Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, Fear: Trump in the White House, seems to contain a lot of substantive information about decisionmaking and other activities in the White House but nothing utterly surprising on the downside for President Trump.
The Washington Post – surprise, surprise – obtained a copy of the book, which is to be released September 11, and ran an article that must, given it’s the Post, include a lot of the most damaging details. What it amounts to is mostly the usual reports of conniving staffers, disorganization, and Trump seeming disengaged at best and not so bright at worst. It’s all stuff we’ve heard before.
Here’s the portion of the article dealing with the decision on whether Trump should testify before Mueller:
John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point.
In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.
“This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.”
On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles, where Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump’s January practice session.
Woodward’s book recounts the debate between Trump and his lawyers, including John Dowd, regarding whether the president will sit for an interview with special counsel Robert. S. Mueller III. (Richard Drew/AP)
Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”
“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.
Later that month, Dowd told Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”
But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.
“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.
“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”
The next morning, Dowd resigned.
One other interesting little nugget. National Economic Council Advisor Gary Cohn was prone to stealing documents off Trump’s desk that he didn’t want the president to sign.
Here is some audio of a phone call between Trump and Woodward in which the two discuss the book.
Trump Tuesday tweeted out the following reactions: