Woodward book reveals 'crazytown' White House

Bob Woodward's new book called "Fear: Trump in the White House" paints a portrait of a dysfunctional White House under President Trump.

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 5:59 AM
Updated: Sep 5, 2018 6:26 AM

President Donald Trump has called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded" and a "dumb Southerner," striking a far more shocking and profane tone in private than his public attacks, according to a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward.

Trump's long-simmering anger stems from Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Woodward describes how Trump viewed this as a backstabbing betrayal by someone he hoped would shield him from trouble.

The 448-page opus from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, "Fear: Trump in the White House," is slated for public release on September 11. CNN obtained a copy of the book, which Woodward says is drawn from hundreds of hours of background interviews with dozens of firsthand sources, including people in Trump's inner circle.

Woodward's reporting brings a credibility that distinguishes this book from previous efforts on Trump. The author and Washington Post journalist has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

The White House on Tuesday accused Woodward of spreading "fabricated stories" but did not deny any of the anecdotes in the book about Sessions.

Here are some of the many revelations from the book about the deteriorating relationship between Trump and Sessions, as reported by Woodward:

  • "This guy is mentally retarded. He's this dumb Southerner," Trump told Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who later quit amid domestic violence allegations. Trump then did an unflattering impression of Sessions' Alabama accent, making fun of Sessions' shaky performance at his confirmation hearings.

  • Trump privately told Porter: "How in the world was I ever persuaded to pick him for my attorney general? He couldn't even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama. What business does he have being attorney general?"

  • Trump once called Sessions an "idiot" to his face during an Oval Office meeting, Woodward reports. Not long after that, Sessions submitted a resignation letter to the White House, but Trump's senior aides persuaded him not to accept it.

  • The book says Trump vented to an aide that Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe was "the ultimate betrayal" and called him a "traitor."

  • Then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told Sessions in summer 2017 that Trump was attacking him to create a distraction -- because Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner was about to testify on Capitol Hill about Russia. Bannon reportedly said, "when Jared finishes testifying, if they think it's good testimony, he'll stop tweeting."

Late Tuesday night, Trump denied calling Sessions "mentally retarded" or a "dumb Southerner," and accused Woodward of making it up.

"The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions 'mentally retarded' and 'a dumb southerner,' " Trump tweeted. "I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!"

Some Republicans criticized Trump on Tuesday for his comments about Sessions. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson said "I resent that," when asked about Trump's mockery of Sessions' southern accent. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a fierce Trump ally, said Trump's comments were "totally inappropriate."

Over the past year, Trump has publicly attacked his handpicked attorney general on Twitter and in television interviews -- including a series of blistering tweets last month. Trump previously dubbed Sessions "our beleaguered A.G." and criticized his actions as "very weak" and "disgraceful." But Woodward's book exposes a new level of vitriol.

Sessions took the rare step of firing back at Trump after one of the President's most recent salvos. In a public statement, Sessions defended his control over the Justice Department and said it "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

As has happened before, some senior Republicans on Capitol Hill rushed to Sessions' defense and expressed confidence in his performance.

But a few cracks emerged when two key senators opened the door to confirming a new attorney general after the midterms. Trump seemed to embrace that idea in an interview with Bloomberg in late August, when he said Sessions' job was safe until at least November.

In that interview, Trump also repeated his desire for Sessions to investigate his political opponents, including Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect reaction to Woodward's book.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2729595

Reported Deaths: 57534
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings35008110971
Queens32689410411
Suffolk2554533688
Nassau2261353332
Bronx2133646806
New York1767984665
Westchester1481672356
Erie1248032050
Monroe976581253
Richmond928091973
Orange62183944
Onondaga59393818
Rockland55509783
Dutchess37964510
Albany34399413
Oneida33196643
Niagara28724419
Broome28212434
Saratoga24658225
Schenectady19328245
Ulster19063291
Rensselaer17411193
Chautauqua14985195
Oswego14170135
Putnam13145101
Chemung12834175
St. Lawrence12815143
Steuben12484190
Ontario11683119
Jefferson11388106
Wayne10251103
Cattaraugus9983157
Cayuga9729113
Sullivan958890
Genesee8633144
Herkimer8312143
Clinton809948
Fulton7854115
Tompkins741461
Madison7365109
Warren730096
Livingston722176
Montgomery7191162
Washington668580
Tioga634473
Cortland609489
Allegany5988122
Columbia5693113
Chenango554795
Orleans549496
Franklin541526
Otsego537063
Wyoming530266
Greene493189
Delaware439951
Lewis420340
Seneca324567
Essex298438
Schoharie268124
Yates198534
Schuyler193320
Hamilton5133
Unassigned1432
Out of NY0339
Utica
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 29°
Oneonta
Mostly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 25°
Herkimer
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 29°
Old Forge
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 29°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
2022 WKTV Golf Card only $99.99
Game Day Deals - New Deals Each Week
Stuff the Bus Locations
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve