Sec. Mattis: Trump Has “The Understanding Of — ‘A Fifth- Or Sixth-Grader.’ ”

DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr/CC BY 2.0

President Trump's national security team reportedly disdains his lack of knowledge or interest in world affairs.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described President Donald Trump as behaving like and having the intellect of a “fifth- or sixth-grader” following a discussion of U.S. military operations on the Korean Peninsula earlier this year, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, "Fear."

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After the meeting, Woodward said, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

According to the Post, Woodward’s book is chock full of examples of how “how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.”

In Woodward’s telling, many top advisers were repeatedly unnerved by Trump’s actions and expressed dim views of him. “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis told friends at one point, prompting laughter as he explained Trump’s tendency to go off on tangents about subjects such as immigration and the news media.