cover image Peril


Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Simon & Schuster, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-1-9821-8291-5

In his third book about the Trump presidency (following Fear and Rage), Woodward joins forces with his Washington Post colleague Costa to offer a harrowing if familiar chronicle of the lead-up to and fallout from the 2020 election. The authors open with the dramatic revelation that Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twice reassured his Chinese counterparts that President Trump wouldn't launch a surprise attack to improve his chances of staying in office, and that if Trump tried to do so, the Chinese would be warned. According to the authors, Milley also limited Trump's ability to launch nuclear weapons. Drawing on anonymous interviews with "more than 200 firsthand participants and witnesses," Woodward and Costa also document how Trump's remarks about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville motivated Biden to run for president, and offer fly-on-the-wall accounts of Republican in-fighting over claims that the election was rigged, Vice President Mike Pence's waffling over whether he should overturn the electoral results, and negotiations over President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Unfortunately, none of these reveals match the drama of those pertaining to Milley, and readers hoping for new insights into the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol will be disappointed. This well-sourced recap feels more rote than revelatory. (Sept.)