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Trump on defensive over damning publications

  • Published at 12:59 am September 8th, 2018
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press aboard Air Force One on September 7, 2018, as he travels to Fargo, North Dakota, to speak at a Joint Fundraising Committee.  / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press aboard Air Force One on September 7, 2018, as he travels to Fargo, North Dakota, to speak at a Joint Fundraising Committee AFP

A book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward and an incendiary unsigned article in The New York Times by a senior member of Trump's administration have sparked yet another crisis for the White House, prompting the president to hit back in characteristic style

On the defensive over damning accounts of the inner workings of his administration, Donald Trump set out Friday to discredit the testimony that cast doubt on his ability to lead the United States.

A book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward and an incendiary unsigned article in The New York Times by a senior member of Trump's administration have sparked yet another crisis for the White House, prompting the president to hit back in characteristic style.

"The Woodward book is a scam. I don't talk the way I am quoted. If I did I would not have been elected President. These quotes were made up. The author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle," Trump tweeted.

"I wish the people could see the real facts - and our country is doing GREAT!"

Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House," a 448-page account of an out-of-control administration set to hit bookshelves next week, draws on hundreds of hours of insider interviews.

The respected White House chronicler describes a coalition of like-minded aides plotting to prevent the president from destroying the world trade system, undermining national security and sparking wars.

Woodward's revelations were supported by the article in The New York Times published anonymously on Wednesday, which said "unsung heroes" were quietly working within the administration to frustrate the president's "worst inclinations."

In an interview with Fox News broadcast Friday, Trump blasted the newspaper for printing the op-ed, which said cabinet members had even considered declaring Trump unfit to lead and beginning the process of ousting him via an amendment to the Constitution. "The Times should never have done that, because really what they've done is virtually, you know, it's treason," the president said.

'Very unfair'

A "whodunnit?" style guessing game has raged in the corridors of power and on social media over the identity of the author, prompting nearly every cabinet-ranked member of the government to deny involvement.

"We have thousands of people that, in theory, could qualify," Trump told Fox News, describing the author's anonymity as "very unfair," since it prevented them from being openly scrutinized.

Woodward's is not the first unflattering investigation into Trump's White House, but it has been particularly resonant coming from the man who together with Carl Bernstein authored the Watergate expose that brought down Richard Nixon.

He is one of the most respected living US journalists, and has written extensively on modern American presidents, earning praise from Trump himself in 2013 for his work on Barack Obama.

Woodward describes Trump regularly insulting key members of his own team, who are in turn contemptuous of the president.

Attacking the veracity of the quotes attributed to Trump and his lieutenants in "Fear" has been a central plank of the administration's attempt to discredit Woodward.

But Trump's insistence that the words attributed to him are "made up" hasn't always stood up to scrutiny.

Trump's claim, for example, that he would never have used the word "retarded" to describe Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quickly undermined by recordings showing he had used the term several times in the past.

While Woodward does not name his sources, he says he spoke with many people currently or formerly working for Trump, discussing not just the president's personality but also major policy debates regarding North Korea and Afghanistan.

The book depicts Trump aides working to head off potential foreign policy disasters, taking more measured steps after the president suggested assassinating his Syrian counterpart and stealing an order that would have canceled the US-South Korea trade agreement.