-There’s long been this idea
that there were people — And you even lay it out in
the beginning of this book, that there were two people
who would work for Trump right off the beginning —
people who wanted to help him basically discard
the way we’ve done things and do this —
take this new path — and people who were trying to protect the government
from Donald Trump. Sort of the idea that
there were adults in the room. And, yet, a lot of these adults
have left the room, and they still sort of
haven’t spoken out against him. You know, you have a lot of
reporting in this book about, you know, people like John Kelly
who sort of still haven’t come out and said — people like General Mattis
who were very critical in the book and not —
Are you surprised by that? -We can tell you
about some of our sources, who we’re not going to name. Basically, some of them
were afraid of Donald Trump. That’s why they didn’t come out and move from anonymous
to on the record. And some of them honestly
don’t feel that it’s appropriate to criticize a sitting
commander in chief. That’s their DNA. And because we checked with
so many people and their stories were
consistent across the board, we trusted them
with this information. -You know what’s interesting,
Seth? Trump is so fixated on leaks
inside the administration, and the reason
that these officials are afraid to speak publicly is he’s going to rat them out
as leakers. Well, it turns out,
in our reporting, Trump was leaking on himself.
When he met with Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor,
to ask him to be chief of staff, within a couple of hours,
a reporter at Axios, Jonathan Swan, got the hot tip, and Christie called Trump to
say, “How did he find out?” And it turns out Trump said, “I made the call.
He’s a nice guy. I did it.” [ Laughter ] -You did try to speak to
the President for this book. -Yeah. -And you had one conversation
with him about it? -Early in our reporting process,
it was a Saturday morning. I was driving out to
Bed Bath & Beyond to return a can opener
out on the Beltway. And my phone rings — -How bad was the can opener
that you had to — -I didn’t need it.
I already had a can opener. -Okay, gotcha.
Right, right, understood. -I wanted the $15 refund. So, the phone rings,
and it just says “202,” and that’s kind of the Bat
Signal from the White House. And I answered it.
I assumed it was some staffer. Turns out it was
the White House operator. She says, “Please hold
for the President.” So I held and immediately
got off the Beltway and went to a parking lot
to put my car in park. And we took the opportunity
to tell him about the book. And he said, “You know what?
I’m going to talk to you. I want a serious book done.
You’re a serious person. I’ll do it. Come on in.
I’ll do it.” And over the course
of the next year, the war with the media
escalated. He decided not to do
the interview. And we really regret that.
-Yeah. -He treated Phil a little bit
like Bob Mueller, you know? Remember when he said, “I’m really eager to do
that interview with Mueller,” and then he kind of
didn’t do it. -Well, it’s interesting.
You talk about that moment in the book where Trump
does believe and probably still does believe
that if he talked to Mueller, he would’ve been able
to explain it all away. And it was Trump’s legal team
who believed — and the book lays this out — that it would be
legal malpractice to allow him
to speak to Bob Mueller. [ Laughter ] -That’s true.
-Yeah. -They did use legal malpractice
multiple times. And they said that
primarily because they wanted to, like,
flash a red flag. Like, he could say something
that would be wrong, and then that would be perjury. And one person told us, which I thought was
really interesting — somebody who is
very close to him — “He thinks he’s telling
the truth when he’s lying because he’s a big-picture guy.” And he’s like,
“I got the big picture. That’s what I’m focused on.” -And so —
-Right. When it gets granular,
it’s not really his thing. -Not a details guy.
-Not a details guy. One last thing I’ll say. You know, “Very Stable Genius.” I had remembered that he’d
said that about himself. I think it’s very important
to note this is not you guys taking a shot across the bow. This is a thing he —
And i thought it was one time. And you point out in the book that he has said it
four different times. -Five.
-Five times. And in all seriousness, Seth, people might think
that’s a snarky title, but it is a deadly serious book,
and you get that from page one. This is a serious look at
the history of the presidency, and we used his own words there
because we wanted to sort of hold up the mirror
to the President and stress-test whether that
statement, his view of himself, matches the experiences of all of the people
who have been working with him. -It is fascinating. It’s incredibly well-written.
It’s so readable. And even though it’s something
we live through, it is very harrowing
to go through it all again and realize that we’re still
living in this moment. Excellent book. Thank you
so much for being here. I really love
talking to you both. Philip Rucker,
Carol Leonnig, everyone.