Inside the Oval: How Trump tormented Mattis

Of all the disagreements that drove President Trump and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis apart, one of the most perilous had to do with blowing up Iranian boats. “Why don’t we sink them?” the president would ask.

Acting on an obsession that went back to the campaign, Trump repeatedly asked his national security team for plans to blow up Iranian “fast boats” in the Persian Gulf during the first year of his presidency, according to two sources who directly heard Trump’s requests and three other former senior officials briefed on them.

Trump appeared incredulous that the U.S. military hadn’t sunk these small Iranian attack boats, and he viewed it as a humiliation and sign of weakness.

“So these boats, they get in, they come in really fast, they come in really close … and they might have explosives on them and we don’t even know,” Trump said, repeatedly, in the recollection of a source who heard the president directly in the Oval Office.