Sep 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why Trump talked to Woodward

Mike Allen
Bob Woodward with Scott Pelley
Bob Woodward talks to Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

President Trump, who rails about anonymous sources, is suddenly confronted with an extensive, unsparing, on-the-record account of his thinking about America's virus and race crises — and he's the source. Instead of "Rage," Bob Woodward could have called his book: "Undeniable."

Why it matters: We get a torrent of tweeted and spoken words from Trump — far more public musing, riffing and ranting than from any president, ever. But it's not always clear what to believe, what matters, or what will endure. Now, we can read and hear Trump free-associating for history.

Woodward tapped Trump's vanity and insecurity to secure an astonishing 18 interviews, totaling nine hours, with the most powerful man in the world.

  • Woodward was allowed to record all the on-the-record sessions. Audio snippets were released yesterday along with extensive excerpts from the book, out Tuesday.

We know Trump likes to talk to famous people — he complained publicly after he wasn't interviewed for Woodward's brutal 2018 Trump book, "Fear."

  • And we know Woodward is seductive. "Every president does a Bob Woodward book ... and then later comes to regret it," Karl Rove told Fox News.
  • So now we have the president — as he fights for reelection 54 days before Election Day — admitting that he deliberately "played down" the coronavirus, at a time when more urgency could have saved lives ... blithely rejecting Woodward's suggestion that white privilege is isolating, and that "we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain ... black people feel" ("You really drank the Kool-Aid ... I don't feel that at all") ... and once again using a "p"-word variant, this time to refer to generals instead of genitals.

Woodward knows the power of tapes, and of the word "cover-up." On the forthcoming "60 Minutes," Scott Pelley asks Woodward about Trump telling him in February that the virus was "more deadly than ... even your strenuous flus," while saying publicly three weeks later that "it's a little like the regular flu."

  • "Yes, this is the tragedy," Woodward says. "A president of the United States has a duty to warn. The public will understand that. But if they get the feeling that they're not getting the truth, then you're going down the path of deceit and cover-up." (Vide0)

At 9:30 last night, Trump did a phoner with Fox News' Sean Hannity, who came on the air with a "PANIC POLITICS" graphic and said Trump's China travel ban was part of "serious, severe, quick actions by the president — he took it seriously."

Trump said of Woodward:

He called. I didn't participate in his last one — and he does hit jobs with everybody. He even did it on Obama ... constant hit jobs. On Bush, I guess they did three books — they were all terrible.
So I figured: You know, let's just give it a little shot — I'll speak to him. It wasn't a big deal. I speak to him, and let's see.
I don't know if the book is good or bad — I have no idea. [I] probably, almost definitely, won't read it because I don't have time to read it.

Go deeper: Trump told Woodward he intentionally played down coronavirus threat ... What Trump said about "my f---ing generals" ... Former intel chief Dan Coats believed "Putin had something on Trump."

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