WASHINGTON D.C. – President Donald Trump has become increasingly exasperated in recent weeks that he wasn’t interviewed by Bob Woodward ahead of the publication of his upcoming book, three sources with knowledge of the President’s concern tell CNN.
Trump’s irritation reflects a heightened sense of unease in the West Wing about next week’s release of the veteran reporter’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which details life in the Trump administration.
Woodward made several attempts to interview Trump, CNN is told, and there were serious discussions between high-ranking officials about whether the President should sit down with him. But the interview never panned out, and in recent weeks, Trump has complained to confidants that he didn’t have the chance to speak with Woodward before the book went to print.
The President’s agitation has amplified concerns in the West Wing, which was rocked by two tell-all books in the past nine months. Michael Wolff and Omarosa Manigault Newman both made sensational allegations in their unflattering portrayals, but questions about the veracity of those claims provided the White House with some cover to defend itself.
Neither the White House nor Simon & Schuster responded to CNN requests for comment.
Officials concede that same strategy likely won’t work when it comes to the Woodward book. His history covering the Watergate scandal alongside Carl Bernstein and penning several books about presidential administrations that go into painstaking detail cement that concern.
People who have spoken with Woodward said they were stunned by the level of detail he had learned about conversations and events inside the White House. Beyond personal accounts, Woodward also has documents, including administration memorandums and email exchanges between staffers, one source familiar with the book said.
Multiple people close to Trump have speculated that part of the reason an interview never happened was because of a policy instituted by chief of staff John Kelly after the January publication of Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which portrayed Trump as an ill-equipped leader who refused to read even one-page briefing papers.
Wolff said he was able to get access because he pitched a book that seemed sympathetic to the administration and Trump encouraged staffers to speak with him for the book, two sources told CNN. Wolff was seen frequently in the West Wing during the reporting of his book. Woodward has been spotted as well The book infuriated Kelly and then-top staffer Hope Hicks, and Kelly made clear to staff that no more interviews for books were allowed on White House grounds.
“After that, the rule was no more book interviews,” one person close to the White House told CNN. A senior administration official disputed that this policy existed, instead saying interviews are now determined on a case-by-case basis in a more organized manner than they were when Wolff was conducting interviews with staff.
Yet still, at least a dozen former and current White House officials confirmed to CNN that they spoke to Woodward for his book — some before and some after Kelly’s rule.
The book’s publisher Simon & Schuster has described “Fear” as an account of “the harrowing life inside Donald Trump’s White House and how the President makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.”
The existence of the book was under wraps until late July and will be published next Tuesday.