“But I’ll let you see them,” Trump added. “I don’t want you to have them.”
A month later, in January 2020, Woodward pressed Trump on the phone to see Trump’s letter to Kim as well. “Oh, these are top secret,” Trump said, according to Woodward’s transcript of the call, highlighted in a new audiobook: “Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Remarks on President Trump 20 interviews.”
In hindsight, Trump’s comments show that he was well aware that the 27 letters exchanged between himself and Kim were classified, despite his repeated claims that documents he improperly took from the White House when he left office, including Kim’s letters , are not confidential. in that category. The FBI and Justice Department this year conducted a court-authorized search of Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club and residence — uncovering 103 documents marked classified and about 11,000 documents not marked as confidential.
The new details also add to Trump’s obsession with Kim’s letters, which he regularly brags and shows off to friends. The English translations of the letters, which Woodward serves as an appendix to the audiobook’s written record, show page by page the beauty of pen pals—birthday messages, “best wishes” to friends and family—at the time of the President and between the presidents. The authoritarian leader of one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world.
The audiobook, due out next Tuesday, features 19 original and lengthy interviews with Trump that Woodward conducted between fall 2019 and August 2020 for his book “Rage,” as well as his interviews in A 2016 interview with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. In his introduction, Woodward said the interviews were edited for clarity only.
In the December 2019 interview, Trump asked Woodward what he had done with the letters provided to him at the time, asking if he had made “a picture of them or something” — apparently referring to photocopies.
“No, I dictated them into the tape recorder,” Woodward replied, which Trump found amusing.
In an interview with The Washington Post ahead of the audiobook’s release, Woodward said Trump helped him find an aide in the West Wing, who oversaw in Woodward’s capacity — he got Kim Jong Un to Trump English translation and original Korean version of his letters – processed the documents and then dictated them all into his tape recorder.
Later, after Trump agreed to share his letters with Kim, Woodward said he returned to his office in the West Wing, where an aide watched him again read the new set of letters into a tape recorder.
In the interview, Woodward also said he had not seen any classified markings in any of the letters he received, although U.S. officials said they were classified documents.
In the narration of the audiobook, Woodward describes “Trump’s haphazard, dangerous approach to the most classified procedures and information, as we see now at Mar-a-Lago in 2022, where he has 184 classified documents, 25 of which are marked ‘Top Secret.'”
That refers to Trump’s suggestion that he controls a secret weapons system. “I’ve built a weapons system that no one has had in this country before,” Trump said in the interview, before referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We have something you haven’t even seen or heard of. We have something Putin and Xi Jinping have never heard of before.”
Trump’s long-standing obsession with strongman leaders — especially Kim Jong Un — came through in interviews. During their conversation, Trump repeated a false claim that former President Barack Obama made 11 unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with Kim Jong Un.
Woodward noted that Trump’s own military advisers had warned him that Kim was “lying to you,” and that Obama himself made no attempt to talk to Kim.
“Kim Jong Un is giving you bad information on this,” Woodward told Trump at one point. “I don’t think that’s true.”
But Trump was not persuaded, choosing to trust Kim over his own advisers.
“Obama made 11 calls,” Trump insisted. “They showed me Korean records. I’m very close to this guy. Very close.”
In a later interview, Trump boasted that he avoided war with North Korea, repeated his false claims to Obama again, and chose to trust Kim rather than his own military team: “Obama wanted it, he tried it 11 times. ,” Trump said. “Kim Jong Un told me. Eleven times.”
Elahe Izadi contributed to this report.