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Trump rails again at Woodward book, suggests changing libel laws

The president criticizes the book's contention that his staff questions his capacity to take on foreign policy and national security matters.

Bob Woodward, seen on June 13, 2012; President

Bob Woodward, seen on June 13, 2012; President Donald Trump, seen on Aug 29. Photo Credit: Composite photo; AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan, left, and Jim Watson

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that lawmakers consider changing libel laws as he railed for a second day against journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book depicting a White House gripped by chaos.

A day after excerpts from Woodward’s book “Fear” were released, Trump continued to cast the book — which relies heavily on interviews with current and former administration officials and government documents — as a fabricated account of his first term in office.

"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 Wednesday morning. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Woodward, a veteran Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whom Trump himself has described as “fair,” told The Washington Post on Tuesday he stands by his reporting. Excerpts from the book, set to be released on Sept. 11, detail several of Trump’s Cabinet members questioning his capacity to take on complex foreign policy and national security matters.

On Wednesday, speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denied another Post report indicating he is discussing replacements for Defense Secretary James Mattis, who in Woodward's book is described as comparing the president's understanding of Korean Peninsula affairs to that of a "fifth- or sixth-grader." Mattis, in a statement, denied making the statement, saying the words were "never uttered by me."

"He'll stay," Trump said when asked about Mattis' future. "We're very happy with him, we're having a lot of victories … and he's highly respected all over the world."

Trump has previously called for changes to libel laws. During the 2016 presidential campaign he complained libel laws were too lax as he took aim at the media’s coverage of his candidacy. In January, he called existing libel laws — which are generally a matter of state law — “a sham and a disgrace” as he pushed back against the publication of author Michael Wolff’s tell-all book “Fire & Fury.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appearing Wednesday morning on “Fox and Friends,” said she hadn’t discussed with Trump whether he would seek legal action against Woodward, who has chronicled the American presidency dating back to the Nixon administration.

"I have to tell you what I have seen so far out of this book is nothing of what is going on in the building behind me," Sanders said, during an interview filmed in front of the White House. "If the things that were said in this book were true, there is no way that this president could be as successful as he has been."

Trump also took to Twitter to defend his leadership style.

“I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done,” Trump tweeted. “Also, I question everybody & everything — which is why I got elected!”

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