صوت العرب – واشنطن – قال كاتب صحفي أمريكي إن الرئيس الأمريكي دونالد ترامب، اتصل بوزير الدفاع جيمس ماتيس في عام 2017، وطلب منه اغتيال الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.
كشف الكاتب بوب وودوارد، في كتابه الجديد “Fear: Trump in the White House”، أو “الخوف: ترامب في البيت الأبيض”، أن الرئيس الأمريكي، أمر وزير دفاعه جيمس ماتيس، في العام الماضي 2017، بقتل الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.
وأشار وودوارد بحسب مزاعمه في الكتاب، أن ترامب أخبر ماتيس في محادثة هاتفية، إنه يريد قتل الأسد، بعدما أطلق هجوما كيميائيا مزعوما على المدنيين في شهر أبريل/ نيسان في 2017، بحسب صحيفة “واشنطن بوست” الأمريكية.
وطالب ترامب، في بداية المحادثة، مستخدما “عبارات غير لائقة” بالقضاء على الأسد، إذ قال لماتيس: “دعونا نقتله، دعونا نتصرف، دعونا نقتل الكثير منهم”، ولكن ماتيس رفض الانصياع للأمر، وقال لمساعده بعد إنهاء المكالمة: “لن نفعل أي شيء من هذا القبيل، سنتصرف بطريقة أكثر توازنا”. بحسب رواية وودوارد، التي نقلتها الصحيفة.
في المقابل، هاجم البيت الأبيض، اليوم الثلاثاء، كل الروايات التي جاءت في كتاب بوب وودوارد، ووصفها بأنها “ليست أكثر من قصص مفبركة”، نقلا عن محطة “سي إن بي سي” الإخبارية الأمريكية.
وأشار إلى أن مصدر هذه الروايات، العديد من الموظفين الساخطين السابقين، من أجل جعل صورة الرئيس تبدو سيئة”.
At a dinner with Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others, Trump lashed out at a vocal critic, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He painted the former Navy pilot as cowardly, falsely suggesting he took an early release from a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam because of his father’s military rank and left others behind.
Mattis swiftly corrected his boss: “No, Mr. President, I think you’ve got it reversed.” The defense secretary explained that McCain, who died Aug. 25, had in fact turned down early release and was brutally tortured during his five years at the “Hanoi Hilton.”
“Oh, okay,” Trump replied, according to Woodward’s account.
With Trump’s rage and defiance impossible to contain, Cabinet members and other senior officials learned to act discreetly. Woodward describes an alliance among Trump’s traditionalists — including Mattis and Gary Cohn, the president’s former top economic adviser — to stymie what they considered dangerous acts.
“It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually,” Porter is quoted as saying. “Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken.”
After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.
Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.
Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.
Cohn made a similar play to prevent Trump from pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, something the president has long threatened to do. In spring 2017, Trump was eager to withdraw from NAFTA and told Porter: “Why aren’t we getting this done? Do your job. It’s tap, tap, tap. You’re just tapping me along. I want to do this.”
Under orders from the president, Porter drafted a notification letter withdrawing from NAFTA. But he and other advisers worried that it could trigger an economic and foreign relations crisis. So Porter consulted Cohn, who told him, according to Woodward: “I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk.”
Despite repeated threats by Trump, the United States has remained in both pacts. The administration continues to negotiate new terms with South Korea as well as with its NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico.
Cohn came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cohn, who is Jewish, was especially shaken when one of his daughters found a swastika on her college dorm room.
Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis but almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.
When Cohn met with Trump to deliver his resignation letter after Charlottesville, the president told him, “This is treason,” and persuaded his economic adviser to stay on. Kelly then confided to Cohn that he shared Cohn’s horror at Trump’s handling of the tragedy — and shared Cohn’s fury with Trump.
“I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times,” Kelly told Cohn, according to Woodward. Kelly himself has threatened to quit several times but has not done so.
Woodward illustrates how the dread in Trump’s orbit became all-encompassing over the course of Trump’s first year in office, leaving some staff members and Cabinet members confounded by the president’s lack of understanding about how government functions and his inability and unwillingness to learn.
At one point, Porter, who departed in February amid domestic abuse allegations, is quoted as saying, “This was no longer a presidency. This is no longer a White House. This is a man being who he is.”
Such moments of panic are a routine feature but not the thrust of Woodward’s book, which mostly focuses on substantive decisions and internal disagreements, including tensions with North Korea as well as the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
Woodward recounts repeated episodes of anxiety inside the government over Trump’s handling of the North Korean nuclear threat. One month into his presidency, Trump asked Dunford for a plan for a preemptive military strike on North Korea, which rattled the combat veteran.
In the fall of 2017, as Trump intensified a war of words with Kim Jong Un, nicknaming North Korea’s dictator “Little Rocket Man” in a speech at the United Nations, aides worried the president might be provoking Kim. But, Woodward writes, Trump told Porter that he saw the situation as a contest of wills: “This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim.”
The book also details Trump’s impatience with the war in Afghanistan, which had become the United States’ longest conflict. At a July 2017 National Security Council meeting, Trump dressed down his generals and other advisers for 25 minutes, complaining that the United States was losing, according to Woodward.
“The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you,” Trump told them. “They could do a much better job. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing.” He went on to ask: “How many more deaths? How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?”
The president’s family members, while sometimes touted as his key advisers by other Trump chroniclers, are minor players in Woodward’s account, popping up occasionally in the West Wing and vexing adversaries.
Woodward recounts an expletive-laden altercation between Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, then the chief White House strategist.
“You’re a goddamn staffer!” Bannon screamed at her, telling her that she had to work through Priebus like other aides. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”
Ivanka Trump, who had special access to the president and worked around Priebus, replied: “I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”
Such tensions boiled among many of Trump’s core advisers. Priebus is quoted as describing Trump officials not as rivals but as “natural predators.”
“When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody,” Priebus says.
Hovering over the White House was Mueller’s inquiry, which deeply embarrassed the president. Woodward describes Trump calling his Egyptian counterpart to secure the release of an imprisoned charity worker and President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi saying: “Donald, I’m worried about this investigation. Are you going to be around?”
Trump relayed the conversation to Dowd and said it was “like a kick in the nuts,” according to Woodward.
The book vividly recounts the ongoing debate between Trump and his attorneys about whether the president would sit for an interview with Mueller. On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump’s January practice session.
Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”
“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.
Later that month, Dowd told Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”
But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.
“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.
“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”
The next morning, Dowd resigned.