A "jaw-dropping" US report by the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal has claimed US President Donald Trump was chummy with male world leaders in phone calls, but turned "near sadistic" when speaking to women in the same position.

In a report to CNN, Carl Bernstein cited White House and intelligence-community sources familiar with highly classified calls.

He alleged that in hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, Trump was so abusive to American allies that the calls convinced senior US officials the President posed a national security risk.

"The calls caused former top Trump deputies – including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials – to conclude that the President was often 'delusional,' as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders," Bernstein wrote.

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Advisers thought Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders threatened national security

Trump's "most vicious attacks, said the sources, were aimed at women heads of state," he wrote.

His conversations with former British Prime Minister Theresa May were described as "humiliating and bullying".

Carl Bernstein has reported to CNN how Trump verbally abuses world leaders in private phone calls. Photo / AP
Carl Bernstein has reported to CNN how Trump verbally abuses world leaders in private phone calls. Photo / AP

The report claimed he told May that she was weak and lacked courage; and told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was "stupid".

"Some of the things he said to Angela Merkel are just unbelievable: he called her 'stupid', and accused her of being in the pocket of the Russians," one source told Bernstein.

"He's toughest [in the phone calls] with those he looks at as weaklings and weakest with the ones he ought to be tough with."

However, a source said Merkel took Trump's malice "like water off a duck's back" and would simply respond "with recitations of fact".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo / AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo / AP

But May was taken aback by Trump's hostile tone and would get "flustered and nervous" when Trump attacked her", according to a source.

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"He clearly intimidated her and meant to," the source told Bernstein.

A German official confirmed to CNN that he behaved the same way in person towards female leaders.

When Merkel visited the White House in 2018, Trump "displayed 'very questionable behaviour' that 'was quite aggressive … [T]he Chancellor indeed stayed calm, and that's what she does on the phone,'" the official said.

He is also accused of "trashing" former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama in phone calls with world leaders

"Trump regularly bullied and disparaged other leaders of the western alliance during his phone conversations – including French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison – in the same hostile and aggressive way he discussed the coronavirus with some of America's governors."

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP

Meanwhile, private calls between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump sometimes had the tone of "two guys in a steam bath", according to the report.

Putin "just outplays" Trump during their one-on-one interactions, according to CNN's report.

Responding to the Bernstein report of the abusive phone calls, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews said, "President Trump is a world class negotiator who has consistently furthered America's interests on the world stage. From negotiating the phase one China deal and the USMCA to Nato allies contributing more and defeating Isis, President Trump has shown his ability to advance America's strategic interests."