Washington (CNN) — During a December 2019 Oval Office interview with then-President Donald Trump, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward asked him if his bellicose rhetoric toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been intended to bring Kim to the table. talks.
“No. No. It was designed for whatever reason, it was designed. Who knows? Instinctively. Let’s talk about instinct, okay?” Trump said. “Because it’s really about you not knowing what’s going to happen. But it was very harsh rhetoric. The harshest.”
Trump then ordered his aides to show Woodward his photos with Kim in the demilitarized zone. “This is me and him. That’s the line, right? So I went over the line. Very good. You know? Pretty good. Right?” the then president said.
Trump’s take on his relationship with Kim, and his admission that he had no broader strategy behind the threats he made about having a “much bigger” nuclear button, are part of a new Woodward audiobook titled, “The Trump Tapes”, which contains the 20 interviews that the journalist conducted with Trump from 2016 to 2020.
CNN obtained a copy of the audiobook ahead of its Oct. 25 release, which includes more than eight hours of the journalist’s unedited interviews with Trump interspersed with Woodward’s comments.
The interviews offer an unvarnished look at the former president’s worldview and are the most extensive recordings of Trump speaking about his presidency, including an explanation of his reasons for meeting with Kim, his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and views Trump’s detailed statements on the US nuclear arsenal.
The audio also shows how Trump decided to share with Woodward the letters that Kim wrote to him, the letters that helped trigger the Justice Department’s investigation into the classified documents Trump brought to Mar-a-Lago: “And don’t say you got them.” I taught, okay?” Trump told Woodward.
Woodward says in the book’s introduction that he is publishing the recordings in part because “hearing Trump speak is a completely different experience than reading the transcripts or listening to snippets of interviews on television or on the Internet.”
He describes Trump as “crude, profane, divisive and deceitful. His language is often vengeful.”
“However, he also sounds likeable and entertaining, laughing, always the host. He’s trying to win me over, to sell me his presidency. The full-time salesman,” Woodward said. “He wanted to put most of Trump’s voice, his own words, for the historical record and so people could listen and judge and make their own assessments.”
Most of the interviews were conducted for Woodward’s second book on Trump, “Rage,” which revealed that Trump told Woodward on February 7, 2020 that covid-19 was “something deadly,” but still downplayed it. publicly.
Although the most important revelations were published in Woodward’s book, the audio clips of the interviews are a stark reminder of how Trump acted as president and provide a candid look at Trump’s thinking and motivations as he prepares for another potential run for president. the White House in 2024.
“It’s All Mine”
In the interviews, Trump shares his thoughts on the strongmen he admires, including Kim, Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and reveals his general belief that he is the smartest person in the room.
In a June 2020 interview, which followed the national protests over George Floyd, Woodward asked Trump if he had help writing his speech declaring himself “president of law and order.”
“I understand, I understand people. They come with ideas. But the ideas are mine, Bob. The ideas are mine,” Trump told Woodward in a June 2020 interview. “You want to know something? It’s all mine. You know, everything. Every part.”
The 20 interviews contained in the audiobook begin in March 2016, when Woodward and then-Washington Post colleague Robert Costa interviewed Trump when he was a presidential candidate. The rest of the interviews were conducted in 2019 and 2020.
In the December 2019 interview, Woodward grilled Trump about North Korea’s nuclear program, prompting the president to boast about US nuclear weapons capabilities while appearing to reveal a new, and likely highly classified, , weapons system, which was one of the most striking episodes of the book “Rage”.
Woodward says he was never able to establish what Trump was referring to, though he notes that Trump’s comment reaffirmed the “casual and dangerous way” the former president dealt with classified information.
“I have built a weapons system that no one has ever had in this country,” Trump told Woodward. “We have things that you haven’t even seen or heard of. We have things that Putin and Xi have never heard of.”
Throughout the interviews, Trump references his relationship with Putin, blaming the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference for ruining his chances of improving the relationship between the two countries.
“I like Putin. Our relationship should be very good. I campaigned to get along with Russia, China and everyone else,” Trump said in an interview in January 2020. “Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing, right?” okay? Especially since they’ve got 1,332 f***ing warheads.”
In a moment of rare self-reflection, Trump noted that he had better relationships with leaders “the tougher and meaner they are.”
“I get along with Erdogan very well, even though you’re not supposed to because everyone says he’s a horrible guy. But you know it works fine for me,” Trump said in a January 2020 interview.
“It’s funny, the relationships I have, the harder and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know?” he continued.
“Explain that to me someday, okay. But maybe it’s not a bad thing. The easy ones are the ones that I might not like as much or get along with as well.”
New audio from Trump’s inner circle
Woodward’s audiobook also includes never-before-heard interviews with Trump’s then-national security adviser Robert O’Brien, his deputy Matthew Pottinger, as well as behind-the-scenes audio with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
During a call with Woodward in February 2020, Trump hands Kushner the phone to set up interviews with other Trump advisers.
“What I’ve heard from the president is basically that I work for you now, so I’ll make myself available to you around that time and make sure I get you a good roster,” Kushner said.
“I want you to know that I’m under no illusions that you work for me. I know you work for Ivanka, right?” Woodward joked.
Kushner laughed. “Okay, fine, you get it. You get it. That’s probably why you’re Bob Woodward. It’s true.”
Throughout the recordings, a number of Trump advisers, allies and family members can be heard in the background, including Donald Trump Jr., Melania Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Hope Hicks and others. The audio offers an inside look at Trump’s inner circle, such as a 2016 exchange when Trump was asked if he expects government employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, and his son chimed in.
“I’m not going to get next week’s pay until I sign one,” Donald Trump Jr. joked.
In the epilogue to “The Trump Tapes,” Woodward states that his own past assessments critical of the Trump presidency were not strong enough. On “Rage,” Woodward wrote, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”
Now, Woodward says, “Trump is a danger beyond compare. The data now shows that Trump led, and continues to lead, a seditious conspiracy to nullify the 2020 election, which is in effect an effort to destroy democracy.”