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Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: "I'm not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot".

The book by Woodward, slated for official release on September 11, poses a hefty new challenge to a White House already besieged by multiple investigations and a looming election that could damage Trump's Republicans. Woodward, who helped break the Watergate scandal over 40 years ago, is still a highly respected Washington journalist.

How has the president responded?

That's according to the veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear", which documents the chaos of the Trump White House - including Trump's desire to scuttle some of the world's largest free-trade agreements.

"This guy is mentally retarded", Trump once said of Sessions. Likewise other stories and quotes.

In a statement, Dowd said that he had not read Woodward's book and pushed back against Woodward's reporting, including the "orange jumpsuit" comment, the practice session and the re-enactment.

"The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true", he said. "We're in Crazytown", Kelly is quoted as saying. "This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes'".

The Post published sections of reporter Robert Woodward's book on Tuesday. It's also noteworthy that the White House seemed blindsided by the allegations in the book.

This amounts to an "administrative coup d'état", Woodward says.

According to another anecdote from Woodward's book, in April 2017, Trump told Mattis that he should start making plans to assassinate Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

"Let's f-king kill him!"

"This thing's a goddamn hoax", Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, "I don't really want to testify". "We're going to be much more measured", the defense secretary allegedly told one of his senior staffers after that.

Mattis is described as among those in the administration who grew exasperated with Trump's limited intelligence; he complained that Trump has the understanding of a "fifth- or sixth-grader", according to Woodward.

The author, an associate editor at the Post, quotes current White House chief of staff John Kelly as calling Trump an "idiot" and "unhinged".

In one instance, former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn removed from Trump's desk a letter that would have withdrawn the United States from a trade arrangement with South Korea.

"A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really unsafe ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren't such good ideas", former Trump staff secretary Rob Porter said.

Certainly, India, like the rest of the world, is watching the latest flame-out by the world's most powerful man with both shock and incredulity.

The BBC's North America reporter Anthony Zurcher says that Woodward has unrivalled access to the corridors of power, and the general Washington consensus is that it is better to talk to him than not, since colleagues - and enemies - are certainly giving him their side of the story. According to Woodward, Cohn, who is Jewish, was particularly troubled after a swastika was found on the door of his daughter's college dorm room. "Big deal", Trump told Woodward, according to a transcript of a telephone call released by the Post.

No clear response strategy emerged immediately after the Post report, but insiders speculated the fallout could be worse than from Fire and Fury, given Mr Woodward's storied reputation.