Fear - Trump in the White House
Bob Woodward
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Chapter 37

McMaster and Tillerson are fighting over who will negotiate with the Saudis. Kelly lets the President know this information and Trump appears troubled since he believes Tillerson is the best man for the job (Woodward 252). Besides that, Trump still worries about KORUS, the Korean trade deal. He talks to the South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Trump criticizing the agreement extensively thus making the conversation very undiplomatic. He even tells Moon that he wants to send a 180-day termination letter and destroy the trade relationship (Woodward 252).

Regardless of the President’s opinions, the National Security Council members continue raising their concern about any plans to leave the KORUS deal. To them, the agreement is not just about financial concerns, with KORUS allowing them to ensure peace prevails between the US and North Korea. They also protect their allies including South Korea and Japan, with Mattis maintaining that they are trying to prevent World War III from breaking out (Woodward 253/254). Therefore, they do not see the need for terminating the deal, even if they continue swimming in trade deficits. Trump is not convinced completely though but comes to a decision about the Saudi negotiation, telling McMaster to back off from any negotiations, letting Tillerson take over.

Dunford learns that the Air Force wants to conduct nuclear tests. This is the exact thing the US is trying to stop North Korea from doing and therefore, Dunford stops the tests. The CIA also reports to Trump that North Korea has no means of delivering a missile with a nuclear warhead that would reach the US mainland (Woodward 256). However, the intelligence affirms that North Korea is marching in that direction.


In this chapter, the author continues to affirm Trump’s business-minded nature. Here, Woodward highlights a topic that the White House has discussed for long now, KORUS. Trump wants to terminate the agreement with money being the principal reason. He thinks that the money lost in KORUS can help transform lives in the US if it was redirected toward internal developments. To him, KORUS is a burden to the United States and he needs to relieve the nation without considering the consequences.

On the other hand, National Security Council members have an opposing understanding of the KORUS agreement. These individuals consider both the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in the trade deal. In their reasoning, the consequences of exiting the deal are far worse than any potential savings that Trump keeps on worrying about. They also know that the termination of KORUS could potentially lead to the triggering of World War III and their efforts in maintaining peace will be for nothing. Therefore, they believe in maintaining their position in South Korea as a deterrent. Lastly, the intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear capability is relieving to the President since he does not have to worry so much about a possible attack from the North at the present time, though the looming possibility remains.

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