In a statement Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the book “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad.”
Sanders also acknowledged that Trump’s White House does not function like those of his predecessors, saying, “While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, President Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people. Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results.”
Indeed, the August transcript of Trump’s call with Woodward offered glimpses of a process in disarray, where important requests such as Woodward’s are simply dropped without any follow-up, and where White House staff, led by Trump himself, will go to great lengths to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
At several points in the call, Trump also seemed to pretend that the Oval Office was just like any other business office and that if Woodward had simply called him directly, he would have been connected to the president.
“But you never called for me. It would’ve been nice, Bob, if you called for me, in my office,” Trump said at one point during the call. “I mean, I have a secretary. I have two, three secretaries. If you would’ve called directly.”
Trump repeated this claim Tuesday afternoon in an interview with The Daily Caller, telling the conservative news outlet, “I never spoke to [Woodward]. Maybe I wasn’t given messages that he called. I probably would have spoken to him if he’d called, if he’d gotten through. For some reason I didn’t get messages on it.”
During his call with Woodward, Trump suggested that some of the aides Woodward spoke to about his interview request were too afraid of Trump to actually tell him about it.
“A lot of people are afraid,” Trump said, mentioning deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah specifically. “I don’t speak to Raj,” Trump said.
Trump’s senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, also picked up the phone during the call, and she told Woodward that she had passed his request for an interview up the chain of command, but that it had been rejected.
“Kellyanne went to somebody, but she didn’t come to me,” Trump said of Conway.
“Well, does she have access to you?” Woodward asked.
“She should’ve come to me. She does have access to me. Absolutely. She has direct access, but she didn’t come to me.” Trump said. “And you know what? That’s okay. I’ll just end up with another bad book. What can I tell you?”
At no point did Trump mention Kelly, his chief of staff, or Sanders, the White House press secretary, who would have been two of the most logical conduits for a major interview request in previous administrations.
Instead, Trump said his executive assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, “is the key. She’s the secret. Because she’s the person…”
Woodward interrupted him, saying, “Well, I talked to Raj [Shah] about it. I talked to . . . I talked to Kellyanne.”
“Well, a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or — you know, they are busy. I’m busy,” Trump said.
As the call concluded, Trump seemed to blame Woodward for the near total lack of process in the Trump White House for transmitting something as simple as an interview request from a journalist.
“I’m just hearing about it,” Trump said, again, of the interview request. “And I heard — I did hear from Lindsey, but I’m just hearing about it. So we’re going to have a very inaccurate book, and that’s too bad. But I don’t blame you entirely.”
Woodward pushed back, “No, it’s going to be accurate, I promise,” he said.
“Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you,” Trump replied.
This story has been updated to include comments Trump made in a Tuesday interview with The Daily Caller.