Bolton book shows nastiness rules at Trump White House

President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE felt his former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHow the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban Trump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report McEnany: Trump likes to hire people with 'countervailing viewpoints' MORE was a “block of granite” and that his one-time Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSupreme Court blocks order that relaxed voting restrictions in Alabama Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Tuberville campaign bus catches fire in Alabama MORE had “lost his mind.”

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE passed a note expressing that Trump was “full of shit” on negotiations with North Korea and expressed frustration about senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Mueller investigation witness George Nader sentenced to a decade in prison in child sex case Trump World boils over as campaign hits skids MORE's expansive foreign policy portfolio.

Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Bolton book sells 780,000 copies in first week, set to surpass 1M copies printed MORE bemoaned former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report MORE for his “obstructionism” and mocked Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? On The Money: Economy adds 4.8M jobs in June | Unemployment to average 6.1 percent through 2030: CBO | Mnuchin says no regrets on pushing to reopen MORE for his belief that “a deal was always in sight” no matter who the other party was.


Back-biting and behind the scenes mockery is constant in the Trump White House, according to a new book from Bolton that has become the talk of Washington, D.C. The former official describes an atmosphere where Trump often pits aides against one another, where Cabinet officials bad-mouth the president behind his back and where vindictiveness is commonplace.

The Hill obtained a copy of Bolton's book ahead of its scheduled publication next week. The Justice Department has sought an emergency order to block its publication, though multiple media outlets have already reported on its contents.

Trump’s feuds with former Cabinet officials are well known as he tends to ridicule them publicly once they've left the government. But Bolton's book makes clear the president is often fixated on aides he dislikes or distrusts.

During a meeting the morning of Trump’s 2018 summit with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinWhat must our Gold Star Families think? Putin: Rainbow flag at US Embassy in Moscow 'revealed something about the people that work there' With US sidelined, Macron's hubris and hypocrisy are on full display MORE in Helsinki, Bolton wrote that the president “mostly complained about Jeff Sessions for his latest transgression, saying he had ‘lost his mind.’”

Trump would bring up Tillerson even after he had left the job, calling him “terrible” and bringing up how much he disliked him during conversations with Bolton, according to the book.

And Trump frequently voiced suspicion about Mattis, the widely respected general who in recent weeks has emerged as the latest outspoken critic who used to work for the president.


“He’s a liberal Democrat, you know that, don’t you?” Trump allegedly told Bolton during the flight to Helsinki.

“He’s leaving,” Trump informed Bolton after Mattis resigned in late 2019. “I never really liked him.”

Bolton portrays other Cabinet officials as equally willing to return the favor. Former chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE lashes out in frustration regularly throughout the book, lamenting that Trump “doesn't care what happens” to U.S. military members and fretting “What if we have a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions?”

More surprisingly, Bolton chronicles multiple instances where Pompeo is critical of the president.

The secretary of State has been among Trump’s most loyal allies, but Bolton wrote that Pompeo was exasperated over Trump's attempted nuclear diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korea nixes idea of more talks with US Trump's Mount Rushmore stunt will backfire The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time MORE.

Bolton also writes that Pompeo took issue with the president's insistence on withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan; and called it “horrific” when Trump abruptly told reporters the U.S. was withdrawing from a nuclear treaty with Russia.

“Even when Pompeo and I thought we had Trump decided on one candidate, we were often wrong,” Bolton wrote of the effort to find a replacement for Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyIf the US wants a better WTO, it should lead the way Bolton book shows nastiness rules at Trump White House George Floyd's brother calls on United Nations to study police brutality in US MORE as ambassador to the United Nations. “As Pompeo said at the November G20 meeting, ‘You can’t leave him alone for a minute.’”

But the worst offender is Bolton. The book is stocked with recurring criticisms from the author of Trump, Mattis and Mnuchin in particular.

He described the president as “stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government.”

Bolton bemoans that Mnuchin “seemed as concerned with mitigating the impact of sanctions as with imposing them to begin with.”

The former national security adviser chastised the Treasury secretary for his confidence that a deal could be struck whether it was “with Turkish fraudsters or Chinese trade mandarins,” and he described the former Goldman Sachs executive as “eager” to participate in White House meetings and presidential trips.

Bolton targets Mattis throughout the book over what he describes as “obstructionism” in accomplishing his desired policy objectives such as withdrawing from treaties or taking a hard line against Iran. He also recounts telling Trump that the former Defense secretary “has a high opinion of his own opinion.”


“He may have established a reputation as a warrior-scholar for carrying with him on the battlefield a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, but he was no debater,” Bolton wrote of Mattis.

The White House's response to the book has only served to further underscore the nastiness that Bolton illustrates. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday posited that Bolton had taken the title of “most disliked man in America” from former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBolton book sells 780,000 copies in first week, set to surpass 1M copies printed The Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing A new age of lies? MORE.

And Trump has unleashed on Bolton over the last 24 hours, deriding his former aide in interviews and on Twitter as a “wacko,” a “liar” and “washed up.” 

“He wasn’t liked at all, and wasn’t respected very much,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “And as we got to know him, he was respected less and less. Personally, I thought he was crazy.”

Steve Clemons, Reid Wilson and Morgan Chalfant contributed.