When Donald Trump was elected president, he asked then-President Barack Obama what his biggest problem would be after taking office.
North Korea, Obama said. Privately, Obama told Trump that “you will go to war with North Korea during your time in the White House.”
“Well, Mr. President, have you called him?” Trump asked, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“No, he’s a dictator,” Obama replied.
Or so the story goes, according to presidential historian Doug Wead’s new book, “Inside Trump’s White House: The Real Story of His Presidency,” which is based on a number of exclusive interviews with President Trump, his family members, and others in the Trump orbit.
Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck said that “politics is the art of the possible,” but Trump operates in the realm of the impossible, Wead said in an interview with The Epoch Times for the “American Thought Leaders” program.
Trump believes “that a businessman takes on the impossible. You do the most difficult thing first, then you move to the next most difficult thing,” Wead said. The president took Obama’s words to heart and swiftly took steps to neutralize the threat of nuclear war.
“That was his instinct: You’ve got a problem with somebody? You call him. And that’s what he did with Kim Jong Un,” Wead said.
When Trump assumed the presidency, relations with Kim had reached a breaking point. The North Korean regime boasted that its nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles could hit U.S. soil, and the Trump administration threatened a military strike. Trump later told Wead that a war with North Korea had been “unbelievably close.”
But, in 2018, Trump became the first sitting president to meet the leader of North Korea, and for the first time, a North Korean leader crossed the border into South Korea for a summit with President Moon Jae-in. The two pledged to formally conclude the Korean War, which had ended in 1953 with an armistice instead of a peace treaty. The Trump administration also successfully secured the release of three U.S. prisoners and the remains of many U.S. soldiers who had gone missing during the Korean War.
Trump’s approach to North Korea is just one among numerous stories intricately woven together and recorded for posterity in Wead’s new book, which was published on Nov. 26.
Wead breaks down, in detail, the highs and lows of Election Day, when Trump was initially told by his children that he had lost.
He paints a nuanced picture of the man who decided to rip up his original victory speech after he saw on television Hillary Clinton’s supporters at the Javits Center in tears. And he tells Trump’s story through the eyes of his family, as someone who was brave enough to take on the political establishment, even if it meant little reward for himself.
“He’s very, very instinctive,” Wead said.
When Wead walked into the Oval Office for one of his interviews with the president, Trump was holding letters—his correspondence with Kim—and waving them above his head.
“Nobody’s seen this. My people don’t want me to give these to you. But I want you to read them,” Trump told Wead.
“He had just decided that morning: ‘I’m going to let you voice record me. I’m going to give you access to everybody in the family, everybody in the White House,’” Wead said. “Before the day was over, he arranged for me to have a special room in the White House, where I could sit and take my time and read.
“‘I have to feel chemistry with someone, and I feel chemistry with you.’ That’s how he explained it,” Wead said.
And so it was that Wead was given unprecedented access to the president and members of his family.
Too many books about Trump are filled with hearsay and anonymous sources, Wead said.
“It nags on me. Why doesn’t anybody go on record?”
Years from now, Wead said, historians will look back, and “they’re going to want to know, what did the president say? What did Jared and Ivanka say? What did Don Jr. say? What did Tiffany, Laura, and Eric, what did they say? And that’s what I wanted to capture.”
Betrayal by America’s Elites
“For years, I could see that my father was very frustrated with politicians in the United States,” Eric Trump told Wead. “He would read a story in the newspaper and he would just roll his eyes.”
Trump was exasperated by the endless wars abroad, the decline of U.S. infrastructure, the proliferation of opioids, the bad trade deals, and the continued transfer of American wealth abroad, Eric told Wead.
From the time that Ivanka Trump was a little girl, her father was ripping out pages of The New York Times lamenting what America’s elites—both Republican and Democrat—were doing to America, Wead said.
All this time, “he’s hoping that somebody’s going to come along and run for president and clean this up and nobody ever does,” Wead said.
Trump watched as Republican and Democratic presidents welcomed communist China into the World Trade Organization and gave China most favored nation status. They paved the way for the rise of communist China and enabled “the largest transfer of wealth in human history, outside of the Middle East, of America’s wealth to China,” Wead said.
“Imagine how much money it’s taken to pull China out of poverty. And the American middle-class has done that,” he said.
“The president knows that the decisions he has to make vis-a-vis China are the toughest decisions he will make,” Wead said. And he understands that the American people won’t fully appreciate his decisions, such as placing hefty tariffs on Chinese products, Wead said.
Trump is the sixth U.S. president Wead has interviewed; he’s also conversed with six first ladies and 30 siblings and children of different presidents.
In his interviews with the presidents, he says the only common denominator was that they were all great listeners.
“When I found that with Trump, I was surprised because on TV, you only see him talking, you don’t see him listening,” Wead said. “My whole perspective on the president changed immediately when I met him.”
During one of Ivanka Trump’s interviews with Wead, she told him, “he is really very compassionate.”
Wead details in his book: “All her life, even in her teens, Ivanka would be called into his office, where he would tear off a piece of the morning newspaper and say, ‘Ivanka, find this person.’ It might be a person whose apartment had burned, destroying everything he had owned. Once, it was a young woman whose father had been murdered in the Bronx, and prosecutors would not make the arrest.”
Ivanka eventually found the woman, who had been left impoverished, and her father offered to help her and give her a job, Wead wrote.
One of America’s most shameful secrets was the many U.S. hostages held abroad, Wead told The Epoch Times. Previous administrations had failed to secure their release.
“I’ve spoken with the families of these hostages. Democrat, Republican—they don’t care. They had loved ones that they cared about who were beheaded and who were tortured and raped,” Wead said.
“They were told by the American government, keep quiet,” Wead said. He says the rationale was that if they increased the publicity surrounding a hostage, it would increase the value of the hostage, and make it harder to free that person. And more Americans abroad would likely be imprisoned to blackmail the United States.
“There was this period of darkness, a shameful period where nothing could be said about the hostages,” Wead said.
“If it’s your son or daughter, your only hope is the federal government. And they won’t keep you informed? They won’t tell you what’s going on? They won’t let you use your money or your abilities to try to bring them home?”
Trump “was outraged by that,” Wead said. Since taking office, he has successfully freed 22 hostages.
Trump refused to offer money in exchange.
“He did the reverse: We’re taking their money, and we’re going to squeeze them until they let them go” was his rationale, Wead said.
In his book, he highlights the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been imprisoned in Turkey for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a designated terrorist organization in Turkey. The government in Ankara had produced no evidence, so Brunson couldn’t refute any of the charges against him.
The Trump administration made several agreements with Turkey to secure Brunson’s release, but the Turks backed out of them, Brunson told Wead later in an interview.
Trump pressured Turkey by putting sanctions on two of its officials, doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey, and engaging Congress and the European Parliament to exert pressure as well. The Turkish lira tumbled, and on Oct. 12, 2018, Trump welcomed Brunson and his family to the White House.
Trump “brought the Turkish economy to the brink over one man, and he got him home,” Wead said.
Before the book was published, Wead said he began receiving death threats against him and his family from different IP addresses in an attempt to stop him from releasing his work.
“They named my family members and details about their life that would only come from a great deal of research,” Wead said.
“These are unusual times,” he added.
Wead believes the anti-Trump resistance wanted to impeach Trump as soon as he won the election.
“So it had nothing to do with Russian collusion, because that came later; it had nothing to do with the phone call to Ukraine because that came later,” Wead said.
“The national media and the establishment,” are still reeling from the humiliation that U.S. voters didn’t vote how they were told to, Wead said.
As Wead highlighted in his book, Trump’s victory defied all expectation:
“He had been opposed by Hollywood, academia, Wall Street, and the national media. Every living president, Republican and Democratic, had voted against him. Two-hundred-and-forty newspapers had endorsed his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Nineteen had supported him. Billionaires had voted against him 20 to one.”
In addition, right after the election, economist Paul Krugman wrote, “We are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight.”
But contrary to the predictions of economic fallout, the economy boomed, and now boasts more than 7 million job openings.
“That’s the entire population of the state of Indiana in unfilled jobs,” Wead said.
Wead said Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—who plays a much larger role in the Trump administration than people think—once remarked to Trump that it was thanks to the media’s total fixation with the Russia collusion narrative that the Trump administration was able to deregulate.
“The cutting of regulations could have been big stories. Instead, they were blind to what we were doing, and we were able to jump-start the economy,” Kushner told Wead.
In writing his book, “What I wanted to do was get accurate stories, real stories down on paper—truth on paper,” Wead said.
“I told Ivanka, you know, in 100 years from now, there are still going to be books written and dramas performed about the Trump family. But whether they’re viewed hatefully as the Borgias or as the Medicis or as grandly as the Kennedys or the Rockefellers or some great family, all of that depends on what is written and said about them now,” he said.
“Not the hearsay, but the primary sources.”