cover image Fear: Trump in the White House

Fear: Trump in the White House

Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7551-0

In a compulsively readable narrative "drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses," Washington Post associate editor Woodward contends that members of the Trump administration took steps to "intentionally block some of what they believed were the president's most dangerous impulses." Woodward deems those actions "no less than an administrative coup d'etat." In the most dramatic example, Gary Cohn, Trump's top economic advisor, removed a draft letter from the Oval Office that terminated a free trade agreement with South Korea, which constituted, in Cohn's view, "a potential trigger to a national security catastrophe." As Cohn had hoped, Trump "never noticed the missing letter." Woodward also offers other sensational anecdotes unrelated to his administrative coup theme%E2%80%94such as an argument between chief of staff John Kelly and the head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union that was so heated that Trump later said he thought the two were going to get into a fistfight%E2%80%94as well as the occasional positive comment, such as those about the First Couple's affection for each other, and Trump's newspaper-reading habits. He ends with another sensational claim: that John Dowd, Trump's lawyer for the special counsel Russia investigation, told Trump that he would end up behind bars if he agreed to be interviewed by the special counsel, and considered Trump "a fucking liar." Woodward's reporting, with its heavy reliance on "multiple deep background interviews with firsthand sources" who remain anonymous, will be problematic for some, especially those not already inclined to believe the worst about the president. But readers who trust the reporting will find this to be both entertaining and disturbing reading. (Sept.)