Littwin: Now we wait to see how Trump sells the explosive Woodward book as fake news

Wax figure of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during Watergate era (via Cliff on Flickr:Creative Commons)

It’s time for a brief governmental shutdown. A couple of days ought to do it, just long enough for everyone in town to read the explosive Bob Woodward book on Donald Trump and his dysfunctional administration.

It’s 448 pages, so some of our leaders may opt for the CliffsNotes, but it’s critical they read Woodward’s book “Fear,” which confirms what anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention already knew: that Trump is profoundly unfit for the job of president. But more than that, it details the work of many of Trump’s aides in trying to protect the nation from our president. If that’s not shocking — and I confess it isn’t — it ought to be.

So, once our so-called leaders are finished reading, then they should meet to decide what the hell to do next.

The above is, of course, the fantasy section of the column. Republican leaders won’t read the book (at least not where anyone can see them) or the CliffsNotes or do anything. There’s plenty of jaw-dropping anecdotes in the book,  but not one of them is surprising. And from Republicans in Congress, who are already well aware of the White House dysfunction, we can expect nothing.

If you watched the first day of the highly charged Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings – when Democrats demanded all the Kavanaugh records, many of which Republicans are withholding — you know all you need to know. Protesters may scream. Democrats, who should have to listened to Michael Bennet and saved the filibuster for this confirmation, may cry coverup. But it’s still business as usual.

Kavanaugh will be asked many tough questions, but maybe none tougher than his thoughts on Trump’s latest attack on the rule of law – his tweet attacking the “Jeff Sessions Justice Department” for indicting two Republican congressman just before the midterms, putting their seats in doubt. It’s enough to make Nixon blush.

What does Kavanaugh do with that question? Can he really not condemn the Trump tweet? Can we really not suspect that Trump nominated Kavanaugh for his well-known willingness to uphold the authority of the executive? Will he look to the Republican response to the Woodward book for guidance?

In a normal political crisis, you’d think there would be only two choices for congressional Republicans, whose enabling of Trump will go down as a scandal of historic proportions, in responding to “Fear.” They could either call it the standard “fake news,” which, as they know, is a little tougher with Woodward, who is not Michael Wolff and not Omarosa. He is, well, Bob Woodward, who, yes, has been rightly criticized for his overuse of anonymous sources, but who says in this case — here’s fear for you — he has tapes of all the conversations.

The other option would to, uh, do something, maybe something as obvious as ensuring that Bob Mueller’s investigation is safe from Trump.

But in this case, there a third option, which will almost certainly be the road taken — for everyone to pretend there is no Woodward book and no echoes of Watergate.

You’ve probably seen the book highlights by now.

How top aides stole papers from Trump’s desk so he’d never see them and act on them.

How Defense Secretary James Mattis, after explaining to the president why we have troops in South Korea (uh, to avoid World War III was Mattis’ answer), said Trump had the understanding of a “fifth or sixth grader.” Or how Trump told Mattis it was time to assassinate Bashar al-Assad, which Mattis simply ignored.

How Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot.” Kelly denies this, but it has been reported before. You may note he didn’t deny the rest of Kelly’s Woodward-reported quote: “It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown … I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

How Trump called Sessions “mentally retarded” — does anyone not believe that? — and “a dumb Southerner” who “couldn’t be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.” As David Graham cleverly noted in The Atlantic, a president in this situation might be careful what he says about slow-talking Southern lawyers, referring to the late Sen. Sam Ervin’s long-ago role in Watergate.

There are many more Trumpian insults in the book. But maybe the juiciest excerpt I’ve seen so far is Trump lawyers pushing back against the president’s wish to testify in the Mueller investigation. According to Woodward, former Trump lawyer John Dowd persuaded Trump to do a mock interview, which Trump failed miserably and not only because he started ranting, “This thing’s a goddamn hoax. I don’t really want to testify.”

But here’s where it gets weird. Knowing that Trump couldn’t help but perjure himself, Dowd went to  Mueller’s office and apparently, yes, re-enacted the mock interview, with Dowd playing the Mueller role and Jay Sukelow, who is still one of Trump’s lawyers,  playing Trump. It’s impossible to believe and yet impossible for anyone to have made up. It’s an SNL skit waiting to happen.

And then there’s this: On the day before Dowd submitted his resignation to Trump, he told Trump, “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

The latest from The New York Times is that Mueller will agree to allow Trump to answer some questions in written form. If Trump can avoid a formal interview, it may (or may not) allow him to avoid the whole jumpsuit issue. But we’ll know who didn’t write the answers if they take more than 280 characters and do not include the word “hoax.”


  1. I’m no fan of Trump. His admin is chock full of ZioCon traitors, but your giving Woodward all these accolades knowing (or not knowing) that his role in Watergate was as an operative, his role in the fraud that was Obambacare, and his using his fraudulent past as a reason for giving him credibility now is indicative of exactly why no one trusts the legacy media anymore. You must enjoy your role as the dinosaur who’s going extinct because you keep on filling it completely.

  2. This time, Mike, THIS TIME Trump is reallly gonna’ get it. All those other times when you said he was going down, well, you must have been fooling around.


    Really. No foolin’, ‘Cause otherwise I’m going to have to spend another night screaming at the sky, pining for Felonia von Pantsuit.

  3. If nothing else, it has been entertaining to watch Republican hypocrites’ credibility crumble before our eyes as they try to rationalize and or normalize Comrade Chump’s behavior.

    I am also heartened by the book’s notion that there are a few adults still trying to hide the car keys from him, although it sounds like the “President*” is starting to figure out that few are taking him seriously, even in his own inner circle.

  4. Cappy, Where did I say that Trump was going down. I said just the opposite — that Republicans will simply ignore the book and nothing will happen, I guess you went for the CliffsNotes on the column.

  5. Great column!

    Mr. Littwin admitted early—-the fourth paragraph—-that any thought of the book prompting any action against President Trump was “fantasy” which allowed readers to ignore the hyperbole/agitprop that would surely follow and follow it did.

    But admitting upfront the column was largely “fantasy” was a yuge step for Mr. Littwin and one that should be applauded (insert applause here).

  6. Combination of Woodward’s book (and promises of tapes for most of the interviews) and today’s New York Times’ anonymous oped from “a senior official in the Trump administration”creates an interesting challenge to the faithful. Few new claims, but Woodward has anecdotes to illustrate the standard criticisms. The Senior Official has few details in the op ed, but generalizes to confirm the majority of the standard criticisms while claiming allegiance to Republican truths.

    So, if “only the best people” insiders are revealing the incompetency of Trump to the Washington Post-linked Woodward and the NY Times OpEd team, when will the purges begin? And will the Trump true believers continue to rationalize the rapid churn of staff as the function of a “well-oiled machine” or sense there could be a bit of a problem?

  7. Mike, your columns always get to the grist of the matter! I got a huge laugh when Trump’s lawyers realized he would lie under oath!! Alas, the man does it so much, and gets away with it, he doesn’t understand there can be ramifications!

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