Turns of phrase like “baked in the cake” and “shocking, but unsurprising,” have become cliché in the Trump era, but a Monday report by the journalist Carl Bernstein presented a damning overview of President Donald Trump‘s conduct on the world stage, particularly as it relates to his conversations with other leaders.
Writing for CNN, Bernstein, who is best known for his reporting on the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, talked to multiple sources over a four-month period. The sources were anonymously cited in the story but largely confirmed details that had been previously reported by other outlets and testified to in public hearings.
Overall, these sources painted a scathing portrait of a U.S. president who bullies and belittles allies while fawning over autocratic leaders. The White House did not respond to a request for comment from CNN before publication.
One person familiar with Trump’s conversations with leaders from Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe described the calls to CNN as “abominations.”
A source told the outlet that Trump subjected French President Emmanuel Macron to lectures and verbal “whippings” on issues like trade, immigration, and NATO.
Trump behaved in a “near-sadistic” manner toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s predecessor, Theresa May, according to one source. Several other sources confirmed the detail to CNN as well.
Some of the harshest depictions of Trump as lacking preparedness on critical issues stem from his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During their phone calls, according to CNN and previous media reports, Trump often boasts about himself and builds up his business acumen while repeatedly praising the Russian leader and seeking his approval.
The US president “gives away the advantage that was hard won in the Cold War” and has “given Russia a lifeline,” a high-level administration official told CNN.
Another administration official told CNN that Putin “just outplays” Trump. Another source said that sometimes their conversations resemble that of “two guys in a steam bath.”
One source told CNN that Trump “gave away the store” when he decided to pull US Troops from Syria, handing a massive victory to both Turkey and Russia.
More broadly, Trump is said to have little knowledge of issues related to Syria and the Middle East and to have been unprepared to discuss critical policy issues with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.