America 'underestimating how serious' situation is in Trump's White House, Bob Woodward says

'You crank out the great Washington denial machine. I’ve seen this over the years, going back to the Nixon case'

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Monday 10 September 2018 21:15
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Trump struggles to say the word "anonymous"

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward has rebutted Donald Trump’s claim that his latest book is a scam, saying the public is “underestimating how serious” the situation inside the White House is.

Speaking ahead of the highly-anticipated publication of Mr Woodward’s latest book that portrays a “crazytown” environment inside the administration where few staff respect the president, the author said people had not appreciated the extent to which officials were deciding to ignore Mr Trump’s instructions because they feared they would hurt the country.

As an example, Mr Woodward cited incidents in which former top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn removed papers from Mr Trump’s desk to protect trade deals and protect national security.

One document was a draft of letter that would have withdrawn Washington from a trade agreement with South Korea, a move senior aides feared would undermine a national security programme related to the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch with seven seconds.

In the excerpts released from his book, Fear: Trump in the White House, Mr Woodward writes that Mr Cohn was appalled by the prospect the president might sign it, and quotes him as telling colleagues: “I stole it off his desk.”

Mr Trump has already dismissed the book as reporting a false situation and has pointed out many of the people whose purported quotes are contained in it, among them Jim Mattis and John Kelly, have denied making such remarks.

Trump suggests he will be impeached if Republicans lose congress

“The Woodward book is a scam. I don’t talk the way I am quoted. If I did I would not have been elected president,” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “These quotes were made up. The author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle. I wish the people could see the real facts – and our country is doing GREAT!”

Earlier, he said he would himself write the “real book”.

“The Woodward book is a joke – just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults, using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources,” he said. “Many have already come forward to say the quotes by them, like the book, are fiction. Dems can’t stand losing. I’ll write the real book!”

Woodward paints a highly unflattering picture of Trump’s White House

But in a series of interviews ahead of his book’s publication, Mr Woodward, 75, who first made headlines in 1972 when the revelations he and colleague Carl Bernstein wrote about came to be known as “Watergate” and led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, has defended his sources and the picture he has painted.

“My reporting is meticulous and careful,” Mr Woodward told CBS, noting that Nixon’s White House also sought to undermine the credibility of their reporting.

On Monday, speaking on National Public Radio (NPR), Mr Woodward said “the sources are not anonymous to me – they were participants in the events I describe very carefully”.

He added: “One of those people quoted the most is President Trump. He was there, and said these things and did these things. We are underestimating how serious this is.”

When it was pointed out that several people he quotes in the book have denied making the reported comments – Mr Kelly said he did not call Mr Trump “an idiot” – Mr Woodward said they were acting out of “political necessity”.

“You crank out the great Washington denial machine,” he said. “I’ve seen this over the years, going back to the Nixon case.”

He added: “Time and time again people will deny things. I understand people have to protect their positions. But I’ve done hundreds of hours of interviews with people… these things happened.”

Mr Woodward also addressed another source that claimed Mr Trump’s administration is dysfunctional and that a group of senior official are acting as a “resistance” to his worst impulses. That person, said to be a “senior Trump administration official”, wrote an anonymous op-ed for the New York Times last week that has infuriated the president.

“I don’t know who it is,” Mr Woodward said. “It’s critical: Who is this person and why are they masking themselves in this way?”

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