Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward asked in an Oval Office interview with then-President Donald Trump in December 2019 whether his bellicose remarks about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were designed to bring Kim to the negotiating table.
“No. No. It was designed for any reason, it was designed. Who knows? Instinct. Let’s talk about intuition, shall we?” Trump said. “Because it’s really about you don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s very gross words. The grossest.”
Trump then instructed his aides to show Woodward a photo of him in the DMZ with Kim. “It’s me and him. That’s the line, right? And then I crossed the line. Cool. You know? Cool. Right?” the president said.
Trump’s views on his relationship with Kim Jong Un — and his admission that he has no broader strategy behind his threat to have a ‘bigger’ nuclear button — is part of a new audiobook being released by Woodward . The book, titled “The Trump Tapes,” contains 20 interviews Woodward conducted with Trump from 2016 to 2020.
CNN obtained a copy of the audiobook ahead of its Oct. 25 release, which included the reporter’s more than eight-hour original interview with Trump, interspersed with Woodward’s comments.
The interviews offer candid insight into the former president’s worldview and are the most extensive recordings of Trump talking about his presidency — including explaining the reasons for his meeting with Kim Jong Un, his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin , and Trump’s detailed views on the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The audio also shows how Trump decided to share with Woodward letters from King that helped spark a Justice Department investigation into classified documents Trump brought to Mar-a-Lago.
“Don’t say I gave it to you, okay?” Trump told Woodward.
In his introduction to the book, Woodward said he released the recordings in part because “hearing Trump speak is a completely different experience than reading transcripts or listening to clips of interviews on TV or the Internet.”
He described Trump as “raw, profane, divisive and deceitful. His language is often vindictive.”
“However, you’ll also hear him being engaging, entertaining, laughing, and always the host. He’s trying to win me over to sell me his presidency. A full-time salesman,” Woodward said. “I want to put as much of Trump’s voice, his own words, in the historical record as possible so people can hear, judge and make their own assessments.”
Most of the interviews were for Woodward’s second book, “Rage,” which revealed that Trump told Woodward on February 7, 2020 that Covid-19 was a “deadly thing,” but still Publicly downplayed it.
While the blockbuster revelations in Woodward’s book, audio clips from the interview are a clear reminder of how Trump can be president and a candid look at Trump’s thinking as he prepares to run for the White House again in 2024 and motivation.
In the interview, Trump shared his thoughts on the strongmen he admires — including Kim, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and revealed his overarching belief that He’s the smartest guy in the room.
In June 2020, following nationwide protests against George Floyd, Woodward asked Trump in an interview if he had helped write his speech, in which Trump asked Claiming to be the “President of Law and Order”.
“I get it, I get people. They come up with ideas. But the ideas are mine, Bob. The ideas are mine,” Trump told Woodward in a June 2020 interview. “Because of knowing what? Everything is mine. You know, everything. Every part of it.”
The 20 interviews included in the audiobook began in March 2016, when Woodward and his then-Washington Post colleague Robert Costa interviewed Trump while he was a presidential candidate. The remaining interviews were conducted in 2019 and 2020.
In a December 2019 interview, Woodward questioned Trump about North Korea’s nuclear program, prompting the president to tout America’s nuclear weapons capabilities while appearing to reveal a new — and potentially highly classified — weapon system, which is one of the most high-profile incidents in North Korea. “anger.”
Woodward said he could never be sure what Trump was referring to, although he noted that Trump’s comments reaffirmed the former president’s “casual, dangerous way” with classified information.
“I’ve built a weapons system that no one has had in this country before,” Trump told Woodward. “We have something you haven’t even seen or heard of. We have Putin and Xi Jinping from before. unheard of.”
Throughout the interview, Trump referred to his relationship with Putin, accusing the FBI investigation of Russian election meddling for undermining his chances of improving relations between the two countries.
“I like Putin. We should have a good relationship. I’m running with Russia, China and everyone else,” Trump said in a January 2020 interview. “Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing, okay? Especially since they have 1,332 nuclear warheads.”
In a rare self-reflection, Trump noted that the “harder, meaner” leader he has had the better relationship.
“I get along well with Erdogan, even though you shouldn’t because everyone says what a horrible person he is. But you know it’s worked out well for me,” Trump said in 2020 said in an interview in January.
“It’s funny, the tougher and meaner my relationships are, the better I get along with them. You know?” he continued. “Explain it to me someday, alright. But maybe it’s not a bad thing. The easy ones are the ones I probably don’t like or get along with.”
Woodward’s audiobook also includes unprecedented interviews with Trump’s then-national security adviser Robert O’Brien, his deputy Matthew Pottinger, and behind-the-scenes audio from Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
In a February 2020 call with Woodward, Trump turned the call over to Kushner to arrange interviews with other Trump advisers.
“Basically what I’ve heard from the president is that I’m working for you right now, so I’m going to make myself available on that schedule, and I’ll make sure to give you a good list,” Kushner said.
“I want you to know that I don’t fantasize about you working for me. I know you work for Ivanka, right?” Woodward joked.
Kushner smiled. “Okay, okay, you get it. You get it. That’s probably why you became Bob Woodward. Exactly.”
Throughout the recording, Trump’s advisers, allies and family — including Donald Trump Jr., Melania Trump, senators. Lindsey Graham, Hope Hicks and others can be heard in the background. The audio offers a glimpse into Trump’s inner circle, as in a 2016 exchange when Trump was asked if he wanted government employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, his son chimed in.
“I won’t get next week’s salary until I sign one,” Donald Trump Jr. said. Just kidding.
At the end of “The Trump Tapes,” Woodward declares that his own past critical assessments of Trump’s presidency have fallen short. In “Rage,” Woodward wrote, “Trump is not for the job.”
Now, Woodward said, “Trump is an unparalleled danger. The record now shows that Trump has led — and will continue to lead — a demagoguery conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 election, which is actually undermining the democracy.”