade against the late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who calls him "a tyrant and a nasty guy".
"John McCain was a bad guy," said Trump.
The authors interviewed more than 140 people, including senior administrators, friends and advisers of Trump.
What "I Alone" argues in one detailed case is that the 2020 disaster was a consequence of Trump's tendency to put political optics above everything else, including American life. Economic health was more important to Trump than public health in an election year.
More from 'I Alone': 'Reichstag Moment': Chairman of the Joint Chiefs feared that Trump laid the foundation for a coup
Trump despised weakness
Another thread is Trump's reluctance to appear weak, which led him to make decisions that have often been criticized by the American public.
The former president would not wear masks during a global pandemic because "people tell me it makes me look weak". Trump said he believed he could beat Biden because he was "weak". The 2020 protests in Portland and Seattle "make me look weak," Trump complained to Attorney General William Barr.
When Trump contracted COVID-19, he refused to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center because "he was concerned about how weak and vulnerable it would make him - and the country - look".
President Donald Trump arrives by Marine One helicopter at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 2, 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19.
Trump's early indifference to COVID-19
"I Alone" begins with the first rumbling about COVID-19 in late December 2019 and early January 2020 and the President's carefree indifference to the reports. The authors describe Trump ignoring early warning reports on the novel coronavirus that were included in the President's Daily Brief.
Health Secretary Alex Azar "did not feel that the White House leadership was taking this threat seriously." At one point, Trump didn't know the CDC was reporting to HHS.
The book also tells of an insecure and narcissistic president who heads a dysfunctional government dealing with murderous warfare - a factor that has severely hampered a coordinated effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Surrounded by flatterers who wage turf wars, "Trump allowed his White House to become a viper's nest, with high-ranking officials often pursuing their personal agendas and vengeance rather than serving a collective mission," write Leonnig and Rucker.
The couple argues that Trump's failure regarding the pandemic was selfishness.
"Most of Trump's mistakes can be explained with a simple truth: He cared more about himself than about the country," explain Leonnig and Rucker.
Related: "Anarchy and Chaos": Michael Bender book describes turmoil in Trump's White House Trump
While the pandemic is devastating, Trump is focused on investigating Russia
Another reason Trump was distracted by the pandemic was because he focused on Attorney John Durham's investigation into the origins of the FBI's 2016 Trump-Russia investigation. Trump hoped Durham's investigation would prove the FBI was corrupt and would expose the Obama administration's wrongdoing.
April 2020, Barr predicted that Durham's investigation would justify Trump during a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham, which would further raise Trump's hopes. However, Durham's progress has been delayed by the pandemic and an overlapping general investigation by the Justice Department inspector.
"While not instructing Barr to specifically indict anyone, the president raised the investigation frequently during their Oval Office meetings that spring," the authors write.
"His questions were often a version of 'When do you think something could come of this?' Barr felt uncomfortable answering in detail and tried to meet the president's expectations, "they claim.
Later on on "I Alone," Durham called Barr to tell him there would be no report he would publish before the election. When Barr informed the White House, Trump was furious.
President Donald Trump speaks during the Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing at the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC, flanked by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Redfield said a potential second wave of the coronavirus could flare up again later this year, coinciding with flu season.
After Lafayette Square, Trump unloads at Mark Esper and Mark Milley
After Lafayette Square - where Black Lives Matter protesters near the White House were gassed with tear gas last June - former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper distanced himself from the violence.
Esper made it clear in a press conference on June 3 that he believed the National Guard should provide the police with replacement resources during the riots. And he mentioned that he wasn't in favor of invoking the Insurrection Act.
Trump lost it.
Trump cursed Esper during a meeting in the Oval Office after the press conference. "You betrayed me!" Trump screamed.
"You are (expletive) weak! What is that [strong expression]? I make the decisions on the insurgency law. I am the president, not you. You are stealing options from the President. "
Afterward, Esper said to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, "I'm getting fired." Moments later he added, "I will resign."
Milley also distanced herself from the incident in Lafayette Square. Milley apologized for his role in the photo op during a National Defense University address.
A dissatisfied Trump asked him, "Why did you apologize?" Trump then added, "Apologizing is a sign of weakness."
"Mr. President, not where I'm from, you're not," Milley replied.
Related: Milley, Trump at odds over how to tackle the racial justice protests in 2020, boo
Esper fired for not being "loyal"
Trump fired Esper days after his election defeat via Twitter. "Mark Esper has been fired," tweeted Trump. "I want to thank him for his service."
After an NBC story posted on November 7th revealed that Esper was ready to step down, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows called Esper on November 9th and said, "I'm calling because the president is not happy."
“And we don't think you're loyal enough. You are being replaced. He will announce that this afternoon. They will be replaced by Chris Miller, ”added Meadows.
Esper thought to himself, "Who?"
“That is the president's prerogative. My oath is on the Constitution, not him, ”Esper replied.
Fearing that Trump loyalists might draw up a list of enemies, Esper did not receive any applause when he left, with officers and staff applauding the outgoing secretary.
Other delicacies from "I Alone"
Mike Pence's homeland security adviser Olivia Troye said Trump said one of the silver linings of the pandemic is not to shake hands with people. “I was a businessman in New York and I shook a lot of hands, but as a politician you really have to shake a lot more hands. I have to shake hands with these disgusting people. It's disgusting. And now I don't have to shake hands with them. Maybe it's a good thing. ”However, Trump denied making the comments regarding COVID through a spokesman.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley told Stephen Miller to "hold the line" after Miller pleaded with Trump to use the military to end protests against the murder of George Floyd. "They're not burning down the (power) land," Milley continued. Milley was neither a fan of the domestic use of military force nor of Miller, whom he considered to be "a Rasputin character who always whispered diabolical ideas in the king's ear".
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie advised Trump to go on a "thank you tour" across the country, visiting hospitals, small businesses and manufacturing plants. "The public won't know what to do if Donald Trump goes around saying 'thank you' 'to everyone - and more importantly, Joe Biden won't know what to do," Christie said. Trump did not take his advice.
Barr and then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell began talks in mid-November over Trump's false claims about a stolen election. The two were trying to figure out who would tell Trump to accept defeat. "They agreed that it would be too dangerous for McConnell to confront Trump" lest it backfire and harm the Senatorial races in Georgia. “Barr didn't advertise anything; he was free to speak his mind and possibly make a difference. "
Trump initially exploded when administrative officials told him about plans to evacuate additional Americans, mostly diplomats and permanent residents, from Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic. "We're not leaving her behind," he said. “You risk increasing my number. They won't increase my numbers. "
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The I Alone Can Fix It book about Trump tells of a "disastrous" last year
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45th President of the United States
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