Trump offered Jordan's king control of the West Bank — and more bonkers claims in bombshell new book

Reporters offer behind-the-scenes look at a tumultuous Trump presidency — and his wife's criticism

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published September 15, 2022 1:27PM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House on April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House on April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump offered Jordan's King Abdullah II control of the West Bank, touting it as a "great deal" even though the United States has no claim on the territory, according to a forthcoming book "The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021."

The new book by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker and New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser details behind-the-scenes accounts featuring Trump administration insiders, who share their experiences working for the 45th president. 

The occupied West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, was never Trump's to give away. The piece of land sits between Israel and Jordan and was formerly governed as part of Jordan. But Israel seized the West Bank in 1967 and since then, it has been occupied by Israeli forces. Their settlements are considered illegal under international law by much of the world. 

Upon hearing Trump's offer, Abdullah II thought he was "having a heart attack," he reportedly told an American friend, the authors wrote in an excerpt published by The Washington Post. "I couldn't breathe. I was bent doubled-over."

Trump made the offer just one month after his administration broke with decades of US policy by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US government has long pushed for a two-state solution and expressed opposition to settlements despite its close ties with Israel. 

However, Trump repeatedly caused controversies and placed himself in the middle of the decades-long conflict. In 2019, he also announced that the US would no longer view settlements as illegal under international law. 

Trump's handling of the coronavirus drew criticism from his wife

The book offers a look inside the criticism Trump received from his wife, first lady Melania Trump, for his handling of the pandemic. 

In a phone call with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Melania Trump sought help convincing her husband to take the coronavirus more seriously, according to an excerpt published by CNN.

"'You're blowing this," she recalled telling her husband, according to the book. "'This is serious. It's going to be really bad, and you need to take it more seriously than you're taking it.' He had just dismissed her. 'You worry too much,' she remembered him saying. 'Forget it.'"

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Similar accounts of Trump's inability to address the severity of the coronavirus pandemic are laid out in books written by staffers who worked under his administration. Former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway reveals in her own memoir that Trump shrugged off her warnings about the virus. She recounted a private moment with Trump in the presidential limousine where she told him she was worried about the coronavirus and he responded with saying:  "I'm not... The doctors told us there is a very low risk for the United States." 

And in "Silent Invasion," former covid response coordinator Deborah Birx details that Trump informed her she had misled him about the severity of the virus. He told her: "We will never shut down the country again. Never."

Trump's decisions often posed national security concerns 

The book also dives into concerns Trump's national security team faced, remaining fearful that Trump would ignite a conflict with Iran or withdraw the US from NATO.

An administration official told Trump that if he lost the 2020 election, he should strike Iran's nuclear program, the authors wrote. "Milley at the time told his staff it was a 'What the f— are these guys talking about?' moment," they write. "Now, it seemed frighteningly possible."

The former president also feared Iran would try to assassinate him in avenging the death of Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian general killed in a US drone strike ordered by Trump. 

"At a cocktail party, Trump told several of his Florida friends he was afraid Iran would try to assassinate him, so he had to go back to Washington where he would be safer," the authors write.

Then, there's insight into the more serious efforts Trump made to withdraw the US from the NATO alliance. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was alarmed by Trump during a 2018 summit in Helsinki with Putin.

Trump contradicted his own intelligence agencies by publicly backing Putin, who asserted that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. This led Coats to question "What does Putin have on him that causes him to do something that undermines his credibility?" the book said. 

The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021 will be published in the US next week. Among its many revelations, the book makes clear that if Trump announces his run for presidency, it will be without former Vice President Mike Pence who Trump said "committed political suicide" for refusing to interfere in the certification of the 2020 election.

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Aggregate Donald Trump Israel King Abdullah Mark Milley Melania Trump Politics West Bank