During Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, President Donald Trump “strongly considered” dropping the nominee and instead going with a “stronger candidate,” according to a new book by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
It wasn’t because of accusations that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while in high school, but because he’d professed that he “liked beer” during his hearings and was, in Trump’s estimation, being too apologetic.
Meadows writes that Trump, a teetotaler who was “extremely put off” by Kavanaugh’s professed affection for suds, proposed the idea of dropping Kavanaugh during a flight on Air Force One while Meadows was still a sitting congressman. Meadows advised against it for fear the “blowback would be severe.”
At the time he was having private reservations about Kavanaugh, Trump was publicly fighting for his confirmation, mocking Blasey Ford’s testimony at a rally and brushing off concerns from GOP lawmakers about his viability as a Supreme Court nominee.
The new book by Meadows, “The Chief’s Chief,” contains several such insights into how the Trump presidency worked, largely while casting the 45th president in a glowing light. Meadows’ book, out on Tuesday, defends Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, offers intimate details about the state of Trump’s health, takes shots at Trump critics and echoes Trump’s paranoia about leaks to the press as he speculates by name about who exactly was talking to reporters.
At times, it reads like a hagiography. Meadows, for example, compares Trump’s speech upon returning to the White House after his Covid-related hospitalization at Walter Reed to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“Although the prose wasn’t quite as polished as the Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, it had the same compressed, forceful quality that had made President Lincoln’s words so effective at the time they were delivered,” Meadows writes.
But Meadows’ book also provides revelations that have reportedly angered Trump. The main ones concern Trump’s health as he battled Covid-19 in the fall of 2020. He reveals that Trump tested positive for Covid ahead of his first presidential debate with Joe Biden, potentially exposing dozens of individuals to infection and that Trump’s blood oxygen levels dipped to “dangerously low” levels, all while the White House painted a different picture of the president’s health.
Meadows acknowledges that while Trump tried to project a picture of strength, privately, he was battling serious symptoms of the virus while at Walter Reed.
“It was clear that the staff at Walter Reed was prepared for a long stay — weeks, maybe longer,” Meadows writes. “I wasn’t happy to hear that, but I also knew it probably wasn’t going to happen. If the president had his way, we would be up and out the door in a day or so.”
Ahead of Meadows’ book release, Trump has attempted to muddy characterizations of an excerpt that said he tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of his debate with Biden and may have exposed dozens of individuals to the virus. A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
For all his praise of Trump, Meadows offers plenty of criticism of those in Trump’s orbit. He describes his chief of staff predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, as out to lunch as the White House scrambled to respond to the pandemic at the beginning of March as cases were on the rise. Mulvaney was in Las Vegas on a golf trip, Meadows writes, and suggests that made Trump apoplectic.
“Let’s just say displeased when he learned this news. I don’t know who was in the room with him when he found out, but I certainly don’t envy them,” Meadows writes.
Meadows also says Trump was “furious” when news leaked to the press that he retreated to a secure bunker beneath the White House as violent protests over the murder of George Floyd erupted in Washington. Meadows writes that Trump demanded to know who leaked the news and ordered him to find out who it could be.
“I could already tell, based on the way the story was reported, that the leaker was probably not someone with firsthand knowledge of Secret Service protocols,” Meadows wrote. “To this day, everyone has a theory about where the leak came from. If I had to bet, I would say that it was probably Stephanie Grisham, Emma Doyle, or someone from the VP’s team.” Grisham was chief of staff to the first lady, and Doyle was deputy chief of staff for policy to the first lady in the White House at the time.
Throughout his book, Meadows — like his boss — pays close attention to press coverage, taking note of positive and negative coverage, mentioning reporters by name, and discussing Trump’s famous media diet.
Meadows takes repeated swipes at Fox News and its Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, who he said rebuffed his entreaties to cover Trump more favorably (Meadows portrays this as heretical). Sammon, he writes, told him he did “not answer to the president’s chief of staff, and your opinion on Fox’s programming is not important to me.”
Meadows, peeved that Dana Perino’s show had aired a Biden rally instead of one from Trump, responded by threatening to block White House officials from going on her show through the election.
Fox News did not return a request for comment.
Lately, Meadows says Trump has been pressed by supporters about whether or not he will run again in 2024. Meadows recounts a somber conversation with Trump after the Biden administration’s bungled Afghanistan withdrawal this summer and says following recent phone calls with Trump, he has walked away with a new mission from the former president — to start preparing for a second term.
“In short,” Meadows writes, “I was given the task of finding secretaries and undersecretaries who wouldn’t undercut the president. It is a challenge that I look forward to tackling.”