Woodward: Kelly, Mattis ‘are not telling the truth’ in denying their comments about Trump

Watergate journalist Bob Woodward on Monday said White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE are not being truthful in denying that they made disparaging comments about President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE.

“They are not telling the truth," Woodward told NBC News. “These people, these are political statements to protect their jobs, totally understandable."

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The Washington Post last week published excerpts of Woodward's upcoming book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," that included sections in which Kelly and Mattis reportedly insulted the president.

One of the excerpts had Mattis saying Trump has the same understanding of the situation on the Korean Peninsula as "a fifth- or sixth-grader."

"The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered by me or in my presence," Mattis wrote in a statement he released shortly after The Washington Post published the excerpts.

Woodward, who is an associate editor at the Post, also wrote in his book that Kelly ridiculed the president's intelligence, calling him "an idiot" and referring to the administration as "Crazytown."

Kelly also denied Woodward's reporting, writing in a statement, "The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true."

Both Kelly and Mattis dismissed the book as fiction, with Kelly calling it "another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes."

Trump has also been dismissive of Woodward's book.

When asked on NBC's "Today" why the public should trust the reporting in his book, given the use of anonymous sources, Woodward said, "These are not unnamed incidents; [they are] specific people on specific dates."

"The incidents are not anonymous — it gives a date, it gives a time, who participates, most of the time the president himself, and what he says," Woodward said on Monday.

Woodward has criticized The New York Times's decision to publish an anonymous op-ed last week authored from a senior official in the administration, saying it was too vague because the author didn't reference specific incidents or provide concrete details.