Bolton book shows nastiness rules at Trump White House

President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE felt his former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson: 'We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea' State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies Lawmakers express concern about lack of young people in federal workforce MORE was a “block of granite” and that his one-time Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds MORE had “lost his mind.”

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Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPence, other GOP officials expected to skip Trump send-off NSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order After insurrection: The national security implications MORE bemoaned former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE for his “obstructionism” and mocked Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference 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 might have been, if Trump had not acted as his own worst enemy Russia receptive to Biden proposal to extend nuclear treaty Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 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 UnLike his predecessors, Biden faces a formidable task with North Korea North Korea displays ballistic missiles at parade Pelosi's risky blunder: Talking about Trump and nuclear war 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 HaleyNikki HaleyTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Can we protect our country — from our rulers, and ourselves? In calling out Trump, Nikki Haley warns of a more sinister threat 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 ComeyBiden to keep Wray as FBI director Comey: 'Republican Party has to be burned to the ground' Juan Williams: The real 'Deep State' is pro-Trump 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.