Trump specifically denied a report in the book that he had asked for a plan to assassinate Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. “That was never even contemplated nor would it be contemplated,” he said.
Trump said that his chief of staff, John Kelly, and Defense Secretary James Mattis had issued statements on Tuesday denying remarks Woodward attributed to them without the president asking for the rebuttals. Trump speculated that Woodward had timed news stories based on his book to interfere with confirmation hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, that began this week.
“He likes to get publicity,” Trump said.
The Washington Post first published excerpts of Woodward’s book “Fear” on Tuesday. The book, a deeply reported examination of the Trump presidency, portrays an administration consumed by brutal infighting and a president whose anger at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation can paralyze the West Wing for days at a time. Close advisers quietly maneuver to control Trump’s impulses and prevent political and national security disasters.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said on Twitter that he was “tough as hell on people” who work for him. The tweet appeared to concede that Woodward’s book, in its recounting of White House staff turmoil and conflicts with the president, is at least partially accurate.
“I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done,” Trump said. “Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!”