New book says Trump told Putin: I’ll act tough with you – for the cameras

  • Revelation contained in former press secretary’s new book
  • US president joked with Putin about ‘fake news’ journalists

Donald Trump told Vladimir Putin he had to act tough next to the Russian president for the cameras, according to the former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

“OK, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes,” Grisham says she heard Trump tell his Russian counterpart in Osaka in 2019. “But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”

Grisham makes the claim in a new book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now, which will be published next week. The Washington Post obtained a copy.

Trump’s presidency was dogged by his relationship with Putin, the focus of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.

Mueller did not establish a conspiracy but stressed that he did not exonerate Trump of seeking to obstruct justice. Speculation over the two leaders’ relationship remained rampant, particularly over a meeting alone save for interpreters in Helsinki in 2018.

In front of the media at the G20 summit in Osaka in 2019, with Grisham sitting nearby, Trump joked with Putin that they should both “get rid” of journalists who published “fake news”, saying: “You don’t have this problem in Russia.”

Putin said: “Yes, yes, we have too, the same.”

Trump later smirked, pointed at Putin and said: “Don’t meddle in the election.”

Grisham was Trump’s third press secretary, an unhappy reign in which she did not hold a single White House briefing. Her book has been extensively trailed, titbits including a comparison of Melania Trump to Marie Antoinette.

A spokeswoman for Donald Trump has called the book “another pitiful attempt to cash in on the president’s strength and sell lies about the Trump family”.

Melania Trump has also dismissed the book. Grisham was working for the first lady when she resigned on 6 January this year, the day of the deadly attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

According to the Post, Grisham says Donald Trump “was too wrapped up in his own ego and his own delusions about his invincibility” to deal properly with the coronavirus pandemic.

Discussing notorious events including “Sharpiegate”, involving a crudely doctored hurricane map, and the porn star Stormy Daniels’ claim that Trump’s penis was small and shaped like a mushroom, Grisham writes about White House incompetence extending to how staff lied to Trump to stop him losing his temper.

One such instance, Grisham says, came in 2018, when Air Force One was customarily made available to carry the casket and service dog of former president George HW Bush, the deceased patriarch of a family Trump loathed.

“We knew he wouldn’t be OK with that, even for a brief trip,” Grisham writes. “Dead bodies, death, sickness – those things really seemed to creep him out.”

Grisham is heavily critical of Melania Trump, who she says began to break with her husband over the Stormy Daniels affair.

Writing about how Melania was criticised for not standing with her husband on election night, as Jill Biden did with Joe Biden, Grisham says Melania said: “I don’t stand next to him because I don’t need to hold him up like she does. Can you imagine?”

“That made me laugh,” Grisham admits.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Putin says Russian role in election hacking 'theoretically possible'
President denies government involvement but acknowledges possibility ‘patriotic’ hackers might have interfered

Luke Harding and Alec Luhn in Moscow

01, Jun, 2017 @4:05 PM

Article image
Donald Trump 'not denying Russia was behind hacking campaign', says Priebus
President-elect’s incoming White House chief of staff says Trump ‘accepts the findings’ of a report on Russian interference in the election

Alan Yuhas

08, Jan, 2017 @8:27 PM

Article image
Putin says Trump's business record shows he is a 'smart man'
Trump will ‘quickly realize’ his new responsibilities, says Russian leader

Alan Yuhas

04, Dec, 2016 @3:57 PM

Article image
White House says Vladimir Putin had direct role in hacking US election
Josh Earnest argued Donald Trump knew Russia was engaged in cyber-attacks, and Trump went on the attack at a Pennsylvania rally to label him ‘foolish’

David Smith in Washington

16, Dec, 2016 @8:50 AM

Article image
Legal action against Trump shows ‘rottenness’ of US politics, says Putin
Russian leader claims indictments of former president are political persecution

Andrew Roth

12, Sep, 2023 @1:24 PM

Article image
Trump back-pedals on Russian meddling remarks after outcry
Republicans and Democrats attack president’s comments in press conference with Putin

Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

18, Jul, 2018 @7:26 AM

Article image
Donald Trump: time to move forward and work constructively with Russia
US president says Vladimir Putin ‘vehemently denied’ interfering in 2016 US election during G20 meeting, adding: ‘I’ve already given my opinion’

Paul Owen in New York

09, Jul, 2017 @1:46 PM

Article image
Trump: report FBI investigated him as possible Russian agent is 'insulting'
President reacts furiously but fails to deny working for Moscow after New York Times and Washington Post drop bombshell reports

Erin Durkin in New York

13, Jan, 2019 @8:43 PM

Article image
Summit critics have Trump derangement syndrome – says Trump
US president hits out at comments about his relationship with Putin

David Smith

18, Jul, 2018 @12:35 PM

Article image
Trump had undisclosed second meeting with Putin, White House confirms
A White House official has acknowledged the two presidents met again informally after their bilateral talks at the G20 summit in Germany in July

David Smith in Washington

19, Jul, 2017 @7:45 AM