Washington (CNN) – During an Oval Office interview in December 2019 with then-President Donald Trump, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward asked him if his aggressive rhetoric toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was intended to bring Kim to the negotiating table.
“No, it was designed for whatever reason. Who knows? Instinctively. Let’s talk about instinct, okay?” Trump said. “Because it’s really about not knowing what’s going to happen. But it was a very harsh speech. It was even harsher.”
Trump then ordered his aides to show Woodward his photos with Kim at the demilitarized zone. Then the president said, “That’s me and him. That’s the line, isn’t it? You crossed the line. Very well. You know?”
Trump’s view of his relationship with Kim, and his admission that he does not have a broader strategy behind the threats he has made about a “much bigger” nuclear button, are part of Woodward’s new audiobook “Trump Tapes,” which contains 20 interviews the journalist gave Trump from 2016 to 2020.
CNN obtained a copy of the audiobook ahead of its October 25 release, which includes more than eight hours of the journalist’s unedited interviews with Trump interspersed with Woodward’s comments.
The interviews provide a clear look at the former president’s worldview, and are the most comprehensive recording of Trump talking about his presidency, including an explanation of the reasons for his meeting with Kim, his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a detailed presentation of Trump’s statements about his presidency. US nuclear arsenal.
The audio also shows how Trump decided to get involved with Woodward the Letters Kim wrote to himthe letters that helped run Ministry of Justice investigation On the secret documents Trump brought to Mar-a-Lago: “And don’t say I showed them to you, okay?” Trump told Woodward.
In the book’s foreword, Woodward says he’s publishing the recordings in part because “hearing Trump speak is a very different experience than reading texts or listening to excerpts from interviews on TV or the Internet.”
He describes Trump as “rude, profane, divisive and deceitful. His language is often vindictive.”
“Nevertheless, he seems likable and fun, laughing, always the host,” Woodward said. “He’s trying to lure me, to sell his prime. The full-time seller.” I wanted to put most of Trump’s votes and words into the historical record so that people could listen, judge, and make their own assessments.
Most of the interviews were done for Woodward’s second book on Trump, “The Rage,” which revealed that Trump told Woodward on February 7, 2020 that COVID-19 was a “deadly thing,” but he still publicly downplayed it.
Although the most important revelations were published in Woodward’s book, the audio clips of the interviews are a stark reminder of how Trump is behaving as president and provide a candid look at Trump’s thinking and motivation as he prepares for another potential election for president. in 2024.
“It’s all mine”
In interviews, Trump shares his thoughts on strongmen he admires, including Kim, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and reveals his general belief that he is the smartest person in the room.
In a June 2020 interview, following the national protests against George Floyd, Woodward asked Trump if he had helped write his self-proclaimed “President of Law and Order” speech.
“I understand, I understand people. They come up with ideas. But ideas are mine, Bob. Ideas are mine. Do you want to know something? It’s all about me. You know, everything. Every part,” Trump said in an interview with Woodward in June 2020. “.
The 20 interviews featured in the audiobook began in March 2016, when Woodward and then-Washington Post colleague Robert Costa interviewed Trump while he was a presidential candidate. The rest of the interviews were conducted in 2019 and 2020.
In a December 2019 interview, Woodward questioned Trump about North Korea’s nuclear program, leading the president to boast about US nuclear weapons capabilities while appearing to reveal a new, potentially top-secret weapons system, which was one of the most striking episodes. for attention. The book “Anger”.
Woodward says he was unable to substantiate what Trump was referring to, though he noted that Trump’s comment reconfirmed the “unofficial and dangerous way” the former president handled classified information.
“You built a weapons system that no one in this country had before,” Trump told Woodward. “We have things you haven’t seen or even heard of. We have things Putin and Xi haven’t heard of.”
During interviews, Trump referred to his relationship with Putin, and blamed the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference for destroying his chances of improving the relationship between the two countries.
“I love Putin,” Trump said in an interview in January 2020. “Our relationship must be very good. I’ve campaigned to get along with Russia, China and everyone else.” Right? “Well? Especially since they have 1,332 warheads.”
In a rare moment of self-reflection, Trump noted that he had better relationships with leaders “the tougher and miserable they were.”
“I get on with Erdogan very well,” Trump said in a January 2020 interview, “even though you’re not supposed to because everyone says he’s a terrible guy. But you know it’s working fine for me.”
He continued, “It’s funny, the relationships I have, the rougher and more miserable they are, the better I can handle them. You know?”
“Explain it to me someday, okay. But maybe it’s not a bad thing. The easy things are the ones I might not like very much or get along with either.”
A new voice from Trump’s inner circle
Woodward’s audiobook also includes previously unheard of interviews with then-Trump National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and his deputy, Matthew Pottinger, as well as a behind-the-scenes audio recording with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
During a call with Woodward in February 2020, Trump hands the phone to Kushner for interviews with other Trump advisers.
“What I’ve heard from the president is that I’m working with you right now, so I’m going to save myself for you around that time and make sure I have a good list for you,” Kushner said.
“I want you to know that I’m under no illusion that you work for me. I know you work for Ivanka, right?” Woodward joked.
Kushner laughed. “Okay, well, I got it. I got it. Maybe that’s why you’re Bob Woodward. That’s right.”
During the recordings, a number of Trump advisers, allies and family members can be heard in the background, including Donald Trump Jr, Melania Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, Hope Hicks, and others. The audio offers an inside look at Trump’s inner circle, like a 2016 exchange when Trump was asked if he expected government employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, and his son entered.
“I won’t get paid next week until I sign one,” Donald Trump Jr. joked.
In the finale of The Trump Tapes, Woodward stated that his previous assessments criticizing the Trump presidency were not strong enough. “Trump is the wrong man for the job,” Woodward wrote of the “anger.”
Now, Woodward says, “Trump is an incomparably dangerous. Data now shows that Trump led, and continues to lead, an inflammatory plot to cancel the 2020 election, which is in effect an attempt to destroy democracy.”
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