Top players inside President Donald Trump's White House routinely went behind his back to thwart him — including a stunning instance in which his top economic adviser snatched a document off his desk to avoid a potentially disastrous decision on trade, according to a new book that reveals life inside the chaotic administration.
The book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," by famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, contains astonishing anecdotes showing how little top aides and lawyers to the president trusted him to do or say the right things, or make the appropriate decisions.
Former Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward throughout his career
Former Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward throughout his career
Author and journalist Bob Woodward. His new book , 'Obama's Wars' is his about the Obama adminstration's decisions on Afganistan and the war on terror. Photographed in NYC. 29th September 2010. (Photo by David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 5/7/1973-Washington- The Washington Post won the 57th annual Pulitzer Prize for distinguished public service in journalism for its investigative reporting of the Watergate scandal. In annoucing the gold medal award, the trustee of Columbia University cited two Post reporters, Carl Bernstein (left), 29, and Robert Woodward (right), 30. Both are shown in the city room shortly after the announcement. UPI Photograph BPA2# 2696
Former Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (L) and Carl Bernstein (R) speak at the head table before the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, U.S. April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Bob Woodward (Photo by ï¿½ Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 3: Journalist Bob Woodward (L) arrives at Trump Tower, January 3, 2017 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Bob Woodward arrives for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on January 3, 2017 in New York. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: Journalist Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh pose for a photo at an Afternoon Tea hosted by the British Embassy to mark the U.S. Presidential Inauguration at The British Embassy on January 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward eulogizes his former boss and Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee at the Washington National Cathedral October 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. Bradlee died at his home in Georgetown October 21, 2014 at the age of 93. Bradlee was at the helm of the newspaper from 1968 to 1991, during which time it published the Pentagon Papers and stories documenting the Watergate scandal, leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Carl Bernstein, Nora Ephron and Bob Woodward (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Journalist Bob Woodward attends the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
SLUG: NA/DEEPTHROAT DATE SHOT: 04/29/73 - April 1973 (Flatbed scan 05/31/2005 EEL) CREDIT: Ken Feil/TWP Bob Woodward (left) and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post newsroom. (Photo by Ken Feil/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JANUARY 22: Two-time Pultizer Prize winning author and journalist Bob Woodward speaks at Broward College's A. Hugh Adams Central Campus Institue of public safety on January 22, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 08: U.S. Senator of Kentucky Rand Paul and The New York Post Associate Editor and Moderator Bob Woodward speak onstage during 'Why Can't Tech Save Politics?' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 17: Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee discuss Watergate - 30 years later;the second of the day;on George Washington University campus. (Photo by Robert A. Reeder/Washington Post/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Bob Woodward, Associate Editor, The Washington Post, left, and Katty Kay, Anchor, BBC World News America, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, NOV. 3, 2013. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Bob Woodward, associate editor at The Washington Post, speaks during the annual conference of the National Association of Counties (NACo) March 4, 2013 at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. Woodward discussed his new book 'The Price of Politics' and had a book signing for his readers. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 17: American journalist Bob Woodward making a phonecall before a radio show taping on June 17, 1974 in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Bob Woodward speaks during the 'All The Presidents Men Revisited' screening at The Newseum on April 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) ? Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News, left, and Bob Woodward, Associate Editor, Washington Post, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington D.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 02: Journalist Bob Woodward attends Chris Matthews' 'Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero' book release party at The Hay-Adams on November 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
Spirit of Hope Gala guest, (L-R) CNN political analyst David Gergen, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, former press secretary Robert Gibbs and Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward talk during a press conference Tuesday May 31, 2011 at Beth Tzedec Synagogue. The expert panel was in Toronto to talk about some of the most critical issues in new today ranging from the Arab spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden to emerging threats to western democracies and the future of Israel. (Photo by Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
LS.Woodward#1.IS.7/11. Bob Woodward who has written a new book on the election called 'The Choice.' appearing on a TV show at Kï¿½CAL in Los Angeles. PHto Iris Schneider. (Photo by Iris Schneider/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
— Gary Cohen, who served as Trump's top economic adviser until March, "stole a letter of Trump's desk" that the president was going to sign that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade pact with South Korea. According to Woodward, Cohn told a colleague that Trump never noticed.
— In April 2017, Trump called Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and ordered the assassination of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after the strongman attacked his own people with chemical weapons. "Let's f---ing kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the f---ing lot of them," Trump said, the book alleges.
Mattis told Trump he would proceed with such a plan, but immediately told an aide, after getting off the phone with the president that, "We're not going to do any of that. We're going to be much more measured." He, along with Trump's national security team, then put together plans for the retaliatory airstrike that the administration eventually carried out.
— John Dowd, who served as Trump's personal lawyer for matters related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation until March, when he resigned, was so concerned that Trump would perjure himself if he submitted to an interview with Mueller's team that he put together a mock question-and-answer sessions with Trump to prove his case.
The session happened In January, according to Woodward, and during it Trump contradicted himself repeatedly and eventually got angry. "This thing's a goddamn hoax," Trump said, according to Woodward, adding that, "I don't really want to testify."