BOSTON (CBS) – Bob Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – is not the first inside look at this administration. The dubious likes of Michael Wolff and Omarosa beat him to it.
But it is the first offering from Woodward, whose books on past presidents have won him a reputation for thoroughness and accuracy.
That reputation will be tested now in the wake of Woodward’s blistering account, which recounts a miasma of ego, incompetence and deceit.
“We are going to do some great things over the next eight years,” the president said in the opening days of his term. But almost immediately, reports Woodward, some of the president’s top aides began playing defense against the man who hired them.
After a chemical attack on civilians in the spring of 2017, according to multiple press accounts based on advance copies of the book, Mr. Trump called Defense Secretary James Mattis and said he wanted to have Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad killed.
After Mattis hung up, he told an aide: “We’re not going to do any of that.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is quoted calling Mr. Trump “unhinged” and “an idiot,” saying “we’re in crazytown.”
And to work for this president, writes Woodward, is to be subject to withering insults from the boss, most notably Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump reportedly called a “dumb southerner” who was “mentally retarded.”
And the book recounts how the Mueller probe has embarrassed and infuriated Mr. Trump.
Woodward quotes former Trump lawyer John Dowd staging a disastrous, falsehood-filled mock Mueller interview with the president, then telling Mr. Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”
The president disagreed. The next day, Dowd resigned.
In a phone call as the book neared publication, taped with the president’s permission, Mr. Trump gave Woodward his advance review.
“We’re going to have a very inaccurate book and that’s too bad but I don’t blame you entirely,” the president said. “No,” responds Woodward, “it will be accurate.”
Responds Trump: “Well, accurate is that no one’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president.”
Gen. Kelly is denying that he ever called the president an “idiot,” and Dowd is denying Woodward’s account of his comments. Late Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the book is “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees.”