Bob Woodward on Monday defended the use of anonymous sources amid claims by President Trump that the veteran journalist’s scathing new book about him is a “scam” filled with fictional quotes.
“These people are not anonymous to me,” Woodward told NPR. “These things happened.”
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, he said Trump is “detached from reality.”
“There’s a war on truth by him,” Woodward said. “He says, ‘Oh, these are unnamed sources.’ But these are not unnamed incidents.”
In excerpts published last week of “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Woodward quotes several current Trump administration officials — including chief of staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis — making disparaging comments about the president. According to the book, Mattis compared Trump’s understanding of U.S. national security interests in the Korean Peninsula to that of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.” Kelly is also portrayed as describing working for Trump thusly: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Both Kelly and Mattis released statements denying they made those comments.
“They are not telling the truth,” Woodward countered. “These are political statements to protect their jobs.”
(During Woodward’s “Today” show interview, Trump tweeted a quote attributed to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie questioning Woodward’s use of anonymous sources and citing Mattis and Kelly’s denials. The quote was not precisely what Guthrie said.)
“These are not unnamed incidents,” Woodward continued. “The incidents are not anonymous; it gives a date, it gives a time, who participates — most often the president himself — and what he says.”
Woodward also said the internal dysfunction revealed by his book has “not been treated seriously enough.”
“Some of the things Trump did and does jeopardize the real national security,” Woodward said.
Woodward, who has authored books critical of the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning work with Carl Bernstein on the Watergate scandal. Their reporting is widely credited as leading to the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.
While some Trump critics have said the revelations in Woodward’s book suggest the president is mentally unfit for office, Woodward would not go there.
“My job here is not to psychoanalyze,” Woodward told Guthrie. “It’s to describe what happened on specific dates, in specific moments. The people who are willing to talk are people of conscience, people of courage.”
Earlier Monday, Trump issued a series of tweets railing against Woodward’s book, which will be published Tuesday.
“The Woodward book is a Joke,” Trump tweeted. “Just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults, using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources. Many have already come forward to say the quotes by them, like the book, are fiction. Dems can’t stand losing. I’ll write the real book!”
“The White House is a ‘smooth running machine,’” he continued. “We are making some of the biggest and most important deals in our country’s history — with many more to come! The Dems are going crazy!”
The president then retweeted himself.
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