Donald Trump is trying to stop the publication of a book by his third national security adviser, John Bolton, but he will soon have to contend with a volume published by his second.
Lt Gen HR McMaster will publish Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, on 28 April.
Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, is reported to contain details of events central to the president’s impeachment over his approaches to Ukraine, which he survived after acquittal in the Senate.
It is due for publication in March but Trump is reportedly trying to block it until at least after November’s election.
McMaster has long been known to be writing a book but it has not been expected to be a memoir of the tell-all kind which has plagued the Trump White House.
Harper Collins duly said McMaster’s book would offer a “groundbreaking reassessment of America’s place in the world, drawing from McMaster’s long engagement with these issues, including 34 years of service in the US army with multiple tours of duty in battlegrounds overseas”.
But the publisher also said the general would write about “his 13 months as national security adviser in the Trump White House”.
McMaster replaced another general, the disgraced Michael Flynn, as national security adviser in early 2017 and lasted in the role until 22 March 2018. Trump’s fourth national security adviser in less than four years, currently filling the hot seat, is the former hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien.
Books on the Trump administration are full of descriptions of a relationship with McMaster that never flourished, the cerebral general clashing with the impulsive president.
In the bestselling A Very Stable Genius, for example, the Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker write that McMaster had “difficulty holding the president’s attention” as Trump “would get annoyed with what he considered McMaster’s lecturing style”.
McMaster is a decorated combat veteran who won a famous tank battle in the first Gulf war and also the author of a book on the Vietnam war, Dereliction of Duty, which examines a colossal failure of US foreign and national security policy.
According to Leonnig and Rucker, Trump would not read briefing materials McMaster prepared and complain of scheduled meetings: “I’m not fucking doing that. I’m not talking with McMaster for an hour. Are you kidding me?”
The situation did not improve, they write, because “McMaster felt it was his duty to speak truth to his commander”.
Trump’s complaint that McMaster dressed “like a beer salesman” has been widely reported. Leonnig and Rucker also say Trump would imitate McMaster’s military bearing and “barking kind of voice”. An unidentified McMaster aide is quoted as saying: “The president doesn’t fire people. He just tortures them until they’re willing to quit.”
McMaster was generally considered one of the “adults in the room” around Trump in the first two years of his presidency, senior figures from the military or business generally able to restrain the brash and unconventional real estate developer.
Other such figures long gone from the White House include two other retired generals, former defense secretary James Mattis and ex-chief of staff John Kelly, and former Exxon Mobil chief executive and secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
Mattis published his own memoir, Call Sign Chaos, last year. It only obliquely addressed his service under Trump and his differences with him.
McMaster has fought shy of speaking on record about his time in the White House and has given only one major interview: to the Guardian about his passion for rugby union.
That interview took place the day after he packed up his belongings and left Washington for California, where he is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
McMaster perhaps gave a taste of the sections of his book on his time in the US army and about America’s place in the world, if not his time in the Trump White House.
“I think the warrior ethos is analogous to what a good rugby team has,” he said. “They’re not going to be daunted by another team, or a difficult a situation in a game. They’re going to bind together and overcome.”