Trump knew Kim’s letters were classified, says new Woodward audiobook


In December 2019, after then-President Donald Trump shared with journalist Bob Woodward the flattering letters that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had written to him, the US leader appeared to acknowledge that he should not show them.

After urging Woodward to “treat them with respect,” Trump warns in an interview, “and don’t say I gave them to you, okay? »

“But I’ll let you see them,” Trump adds. “I don’t want you to have them all.”

A month later, in January 2020, Woodward pressed Trump in a phone call to also allow him to see the letters Trump wrote to Kim. “Oh, it’s so top secret,” Trump says, according to notes of the call taken by Woodward and highlighted in a new audiobook: “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Trump.”

In hindsight, Trump’s comments show he was well aware that the 27 letters exchanged between him and Kim were classified, despite his repeated claims that none of the documents he improperly took from the White House on leaving office , including Kim’s letters, were in this category. The FBI and Justice Department this year executed a court-authorized search of Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club and residence – uncovering 103 classified marked documents and about 11,000 classified unmarked documents as part of the investigation. an ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of sensitive material. .

The new details also provide further evidence of Trump’s constant obsession with Kim’s letters, which he often bragged about and showed to his friends. The English translations of the letters, which Woodward includes as an appendix to a written transcript of the audiobook, show page after page of the intricacies of correspondent – birthday news, “best wishes” for friends and family – between the president of the era and the autocratic leader of one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

The audiobook, out next Tuesday, contains 19 raw, lengthy interviews Woodward conducted with Trump between fall 2019 and August 2020 for his book “Rage,” as well as an interview he conducted with the reporter from the Washington Post Robert Costa in 2016. The interviews, Woodward says in his introduction, have been edited for clarity only.

During the December 2019 interview, Trump asks Woodward what he did with the letters he provided him at the time, asking if he made them “a Photostat or something” – apparently referring to a photocopy.

“No, I dictated them into a tape recorder,” Woodward replies, to Trump’s amusement.

In an interview with The Post ahead of the audiobook’s release, Woodward said Trump helped him settle in with an assistant in the West Wing, who oversaw as Woodward – who received both the translations English and original Korean versions of Kim’s letters to Trump – manipulated the documents and dictated them all into his tape recorder.

Later, after Trump agreed to share his letters with Kim, Woodward said he returned to a West Wing office, where an aide watched him again as he read the new series of letters in his tape recorder.

In the interview, Woodward also said that he did not observe any classified marks on any of the letters given to him, although US officials said they were classified documents.

In an aside from the audiobook, Woodward describes “the casual and dangerous manner in which Trump handles the most classified programs and information, as we have seen now in 2022 at Mar-a-Lago, where he had 184 classified documents, 25 of which were marked ‘Top Secret’.”

This was in reference to Trump implying that there was a secret weapons system that he controlled. “I built a weapon system that no one in this country has had before,” Trump said in an interview, before referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We have things you haven’t even seen or heard of. We have things that Putin and Xi have never heard of before.

Trump’s lifelong obsessions with strongmen — and Kim in particular — shine through in the interviews. Throughout their conversations, Trump repeats the false claim that former President Barack Obama made 11 unsuccessful attempts to reach Kim.

Woodward points out that Trump’s own military advisers warned him that Kim is “lying between your teeth” and that Obama made no attempt to speak with Kim himself.

“Kim Jong Un gave you the wrong information about this,” Woodward told Trump at one point. “I don’t think that’s true.”

But Trump is unconvinced, choosing to believe Kim rather than his own advisers.

“Obama called 11 times,” insists Trump. “They showed me the records in Korea. I’m very close to this man. Very close.”

In a later interview, Trump brags about avoiding a war with North Korea, again repeating his false assertion about Obama and choosing to believe Kim rather than his own military team: “Obama wanted, 11 times he tried” , said Trump. “Kim Jong Un told me. Eleven times.

Elahe Izadi contributed to this report.

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