CNN: In Calls With Foreign Leaders, Trump Derided Allies, Kissed Up To Dictators
President Donald Trump has spent his first term regularly bullying and demeaning the leaders of America’s allies, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with his conversations, saving his most vicious attacks for two women heads of state.
At the same, time the president has cozied up to dictators, often fawning over them, bragging about himself, and blasting his predecessors as incompetent.
- CNN reported that Trump told “Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom she was weak and lacked courage,” and said to “German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was ‘stupid.’"
- The way Trump demeaned and denigrated the two women was described by one source as “near-sadistic”, which other other sources confirmed.
"Some of the things he said to Angela Merkel are just unbelievable: he called her 'stupid,' and accused her of being in the pocket of the Russians ... He's toughest [in the phone calls] with those he looks at as weaklings and weakest with the ones he ought to be tough with."
- A German official described Trump’s calls with Merkel as “very aggressive,” telling CNN that special measures have been taken to keep contents of the calls secret.
"It's just a small circle of people who are involved and the reason, the main reason, is that they are indeed problematic."
- Trump’s calls with May, who served as the UK Prime Minister from 2016 to 2019 “were described as ‘humiliating and bullying,’ with Trump attacking her as "a fool" and spineless in her approach to Brexit, NATO and immigration matters,” CNN reported.
- The news outlet quoted sources saying that Merkel remained calm in the face of Trump’s attacks, but May became "flustered and nervous" during conversations with the American president.
- One source said Trump “clearly intimidated her and meant to.”
Trump attacked male heads of state as well, which CNN’s sources said included “French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- in the same hostile and aggressive way he discussed the coronavirus with some of America's governors.”
But with the world’s strongmen, Trump has taken a different approach, according to CNN’s sources.
Trump incessantly boasted to his fellow heads of state, including Saudi Arabia's autocratic royal heir Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, about his own wealth, genius, "great" accomplishments as President, and the "idiocy" of his Oval Office predecessors, according to the sources.
- CNN also reported that in calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, “Trump took special delight in trashing former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and suggested that dealing directly with him -- Trump -- would be far more fruitful than during previous administrations.”
- The sources said that Trump’s conversations with these two leaders “were particularly egregious in terms of Trump almost never being prepared substantively and thus leaving him susceptible to being taken advantage of in various ways, according to the sources -- in part because those conversations (as with most heads of state), were almost certainly recorded by the security services and other agencies of their countries.”
In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his "unprecedented" success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and "stronger" he is than "the imbeciles" and "weaklings" who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin's admiration and approval.
- One source added that calls between Trump and Putin often sound like “two guys in a steam bath.”
- CNN’s sources “characterized Trump's calls with heads of state in the aggregate as evidence of Trump's general ‘unfitness’ for the presidency on grounds of temperament and incompetence.”
One commonality between Trump’s phone calls with both authoritarian leaders and leaders of the world’s democracies, however, is Trump’s “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.”
"There was no sense of 'Team America' in the conversations," or of the United States as an historic force with certain democratic principles and leadership of the free world, said the official. "The opposite. It was like the United States had disappeared. It was always 'Just me'."
The president's calls with foreign leaders "caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders."
In fact, the sources said some former senior officials became convinced "that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States."