Aides point fingers in wake of Woodward’s latest book

Yet as an alternative of outmaneuvering the journalist well-known for exposing Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Trump seems to have grow to be a sufferer of his personal confidence. And as an alternative of a glowing portrait of a profitable presidency, Trump is going through one other damaging account two months earlier than the election.

But folks acquainted with the scenario say it’s Trump himself who finally decided on the outset he might discuss Woodward into writing a constructive portrayal of his administration, reckoning the powers of salesmanship which have sustained him his complete grownup life would yield one other unlikely success.

So assured was Trump he might generate a good depiction that he supplied Woodward along with his private cellphone quantity, keen to talk with a person whose lengthy document of interviewing his predecessors has not precisely produced flattering outcomes.

In telephone calls late at evening from the White House residence, Trump spun his tenure as one of historic successes and unparalleled victory. But because the excerpts launched from the book on Wednesday present, he additionally appeared to confess he wasn’t being forthcoming with the American public about coronavirus.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward in a conversation on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Taken aback

When a recording of that, together with different parts of the book, started airing on CNN on Wednesday, White House aides had been greatly surprised. Many believed the book would emerge nearer to its official launch date subsequent week. A duplicate had not but been delivered to the West Wing, leaving staffers largely blind to what’s contained in it.

Even Trump himself has repeatedly requested aides — and Woodward himself — what’s contained in the book, recognizing it could doubtless make a big splash in the ultimate days of the presidential election.

At situation, in line with a number of senior White House officers, is Trump’s penchant for phoning Woodward with out his advisers’ information. While Trump performed two interviews for the book in the Oval Office surrounded by aides — together with, at one, then-acting chief of workers Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, then-deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley and Vice President Mike Pence — his subsequent conversations had been usually solely him and Woodward on the telephone.

Trump went across the White House communications workplace and workers for a number of of the 16 telephone interviews he did with Woodward, a White House official instructed CNN. The official mentioned Woodward would additionally name Trump immediately with out going by way of the communications workplace.

“Direct calls without us knowing were made all the time,” the official mentioned.

Woodward additionally visited the White House, generally catching press aides off guard; some used to rely how usually they noticed him coming and going from White House grounds.

Blame forged

White House and Trump campaign scramble to respond to Woodward revelations

When the primary excerpts dropped Wednesday — moments earlier than the press secretary was set to go earlier than reporters — blame was instantly forged contained in the West Wing over who let Trump discuss to Woodward 18 instances in audio that was recorded.

Kayleigh McEnany’s scheduled briefing at midday was pushed to 12:15 p.m. after which 12:30 p.m. earlier than she lastly emerged simply previous 1 p.m. and insisted Trump had by no means downplayed the disaster — regardless of his personal admission, on tape, that he “wanted to always play it down.”

A serious argument ensued contained in the West Wing over the matter, primarily contained in the communications groups, which have usually been blamed for damaging tales involving the President, although finally the choice to talk so usually and so candidly with a well-known journalist rests with Trump.

Many of the aides who now occupy high roles on Trump’s press crew weren’t current the final time Woodward revealed a harmful account of the White House and had been unaware of how a lot entry Trump had given him. An intensive quantity of White House workers, together with Jared Kushner, reportedly spoke to Woodward for his book.

In a mirrored image of a West Wing tradition rife with stress, not all who spoke to Woodward did so with the aim of bettering Trump’s personal standing. Several staffers believed that these officers who had cooperated with Woodward the primary time round acquired a extra constructive portrayal than those that didn’t, and had been desperate to handle their very own protection. Others feared that these they feuded with would converse to Woodward and wished to offer stability.

The aftermath

'Dangerous' and 'unfit': Trump's former national security advisers say he has 'no moral compass' in new Woodward book

In the aftermath, a blame sport has damaged out amongst varied factions on the White House, the place excessive turnover has muddled the traces of duty for the interviews. Stephanie Grisham was appearing as press secretary when the book started however moved in April to behave as first girl Melania Trump’s chief of workers. Hope Hicks is Trump’s senior adviser and longtime communications guru however didn’t re-enter the West Wing till February 2020, three months after Trump started chatting with Woodward. And Trump swapped chiefs of workers in March, changing Mulvaney with Mark Meadows.

“Honestly, his access to the White House is probably something that I would not have recommended had I been in the chief of staff role early on, but it’s the typical thing the President does,” Meadows instructed Fox News on Wednesday.

Others mentioned Sen. Lindsey Graham, a casual adviser to the President who usually performs golf with him on weekends, inspired Trump to talk with Woodward. Jared Kushner, the President’s senior adviser and son-in-law, spoke with Woodward as properly and cited “Alice in Wonderland” as a approach to perceive Trump. Despite sitting down with Woodward himself, Kushner considered the book with warning, in line with one adviser.

Some White House officers warned Trump that speaking to Woodward was a foul thought, one particular person acquainted with the matter insisted. Aides to the President “had concerns and voiced them repeatedly,” the supply mentioned.

But Trump not often accepts communication recommendation that counters his personal view of himself as a pure salesman.

During a swiftly scheduled afternoon occasion meant to unveil a listing of potential Supreme Court nominees, Trump half-heartedly requested if anybody had questions on his judicial picks earlier than partaking in questions on the Woodward revelations.

Unlike his press secretary, Trump didn’t deny enjoying down the disaster. Instead, he mentioned he hoped to mission calm.

“I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened, I don’t want to create panic,” he mentioned in the Diplomatic Reception Room. “Certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”

CNN’s Kate Bennett contributed to this report.

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