Watergate journalist Bob Woodward has shared some of the extraordinary statements Trump made while being interviewed for his upcoming book, Rage.
Woodward, whose reporting on president Richard Nixon helped to lead to his resignation, interviewed Trump 18 times between December and July.
From downplaying coronavirus to bragging about secret nuclear weapons, here's five of the most shocking things Trump said while speaking on the record to one of the US's most famous and respected journalists.
1. Trump deliberately downplayed the threat of coronavirus
The president was fully aware of the threat of coronavirus. On 7 February, he told Woodward:
You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.
It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.
But publicly, Trump downplayed the disease.
He repeatedly told reporters that coronavirus would simply "disappear" and implied it wasn't as deadly as the flu.
In another interview with Woodward in February, Trump explained his reasoning for doing this.
I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.
White House press secretary Kayley McEnany denied Woodward's claim that Trump ever downplayed coronavirus, telling reporters:
The president never downplayed the virus, once again. The president expressed calm. The president was serious about this.
But Trump himself appeared to partially acknowledge Woodward's claim. He told reporters:
I don't want people to be frightened, I don't want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.
We want to show confidence, we want to show strength.
2. Trump expressed frustration that Black people aren't grateful for all he has done for them.
Woodward tried to explain the concept of white privilege to the president.
Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me, and I think lots of white, privileged people in a cave. And that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly Black people feel in this country?
Unsurprisingly, Trump dismissed this out of hand.
No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.
To 'drink the Kool-Aid' is to believe something ridiculous and possibly even dangerous – the phrase refers to the cyanide-laced soft drink almost a thousand cult members poisoned themselves with during the Jonestown Massacre.
Trump, who loves to tell reporters that he's done more for Black Americans than any other president since Lincoln, then went on to complain:
I’ve done a tremendous amount for the Black community. And, honestly, I’m not feeling any love.
3. Trump bragged about having top secret nuclear weapons.
In one interview, Trump said to Woodward:
I have built a nuclear— a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before.
We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody... what we have is incredible.
According to The Washington Post, Woodward was able to confirm this with other sources who expressed their "surprise that Trump disclosed it".
4. Kim Jong-un only smiles around Trump — according to him.
Trump is rather taken with North Korea's dictator.
He described him as "far beyond smart" and bragged about the flattering letters he's received from him. He added:
I'm the only one he smiles with.
Aside from being a very odd thing to be proud of, it's also untrue.
Kim Jong-un has smiled in various photos without him.
Trump also claimed that Jong-un considered Barack Obama to be an "asshole".
5. Trump likes "tough" and "mean" world leaders.
Aside from Kim Jong-un, Trump is also an admirer of authoritarian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Reflecting on this, Trump said:
It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them.
You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?
Woodward, like the rest of us, was baffled.
In spite of the fact his words were on the record, Trump has attempted to paint Rage as a "hit job".
He told Fox News's Sean Hannity:
He does hit jobs with everybody, he even did it on Obama. Constant hit jobs. On Bush, I guess they did three books, they were all terrible.
So I figured, you know? Let’s just give it a little shot. I’ll speak to him, it wasn’t a big deal. Speak to him, and let’s see.
I have no idea if the book is good or bad, I have no idea. Probably… I’ll almost definitely not read it because I don’t have time to read it. Sounds like it’s not going to be good.
Extracts of Woodward's recordings can be found in The Washington Post.
They offer a partial insight into the revelations we can expect from Rage, which will be released in full on 15 September.