WASHINGTON -- A former senior adviser to US President Donald Trump removed a document from the president's desk to stop him from signing off on withdrawing the United States from a trade deal with South Korea, a news report citing an unpublished book said Tuesday.
Bob Woodward, a Washington Post journalist known for his investigative reporting on the Watergate scandal, wrote up the anecdote in his new book, "Fear," set for release next week, the paper said.
Woodward also wrote, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials whose identities were not revealed, that Trump's handling of the North Korean nuclear threat caused anxiety among his subordinates.
"According to Woodward, Cohn 'stole a letter off Trump's desk' that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea," the Post wrote, referring to Trump's former top economic adviser, Gary Cohn.
"Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing," it said.
Trump is known to have considered terminating the Korea-US free trade agreement last year before stopping short due to tensions over North Korea's sixth nuclear test in September.
The two sides later renegotiated the deal but have yet to formally sign it.
At a National Security Council meeting in January, Trump downplayed the importance of the US troop presence in South Korea and questioned why government resources were being spent in the region, the paper quoted the book as saying.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded, "We're doing this in order to prevent World War III," it said. "After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, 'Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like -- and had the understanding of --'a fifth- or sixth-grader.'"
One month into the Trump administration, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford was "rattled" when Trump asked him to prepare a plan for a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea.
And last fall, Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a United Nations speech by calling him "Little Rocket Man." Aides worried that he may be provoking Kim, but the president told his then aide Rob Porter that it was a "contest of wills," according to The Post's account of the book.
"This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim," Trump was quoted as saying. (Yonhap)