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President Trump confers with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House on Sept. 1. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News Wednesday he wouldn't have recommended that Bob Woodward gain the extensive White House access the journalist did for his interviews with President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump has faced criticism following leaks of Woodward's new book "Rage," particularly for his comments during on-the-record interviews earlier this year that his approach to the coronavirus pandemic was to "play it down" to avoid a panic — something Meadows used in defense of the president during his interview.

What they're saying: Asked by Fox News host Martha MacCallum if Trump's coronavirus comments were "problematic for the president," Meadows replied that "any great leader" will "take information that they have" and vet it with advisers, in this case "both doctors and those within the White House to actually make sure that we made prudent decisions." 

  • "[Y]ou don't want to ... create panic. But at the same time, it was an all hands on deck. I can tell you, not only did that happen in January and February, but when I came on board in March, it was around-the-clock, vigilant effort to make sure that this president did everything he could to address it," he said.
  • Meadows said he wasn't surprised to learn that Woodward and Trump had spoken on the phone at great lengths because it's "typical" of the president to do so as he "believes that he has nothing to hide" and is "willing to talk to anybody about any subject no matter how difficult."
  • But he added: "[Woodward's] access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the chief of staff role very early on."

Of note: Trump stood by his downplaying of the virus' threat during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity broadcast later Wednesday, saying he wanted to "show a calmness."

  • The president said he "almost definitely won't read" Woodward's book "because I don’t have time to read it," noting it "sounds like it's not going to be good."
  • He claimed the legendary journalist "does hit jobs with everybody," including his predecessor, former President Obama. "So, I figured, you know let's just give it a little shot. I'll speak to him, wasn't a big deal," Trump added.
  • But the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen said while plugging his own tell-all Trump book during an appearance on CNN Wednesday that "it's not going to go well" for whomever set up the Woodward interview.

Go deeper: Trump hit with devastating book barrage

Go deeper

Romney: White House should "say something aggressive" on Russian cyberattack

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called on the White House to “aggressively” condemn a suspected Russian cyberattack in an interview with SiriusXM on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: Since news broke that hackers tied to Russia penetrated U.S. government networks and companies, public officials including President-elect Biden have come forward with rebukes. President Trump has been largely silent, though the White House has held emergency meetings with officials across agencies to address the breach, per Bloomberg.

21 mins ago - Health

FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Cezary Kowalski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

Dave Lawler, author of World
23 mins ago - World

Schiff: "Definitive" Khashoggi report sends clear message to Saudis

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The report released Friday on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was short on evidence or new information, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tells Axios that the “definitive” statement assigning responsibility to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) speaks volumes.

What he’s saying: Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, says that while some intelligence couldn’t be published because of the need to protect sources and methods, “we rarely see something published that is this definitive and I think that's an important accomplishment for the administration.”