White House allies step up attacks on Woodward book

White House allies step up attacks on Woodward book
© Getty Images

Several current and former aides rushed on Tuesday to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE and undermine veteran journalist Bob Woodward, ramping up the credibility war between the president and the Watergate journalist upon the release of his latest book.

The tensions deepened as Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House" officially hit bookshelves on Tuesday. It's expected to be a best-seller, with reports of 1 million copies being printed.

Two of the main people criticizing Woodward and the book on Tuesday were ex-White House staff secretary Rob Porter and former top economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnChristie: Trump doesn’t give nicknames to people he respects On The Money: Congress pivots to prevent another shutdown | Trump hits Venezuelan oil company with sanctions | US criminal charges filed against Huawei | Next round of China trade talks set | Forecasts raise doubt on Trump’s economic goals Gary Cohn joked about sending Trump to help Brexit talks: report MORE, who are both seen as possible sources of the Watergate reporter.


Both issued statements on Tuesday denouncing the book's narrative, which depicts a White House beset by internal chaos and filled with senior-level staffers who secretly oppose the president when they believe he may endanger the country.

“This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda,” Cohn said in a statement to Axios.

Porter suggested that Woodward mischaracterized what took place when he reported that Cohn “stole” documents off the Resolute Desk, and more broadly knocked the book as “selective and often misleading.”

“During my time in the White House, I sought to serve the President’s best interests and to help enable his many successes—successes that Mr. Woodward’s book ignores,” Porter said in a statement to Axios.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) also ripped Woodward on Tuesday, saying the author did not call to check with Christie on quotes attributed to him in his book. This is a criticism the White House has also lodged against Woodward.

In all, nearly 10 individuals featured in the book have joined the White House in attacking Woodward’s credibility and highlighting the accomplishments of a president who has repeatedly shown that he prioritizes loyalty.

Woodward has defended his work, and said in an interview with The New York Times podcast “The Daily” published Tuesday that his version of events would be vindicated.

“One key person, who’s in office, called me and said ‘everyone knows what you said here is true, it’s 1,000 percent correct,’ ” Woodward said on the podcast.

“And then this person has said some public things that contradict that,” he continued. “And I’m not happy, but I have a smile on my face because the truth in all of this is going to emerge."

Few of the individuals who have criticized Woodward have cited specific inaccuracies in the book. Instead, they have labeled the work “fiction,” “misleading” and “revisionist.”

Others have taken issue with the use of anonymous sources, something Woodward addresses at the outset of “Fear.”

A note to readers at the beginning of the book explains that the work is sourced on “deep background,” meaning that he could use information from his interviews without saying who provided it.

“The book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand participants and witnesses to these events,” Woodward wrote. “Nearly all allowed me to tape record our interview so the story could be told with more precision.”

The book's claims align with an abundance of reporting on the administration over the last 20 months, as well as assertions in a New York Times op-ed published last week by an anonymous senior administration official.

Cohn and Porter, who resigned within about a month of each other, pop up regularly in scenes where Woodward describes specific examples of administration aides acting against the president's instincts.

Woodward reported that Cohn snatched a letter off of Trump's desk that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade deal with South Korea, and took similar action when the president sought to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Porter, who left the administration amid allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-wives, is quoted in the book describing working in the administration as feeling “like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually.”

“Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken,” Porter says in the book, which includes multiple instances where Trump bad-mouths other aides to the then-staff secretary.

Cohn, the former economic adviser, departed the White House amid a rift with Trump over the president's tariff policies.

The attacks are reminiscent of the White House response to books published by former aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanEx-White House aide Cliff Sims sues Trump NYT: White House says Trump's tan is the result of ‘good genes’ Former White House aide says he's not worried about lawsuit over tell-all book MORE and author Michael Wolff, both of which portrayed the president in a negative light.

Woodward, however, has a track record of reporting on the White House that is more expansive than either Manigault Newman or Wolff.