Rage by Bob Woodard

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Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:52 pm

Started reading Rage by Bob Woodward today.

In this topic I will be putting some telling passages here. Sometimes with commentary by me. Other times with none.

Vinny
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:53 pm

Seems like Woodward used someone substantial to verify what is in the book.

Vinny

Steve Reilly came to work with Evelyn and myself just under a year ago. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. “Do you mind if I come in and work Sunday?” was a common request. “Okay,” I’d say, without hesitation. He gives new life and meaning to the archetypal image of the dogged, relentless investigative reporter staying all night in the newsroom. He has a gentle and pleasant demeanor, and inwardly is tough as steel. He insists on verification for everything; no fact or nuance goes unchecked. Steve spent five years on USA Today’s investigative team and was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. He has innate integrity, kindness and creativity. He is a true digger and searcher of the truth, and I thank him for his immeasurable contributions to this book. He has a great future in journalism, the profession I know he loves.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:54 pm

Source of the title of the book.

Vinny

“I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do.”

Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016, at the Old Post Office Pavilion, Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C.

“This is when you said to us: ‘I bring out rage in people. I bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if it’s an asset or a liability. But whatever it is, I do.’ Is that true?”

“Yes,” Trump said. “Sometimes. I do more things than other people are able to get done. And that, sometimes, can make my opponents unhappy. They view me differently than they view other presidents. A lot of other presidents that you’ve covered didn’t get a lot done, Bob.”

President Donald J. Trump in an interview with Bob Woodward for this book, June 22, 2020.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:56 pm

The briefing Trump received on January 28, 2020

Vinny

“What do you know?” Trump asked Pottinger.

For the last four days, Pottinger said he had been working the phones calling doctors in China and Hong Kong he had maintained contact with and who understood the science. He’d also been reading Chinese social media.

“Is this going to be as bad as ’03?” he had asked one of his contacts in China.

“Don’t think SARS 2003,” the expert replied. “Think influenza pandemic 1918.”

Pottinger said he had been floored. The so-called Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide with about 675,000 deaths in the United States.

“Why do you think it will be worse than 2003?” asked the president.

Pottinger’s contacts told him three factors were dramatically accelerating the transmission of the new disease. Contrary to official hedged reports from the Chinese government, people were getting the disease easily from other people, not just animals; this is called human-to-human spread. He had just learned that morning it was being spread by people who didn’t show any symptoms; this is called asymptomatic spread. His best, most authoritative source said 50 percent were infected but showed no symptoms. This meant a once-in-a-lifetime health emergency, a virus out of control with a vast amount of the spread not immediately detectable. And it had already traveled far from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak apparently began. To Pottinger, these were the three alarms of a three-alarm fire.

Most troubling, Pottinger said, the Chinese had essentially quarantined Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, larger than any American city. People could not travel within China, say from Wuhan to Beijing. But they had not cut off travel from China to the rest of the world, including the United States. That meant a highly infectious and devastating virus was probably already silently streaming into the U.S.

“What do we do about it?” the president asked.

Cut off travel from China to the United States, Pottinger said.


Pottinger was confident the information from his sources was solid, based on hard data, not speculation. He’d launched an in-depth examination of the new virus. The first case outside China had been reported on January 13 in Thailand. Clearly the virus was spreading human-to-human.

Top officials at the Centers for Disease Control, the nation’s chief public health agency, had also been reporting with increasing alarm to Pottinger that they had been trying for weeks to send the crack U.S. disease detectives from the Epidemic Intelligence Service to China to see what was going on. The Chinese had stonewalled, refusing to cooperate and share samples of the virus as required by international agreement.

The head of the Chinese CDC had sounded like a hostage in one phone call, and the Chinese health minister also refused U.S. assistance.

Pottinger had seen this movie before. He picked up the pace of his calls the weekend of January 24–26. “I came out of that weekend with my hair standing on end,” Pottinger said privately.

Several Chinese elites well connected with the Communist Party and government signaled that they thought China had a sinister goal: “China’s not going to be the only one to suffer from this.” If China was the only country to have mass infections on the scale of the 1918 pandemic, they would be at a massive economic disadvantage. It was a suspicion, but one held by the people who knew the regime best. A frightening possibility. Pottinger, a China hawk, was not ready to make a judgment on China’s intent one way or the other. Most likely the outbreak was accidental. But he was certain the United States was in for an unparalleled health onslaught. And China’s lack of transparency would only make it worse. With SARS the Chinese had egregiously concealed the outbreak of a dangerous new infectious disease for three months.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:57 pm

The Trump public response.

Vinny

Three days later, on January 31, the president did impose restrictions on travelers from China, a move opposed by a number of his cabinet members. But his public attention was focused on just about everything except the virus: the upcoming Super Bowl, the technological meltdown in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, his State of the Union address and, most importantly, the impeachment trial in the Senate. When the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, known as Covid-19, did come up in settings where he had an opportunity to reach a large number of Americans, Trump continued to reassure the public they faced little risk.

“How concerned are you” about coronavirus? Fox’s Sean Hannity asked Trump on February 2 near the end of a pre–Super Bowl game interview focused largely on the unfairness of impeachment and his 2020 Democratic rivals.

“We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” Trump said. Something of a pregame presidential tradition, the interview drew the largest ever audience for the controversial and popular talk show host. “We’re offering tremendous help. We have the best in the world for that.… But we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus.”

That morning, even National Security Adviser O’Brien, who had issued the ominous warning just days earlier, had said on CBS’s Face the Nation, “Right now, there’s no reason for Americans to panic. This is something that is a low-risk, we think, in the U.S.”

Two days later on February 4, nearly 40 million Americans tuned in to watch the president’s annual State of the Union address, a constitutionally mandated update to Congress about the most pressing issues facing the country. The speech is the highest visibility moment for a president to address matters of great importance. About halfway through the lengthy speech, Trump mentioned coronavirus in one short paragraph. “Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China,” Trump said. “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”

That did not, however, include sharing any part of the warning he had received with the public.

When I later asked the president about the warning from O’Brien, he said he didn’t recall it. “You know, I’m sure he said it,” Trump said. “Nice guy.”

And in an interview with President Trump on March 19, six weeks before I learned of O’Brien’s and Pottinger’s warnings, the president said his statements in the early weeks of the virus had been deliberately designed to not draw attention to it.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told me. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:58 pm

What Trump knew.

Vinny

Trump called me at home about 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 7, 2020. Since he had been acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial two days earlier, I expected he would be in a good mood.

“Now we’ve got a little bit of an interesting setback with the virus going in China,” he said. He had spoken with President Xi Jinping of China the night before.

“Setback?” I was surprised the virus was on his mind, rather than his acquittal. There were only 12 confirmed cases in the United States. The first reported coronavirus death in the United States was three weeks away. The news had been all impeachment all the time.

The Chinese were very focused on the virus, Trump said.

“I think that that goes away in two months with the heat,” Trump said. “You know as it gets hotter that tends to kill the virus. You know, you hope.”

He added, “We had a great talk for a long time. But we have a good relationship. I think we like each other a lot.”

I reminded the president that in earlier interviews for this book he had told me he had harshly confronted President Xi about the Made in China 2025 plan to overtake the United States and become the world’s leading producer in high-tech manufacturing in 10 industries from driverless cars to biomedicine. “That’s very insulting to me,” Trump had told Xi. The president had also said with fierce pride that he was “breaking China’s ass on trade” and caused China’s annual economic growth rate to go negative.

“Oh, yeah, we’ve had some arguments,” Trump acknowledged.

So what had President Xi said yesterday?

“Oh, we were talking mostly about the virus,” Trump said.

Why? I wondered. “Mostly?”

“And I think he’s going to have it in good shape,” Trump said, “but you know, it’s a very tricky situation.”

What made it “tricky”?

“It goes through air,” Trump said. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“Deadly” was a very strong word. Something was obviously going on here that I was not focused on. Over the next month I would make trips to Florida and the West Coast, oblivious to the mounting pandemic. At this point I also was not aware O’Brien had told the president that the virus “will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.” I’d heard no one calling for any change in Americans’ behavior other than not traveling to China. Americans went about their daily lives, including more than 60 million who traveled by air domestically that month.

In our call, Trump had surprising detail about the virus.

Trump continued, “Pretty amazing. This is more deadly” than the flu, maybe five times more so.

“This is deadly stuff,” Trump repeated. He praised President Xi. “I think he’s going to do a good job. He built a number of hospitals in record-setting time. They know what they’re doing. They’re very organized. And we’ll see. We’re working with them. We’re sending them things, in terms of equipment and lots of other things. And the relationship is very good. Much better than before. It was strained because of the [trade] deal.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:05 pm

Adding to the disorientation, Coats never knew which Trump he’d find in residence when he walked into the Oval Office three times a week for the President’s Daily Brief. The PDB was designed to give—and showcase—the most useful inside and high-level sensitive intelligence about national security issues. Some days, Trump would be in a fine mood, even good. Other days Trump would lash out abusively. “I don’t trust the intelligence,” he said, making it clear he saw the intelligence people as enemies.

To help reduce the stress, Marsha fixed nice dinners with wine, a special pleasure because they had once signed pledges at Wheaton College not to drink.

“Was it a good day or a bad day?” she would ask carefully, but with intense curiosity.

“It was a good meeting today,” he said sometimes. The president listened, asked good questions. Trump was smart and could be engaging and even charming.

Then there were bad days. “The president didn’t really want to hear the information, or if he heard it, he would disagree with it, say, I don’t believe that.”


But the bad days were more frequent. Coats began to think Trump was impervious to facts. Trump had his own facts: Nearly everyone was an idiot, and almost every country was ripping off the United States. The steady stream of ranting was debilitating. The tension never abated, and Coats would not bend facts to suit the president’s preconceptions or desires. Coats was shocked. “Trump was on a different page than just about anything I believed in.”

Trump’s habit of tweeting at all hours of the day and night, including about important foreign policy matters, was personally disruptive for Coats. He found himself waking up in the middle of the night thinking, oh my God, what has he tweeted? Finally, Coats decided he would look at the tweets in the morning, concluding he could not let himself get in the habit of thinking he had to wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. just to see if there were any tweets. It was also clear to Coats that the tweeting meant Trump was not sleeping. What were the president’s sleep hours? Coats heard the president was starting his work day later and later, now 11:30 a.m. Maybe that was a clue.

Marsha was stunned at her husband’s reports about the president’s arrogance. “Who could go into this office of being president and not realize how inadequate they are? Anybody would feel like they needed divine help in order to tackle that job and do it well.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:08 pm

Mattis was ceremonially sworn in at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, which honored more than 3,000 service members who had received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest combat award. He thanked Trump and Pence and welcomed them to “the headquarters of your military, your always loyal military, where America’s awesome determination to defend herself is on full display.”

Trump, professing “total confidence” in Mattis, called him “a man of total action. He likes action.”

As the ceremony came to a close, Trump signed the travel ban order and handed it to Mattis. Mattis was stunned.

As soon as the news broke, some veterans in the Congressional Medal of Honor Society immediately conveyed their fury that the hall had been used as a staging ground for the controversial travel ban. Their blunt message to Mattis: That’s not what we fought for.

Mattis felt it was a gross process error. There was no process. Who was deciding these things?

The travel ban, which began as a campaign promise Trump made in December 2015 when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” became a symbol of Trump’s anti-immigrant attitudes and policies
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:08 pm

At 10:00 a.m. on June 26, Byers sat at Mattis’s placard in the Roosevelt Room for the cabinet-level meeting on steel tariffs. Byers took notes. The debate turned on how best to impose tariffs. Byers found the lack of context or definition of the problem rendered the talks aimless.

“The president is expecting to come in,” said Reince Priebus, the chief of staff. “I’m going to advise him that we’re not ready for him.” He left for the Oval Office and came back in about two minutes. “Against my advice,” the chief of staff said, visibly nervous, “the president wants to hear this debate.”

Soon Trump walked in and everyone stood.

“We’re going to put a tariff on all steel and aluminum, on everything coming in,” the president said, “and see what happens.”

This approach drove Gary Cohn, the chief White House economic adviser, crazy. He had argued passionately that the American economy was too important to haphazardly experiment with.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:11 pm

Trump signed the executive order and they all posed for a picture. The group included White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

“Peter,” Trump said, “I need you to take charge of negotiations on steel.” Trump said that U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were weak negotiators and that Navarro needed to be tough, hard-line.

Trump added, “Not to mention my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”

Navarro appeared to be flattered by Trump’s remark and said he would be happy to take over the negotiations.

Once Byers returned to the Pentagon, he asked Mattis for a private meeting. They met alone the next day.

“What’s on your mind?” Mattis asked.

There was an interchange in the Oval Office involving the president that I should tell you about, and it’s very uncomfortable, Byers said.

“Brad, don’t you worry at all,” Mattis said. “Just tell me what happened.”

Byers explained the president had mentioned that generals weren’t tough enough on steel and aluminum tariffs and were more worried about alliances.

“Tell me exactly what he said.”

The president said, Byers recounted, “my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”

Byers could see the secretary’s mind racing to assess the situation. For the president to speak that way in front of a subordinate like Byers and others was a gross violation of a basic Leadership 101 principle—praise in public, criticize in private.

“Brad,” Mattis said, “I really appreciate your telling me that. Would you mind putting that in an email for me?”

Byers followed Mattis’s order and wrote an email to document what had occurred.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:12 pm

After an hour, Kim accepted the job. He would return. As a case officer, his job had been to assess people. Pompeo was determined, mission-focused and no-nonsense. Pompeo might be the guy who had the clout and energy to follow through, Kim reasoned.

But then again Kim had seen enough of the government and the CIA to know people with the right ideas and right energy often got sucked into bureaucratic traditions and were never able to shake themselves loose and accomplish anything. Good people wanted to be the good guy in the system and the team, make no waves, get promoted to bigger and better jobs.

The recent CIA history on covert action was bleak as well. Prior to the 2003 military invasion of Iraq, the CIA had effectively washed its hands of any possible operation to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying it was too hard.

In the CIA’s reexamination of its role following the spectacular failure of the Iraq War, the Iraq Operations Group was referred to as “The House of Broken Toys” and CIA leadership concluded it was an abdication of responsibility to not give a president covert action options. In retrospect, overthrowing Saddam through covert action, though difficult and risky in the extreme, would have been so much less costly in terms of lives and money.

Mattis planned military operations for North Korea, and Tillerson made the diplomatic efforts. Kim, in turn, planned for covert action to overthrow the North Korean leader in the event President Trump signed a formal order, called a finding, authorizing an operation.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:12 pm

In the May 8 meeting, Trump did most of the talking and would not take his laser focus off of Comey. Rosenstein saw no coherent train of thought, no logical or organized presentation of the issues, alternatives or possible consequences. No moment of concluding, here’s how the decision will be made—let alone, here’s the decision.

Rosenstein was new to White House meetings and the private Trump, so he kept quiet. He was astounded how the president’s rambling monologue continued in every way but a straight line. He found it important, though, that Trump did not say he wanted to get rid of the Russia investigation—he wanted to get rid of Comey.
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