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Trump attacks Woodward book, wonders why Congress doesn't change libel laws

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the book was full of the "same rehashed, retold stories."
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House
President Trump called a new book by Bob Woodward depicting scenes of chaos in his administration "nasty stuff."Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images file

President Donald Trump and his White House stepped up efforts to discredit veteran journalist Bob Woodward's explosive new book on Wednesday after excerpts revealed stunning details of turmoil inside the administration.

Trump spent Tuesday night tweeting criticism of the book, titled "Fear" and scheduled to be published on Sept. 11, and then followed that up on Wednesday by tweeting it was "a shame" that "someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact and get away with it without retribution or cost."

"Don't know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?" he added.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters he wasn't interested in changing the laws.

"Do I favor changing libel laws? No — no is that something that has been suggested?" Ryan asked. "I was busy working this morning. I have not been looking at my phone."

Later in the day, Trump told reporters inside the Oval Office that the book "means nothing" and is a "work of fiction."

He also suggested that the early release of excerpts this week was timed to "interfere" with the confirmation hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Woodward's book contains astonishing anecdotes showing how top aides routinely went behind Trump’s back to thwart him and how little they trusted the president to do or say the right things, or make the appropriate decisions.

Moments after Trump's tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to reporters, pushing back on several of the book's anecdotes and criticizing its reliance on anonymous sources.

“These are the same rehashed, retold stories,” she said. “Just because they keep getting retold doesn't make them true."

She also said the picture of chaos inside the White House painted by Woodward couldn't be true, because the administration has had so much "success" in achieving various goals.

“I don't think there are many current staffers painting that picture," she said. "We can't have the type of success if that book is an accurate representing."

Sanders also made several media appearances Wednesday morning, including interviews on Fox News and ABC News, claiming that it wouldn’t have mattered if Woodward had tapes and other evidence to back up his book.

“He may have hundreds of hours of tapes but I think most of those probably come from some disgruntled former employees. It’s a lot of anonymous sources,” she told ABC. “Everything so far that I’ve seen out of this book doesn’t depict what’s going on in the building behind me.”

Among the book's most salacious allegations is an instance where Gary Cohn, who served as Trump’s top economic adviser until March, "stole a letter off Trump's desk" that the president was going to sign that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade pact with South Korea. According to Woodward, Cohn told a colleague that Trump never noticed. The books also alleges that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump acted like"a fifth or sixth grader" and that chief of staff John Kelly had called the president an "idiot."

Trump, in an interview with the Daily Caller on Tuesday, called Woodward's book "nasty stuff," denied that certain scenes had occurred and ripped the author for having "a lot of credibility problems."

Mattis and Kelly also issued their own statements denying the allegations in the book.