The Slatest

Woodward Warns of White House Dysfunction: “Let’s Hope to God We Don’t Have a Crisis”

Bob Woodward arrives for a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower on January 3, 2017 in New York.
Bob Woodward arrives for a meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower on January 3, 2017 in New York.
DON EMMERT/Getty Images

In Bob Woodward’s first TV interview to promote the much-hyped Fear, his book on Donald Trump’s presidency, the veteran journalist warned that “people better wake up to what’s going on.” Woodward said that the way things are working in the administration gives way to lots of concern about what could happen. “You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, ‘Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis’,” he added in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning.

Woodward, who said he interviewed more than 100 people for the book, claims White House staffers are constantly concerned about what the president might do. “People who work for him are worried … that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country, or of the world,” Woodward said. As an example he noted how then-chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter stole documents from the president’s desk that they thought would “endanger the country.” How did they manage to do that? It’s simple because Trump’s memory just isn’t very good. “If it’s not on his desk, if it’s not immediately available for action, it goes away,” he said.

Those types of moves by White House staffers are what differentiate this from all the presidencies Woodward has covered. “In the eight others,” he said, “I never heard of people on the staff in the White House engaging in that kind of extreme action.”

The White House—and Trump himself—has dismissed the book as inaccurate. But Woodward’s description of a White House in chaos seemed to have received strong backing in the form of the anonymous New York Times op-ed published last week. Woodward, however, said he wouldn’t have published the piece. “I wouldn’t have used it,” Woodward said. “Too vague, and does not meet the standards of trying to describe specific incidents. Specific incidents are the building blocks of journalism, as you well know.”