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In early September 2017, in the eighth month of the Trump presidency, Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and the president’s top economic adviser in the White House, moved cautiously toward the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.


In his 27 years at Goldman, Cohn—6-foot-3, bald, brash and full of self-confidence— had made billions for his clients and hundreds of millions for himself. He had granted himself walk-in privileges to Trump’s Oval Office, and the president had accepted that arrangement.


On the desk was a one-page draft letter from the president addressed to the president of South Korea, terminating the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS.


The ability to detect a launch in seven seconds would give the United States military the time to shoot down a North Korean missile. It is perhaps the most important and most secret operation in the United States government. The American presence in South Korea represents the essence of national security.


Withdrawal from the KORUS trade agreement, which South Korea deemed essential to its economy, could lead to an unraveling of the entire relationship. Cohn could not believe that President Trump would risk losing vital intelligence assets crucial to U.S. national security.


This all stemmed from Trump’s fury that the United States had an $18 billion annual trade deficit with South Korea and was spending $3.5 billion a year to keep U.S. troops there.


Despite almost daily reports of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was. Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic. He would get in a bad mood, something large or small would infuriate him, and he would say about the KORUS trade agreement, “We’re withdrawing today.”


Porter, 6-foot-4, rail-thin, 40 years old and raised a Mormon, was one of the gray men: an organization man with little flash who had attended Harvard and Harvard Law School and been a Rhodes Scholar.


Porter later discovered there were multiple copies of the draft letter, and either Cohn or he made sure none remained on the president’s desk.


Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders. That document and others like it just disappeared. When Trump had a draft on his desk to proofread, Cohn at times would just yank it, and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it. “It’s not what we did for the country,” Cohn said privately. “It’s what we saved him from doing.”


It was no less than an administrative coup d’état, an undermining of the will of the president of the United States and his constitutional authority.


In addition to coordinating policy decisions and schedules and running the paperwork for the president, Porter told an associate, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.”


Another strategy was to delay, procrastinate, cite legal restrictions. Lawyer Porter said, “But slow-walking things or not taking things up to him, or telling him—rightly, not just as an excuse—but this needs to be vetted, or we need to do more process on this, or we don’t have legal counsel clearance—that happened 10 times more frequently than taking papers from his desk. It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually.”


There were days or weeks when the operation seemed under control and they were a couple of steps back from the edge. “Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken. It was like you were always walking right there on the edge.”


Although Trump never mentioned the missing September 5 letter, he did not forget what he wanted to do about the trade agreement. “There were several different iterations of that letter,” Porter told an associate.


“Send me the draft,” he told him. “If we’re going to do this, we cannot do it on the back of a napkin. We have to write it up in a way that isn’t going to embarrass us.”

“把草稿给我,”波特告诉库什纳,“如果我们打算这么做,就不能把内容写在餐巾纸的背面。我们必须写得清楚点,这样才不至于太?#38480;巍!?br />
Kushner sent down a paper copy of his draft. It was not of much use. Porter and Cohn had something typed up to demonstrate they were doing what the president had asked. Trump was expecting an immediate response. They wouldn’t walk in empty-handed. The draft was part of the subterfuge.


At a formal meeting, the opponents of leaving KORUS raised all kinds of arguments—the United States had never withdrawn from a free trade agreement before; there were legal issues, geopolitical issues, vital national security and intelligence issues; the letter wasn’t ready. They smothered the president with facts and logic.


“Well, let’s keep working on the letter,” Trump said. “I want to see the next draft.”
Cohn and Porter did not prepare a next draft. So there was nothing to show the president. The issue, for the moment, disappeared in the haze of presidential decision making. Trump got busy with other things.


American military and intelligence assets in South Korea are the backbone of our ability to defend ourselves from North Korea. Please don’t leave the deal.


Why is the U.S. paying $1 billion a year for an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea? Trump asked. He was furious about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, and had threatened to pull it out of South Korea and move it to Portland, Oregon.

为?#35009;?#32654;国每年要为韩国的导弹防御系统支付10亿美元?特朗普问道。他?#22278;?#32626;在韩国的萨德系统非常愤怒,威胁要将萨德系统撤回,部署到俄勒冈州的波特?#38469;小?br />
“We’re not doing this for South Korea,” Mattis said. “We’re helping South Korea because it helps us.”


The president seemed to acquiesce, but only for the moment.


In 2016, candidate Trump gave Bob Costa and myself his definition of the job of president: “More than anything else, it’s the security of our nation. . . . That’s number one, two and three. . . . The military, being strong, not letting bad things happen to our country from the outside. And I certainly think that’s always going to be my number-one part of that definition.”


The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.

然而现实却是,2017年的美国受制于语言和?#24418;?#36807;度情绪化、善变、经常有出乎意?#29616;?#20030;的领导人。他手下的人自觉地联合起来,阻止总统做出危险的冲动之举。这就是世界最?#30475;?#22269;家的行政管理权利的精神?#35272;!?br />