‘You’re screwing this up’: New book reveals Melania Trump has criticized her husband’s handling of Covid



CNN

Former President Donald Trump’s top general feared he would authorize a strike against Iran at the end of his presidency. His intelligence chief wondered what Russia had on him. A billionaire friend convinced him to buy Greenland. Half a dozen top officials considered resigning en masse.

Even his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, was “shaken by the coronavirus and convinced Trump was screwing it up,” according to a forthcoming book by Peter Baker, chief correspondent for The New York Times, and Susan, a contributor to the New Yorker and CNN Global affairs analyst Glasser is scheduled to publish on Tuesday.

In a phone call with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has maintained ties with the White House despite occasional criticism of Trump, Melania Trump sought help in convincing her husband to take the pandemic more seriously.

“‘You’re screwing this up,'” she recalled telling her husband,” the authors write. “‘This is serious. It’s getting really bad, and you have to take it more seriously than you take it.’ He had just fired her. “You worry too much,” she recalled him saying. ‘Forget it.’ ”

The knife-edge instability that marred Trump’s four-year tenure in the White House caused many of his top advisers to worry about the fate of the country. Volatility is revealed in new detail in The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021. Reporting for the book included two interviews with the former President at his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Baker and Glasser write that many of the well-known fears about Trump’s presidency were actually closer to reality than previously reported, prompting widespread attempts among those who worked for him to avert disaster.

The revelations could also predict the presidency that Trump could oversee should he return to the White House in 2025. Trump’s associates told CNN he could announce a presidential candidacy after November’s midterm elections. But as Trump Baker and Glasser said, he will not invite former Vice President Mike Pence to join his ticket after Pence refused to interfere in the certification of the 2020 election.

“That would be totally inappropriate,” Trump said. “Mike committed political suicide by not accepting votes that he knew were wrong.”

The book describes the deep concern of Trump’s national security team, led by General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others that the then-president could spark a conflict with Iran or stumble into nuclear technology in the closing days of his presidency war with North Korea.

A government official told Trump ahead of the 2020 election that if he were defeated, he should take action against Iran’s nuclear program, the authors report. “Milley told his staff at the time it was a ‘What the hell are these guys talking about?’ Wait,” they write. “Now it seemed frighteningly possible.”

Tensions with Iran penetrated even the walls of Mar-a-Lago. Trump told guests at a cocktail party over the holidays in 2020 that he was leaving early to return to Washington over fears Iran might try to assassinate him in order to stop the US assassination of the country’s top general a year ago to avenge beforehand.

Concerns about Trump’s behavior on the world stage began almost immediately after he took office. Trump’s desire to withdraw the United States from NATO was more than a passing grudge, but an ongoing effort that “was a lot more serious than people thought,” a senior White House official said — a result that overshadows the current War could have changed dramatically in Ukraine.

After a 2018 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland – after which Trump sided with Putin regarding US intelligence agencies who had determined that Russia had attempted to interfere in the 2016 election — the top US intelligence official wondered what Trump’s true motives were.

“I could never come to a conclusion. It got everyone wondering: What is it about Putin that makes him do something that undermines his credibility?” Dan Coats, then director of National Intelligence, thought of associates afterward, according to the book.

And a month-long fixation on buying Greenland from Denmark ran far deeper than previously revealed, inspired in the early days of Trump’s presidency by a wealthy New York friend, cosmetics heir Ron Lauder.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we have this?’ You look at a map. I’m a real estate developer, I look into a corner, I say, ‘I need to get this store for the building I’m building,’ etc. It’s not that different,” Trump told reporters for their book.

Lauder suggested that Trump’s then-national security adviser, John Bolton, act as a “back channel” to the Danish government. Instead, senior National Security Council officials spent months in secret talks with Denmark’s ambassador to the United States about Greenland.

Eventually, public revelations about Trump’s plans to buy the island sparked outrage in both Greenland and Denmark and thwarted efforts to bolster the US role in an increasingly strategic area. Trump called the Danish leader “nasty” for rejecting his idea and canceled a trip to Copenhagen.

Trump enjoyed friendlier relations with other world leaders but often imposed his own brand of chaos.

Baker and Glasser report Trump once abruptly called Jordan’s King Abdullah II to tell him he was “going to give them the West Bank,” prompting the monarch to tell a friend he thought he was having a heart attack.

“I couldn’t breathe. I was bent over,” he said.

And while Trump frequently boasted that then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – who was assassinated in July – had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, Trump had specifically asked Abe to do so during a dinner in New York.

“The President asked Abe at dinner to nominate him,” says a senior Trump national security official in the book.

Baker and Glasser describe previously unreported plans by members of the Trump cabinet to step down collectively amid the chaos, only to remain in their posts out of concern over who he might pick to succeed him.

In encrypted text messages, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a senior aide that five senior officials in the Trump administration — including the secretaries of defense, education and the interior — were on the verge of ceasing midterms at a particularly chaotic time leading up to 2018.

“Okay, for the first time I’m really scared for the country. The madness has unraveled,” she wrote on the news.

Trump’s demands for his team included outlandish demands like the abolition of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after it blocked one of its immigration policies.

“Let’s just cancel it,” he told Nielsen, according to the book. He told Nielsen that if such a move required legislation, “then draft a bill to ‘get rid of the damn judges,’ and have it sent to Congress as soon as possible.”

When it came to responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, it was his most trusted advisers who encouraged him to do more, particularly in the early days when Trump seemed casual given the severity of the crisis.

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