President Trump on Wednesday continued to fume over Bob Woodward’s explosive new book that paints a dysfunctional picture of his presidency.
“The book means nothing,” Trump told reporters at the White House during a meeting with Kuwaiti emir. “It’s a work of fiction.”
In excerpts of “Fear: Trump in the White House” published by the Washington Post on Tuesday, Woodward quotes several current Trump administration officials — including chief of staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis — making disparaging comments about the president.
According to the book, Mattis compared Trump’s understanding of U.S. national security interests in the Korean Peninsula to that of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.” Kelly is also portrayed as described working for Trump thusly: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Trump said both men disputed Woodward’s account, and were “insulted” by the remarks attributed to them.
Kelly was in the room Wednesday as Trump spoke.
“He couldn’t believe what they said,” Trump said of Kelly. “He put out a very strong statement.”
On Tuesday, the White House issued several statements, including one from Kelly, who said “the idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true.”
“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in her own 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.”
On Tuesday night, the president took to Twitter to dismiss demeaning comments attributed to him about 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,’” Trump tweeted. “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!”
In a statement in response to complaints from the White House staff and the president, Woodward was unwavering. “I stand by my reporting,” the journalist said.
— Bob Woodward (@realBobWoodward) September 4, 2018
Woodward, who has authored books critical of the presidential administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning work with Carl Bernstein on the Watergate scandal. Their reporting is widely credited as leading to the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.
“If you look back at Woodward’s past, he had the same problem with other presidents,” Trump said. “He likes to get publicity.”
Trump, who was not interviewed for the book, called Woodward in August to complain he was not given a chance to sit down with the acclaimed author. Woodward informed the president that he requested interviews with him through six different people, including special counselor Kellyanne Conway.
“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,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”
“Almost everyone agrees that my Administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country,” he added. “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Trump suggested the release of Woodward’s book was timed to “interfere” with this week’s Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee.
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