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    Washington Post reporter Woodward publishes "Fear:  Trump in the White House"

    Americas: United States

    Special Entry: Washington Post reporter Woodward publishes "Fear:  Trump in the White House"

    Bob Woodward, a veteran Washington Post reporter and associate editor, has written many seminal books on American politics.  His reputation stems from the work he did as a young reporter who extensively covered the Watergate scandal during President Richard Nixon’s administration. But Woodward’s most recent book, “Fear: Trump in the White House”, which was released on September 11th, 2018, may very well exist in a league of its own.

    Woodward’s characterization of President Donald Trump was highly critical in that he viewed the president as boorish, unqualified for the challenges of the presidency, and ignorant, all qualities manifesting to such a degree that the book read like a scathing indictment of his presidency. This characterization was the result of Woodward conducting hundreds of hours of interviews, including exchanges with advisors within Trump’s inner circle, and pouring through various files and documents.

    Many of the anecdotes and quotes within the book strikingly portrayed the president as mercurial and easily distracted. One of the most astonishing anecdotes involved President Trump ordering a withdrawal from a trade agreement with South Korea, which in the eyes of then-chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, would have been a catastrophe. As such, Cohn swiped the written order from President Trump’s desk when he was not looking to preclude the president from signing it. Other stunning anecdotes include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ignoring an order to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Yet another episode involved then-staff secretary Rob Porter attempting to derail Trump’s numerous attempts to withdraw from various treaties including NAFTA and NATO.

    On top of the depiction of the president’s dangerously capricious personality, Woodward depicts a spiteful world leader with a penchant for denigration. Trump called his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.” As well, Trump thought his own Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had “lost it,” and mocked a suit worn by H.R. McMaster, a former national security adviser, as something a beer salesman would wear.

    Wooodward's book also characterized an inner circle that viewed the president in largely derisive terms.  President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, called Trump an “idiot” and “unhinged.” Mattis insulted the president’s intelligence, saying that Trump had the comprehension of a "fifth- or sixth-grader.”
    According to Woodward’s writing, Trump aides were relieved when the president walked back his "blame on both sides" narrative regarding violence that occurred at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and squarely decried white supremacists and neo-Nazis instead. But when the media coverage suggested that Trump did this because his original position was wrong, he exploded in rage and said on his course correction: “That was the biggest fucking mistake I've made.”

    The book concludes with an anecdote about John Dowd, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, quitting because Trump had such a proclivity for lying that any interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators into Russian election interference would have inevitably yielded perjury charges.

    President Trump and members of the administration pushed back against the accounts detailed in the book. On September 4th, the President suggested that Woodward was a Democratic operative, declaring via Twitter: “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?” 

    In another tweet, Trump also pushed back against Woodward’s allegations regarding how the president denigrated Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “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!” 

    On Sept. 7th, 2018, Trump called the Woodward book “a scam” over Twitter. 

    In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders characterized the Woodward book as "nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad." 

    Mattis also denied denigrating the President: "The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered by me or in my presence.”

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