Trump’s “Peril,” After “Rage” And “Fear”

Woodward’s Book Explores the Turbulent Aftermath of Biden’s Election
Book Cover

Another book by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (this time with fellow journalist Robert Costa), another set of secrets about Washington’s politics disclosed and distributed all over the world, and another wave of criticism about Woodward’s writing style and the accuracy of some of the “secrets.”

“Peril” is Woodward’s third book about the presidency of Donald Trump, after “Fear” and “Rage.”

Although the general criticism of Trump and his administration has been repeated in books, reports, tweets and texts, in “Peril”, Woodward, as usual, selected a harvest of extensive interviews with top leaders and news-makers. That enabled him to find new information directly from their sources, aside from already published accounts.

Here are some of them:

In the aftermath of last year’s presidential elections, as Trump refused to accept the results, Trump had a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence in which he pressured Pence to invalidate the election results of a few states that Trump thought he actually won. On the evening of January 5, 2021, Pence told Trump he had no power to do it. Pence said his staff found no respectable lawyer who would say he had that power. Trump asked, pointing at a TV that was showing his supporters outside the White House, “Well, what if these people say you do?"

Pence disagreed and Trump shouted back, “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.”

Then, there was the story of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. As the TV was showing Trump’s supporters inside the Congress building, he called Trump and asked him to order his supporters to leave the building. But Trump said that McCarthy should be ashamed for not supporting the riot— “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are much more upset about the election than you are.”

Woodward wrote about this conversation between Trump and McCarthy in the White House at lunchtime:

Trump: “You want a cheeseburger and fries?”

McCarthy: “I’ll have a cheeseburger, but I’m fat. No fries. Salad. Take the bun out.”

Trump, later: “You want some ice cream?”

McCarthy: “I’ll have some fruit.”

Trump ordered ice cream for himself.

Then there was the story of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who, while not publicly supporting the riot, blamed the Democrats. He had always been an extreme partisan, and looked at politics in Washington as a war with the Democrats in which each side was either a winner or a loser – no compromises.

So, he blamed, not Trump, but Democrat Joe Biden who had just defeated Trump: “He (Biden) is doing what every Democratic president wants to do, which is to push this country as far left as possible, as rapidly as possible. They all want to be the next FDR (former President Franklin D. Roosevelt).” Riots or not, ransacking the Congress or not, it was war between socialism and democracy, McConnell had always believed.

Then, there was the story of General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who, not a politician, thought the riots were not about socialism and democracy, as McConnell believed: “Blood was shed to support the belief that retaining power by mob rule against the law would be almost cool,” he told Woodward.

Woodward disclosed that, the day after the riots at the Congress, General Milley called his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, and told him: “We are not going to attack. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Then there was the story of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, although less partisan than his fellow McConnell, was nevertheless a staunch supporter of Trump, even after Trump left the White House: “I think he’s redeemable. I think he’s got magic and I think he’s got darkness.”

On a second occasion, Graham said to Trump: “Mr. President, there’s just no way this party can grow without you. You are the leader of the Republicans.”

During a third occasion, Graham said: “My job is to maintain what’s left of the John McCain wing of the Republican Party, the Ronald Reagan wing of the Republican Party, that believes that America is an indispensable leader of the world.”

Obviously, Graham believed that Trump, although a Conservative Republican, was “an indispensable leader” of the “indispensable leader of the world.”

Then there was the story of Woodward himself.  As happened after he published the two earlier books about Trump, “Rage” and “Fear” (as well as previous books), Woodward was criticized for his style of:

First, quoting people depending on a third party.

Second, quoting conversations depending on one participant.

Third, quoting people remembering what they had said, which might not be exact.

But apparently Woodward’s style has been not objectionable because he continued to publish successful books as “Peril” was number 21.

Finally, Trump comments on “Peril” that Woodward “writes fiction, not fact.”


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