Donald Trump is said to have given Bob Woodward his personal cellphone number in a bid to win him over during late-night calls, but the president would sometimes ‘unburden himself’ while interviewing for the journalist’s new book.
Woodward’s book, Rage, which comes out next week, draws from 18 conversations with Trump between December and July.
According to Woodward, sometimes he would get unexpected phone calls after 9pm from the president who was reportedly trying to generate a favorable depiction in the book, unlike in Woodward’s 2018 bestseller, Fear.
Such phone calls were looked down upon by his aides who were not always notified about their conversations.
In some of the interviews, Woodward said that Trump appeared to be worried about how he would be portrayed in the book.
‘It would be an honor to get a good book from you,’ Trump reportedly said in one interview.
In another conversation, Trump seemed more suspicious, telling Woodward: ‘You’re probably going to screw me. You know, because that’s the way it goes.’
According to Bob Woodward (center, sitting), sometimes he would get unexpected phone calls after 9pm from the president (left, sitting) who was reportedly trying to generate a favorable depiction in the book, unlike in Woodward’s 2018 bestseller, Fear
Sometimes Woodward would get unexpected phone calls after 9pm from Trump (pictured Sunday) who was reportedly trying to get a favorable depiction in the book. Such phone calls were looked down upon by his aides who were not always notified about their conversations
According to CNN, which was among to report about the interviews, Trump had also told Woodward: ‘And in the end you’ll probably write a lousy book. What can I say?’
When the interviews began in December 2019, Woodward said on one occasion, Trump seemed more focused on showing him photographs than actually answering his questions.
He then showed Woodward images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when Trump became the first US president to step foot in the country on June 30, 2019.
‘This is me and him,’ Trump said. ‘That’s the line, right? Then I walked over the line. Pretty cool. You know? Pretty cool. Right?’ Trump asked while referring to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula.
Woodward said that during that interview, Trump also had ‘props’.
‘The parchment appointment orders of the judges stacked in the middle of the desk, the large rolls of pictures of him and Kim, and a binder with letters from Kim,’ Woodward writes. ‘I knew it was a big show.’
‘I had interviewed Presidents Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama in the Oval Office. All sat in the standard presidential seat by the fireplace and did not have props,’ Woodward added.
When the interviews began in December 2019, Woodward said on one occasion, Trump seemed more focused on showing him photos of him with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un from June 30, 2019, when Trump became the first US president to step foot in the country (pictured)
In another interview, Woodward wrote that Trump seemed to have an obsession with social media.
‘I’m number one on Twitter,’ Trump told Woodward, according to CNN. ‘When you’re number one and when you have hundreds of millions of people, whether they’re against you or not they still read what you say.’
Former president Barack Obama actually ranks first overall on Twitter with 122 million followers compared to Trump’s 85 million.
He also reportedly claimed that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told him he has the top spot on the social media platform when actually Trump is not even in the top 50.
Woodward told Trump that he was worried about the state of the country in another interview.
‘As a citizen, somebody who lives here,’ Woodward said, ‘I’m worried as I can be about this whole thing.’
In response, Trump said: ‘Don’t worry about it, Bob. Okay? Don’t worry about it. We’ll get to do another book. You’ll find I was right.’
Trump admitted to minimizing the seriousness of the threat from COVID-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with Woodward.
‘I wanted to always play it down,’ Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19.
‘I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,’ he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.
Shortly after the revelations were made public, Woodward faced criticism for only now revealing Trump’s early concerns about the severity of the coronavirus. But Woodward has claimed that he needed time to be sure that Trump’s comments from February were accurate
Trump is also quoted in Woodward’s book saying the virus was highly contagious and ‘deadly stuff’ at a time when he was publicly dismissing it as no worse than the flu.
Shortly after the revelations were made public, Woodward faced widespread criticism for only now revealing Trump’s early concerns about the severity of the coronavirus.
But Woodward has claimed that he needed time to be sure that Trump’s private comments from February were accurate.
‘He tells me this, and I’m thinking, “Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?” Trump says things that don’t check out, right?’ Woodward told the AP during a telephone interview.
Using a famous phrase from the Watergate era, when Woodward’s reporting for the Post helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, Woodward said his mission was to determine: ‘What did he know and when did he know it?’
On Twitter and elsewhere online, commentators accused Woodward of valuing book sales over public health.
‘Nearly 200,000 Americans have died because neither Donald Trump nor Bob Woodward wanted to risk anything substantial to keep the country informed,’ wrote Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce.
During his AP interview, Woodward said Trump called him ‘out of the blue’ in early February to ‘unburden himself’ about the virus, which then had few cases in the US.
But Woodward said that only in May was he satisfied that Trump’s comments were based on reliable information and that by then the virus had spread nationwide.
‘If I had done the story at that time about what he knew in February, that’s not telling us anything we didn’t know,’ Woodward said.
At that point, he said, the issue was no longer one of public health but of politics. His priority became getting the story out before the election in November.
‘That was the demarcation line for me,’ he said. ‘Had I decided that my book was coming out on Christmas, the end of this year, that would have been unthinkable.’
Asked why he didn’t share Trump’s February remarks for a fellow Post reporter to pursue, Woodward said he had developed ‘some pretty important sources’ on his own.
‘Could I have brought others in? Could they have done things I couldn’t do?’ he asked. ‘I was on the trail, and I was (still) on the trail when it (the virus) exploded.’