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Photo: Tasos Katopodis, Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

The latest book on the White House will be harder to shake off, even as President Trump claims parts of it "could be just made up by the author."

Why it matters: It's not normal for a president's team to fear he's a national security risk, as Bob Woodward's book claims — or to keep information from his desk and ignore his orders.

Among Woodward's reported revelations:

  • Gary Cohn and Rob Porter stole or hid documents from Trump's desk, including a draft letter that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea.
  • James Mattis ignored Trump's request to kill Bashar al-Assad in April of 2017. (In a statement, Mattis denied Woodward's claims about him, calling them "a product of someone’s rich imagination.”)
  • John Dowd told Trump he'd be wearing an "orange jump suit" if he dared testify to Mueller. (Dowd told Axios he didn't call Trump a "fucking liar," as Woodward reported.)
  • Trump called Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded" and "a dumb Southerner" who "couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama."
  • John Kelly called Trump "an idiot" who had "gone off the rails... This is the worst job I’ve ever had." (In a statement, Kelly denied calling Trump an idiot.)

The White House response, via Sarah Sanders: "This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad. ... Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results."

Between the lines, from Axios' Jonathan Swan:

  • The response is slow and muted compared to their thermonuclear response to the Michael Wolff book (though there's still time, of course!)
  • The fact they explicitly say that Trump's style is unconventional and often isn't pretty reads as a tacit acknowledgement that at least some of the key stories are true.

Be smart, via Swan: The White House's core problem is that Woodward is a serious reporter with decades of thorough reporting under his belt.

  • Unlike the very sloppy Michael Wolff, you can trust that Woodward has gone to inordinate lengths to get to the best obtainable version of the truth. It will be hard to credibly dismiss this as "fake news."

The bottom line: There's a reason the White House hasn't gone all in on Woodward. They can't.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the statement released by Secretary Mattis.

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Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.