In a taped conversation with Bob Woodward, Donald Trump boasted about US nuclear weapons development.
“I have built a weapon system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” the then president told the veteran Washington Post reporter. “We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before.”
The recording aired on CNN on Tuesday, the day Woodward published The Trump Tapes, an audio book of 20 interviews carried out as Woodward wrote three bestsellers on the Trump presidency, Fear, Rage and Peril (the last co-written with Robert Costa).
Woodward said he looked into Trump’s claim and was told by an official it was true.
“Xi [Jinping] and [Vladimir] Putin would not know about” the weapons system, Woodward said. “But why is Trump bragging about it?”
Trump’s cavalier attitude to nuclear issues has landed him in hot water elsewhere. Documents dealing with nuclear weapons policy were reportedly among classified material recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home, by the FBI in August.
That is just one front on which Trump remains in legal jeopardy, others including his incitement of the January 6 insurrection, his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his business affairs and a defamation suit from a writer who says Trump raped her.
Trump denies wrongdoing and maintains a lead in polls concerning the Republican presidential nomination. He is reportedly trying to appoint senior campaign aides, including, according to the Post, the Republican operative behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks on John Kerry 20 years ago.
Woodward, 79, made his name half a century ago, during the Watergate scandal which forced Richard Nixon from office. Nixon resigned when threatened with impeachment. Trump was impeached twice but acquitted by Senate Republicans.
On CNN, Woodward said: “I once said to Trump, because he was kind of asking, ‘What do you think the president’s job is?’ And I said, it is to ascertain the next stage of good for a majority of people in the country, not one party or a bunch of interest groups, and then develop a comprehensive plan and execute it.
“And he said: ‘Oh, that’s good. That’s great.’ Never did he do this.”
Trump “doesn’t understand democracy”, Woodward said, adding: “The United States was one of the rare countries formed on an idea. And that idea is democracy.
“Trump doesn’t understand that the January 6 committee has proven that. He does not understand that he’s got to take care of the people. He’s got to give them advice, warning. And he didn’t do this.”
CNN also played a clip of Woodward asking Trump, in summer 2020, if the Covid pandemic had made him say to himself, “Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?”
Trump answered emphatically: “No.”
Woodward said: “He’s dismissing any responsibility he has. And that no is like a thunderclap: ‘I’m walking away from this.’”