“He was distracted, irritable, and short,” Newman, 44, writes in Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, out Tuesday, about a briefing she had with the president. “I was going over his speech, but he couldn’t retain any of the bullet points. I went over them again and again, and what he should say to the press after the event.”
She adds, “But he couldn’t remember the key points and stumbled over the large words, which we scratched out and replaced with simpler terms.”
Newman was fired from the White House in December 2017.
In his own book published earlier this year and titled Fire and Fury, journalist Michael Wolff, who had been granted extraordinary access to Trump’s West Wing, wrote that the 72-year-old president’s closest aides universally criticize him and express fears about his mental fitness.
“They say he’s a moron, an idiot,” Michael Wolff said in an NBC News interview in January 2018. “He’s like a pinball just shooting off the sides.”
In Newman’s most recent account, Trump has changed drastically since she first met him on the set of The Apprentice. She writes that in 2003, Trump was “as smart and shrewd as he claimed to be.”
When discussing figures during The Apprentice‘s first season, Trump could “repeat a lengthy numbers sequence” without any references and calculate them accurately, according to the book. “Now?” Newman writes, “The blade had been dulled.”
Trump was quick to cut her down on Twitter Monday, after she released new audio of a phone call she had with the president about being fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly. Trump described her in his tweet as “vicious, but not smart.”
He added in another tweet, Tuesday, “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”
The White House has not immediately responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Newman’s specific assertions about Trump’s mental health.
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In Unhinged, Newman’s woven multiple examples of what she calls Trump’s “mental decline.”
She reflects on how she felt when she first learned that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, would serve as one of her father’s official advisors. The announcement prompted a wave of backlash and accusations of nepotism.
“You have two people, very close to [President Donald Trump] whose purpose is not the country. The purpose is the man. And that’s a problem, because this is about serving your country,” Cindy McCain said on The View shortly after the announcement.
But for Newman, at the time, the news came as a relief.
“Having known [Ivanka] for fourteen years and worked with her on The Celebrity Apprentice, I knew she was competent and sharp,” Newman writes. “I made a note to set up a meeting to share with her my concerns about her father’s forgetfulness and strange behavior. I would often say, ‘He needs you. I’m glad you’re here.’”
As examples of the changes in Trump’s mental health, she also cites his “nuclear” bouts of temper and the strange moment on Nov. 15, 2017, when he used two hands to drink from a water bottle on TV. This was, according the Newman, Trump having “a small episode of some kind.”
Newman doesn’t stop there. She explains that Trump was “fixated” on repeating the same story for weeks. According to the book, Trump couldn’t stop telling people about his decision to drop the “Mother of All Bombs” in an Islamic State cave network in Afghanistan in April 2017.
“I seriously began to suspect that the president was delusional or had a mental condition, that made him forget from one day to the next,” she writes. “Was Donald like Ronald Reagan, impaired while everyone around him ran the show and covered up for him? Was Mike Pence his Nancy Reagan, with the same vapid, adoring looks?”
Beyond his mental state, Newman also claims in Unhinged that Trump reads at an “eighth- or ninth-grade level,” and has “never read” in full any of the important pieces of legislation or “even some of these executive orders that he has signed.” Instead, his team presents him with bullet points.
Michael Wolff has also contributed to the claims that Trump can’t read well.
“He didn’t process information in any conventional sense,” Wolff wrote in Fire and Fury. “He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate.”
Now Newman, once a loyal Trump supporter, is reckoning with what she sees as the perils of Trump’s presidency.
“Trump’s charisma is all that matters. He has an ability to convince you that he’s right, and that everything is going to be fine,” Newman writes. “You choose to believe because the alternative is terrifying, that’s he’s not equipped with the basic skills to make crucial decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world.”