Trump dismisses Bob Woodward’s book: ‘Lies and phony sources’

President tweets that Fear, Woodward’s portrayal of a chaotic and dysfunctional White House, is a ‘con of the public’

Donald Trump has dismissed a highly critical book on his presidency by the respected investigative journalist Bob Woodward as a politically motivated “con of the public”.

Woodward, one of the journalists who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, portrays the Trump White House as chaotic and dysfunctional in his new book, Fear.

Woodward, who based his book on hundreds of hours of interviews with key players in the Trump administration, claimed some of these figures had deliberately protected the US from its president, by ignoring his often intemperate orders.

Trump has hit back in a series of tweets claiming that Woodward was working for the Democratic party and that publication of the book was timed to damage the Republicans in the midterm elections in November.

On Wednesday morning Trump tweeted: “Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost.”

His post then continued with one of the president’s regular protests against US libel laws. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?” he queried.

Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday afternoon had dismissed the book as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees”.

She claimed in a statement: “While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, president Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people. Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results. Democrats and their allies in the media understand the president’s policies are working and with success like this, no one can beat him in 2020 – not even close.”

The White House also issued a statement from the chief of staff, John Kelly, a source quoted in the book, denying one of its claims.

Trump accused Woodward of making up quotations attributed to Kelly and the US defence chief, James Mattis.

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

According to the book, Kelly was said to be so incensed by Trump’s behaviour that he privately described the president to other aides as an “idiot” and complained that they were in “Crazytown”.

“The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true,” said Kelly.

Meanwhile Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd told Axios he had never called Trump a “fucking liar”, as Woodward reported.

According to Woodward, Mattis told staff to ignore a tirade by Trump against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad in the wake of a chemical weapons attack in April 2017 and the US president’s alleged statement: “Let’s fucking kill him!”

Woodward quoted Mattis as telling staff: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

Late on Tuesday, southern Republican politicians criticized Trump for, according to the book, calling the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, “mentally retarded” and a “dumb southerner” and mocking his accent.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said in an interview with the Washington Post: “I’m a southerner, too. I think it’s not at all appropriate. It’s totally inappropriate.”

And Alabama senator Richard Shelby, who served alongside Sessions during his 20 years as senator for the state, said: “Well, I’m sure I’ve got that accent, wouldn’t you think?”

He pointed out to the Post that Trump himself relied on southern voters during the 2016 general election, warning: “I guess the president, he says what he thinks … I think the president’s probably got a lot of respect for the south, I hope so. He did well there. Without the south he wouldn’t be the president of the United States.”

The vast majority of southern states voted for Trump.

Meanwhile, Woodward was denied access to Trump during his research despite repeated requests. But he was granted a phone interview with Trump after completing the book. In a recording of the conversation, released on Tuesday by the Washington Post, Trump told Woodward: “you’ve always been fair”.

But after publication of the book Trump challenged Woodward’s integrity.

The book quoted Trump accusing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, of being “mentally retarded”. Woodward claimed he went on: “He’s this dumb southerner [who] couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump has publicly criticised Sessions, but on Wednesday he denied ever using such language to describe anyone.

The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018

On Wednesday more detail continued to come out from Woodward’s book.

Axios reported that Trump had given advice to a friend who had “acknowledged some bad behavior toward women”.

Trump, who has faced numerous similar accusations, reportedly told him: “You've got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.”

Woodward also records Mattis’ response to requests from Sean Spicer that he defend the administration on Sunday TV shows.

“Sean,” Mattis reportedly told the former press secretary, who was in the Naval Reserves, “I've killed people for a living. If you call me again, I'm going to fucking send you to Afghanistan. Are we clear?”


Matthew Weaver in London and Joanna Walters in New York

The GuardianTramp

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