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Mattis slept in his clothes anticipating North Korean missile launches, new report says

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Jan. 18, 2018, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Department of Defense)
September 10, 2020

Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis slept in his clothes during U.S.-North Korea tensions in 2017 amid concerns about new missile launches, according to an excerpt from veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book “Rage,” which will release next week.

According to an excerpt from Woodward’s book obtained by CNN, administration officials were concerned in 2017 after North Korea launched two dozen missiles, including its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It is during this concerning period that Mattis reportedly slept in his clothes in preparation for a quick response to a North Korean missile launch.

According to the book, Trump administration officials were uncertain whether a nuclear conflict would break out with North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quoted as saying, “We never knew whether it was real or whether it was a bluff.”

The concerning period came shortly after President Donald Trump took office and warned North Korea would see, “Fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before” if they threatened the U.S.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea did eventually calm and Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in a pair of meetings in 2018 and 2019. However, talks between the two reportedly stalled out over disagreements on sanctions, and Kim later imposed a 2019 year-end deadline to reach a deal or cease talks, which the Trump administration allowed to pass without a deal.

Woodward’s book does describe Trump’s efforts to negotiate with Kim and gets into the details surrounding Trump’s thinking. An excerpt of the book, reported by CNN, includes letters Kim sent to Trump in an effort to flatter the U.S. president, calling Trump “Your Excellency” and saying he felt a “deep and special friendship” with Trump that “will work as a magical force that leads the progress of the DPRK-US relations.”

Woodward’s book “Rage” serves as the sequel to his first on the Trump presidency, titled “Fear: Trump in the White House.” The new book details the inner workings of Trump’s presidency and controversial decisions in the past two years of his term. It is based partially on 18 on-the-record conversations with Trump between December 2019 and July 2020 and other on-the-record and anonymous sources providing background.

According to the Washington Post, Mattis, Coats and others provided “brutal assessments” of Trump from their time working in his administration.

Mattis left the administration at the end of 2018, following Trump’s call to withdraw U.S. troops deployed in Syria. Mattis had previously been steadfast in his refusal to disparage Trump following his departure from the administration but Mattis has increasingly spoken out against the Commander-in-Chief.

Mattis, among other things, has said Trump was using divisive tactics to stop civil unrest following the death of Goerge Floyd and said Trump made a “mockery of our constitution” after riot police cleared protesters out of Lafayette Square near the White House.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported on audio from one interview between Trump and Woodward on March 19, in which Trump described downplaying concerns about the coronavirus pandemic to avoid a panic.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s comments during a Wednesday press briefing saying, “At a time when you’re facing insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence, it’s important to express calm.”

McEnany noted that Trump said publicly on March 30th, “I do want them to stay calm” in regards to how Americans view the coronavirus.

In a Wednesday interview with Fox News, Dr. Anthony Fauci also said he “didn’t get any sense [Trump] was distorting anything” with regards to internal White House discussions about the coronavirus and Trump’s later public statements.

“When we would get up in front of the press conferences, which were very, very common after our discussions with the president, he really didn’t say anything different than we discussed when we were with him,” Fauci said. “I may not be tuned in to the right thing that they’re talking about. But, I didn’t see any discrepancies between what he told us and what we told him, and what he came out publicly and said.”