Melania Trump criticized her husband’s handling of covid-19, reveals new book

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s top general feared he would authorize an attack on Iran when his presidency ended. His intelligence chief wondered what Russia had on him. A billionaire friend convinced him to try to buy Greenland. Half a dozen top officials considered resigning en masse.

Even his wife, first lady Melania Trump, was “mortified by the coronavirus and convinced that Trump was screwing up,” according to a forthcoming book by New York Times White House chief correspondent Peter Baker and New Yorker writer and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser set to publish Tuesday.

In a phone call with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who maintained ties to the White House despite occasional criticism of Trump, Melania Trump sought help convincing her husband to take the pandemic more seriously.

“‘You’re screwing up,’ she remembers telling her husband,” the authors write. “‘This is serious. It’s going to be very bad, and you need to take it more seriously than you already are.’ He had just ignored her. ‘You worry too much,’ she remembered him saying. ‘Forget it.'”

The knife-edge instability that clouded Trump’s four-year tenure in the White House led many of his top advisers to worry about the fate of the country. The volatility is laid bare in new detail in the book “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021.” The book’s report included two interviews with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Baker and Glasser write that many of the known fears about the Trump presidency were, in fact, closer to reality than previously reported, prompting widespread attempts among those who worked for him to avert disaster.

The revelations could also predict the presidency Trump could oversee if he returns to the White House in 2025. Trump aides told CNN he could announce a presidential bid after the November midterm elections. But, as Trump told Baker and Glasser, he will not invite former Vice President Mike Pence to join his candidacy after Pence refused to interfere with the certification of the 2020 election.

“It would be totally inappropriate,” Trump said. “Mike committed political suicide by not taking votes that he knew were wrong.”

The book outlines deep concerns among Trump’s national security team, led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and others, that the then-president would launch a conflict with Iran in the final days of his presidency or stumbled into a nuclear war with North Korea.

An administration official told Trump before the 2020 election that if he lost, he should attack Iran’s nuclear program, the authors report. “Milley at the time told her staff that it was a ‘What the hell are these guys talking about?’ moment,” they write. “Now, it seemed frighteningly possible.”

Tensions with Iran even permeated the walls of Mar-a-Lago. Trump told guests at a cocktail party over the 2020 holidays that he would be leaving early to return to Washington out of fear that Iran might be trying to assassinate him to avenge the US assassination of the country’s top general a year earlier.

Concerns about Trump’s behavior on the world stage began almost as soon as he took office. More than a passing grudge, Trump’s desire to withdraw the United States from NATO was, in fact, a sustained effort that was “much more serious than people thought,” said a senior White House official, a a result that could have dramatically altered the current war in Ukraine.

After a 2018 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland — in which Trump sided with Putin on US intelligence agencies that had determined Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election — America’s top intelligence official was left wondering what Trump’s real motives were.

“I was never able to come to a conclusion. The question arose in everyone’s mind: What does Putin have on him that leads him to do something that undermines his credibility?” Dan Coats, the then director of national intelligence, reflected after the associates, according to the book.

And a months-long fixation on buying Greenland from Denmark went much deeper than previously revealed, inspired in the early days of the Trump presidency by a wealthy friend from New York, cosmetics heir Ron Lauder.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we have that?’ Take a look at a map. I’m a real estate developer, I look at a corner and say, ‘I have to get that store for the building I’m building,’ etc. It’s not that different,” Trump told reporters for his book. .

Lauder approached then-Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton to act as a “secret conduit” for the Danish government. Instead, top National Security Council advisers engaged for months in secret talks with the Danish ambassador to the United States over Greenland.

Eventually, however, public revelations about Trump’s plans to buy the island sparked outrage in both Greenland and Denmark, thwarting any efforts to enhance the US role in an increasingly strategic area. Trump called the Danish leader “nasty” for rejecting his idea and canceled a trip to Copenhagen.

Trump enjoyed friendlier relations with other world leaders but often imposed his own brand of chaos.

Baker and Glasser report that Trump once abruptly called Jordan’s King Abdullah II to inform him that he was “going to give him the West Bank of the Jordan,” prompting the monarch to tell a friend he thought he was having a heart attack. .

“I couldn’t breathe. I was doubled over,” he said.

And while Trump often liked to tout that Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—who was assassinated in July—had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, Trump had explicitly made the request to Abe over dinner at New York.

“The president asked Abe over dinner to nominate him,” a senior Trump national security official said in the book.

Baker and Glasser outline previously unreported plans by members of Trump’s cabinet to resign collectively amid the chaos, only to remain in their posts out of concern over who Trump might pick to replace them.

In encrypted text messages, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a senior aide that five top Trump administration officials — including the secretaries of Defense, Education and the Interior — were about to resign amid a dispute. particularly chaotic period before the intermissions of 2018.

“Ok, for the first time I am afraid for the country. The madness has been unleashed,” he wrote in the messages.

Trump’s demands on his team included outlandish requests like the abolition of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after it blocked one of his immigration policies.

“We’re going to cancel it,” he told Nielsen, according to the book. He told Nielsen that if such a move required legislation, “then write a bill to ‘get rid of the f***ing judges’ and send it to Congress as soon as possible.”

Yet when it came to his response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was his most trusted advisers who encouraged him to do more, particularly in the early days when Trump seemed unconcerned about the severity of the crisis.