October 24, 2022

Some 50 years ago, along with Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward broke some of the biggest political stories in history, reporting on the Watergate break-in that eventually led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office.

Today, Woodward continues to produce impactful reporting about the White House. In an opinion essay for the Post on Sunday, Woodward wrote, “In more than 50 years of reporting, I have never disclosed the raw interviews or full transcripts of my work. But after listening again to the 20 interviews I conducted with President Donald Trump during his last year as chief executive, I have decided to take the unusual step of releasing them. I was struck by how Trump pounded in my ears in a way the printed page cannot capture.”

The essay was adapted from Woodward’s audiobook — “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump” — which comes out this week. In all, Woodward had 16 phone calls with Trump, 20 interviews all told, making up eight hours of conversations. Woodward ended up writing a trilogy of books about Trump before releasing this collection of interviews.

Woodward wrote, “I realized I had become entangled in the disorder of Trump’s presidency. An informal practice evolved. Knowing that he could and would call me at any time, I started leaving recorders around my house. Knowing that I could call him and inquire about anything — including the events of that day — was an unprecedented reporting opportunity. It was also unnerving. Trump became the primary focus of my life for nine months.”

When it comes to the tapes, Woodward wants people to hear Trump and his responses to some of Woodward’s questions. For example, Woodward asked Trump about the summer of 2020 when COVID-19 was causing havoc across the world and in the United States. Woodward asked, “Was there a moment in all of this, the last two months, where you said to yourself, ‘Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime’?”

Trump said, “No.”

Woodward now writes, “On the printed page his ‘no’ reads flat, a simple declaration. Now listen to the audio of that exchange. This ‘no’ is confident, dismissive, full of self-assurance. It leaves no doubt about the finality of his judgment. This ‘no’ distances him from bearing responsibility. Sound has an extraordinary emotional power, an immediacy and authenticity. A listener is brought into the room. It is a completely different experience from reading Trump’s words or listening to snatches of his interviews on television or the internet.”

Woodward goes on to write, “In the ‘The Trump Tapes,’ I share my personal reporting journey through the eight hours of interviews. I provide commentary at more than 200 points in the audiobook, explicitly offering my own reactions, hesitations, conclusions, and explanations of my method of gathering and confirming information.”

“CBS Sunday Morning” talked to Woodward on Sunday. Woodward revealed the only time Trump ever gave him a no comment. It was while Trump was still president and Woodward asked Trump about rumors that he was going to refuse to leave the White House if he were to lose the 2020 election. Trump told him, “Well, I’m not — I don’t want to even comment on that, Bob. I don’t want to comment on that at this time. Hey, Bob, I got all these people, I’ll talk to you later on tonight!”

At the end of his book “Rage,” also about Trump, Woodward wrote that Trump was “singularly unfit to be President.” After listening back to all the tapes again, Woodward told “CBS Sunday Morning’s” John Dickerson, “Trump was the wrong man for the job. I realize now, two years later, all of the January 6 insurrection, leads me to the conclusion that he’s not just the wrong man for the job, but he’s dangerous, and he is a threat to democracy, and he’s a threat to the presidency because he doesn’t understand the core obligations that come with that office.”

“The party will shatter”

On the topic of Trump, Liz Cheney — the Republican congresswoman from Wyoming and co-chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection — said the Republican party will “shatter” if Trump is the party’s presidential nominee in 2024. She made those comments on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC.

Cheney told moderator Chuck Todd, “I think that the party has either got to come back from where we are right now, which is a very dangerous and toxic place, or the party will splinter, and there will be a new conservative party that rises. And if Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party, the party will shatter and there will be a conservative party that rises in its place.”

Todd asked Cheney if she would consider running for president, but Cheney would not commit one way or the other. Todd then asked, “There are some people who suggest if you were a third party candidate, it would be enough to stop Trump.”

Cheney said, “Well, we will do whatever it takes, as I said. He will not be the president of the United States again.”

As far as the Jan. 6 committee, Todd asked Cheney what crimes she believes Trump has committed. Cheney said, “I think that there are multiple criminal offenses — I don’t want to get in front of the committee — but that we are looking at. And I think it’s very important for everybody to recognize that when you are faced with a set of facts, when you’re faced with evidence as clear as this is, and some have said, well, you know, we don’t know what his intent was. Maybe he really thought he won the election. We actually know that’s not the case. We put on testimony that showed that he admitted that he lost. But even if, even if he thought that he had won, you may not send an armed mob to the Capitol, you may not sit for 187 minutes and refuse to stop the attack while it’s underway. You may not send out a tweet that incites further violence. So we’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal offenses that are likely at issue here. If the Department of Justice determines that they have the evidence that we believe is there and they make a decision not to prosecute. I think that really calls into question whether or not we’re a nation of laws.”

One more Trump item …

The New York Times’ Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Steve Eder have a new piece out: “For Trump’s Backers in Congress, ‘Devil Terms’ Help Rally Voters.”

The Times examined partisan language over the past 10 years. They wrote, “The analysis of tweets, Facebook ads, newsletters and congressional speeches — more than 3.7 million items in all — relied largely on natural language processing, a technique that uses software to extract information from large amounts of text. The Times tallied words that were linked in academic research to divisive political content, as well as those identified by linguists and computer scientists to be used in polarizing ways — ‘fascist’ and ‘socialist,’ for example, ‘far right’ and ‘far left.’”

The result?

The Times wrote, “Republican representatives have ratcheted up such rhetoric since former President Donald J. Trump took office, the analysis found. In the year and a half after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans on average used divisive words and phrases more than twice as often as Democrats in tweets, and six times as often in emails to constituents. At the forefront of this polarization are Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College results that cemented Mr. Trump’s defeat last year. A recent Times investigation revealed how those lawmakers helped engrave the myth of a stolen election in party orthodoxy. Now, a Times analysis shows that the language of the 139 objecting members is markedly more hostile than that of other Republicans and Democrats. In their telling, those who oppose them not only are wrong about certain policies but also hate their country.”

None of this is surprising if you pay attention to the news and social media, but it’s troubling nonetheless. Take the time to read this important story.

Lake continues to evade questions about the election

Last week during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former local news anchor, would not commit to accepting the results of the upcoming election. She was asked three times by CNN’s Dana Bash if she would accept the results, and the only answer she would give was, “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result.”

The same topic came up again during Lake’s interview on Sunday with ABC’s Jonathan Karl on “This Week.” Lake told Karl, “I will accept the results of this election if we have a fair, honest and transparent election. Absolutely, 100%. As long as it’s fair, honest and transparent.”

Lake has repeatedly raised unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election. She did so again with Karl and then said she wanted to talk about other topics, to which Karl responded, “We’ve been talking about a whole bunch of other things.” He later added, “I didn’t ask you about 2020. You brought it up.”

That was solid work by Karl.

Troubling threats

Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos is interviewed for Sunday night’s “60 Minutes.” (Courtesy of CBS News.)

Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos was interviewed by Anderson Cooper for Sunday night’s “60 Minutes.” Dominion has filed eight lawsuits seeking more than $10 billion from Fox News and other conservative news networks and individuals. Dominion is claiming they defamed the company by repeatedly making false accusations that Dominion’s voting machines rigged the election against Donald Trump. (Fox has said it merely reported claims made by Trump and his representatives.)

Poulos told Cooper, “People have been put into danger. Their families have been put into danger. Their lives have been upended and all because of lies. It was a very clear calculation that they knew they were lies. And they were repeating them and endorsing them.”

Poulos told Cooper the harassment continues, saying, “I don’t wish to sit here and, and say that this is something that happened 18 months ago. This is something that continues to happen every single day for us. Last Friday we had an office on lockdown. Two days prior to that, I was on a phone call with one of our employees who’s a mother of two. Um, very upset and crying — it’s hard to talk about.”

When asked what happened, Poulos said, “A very disgusting death threat in detail … on her personal cell phone.”

Media tidbits

Hot type

The Atlantic’s David French with “Herschel Walker and the Plight of the True Conservative Voter.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver with “Why I’m Telling My Friends That The Senate Is A Toss-Up.”

“CBS Sunday Morning” profiles F1 star Lewis Hamilton in “Lewis Hamilton on increasing diversity in Formula One racing.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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