What’s the best proof that former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn pulled a letter off Trump’s desk to keep him from starting a trade war with South Korea? How about the letter. Woodward has published the letter which is addressed to South Korean President Moon by Donald Trump and ends the United States—Korea Free Trade Agreement. According to Cohen, he spirited the note off the Resolute Desk. That act altered the course of US economic policy by counting on the fact that the man with the “best memory in the world” wouldn’t remember what he was supposed to be signing.
As Trump and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders continued to rant that the new book is “nothing put fiction” and as the White House is roiled by a hunt for both people who spoke to the Pulitzer-winning journalist and whoever wrote the anonymous op-ed for the New York Times, there’s one more factor they might want to consider: Bob Woodward kept the receipts.
It’s not just Cohn’s letter. The introduction to the book makes it clear that Woodward recorded his interviews with Trump staffers. But Woodward made the recordings under promises that he would treat the information as “deep background,” so Trump is likely safe from listening to the playback of that audio on the evening news … unless some current or former member of the staff gives Woodward the signal to hit the play button. Which could happen.
The production of the letter snagged by Cohn helps nail down the validity of that claim, but there seems little doubt that Trump, and Sanders, will continue to attack other claims in the book. Because they can rely on the same thing they’re attacking—Woodward’s professionalism as a journalist. And because they know that Woodward would literally go to his grave before rolling over on his sources, Trump is free to scream “fake news” as loudly as he wants.
All of this shows exactly why Trump is so intent on both attacking the news media at every turn, and why he’s also intent on halting any filtering of hate speech and outright lies on social media. Trump wants to ensure there is no accepted authority. Not the news media. Not Bob Woodward. Not anyone. No touchstone that people can refer to when weighing truth vs. fiction.
Because in that environment the loudest voice wins. And Trump not only has a megaphone, he has to the power to muffle others.
The release of the Cohn-snatched letter follows on the earlier Washington Post release of a phone chat between Woodward and Trump. In that transcripts, Trump denies getting a request to talk that Woodward passed through Kellyanne Conway. The Post helpfully paired that transcript with a recording of Woodward speaking with Conway, where Conway tells him that his request to speak with Trump has been rejected.
Woodward has receipts. For instance he publishes the draft letter Cohn swiped from Trump’s desk: pic.twitter.com/nvR42wY0Mf
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) September 6, 2018