President Donald Trump shocked and infuriated his top officials with an insulting rant against the U.S. military — and others present for the Pentagon meeting were angry that Vice President Mike Pence remained silent.
The July 20, 2017, meeting has been the subject of numerous reports, but the new book, “A Very Stable Genius,” by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, offers the most detailed account yet.
According to others who were there, the president seemed bored and annoyed by a presentation given by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who wanted to bring Trump up to speed on some basic fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy.
Trump repeatedly interrupted to ask why allies weren’t paying the U.S. for protection, and he eventually flew off the rails and began insulting individual military leaders as “losers.”
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump barked. “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
The officers in the room were shocked, and staffers looked down uncomfortably at their papers, and Tillerson was visibly angry, according to those present.
The secretary of state looked to Mattis to speak up, but later told close aides that he realized the retired Marine Corps general was incapable of challenging his commander in chief.
That left Pence, but others noticed that he seemed to wish he could escape.
“He’s sitting there frozen like a statue,” said one attendee. “Why doesn’t he stop the president?”
Another person in the room described the vice president as “a wax museum guy.”
“A total deer in the headlights,” recalled a third attendee.
Finally, Tillerson spoke up.
“No, that’s just wrong,” the secretary of state said. “Mr. President, you’re totally wrong. None of that is true.”
“The men and women who put on a uniform don’t do it to become soldiers of fortune,” Tillerson added. “That’s not why they put on a uniform and go out and die … They do it to protect our freedom.”
Military officers were grateful for Tillerson’s defense, and the meeting ended a short time later when Trump walked out.
Afterward, Tillerson famously assessed the president’s intelligence outside the meeting.
“He’s a f*cking moron,” the secretary of state said.