By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bob Woodward, the author of a new book describing how top aides to U.S. President Donald Trump have attempted to limit what they saw as his dangerous behaviour, said on Sunday he would not have published the anonymous op-ed by an administration official that appeared in the New York Times last week.
Woodward, one of America’s most famous journalists whose own use of unnamed sources has drawn criticism, said when promoting his book on ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ that he did not know the author of the Times column, but that it was “too vague” and “does not meet the standards” to be published.
“It’s very important who it is. It’s very important whether this is somebody who witnessed and participated,” Woodward said. “I would say ‘Okay, name me who was there. What is the specific incident?’”
“I wouldn’t have used it,” Woodward added of the Times opinion column during his first televised interview about his 19th book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which is scheduled for release on Sept. 11. It is the latest book to detail tensions within the White House during Trump’s 20-month-old presidency.
In his book Woodward, who shot to fame more than 40 years ago for his reporting on the Watergate political scandal, portrays Trump as prone to profane outbursts and impulsive decision-making, with top aides worried the United States is one Trump tweet away from a national or economic security crisis.
“People who work for him are worried – that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or financial security of the country or of the world,” Woodward told ‘CBS Sunday Morning.’
Woodward in the book recounts how Defense Secretary James Mattis had to explain to Trump why the United States pays $3.5 billion (£2.7 billion) a year to station 28,000 troops in South Korea, telling the president it was a key line of defence against North Korea to prevent “World War Three.”
At one point, Trump drafted a tweet saying the United States planned to “pull our dependants from South Korea – family members of the 28,000 people there,” Woodward told CBS.
“At that moment, there was a sense of profound alarm in the Pentagon leadership that ‘My God, one tweet and we have reliable information that the North Koreans are going to read this as ‘an attack is imminent.’”
Woodward said he used multiple interviews with key witnesses to write the book, including one subject who was interviewed nine times, resulting in hundreds of pages of their transcribed statements.
Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News’ ‘Face the Nation’ that Woodward’s book “shows a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works.”
Pence said he did not know who wrote the Times column but that he was “100 percent confident that no one on the vice president’s staff was involved in this anonymous editorial.”
“Whoever this was they should do the honourable thing and resign,” Pence added.
Trump said last week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should investigate who authored the Times story as a matter of national security.
(Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Andrea Ricci)