As we anticipated, President Trump wasn't thrilled about some of the allegations included in Watergate reporter Bob Woodward's upcoming book - and he's taken to twitter to express his outrage in predictably Trumpian fashion. After taking his first swipe at the Washington Post editor last night, President Trump chimed in this morning by questioning why politicians in Washington don't "change the libel laws" in the US to make it easier for private citizens and public officials to sue journalists.
"Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost," Trump tweeted. "Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?" Trump made similar remarks back in January during a cabinet meeting when he said his administration intends to "take a strong look at the libel laws" and called them a "sham and a disgrace." Before that, Trump famously said during the campaign that, if elected, he would "open up" the libel laws."
Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
Fortunately for journalists, defamation laws are largely "a creature of state law, not federal law" and it would be very difficult for Trump to change them.
Yesterday, Trump issued more than half a dozen denials of Woodward's claims, tweeting statements from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly, as well as the White House communications office's official denial.
Statement from White House Chief of Staff, General John Kelly: pic.twitter.com/LUN8cDr3N5— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
Woodward and the Washington Post published an audio recording of his phone call with President Trump where Trump repeatedly denied being told about Woodward's desire for an interview. Surprisingly, Trump hasn't resorted to the vicious personal attacks he employed last month against Woodward's Watergate colleague Carl Bernstein. However, with more leaks likely to come ahead of the book's official publication, we imagine this isn't the last we've heard from Trump or the White House.