From Bolton to Mattis, Trump Faces Aides Turned Adversaries
(Bloomberg) -- As President Donald Trump’s battle for re-election heats up, he faces an unusual and potent foe: a raft of former top aides and Cabinet members -- including John Kelly, James Mattis, and now, John Bolton -- who have turned against him.
It’s normal to have dissent in the ranks, but the list of Trump advisers turned detractors is striking in its size, the seniority of its members and the vehemence of their critiques -- especially for a president known to prize loyalty above all else.
Their proximity to Trump has brought a devastating level of detail and credibility to their appraisals of his tenure. Perhaps the most damaging came when Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, released a tell-all memoir -- “The Room Where It Happened” -- painting a deeply unflattering picture of the president.
While Trump and his allies have disputed Bolton’s account, the book adds to an already difficult time for Trump, dominating news cycles for a full week as public opinion polls indicated his popularity was already sagging over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the wave of protests over the deaths and mistreatment of Black Americans at the hands of police.
Meanwhile, Trump has returned fire, hurling insults at his former appointees on Twitter. Their hirings count among the few actions for which Trump has come close to faulting himself.
Here’s a look at some of the most prominent converts:
Bolton says Trump ‘not fit for office’
Bolton, who was ousted from the White House last year, said in his book that Trump’s foreign policy was almost entirely dictated by re-election concerns, and that House Democrats should have broadened their impeachment probe beyond Ukraine. He revealed that Trump explicitly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win re-election by buying more U.S. farm goods.
“I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job,” Bolton told ABC News, adding that he won’t vote for Trump. The 2020 election is the last “guardrail” to protect the country from him, he said.
Trump claims that Bolton broke the law by publishing classified material in the book, but he’s also said its allegations are false. Since excerpts began to surface, Trump has tweeted that Bolton is “grossly incompetent,” “wacko,” a “disgruntled boring fool,” and “a dope.”
Mattis says Trump ‘tries to divide us’
Mattis, a retired four-star general, abruptly abandoned his vow to refrain from criticizing his former boss when Trump threatened earlier this month to use the U.S. military to quell domestic protests.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis said in a letter.
Mattis, who resigned in 2018 citing policy differences with Trump, has been promoting a book he co-wrote -- “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” published in 2019.
Trump, who repeatedly praised Mattis from the announcement of his nomination, has since referred to him as “our country’s most overrated general.”
Kelly says U.S. should ‘look harder at who we elect’
Kelly, the second of Trump’s four chiefs of staff, publicly backed Mattis’s statement this month, in his most pointed criticism of the president yet.
“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” said Kelly, who like Mattis is a retired four-star general.
Trump tweeted this month that Kelly “knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper.”
Scaramucci says Trump to be ‘humiliated’ by Biden
Anthony Scaramucci’s 11-day tenure as White House communications director was exceptionally brief, but he has emerged as one of the sharpest critics among Trump’s former officials. He routinely criticizes Trump on Twitter and television, and has predicted he’ll lose handily to Democrat Joe Biden.
“He is about to be HUMILIATED, and he knows it,” the financier recently tweeted. He’s helping to organize Republican opposition to the president.
Trump has called Scaramucci a “highly unstable nut job” and “mental wreck” who “was totally incapable” in his White House job.
Tillerson says Trump ‘doesn’t like to read’
Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive who became Trump’s first secretary of State, has been cautious about criticizing the president in public. But reports of his private musings have rankled Trump.
Tillerson was reported to have called Trump a “moron,” and told an interviewer that the president “doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather just kinda says, ‘Look, this is what I believe.”’
Tillerson has said he thinks Trump grew tired of him telling the president that his preferred policies weren’t feasible or were illegal.
When Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state, Trump predicted he would “be a star!” Since then, Trump has called Tillerson “dumb as a rock and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State.”
Shulkin attends Biden fundraiser
Trump fired David Shulkin, his first secretary of veterans affairs, in 2018 by announcing his replacement in a tweet. Shulkin quickly pushed back, warning that Trump advisers and political appointees had orchestrated his ouster because he resisted privatizing medical care for veterans.
Shulkin later published a book titled “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country.” Trump hasn’t yet publicly disparaged him.
The former Trump Cabinet member attended a fundraiser for Biden last week in New York.
Manigault-Newman says Trump is ‘truly a racist’
Former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault-Newman joined the administration upon Trump’s inauguration, becoming one of the only non-white officials in Trump’s White House. She, too, published a critical book after leaving her post.
Manigault-Newman has said Trump is “truly a racist,” and claimed to have been offered $15,000 a month from the Trump campaign in exchange for her “silence.”
Trump has called her “disgusting and foul mouthed” and a “lowlife,” who “never made it, never will.”
Communications aide Sims calls White House ‘Team of Vipers’
Former White House communications aide Cliff Sims published a tell-all book called “Team of Vipers,” writing that top White House officials regularly leaked information to reporters, that the president compiled an enemies list, and that Trump gave West Wing tours in which he pointed out where Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky allegedly had their trysts.
Trump has called Sims a “mess” and accused him of overstating his influence. “He pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer,” the president tweeted.
Sims’ tweets have recently been generally supportive of the administration.
Keep an eye on ...
McMaster book to be published in September
Bolton’s predecessor, H.R. McMaster, left after clashing with Trump over the U.S. posture toward Russia -- McMaster agreed with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 U.S. election on Trump’s behalf, drawing a public rebuke from Trump before he was ousted.
McMaster, a three-star general, hasn’t publicly criticized Trump since leaving the administration, but he’s scheduled to publish a book in September, just ahead of the election.
Sessions says Trump ‘damn fortunate’ he was AG
The abuse mostly flows one-way in the relationship between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his ex-boss, who has endorsed Sessions’ opponent Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary for an Alabama Senate seat.
Trump said in a May tweet that Sessions “let our country down” by recusing himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, paving the way for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“I did my duty and you’re damn fortunate I did,” Sessions retorted.
But on Saturday, Sessions tweeted effusive praise for Trump’s performance at his under-attended Tulsa rally. “Masterful! Unleashed! Winning Message!! @JoeBiden cannot match this,” he wrote.
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