President Donald Trump‘s closest aides paint a scary portrait of the Trump presidency in a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodword.

Woodward writes that his book, Fear: Trump in the White House, is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, diaries and government documents.

The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and former staff secretary Rob Porter literally stole documents from Trump’s desk, they tried to distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.

A letter that would have withdrawn the U.S. from the free trade agreement with South Korea. Trump’s aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program. “I stole it off his desk,” Cohn said. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”


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“A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas,” said Porter, who as staff secretary handled the flow of presidential papers.

Woodward’s book also revealed, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told colleagues during discussions of the nuclear standoff with North Korea last January that “the president acted like — and had the understanding — a ‘fifth or sixth grader.'”

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly often told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward wrote. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Woodward, who began speaking to Trump’s aides even before the inauguration, also documented the misgivings of the president’s former lawyer, John Dowd, about whether the president should submit to questions from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller. “Don’t testify,” Dowd told the president. “It’s either that or an orange jump suit.”

Trump fired back on Twitter late Tuesday, calling the book “already discredited” and saying the quotes were made up “frauds.”

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