Former Trump aides break their silence on Woodward book
Three of President Donald Trump’s former top aides and advisers attacked Bob Woodward on Tuesday, accusing the veteran journalist of misquoting them in his new book “Fear” and falsely portraying the Trump White House as chaotic and dangerous.
On the day of the best-selling book’s official release, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter released a statement claiming Woodward presented a “selective and often misleading portrait” of the administration. Former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and former Trump transition official Chris Christie also slammed the book, which has roiled the West Wing.
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Porter, who departed the administration in February after his ex-wives leveled allegations of domestic abuse against the influential West Wing aide, took particular issue with reports in Woodward’s book that Cohn and other senior White House officials removed documents from the Resolute Desk without Trump’s knowledge.
In one episode from Woodward’s book, Cohn is described as having surreptitiously snatched a draft letter off Trump’s desk that would have terminated a trade deal with South Korea. Trump has disputed this account, saying Cohn “would have been fired so fast” if he had swiped the memo.
“As Staff Secretary, I was responsible for managing the flow of documents to and from the Oval Office and ensuring that anything the President was asked to sign had been properly vetted,” Porter said in a statement. “The suggestion that materials were ‘stolen’ from the President’s desk to prevent his signature misunderstands how the White House document review process works — and has worked for at least the last eight administrations.”
Porter also suggested that his role transmitting various government papers and staffers’ opinions to the president did not constitute a superseding of Trump’s authority — the type outlined last week in a New York Times op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official who claimed “a quiet resistance” was working against Trump from within the executive branch.
“It was also my responsibility to help ensure that relevant viewpoints were considered, that pros and cons were evaluated, that policy proposals were thoroughly vetted, and that the President could make decisions based on full information,” Porter said. “Fulfilling this responsibility does not make someone part of a ‘resistance’ or mean they are seeking to ‘thwart’ the President’s agenda. Quite the opposite.”
Sources familiar with Trump’s thinking have told POLITICO that he’s livid at Cohn and Porter, believing they leaked to Woodward, even though Trump has publicly slammed the book as a work of “fiction.”
Porter on Tuesday offered a forceful defense of the president, saying Trump “invites robust discussion and asks probing questions” and reiterating that Trump is ultimately “the one who decides” on his administration’s policy.
“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.
Porter’s statement was first reported by Axios, which also received a markedly more subdued statement from Cohn.
“This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House,” said the former top White House economic adviser. “I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda.”
Later Tuesday, Christie posted a series of tweets blasting Woodward and claiming the famous Watergate journalist did not call to confirm quotes attributed to him in the book.
“Seems to me that if you are going to directly quote someone based on another person’s account, least you should do is call quoted person to fact check,” the former New Jersey governor wrote online.
Christie also accused Woodward of relying too heavily upon former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for his sourcing. He derided the ex-Trump adviser as a “perpetual leaker” and called him the “co-author” of Woodward’s latest work.
“If Mr. Woodward would have performed rudimentary journalistic fact checking with those he was quoting, he would have had a more accurate book rather than just being a stenographer for Mr. Bannon’s self-aggrandizing revisionist history,” Christie tweeted.
According to Woodward’s account, candidate Trump lashed out at Christie after capturing the Republican nomination for fundraising on behalf of Trump‘s presidential transition team. Trump allegedly cursed at Christie, accusing him of “jinxing” and “stealing” from the campaign.
“Where the fuck is the money?” Trump reportedly asked Christie. “I need money for my campaign. I’m putting money in my campaign and you’re fucking stealing from me.”
Woodward also quotes Trump telling Christie: “I don’t want a transition. I’m shutting down the transition. I told you from day one it was just an honorary title. You’re jinxing me. I’m not going to spend a second on it.”
Trump would eventually oust Christie as head of the transition effort in November 2016, replacing him with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Woodward did not immediately respond to a request for comment from POLITICO.