US President Donald Trump had nearly ordered the assassination of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, last year and once called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, “mentally retarded”, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward of which some details were made known to the public.

“Fear: Trump in the White House,” to be released September 11, is an analysis of the chaos in the West Wing by Woodward. His work in The Washington Post to unravel the Watergate case contributed to the resignation of President Richard Nixon (1969-1974).

Among the details released was an episode in April 2017, when Trump responded angrily to reports of a chemical attack by the Assad regime on civilians in Syria.

“Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s get in there and kill all those fucking people,” Trump said in a phone conversation with his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis.

The Pentagon chief replied that he would get the ball moving, but when he hung up the phone Mattis told an advisor that they would not do “any of that”. Instead, they would organize a “much more contained” response: the bombing of a Syrian airbase that Trump finally ordered.

President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad and Perisdent DOnald TrumpScreenshot
President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad and Perisdent Donald Trump (Screenshot)

Woodward’s book portrays several moments in which Trump’s advisors have tried to dissuade or even trick him into not giving in to his most extreme impulses.

For example, the man who until last March was the White House’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, once stole a letter that Trump had on his desk and planned to sign. It was an order to withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea, and the president did not find out, according to Woodward.

When, in early 2017, Trump asked his advisor Rob Porter to write a letter to initiate the U.S. withdrawal process from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he consulted Cohn, who replied, “I will stop this. I’ll take the paper off your desk,” according to the book.

Woodward also claims that Trump once said about his attorney general: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s a southern (U.S.) fool. He wouldn’t even be allowed to be a third-rate lawyer in Alabama.”

And White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” during a meeting, comparing the West Wing to “a crazy town,” according to the reporter.

Kelly denied in a statement that he called Trump an “idiot,” and the White House accused Woodward of filling his book with “fabricated stories” to insult the president.