Jonathan Karl’s new book “Betrayal,” released Tuesday, documents the historic presidential election, unprecedented claims of fraud, the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the stirrings of the novel COVID-19 virus that marked the final days of former President Donald Trump’s presidency.
Karl, chief Washington correspondent for ABC News, is also the author of New York Times bestseller “Front Row at the Trump Show,” published in 2020. The veteran journalist has indeed had a front row seat throughout the Trump administration. Choice accounts have made their way into “Betrayal.”
Opening with excerpts from a conversation with Trump, Karl chronicles Trump’s feelings about his supporters targeting former Vice President Mike Pence during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Well, the people were very angry,” Trump said.
The response, Karl says, derives from a sense of betrayal by those within Trump’s inner circle. His next moves in the public sphere will be designed to make “his erstwhile friends and allies pay a price for their betrayal,” a plan that made Trump “gleeful,” according to Karl.
Trump looks back on Jan. 6 “fondly,” Karl wrote, “and believes that if events just had played out a little differently, he’d still be president.”
Here’s a glimpse of some of the book’s revelations.
John Kelly calls for the 25th Amendment
During the Jan. 6 insurrection, as a mob of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol, a disbelieving Gen. John Kelly — who once served as Trump’s chief of staff — told Karl the Trump Cabinet should have stepped in, declared the president mentally unfit and had him removed from office.
“If I was still there, I would call the Cabinet and start talking about the Twenty-Fifth Amendment,” Kelly said of the amendment that effectively forces a sitting president out of the job.
Other members of Trump’s Cabinet began to voice the same sentiment that fateful January evening, according to Karl. Some resigned, while others made a pact to keep Trump from further damaging the country.
A source familiar with the discussion said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke with other Cabinet members about using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the riot.
Karl reported on a call between Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where they discussed the 25th Amendment. Mnuchin did not respond to Karl’s questions about the call, but Pompeo denied they had discussed the 25th Amendment through an unnamed spokesman.
Johnny McEntee, ‘deputy president’
Loyalty was Trump’s first priority, according to the book. When the World Health Organization raised the alarm about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in February 2020, Trump was focused on repositioning his White House staff to promote those closest to him.
Among those promoted was the president’s former baggage carrier, Johnny McEntee, who was placed in charge of the Presidential Personnel Office.
McEntee would soon become known as the “deputy president,” according to a senior Trump official, for heavily vetting personnel for loyalty to Trump and for assisting him in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Tulsa rally and the ‘COVID-mobile’
Anxious to improve his reelection chances despite COVID-19, nationwide unrest and falling poll numbers, Trump ordered campaign manager Brad Parscale to organize an in-person rally. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was chosen to host, in part because the campaign would not be breaking the law by holding a large indoor rally in the state.
The event, held on June 20, 2020, was considered a failure, Karl wrote. Attendance was dismal, and members of the campaign staff who did not practice COVID-19 safety measures, tested positive for the virus.
One staffer with a preexisting condition became seriously ill and was hospitalized in Tulsa for a week, Karl revealed. The other infected staffers were instructed to rent cars and drive 1,200 miles from Tulsa back to Washington, D.C.
According to Karl, a senior adviser said, “There was a car of three staffers who had tested positive that drove all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Washington, DC. We called it a COVID-mobile.”
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who later died of complications related the the virus, contracted COVID-19 at the Tulsa event.
Trump’s allies sue over election results
In a last ditch effort to overturn the election, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit to invalidate electoral votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Without those electoral votes, Biden wouldn’t become president.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., led an effort in the House of Representatives to get support for the lawsuit from his fellow Republicans, asking them to sign a “friend of the court” brief.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., told Karl that Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy initially told her he wasn’t going to sign the brief, saying it gave too much power over elections to the federal government. And McCarthy wasn’t among the initial signatories. But when more signatures were added, McCarthy was included. The California Republican denied having told Cheney that he wouldn’t sign the document, though he acknowledged an aide might have said otherwise.
The Supreme Court unanimously rejected that lawsuit.
Trump cuts off McConnell
The last time Trump spoke to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was right after a Dec. 15 news conference where McConnell had congratulated Biden and Harris on their election victory.
When he returned to his office, Trump called “almost immediately,” according to Karl.
Trump yelled at McConnell, but the Kentucky Republican told the president “the Electoral College is the final word.”
Trump hung up on McConnell in the final conversation the two would have.
Meadows used Gmail to try to reach Georgia elections officials
Before the now-infamous call between Trump and Georgia officials, when the president pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes, the White House used a phone number reserved for media calls to try to get ahold of the state’s top election official.
When a deputy secretary returned the call to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, he told the deputy that the White House had tried 18 times to connect with Raffensperger.
Those attempts apparently came from a private Gmail account Meadows was using to send text messages to Raffensperger, according to Karl’s reporting, and were mixed among threatening messages he had received after the election.
“He had been getting all kinds of threatening messages and certainly didn’t think the White House chief of staff would be sending him text messages from a Gmail account,” Karl wrote. “They all had assumed the messages were fake.”
‘Justice Department coup edition of The Apprentice’
As Trump searched for ways to overturn the election, Karl wrote that the president considered elevating “an obscure environmental lawyer at the Justice Department” to attorney general, who would then overturn the election.
Two sources told Karl that attorney, Jeffrey Clark, believed wireless thermostats “might have been used to manipulate voting machines in Georgia.”
When Trump brought in acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen for his potential firing, the president reversed course when he learned senior leaders at the Justice Department would resign rather than work for Clark.
“The Justice Department coup edition of The Apprentice ended with Rosen keeping his job,” Karl wrote.
Jenna Ellis memo: How to overturn an election
In a newly revealed memo, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows detailed how to overturn the election to Vice President Mike Pence’s office. The memo was written by Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis.
Ellis wrote Pence should reject results in six states and set a 7 p.m. deadline on Jan. 15 for those states to send a new set of votes. If the states missed that deadline, their votes would not be counted. That would have left both Trump and Biden short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Ellis wrote in the memo that it would be left to Congress, voting by delegation, to choose the president.
With Republicans in control of 26 state delegations, Trump would have been reelected.
The memo was part of a full-court press by Trump and his allies to enlist Pence to overturn the election.
Pence refuses to leave Capitol
While other leaders were taken to Fort McNair, Vice President Mike Pence refused to leave the Capitol. Unpublished photos Karl reviewed show Pence in a windowless garage with no furniture, where he remained for five hours.
For hours, Pence refused to get inside the vice presidential motorcade for fear that it would take him from the Capitol.
In one photo, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short uses his phone to show him Trump’s tweet saying the vice president had no courage.
Trump video to rioters: First takes didn’t ask them to leave Capitol
Trump had to record a message calling off his supporters from their riot at the Capitol several times, according to Karl.
In the now-infamous video, Trump tells supporters to go home and ends with, “We love you. You are very special.” In earlier versions, though, a White House aide told Karl that Trump never told supporters to leave the building.
“He complained about the election. He empathized with their anger, but he didn’t call on them to go home,” Karl wrote.
Getting the last word
Trump’s last tweet before his account was permanently suspended noted that he would not be attending Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. But Karl reveals in his book that Trump had learned he would not be invited.
McConnell tried to orchestrate a letter from the four congressional leaders disinviting Trump, but McCarthy opposed the idea. McConnell sent a top aide to inform the White House that the president would not be welcome at the inauguration, and McCarthy also told administration officials about the plan.
But Trump sent his final tweet before any formal letter could be drafted, Karl wrote.