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President Trump holds a MAGA rally in Winston-Salem, N.C. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An aide to former Defense Secretary James Mattis heard President Trump say in a meeting, "my f---ing generals are a bunch of pu--ies," because they prioritized alliances over trade deals, according to Bob Woodward's new book "Rage," which was obtained ahead of its publication by CNN.

Why it matters: Trump and his allies have been on the defensive for the past week after anonymous sources alleged in The Atlantic that the president "has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members" — claims that the White House vehemently denies.

The big picture: During interviews with Woodward, Trump reportedly criticized military officials for viewing alliances with South Korea and NATO as the best bargains for the U.S.

  • "I wouldn't say they were stupid, because I would never say that about our military people," Trump said. "But if they said that, they — whoever said that was stupid. It's a horrible bargain ... they make so much money. Costs us $10 billion. We're suckers."
  • Mattis asked his aide to document Trump's comment from the overheard meeting in an email, according to Woodward.

Go deeper: Trump told Bob Woodward he intentionally played down coronavirus threat

Go deeper

Trump’s threat rollercoaster: He’s bluffing, until he’s not

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

When President Trump backed off his threats to hit Mexico with crippling tariffs earlier this week, there was a chorus of commentary that it was all so predictable — but his track record on such threats is anything but.

Between the lines: Trump does frequently back down from threats. But in other cases, he defies expectations by doubling down. Even threats that seem to expire — a national emergency on the border, blanket tariffs on China — can rear their heads once again.

Democratic opposition mounts to Biden picking retired general to lead Pentagon

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2016. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

More Democratic lawmakers are speaking out against President-elect Joe Biden's nomination of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his defense secretary, citing the long-running precedent of the National Security Act, which requires civilian control at the Pentagon.

The big picture: Traditional Biden allies have put his team on notice that Austin is not guaranteed the congressional waiver that he needs to serve, since he hasn't been retired from active duty for the requisite seven years.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker