Trump’s calls with foreign leaders pose a ‘danger to national security’, say anonymous officials

Anonymous officials paint a portrait of a bullying president obsessed with his own image and highly vulnerable to manipulation

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 30 June 2020 13:27 BST
Carl Bernstein on Trump's conversations with allies and adversaries

In a lengthy report for CNN, Carl Bernstein quotes several White House advisers describing Donald Trump’s phone conversations with foreign leaders in the most damning terms — even going so far as to say his ignorance and erratic temperament have compromised US interests abroad.

According to Mr Bernstein, who together with Bob Woodward conducted the Watergate investigation that ultimately brought down Richard Nixon, the concerns about Mr Trump’s telephone conduct were shared by some of his most senior appointees, including national security advisers, secretaries of state and chiefs of staff.

Among the sources’ disturbing accounts are descriptions of Mr Trump regularly going off topic to boast of his own “strength” and “genius”, and to compare himself favourably to Barack Obama and George W. Bush, whom one source said he referred to as “imbeciles”.

“The common, overwhelming dynamic that characterises Trump’s conversations with both authoritarian dictators and leaders of the world’s greatest democracies,” writes Mr Bernstein, “is his consistent assertion of himself as the defining subject and subtext of the calls — almost never the United States and its historic place and leadership in the world, according to sources intimately familiar with the calls.”

Alongside his self-interested approach, the officials interviewed by Mr Bernstein recount that Mr Trump has repeatedly hectored and belittled female leaders — including Germany’s Angela Merkel and the UK’s Theresa May — while unwittingly allowing Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan to manipulate him away from the US’s stated goals.

The influence of Mr Erdogan in particular is a theme of the piece. Some White House officials describe incidents where Mr Erdogan has managed to contact Mr Trump on his personal phone, including on the golf course, to discuss matters such as the Syrian conflict, about which Mr Trump was reportedly “woefully uninformed”.

As for Mr Putin, Mr Trump is described as “deferential” to the Russian president, more interested in earning personal respect than in safeguarding American and Western interests against the Kremlin’s interference and malfeasance.

According to Mr Bernstein, one official put it in the strongest of terms, saying Mr Trump “gives away the advantage that was hard won in the Cold War”.

Asked for comment, White House spokesperson Sarah Matthews said: “President Trump is a world class negotiator who has consistently furthered America’s interests on the world stage. From negotiating the phase one China deal and the USMCA to NATO allies contributing more and defeating ISIS, President Trump has shown his ability to advance America’s strategic interests.”

The story’s detailed picture of a president ill equipped to deal with foreign powers acting in contradiction to US foreign policy comes just as Mr Trump faces a growing scandal in the form of intelligence reports that Russia has paid bounties to militants and mercenaries in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.

The central allegation is that Mr Trump was briefed on the intelligence earlier this year, but has done nothing to act on it since. The White House has over the last several days disputed the existence of the intelligence, the certainty of it, and the idea that Mr Trump was not briefed; however, its shifting story has been contradicted by reports that the intelligence did indeed feature in the president’s daily briefing in late February.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in