Famed journalist Bob Woodward has written what promises to be an exhaustive accounting of the Trump administration and today sections of the book started to leak out. Entitled Fear: Trump in the White House, the as-yet-unreleased book is said to paint a deeply unflattering portrait of a chaotic administration run by a clueless fool.
The 448-page book is drawn from interviews with White House officials and people in Trump’s orbit. The president himself is clearly worried about the book’s publication and took to Twitter today to attack Woodward and push back against his claims that Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and Defense Secretary James Mattis compared him to a “fifth or sixth grader.”
The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
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Now, The Washington Post has revealed a strange phone call between Woodward and Trump on August 14th. After hearing rumors about the book, Trump called the journalist. Woodward recorded the entire conversation with Trump’s permission.
Woodward told Trump the book is exhaustive and accurate and that it offers “a tough look at the world and your administration and you.”
“Well, I assume that means it’s going to be a negative book. But you know, I’m sort of 50% used to that,” Trump responded.
Trump lamented the fact that he didn’t have a chance to speak with Woodward for the book and claimed that he never received word that Woodward wanted to interview him. Woodward informed him that he spoke to six different people trying to reach the president, including aides and senators.
Trump insisted that no one told him of Woodward’s requests, but later conceded that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) mentioned it to him. During one part of the conversation, Trump rambled on and on, bragging about the strong economy and GDP.
Woodward told Trump that he also contacted Kellyanne, asking her to help arrange a sitdown with Trump. Later in the conversation, Kellyanne Conway entered the Oval Office and Trump put her on the phone with Woodward who proceeded to ask her if she remembered him asking her to help him speak with Trump.
“I do. And I put in the request. But you know, they — it was rejected. I can only take it so far. I guess I can bring it right to the president next time,” Conway said. She blamed her failure to relay Woodward’s request on respecting “protocols.”
She also said she presented his request to “the people here who make those decisions.”
“Who are those people?” Woodward asked, prompting Conway to quickly give the phone back to Trump. Trump then told him it was going to be a “very inaccurate” book. Woodward assured him it would be accurate.
“Yeah, okay. Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you. So that’s . . . And that’s the way a lot of people feel that know what’s going on, and you’ll see that over the years. But a lot of people feel that, Bob,” Trump responded.
“I believe in our country, and because you’re our president, I wish you good luck,” Woodward said. “Okay. Thank you very much, Bob. I appreciate it. Bye,” Trump said right before the call ended.
The transcript offers two possible interpretations. Either Trump was told about Woodward’s requests and ignored them and was lying when he said he hadn’t been contacted or those in his inner circle exert control over him by choosing what requests and information they pass along to him.
The latter possibility is particularly disturbing because it means the powers of the American presidency are being manipulated and exploited directly by a coterie of opportunists.