Awkward call exposes real Donald Trump
DONALD Trump's tortured relationship with his staff was laid bare like never before this week.
The most sensational story came from an anonymous "senior official" in the government, who wrote an article revealing some of Mr Trump's own appointees were "working from within" to undermine the President's agenda.
That revelation was sufficiently shocking to overshadow another, equally damaging insight into the inner workings of the White House.
Earlier in the week, the media started to publish details from an upcoming book by Watergate journalist Bob Woodward.
Fear: Trump In The White House will be published on September 11. According to the Washington Post, it "paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency".
It is the third major book about Mr Trump's White House, following Michael Wolff's Fire And Fury and the memoirs of fired presidential adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, Unhinged. But it is far more dangerous than either of them.
Woodward does not share the credibility problems of Wolff or Manigault Newman. A notoriously fastidious reporter who has won two Pulitzer prizes and covered the presidency for decades, he is most famous for breaking the story that brought down former US president Richard Nixon.
The information within his new book is drawn from hundreds of hours of taped interviews, along with notes, diaries and government documents.
This guy does not just make stuff up.
But one thing is conspicuously missing from the book - an interview with Mr Trump himself.
Thanks to a cringe-worthy phone conversation between Woodward and the President, we now know exactly why.
A transcript of the 11-minute call was published in the middle of all the other fireworks this week.
The pair mostly discussed Woodward's efforts to contact Mr Trump for the book. Woodward said he had tried to get to the President through half a dozen different people, including senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, deputy press secretary Raj Shah and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
Mr Trump repeatedly insisted no one had told him.
Trump: "I just spoke with Kellyanne and she asked me if I got a call. I never got a call. I never got a message. Who did you ask about speaking to me?"
Woodward: "Well, about six people."
Trump: "They don't tell me."
Woodward: "A senator. I talked to Kellyanne about it two-and-a-half months ago."
As the conversation progressed, it grew more revealing, as Mr Trump accidentally reinforced three of the most persistent and damaging rumours about him.
• HE'S DISHONEST
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Mr Trump actually had been told Woodward wanted to speak to him.
Trump: "Who were the senators? No, they never called me about it."
Woodward: Senator Graham said he had talked to you about talking to me. Now, is that not true?"
Trump: " … Senator Graham actually mentioned it quickly in one meeting."
Woodward: "Yes, well, see. And then nothing happened."
When Woodward confronted the President with direct evidence of his dishonesty, his excuses became nonsensical.
"I'm just hearing about it. And I heard - I did hear from Lindsey, but I'm just hearing about it."
Caught in the lie, he quickly changed tack - and redirected the focus of the conversation, and the blame, to his staff.
• HE HAS A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS STAFF
Coincidentally, Ms Conway walked into the room while the pair were still on the phone.
Trump: "I'll speak to Kellyanne. I am a little surprised that she wouldn't have told me. In fact, she just walked in. I'm talking to Bob Woodward. He said that he told you."
Trump: "About speaking to me. But you never told me. Why didn't you tell me?"
Mr Trump eventually handed the phone to Ms Conway so she could speak to Woodward directly.
Trump: "Well, other than Lindsey, who did quickly mention it, nobody mentioned it."
Woodward: "You say Kellyanne's there - ask her."
Trump: "Nobody told me about it. Well, let me ask her. Why don't you speak to Kellyanne. Ask her. She never told me about it."
Ms Conway has been one of the President's closest advisers since the 2016 campaign. It is widely known that she has more access to him than most. But in this case, she didn't use it.
"I put in the request. But you know, they - it was rejected. I can only take it so far. I guess I can bring it right to the President next time," she told Woodward.
"You and I spent a whole lunch on it Kellyanne," he said. "And you said you would get back to me. Nothing."
The reporter told Mr Trump he had also spoken to deputy press secretary Raj Shah. Mr Trump's shifty response seemed to suggest his staff were afraid of him.
"Well a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or - you know, they are busy. I'm busy," the President said.
"A lot of people are afraid … Raj, I hardly have … I don't speak to Raj."
He threw Ms Conway under the bus, blaming her for not telling him.
"She should've come to me. She does have access to me. Absolutely. She has direct access, but she didn't come to me."
• HE'S ASTONISHINGLY FICKLE
Mr Trump's opinion of any given person is pretty much based on one factor - whether they say nice things about him.
A classic example is North Korea's oppressive dictator Kim Jong-un, who has gone from "little Rocket Man" to the President's bromantic partner in a matter of months by flattering Mr Trump's ego.
Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
At the start of their phone conversation, Mr Trump was full of compliments for Woodward, telling him, "I think you've always been fair," and "I would have loved to have spoken to you".
But as the minutes ticked on, and Woodward indicated he had taken a "tough look" at the administration, Mr Trump realised it was "going to be a negative book".
"We're going to have a very inaccurate book, and that's too bad," Mr Trump said.
"It's going to be accurate, I promise," Woodward told him.
"Yeah OK. Well, accurate is that nobody's ever done a better job than I'm doing as President. That I can tell you," Mr Trump said, before ending the conversation.