Trump insists he’s ‘exact opposite’ of Woodward’s portrayal
By ZEKE MILLER and CATHERINE LUCEY
Wednesday, September 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump insisted Wednesday that he’s “the exact opposite” of Bob Woodward’s portrayal of him in a new book that has set off a firestorm in the White House with its descriptions of current and former aides calling Trump an “idiot” and a “liar.”
Trump complained on Twitter that people can “get away with” such depictions and again suggested changing libel laws. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News she hasn’t spoken with Trump about filing any libel lawsuit.
The tell-all book by a reporter who helped bring down President Richard Nixon quotes Trump aides disparaging the president’s judgment and claiming they plucked papers off his desk to prevent him from withdrawing from a pair of trade agreements.
Woodward’s book is the latest to throw the Trump administration into damage-control mode with explosive anecdotes and concerns about the commander in chief. The Associated Press obtained a copy of “Fear: Trump in the White House” on Tuesday, a week before its official release.
Trump decried the quotes and stories in the book on Twitter as “frauds, a con on the public,” adding that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly had denied uttering quoted criticisms of the president in the book. On accounts in the book that senior aides snatched sensitive documents off his desk to keep him from making impulsive decisions, Trump told The Daily Caller, “There was nobody taking anything from me.”
On Twitter Wednesday, Trump appeared to defend himself further, saying: “I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done.”
In a statement to The Post, Woodward said, “I stand by my reporting.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Sanders said the book did not accurately depict the administration, adding that it had been “pretty widely pushed back on.”
On Twitter Wednesday, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed back on his portrayal in the book, saying the “incident about me entirely false” and Woodward “never called me.”
In the book, Trump blasts Giuliani after he appears on Sunday talk shows to defend then-candidate Trump in the wake of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. Calling Giuliani a “baby,” Trump says: “I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?”
Late Tuesday, Trump was on Twitter denying the book’s claim that he had called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.”
Trump insisted he “never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff,” adding that “being a southerner is a GREAT thing.” Sessions has been a target of the president’s wrath since recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
The publication of Woodward’s book has been anticipated for weeks, and current and former White House officials estimate that nearly all their colleagues cooperated with the famed Watergate journalist. The White House, in a statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, dismissed the book as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad.”
The book quotes Kelly as having doubts about Trump’s mental faculties, declaring during one meeting, “We’re in Crazytown.” It also says he called Trump an “idiot,” an account Kelly denied Tuesday.
The book says Trump’s former lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, doubted the president’s ability to avoid perjuring himself should he be interviewed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and potential coordination with Trump’s campaign. Dowd, who stepped down in January, resigned after the mock interview, the book says.
“Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit,” Dowd is quoted telling the president.
Dowd, in a statement Tuesday, said “no so-called ‘practice session’ or ‘re-enactment’” took place and denied saying Trump was likely to end up in an orange jumpsuit.
Mattis is quoted explaining to Trump why the U.S. maintains troops on the Korean Peninsula to monitor North Korea’s missile activities. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis said, according to the book.
The book recounts that Mattis told “close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’”
Mattis said in a statement, “The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Rob Manning, said Mattis was never interviewed by Woodward.
“Mr. Woodward never discussed or verified the alleged quotes included in his book with Secretary Mattis” or anyone within the Defense Department, Manning said.
Woodward reported that after Syria’s Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted the Syrian leader taken out, saying: “Kill him! Let’s go in.” Mattis assured Trump he would get right on it but then told a senior aide they’d do nothing of the kind, Woodward wrote. National security advisers instead developed options for the airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley denied Tuesday that Trump had ever planned to assassinate Assad. She told reporters at U.N. headquarters that she had been privy to conversations about the Syrian chemical weapons attacks, “and I have not once ever heard the president talk about assassinating Assad.”
She said people should take what is written in books about the president with “a grain of salt.”
Woodward also claims that Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council, boasted of removing papers from the president’s desk to prevent Trump from signing them into law, including efforts to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and from a deal with South Korea.
Trump did not speak to Woodward until after the book’s manuscript was completed. The Post released audio of Trump expressing surprise about the book in an August conversation with Woodward and dismay that he did not have an opportunity to contribute. Woodward tells Trump he had contacted multiple officials to attempt to interview Trump and was rebuffed.
“I never spoke to him,” Trump told The Daily Caller. “Maybe I wasn’t given messages that he called. I probably would have spoken to him if he’d called, if he’d gotten through.”
The book follows the January release of author Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which led to a rift between Trump and Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, who spoke with Wolff in terms that were highly critical of the president and his family. Wolff’s book attracted attention with its vivid anecdotes but suffered from numerous factual inaccuracies.
Woodward’s work also comes weeks after former White House aide and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman published an expose on her time in the West Wing, including audio recordings of her firing by Kelly and a follow-up conversation with the president in which he claimed to have been unaware of Kelly’s decision.
Woodward had has been among the best-selling political writers for more than 40 years, going back to his best-selling Watergate classic “All the President’s Men,” co-authored by fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. “Fear” renews a Woodward tradition of releasing a news-making account of a sitting president in the fall of an election season, with previous works including “The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House” and “Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq,” about President George W. Bush.
On Amazon, Woodward’s new book was ranked as the top-selling book on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Robert Burns, Ken Thomas and Eric Tucker in Washington and Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.
California GOP attorney general nominee faces ethics panel
By DON THOMPSON
Tuesday, September 4
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republicans’ nominee for California state attorney general is facing an ethics tribunal just two months before the November election.
Former judge Steven Bailey is accused of using his office to further his statewide campaign, improperly accepting gifts and steering business to a firm where his son worked — all in violation of judicial ethics. Bailey served as an El Dorado County judge from 2009 through the end of August 2017.
Bailey says the allegations “simply lack merit” and blames political gamesmanship. Three special masters from the Commission on Judicial Performance will begin considering them Tuesday.
The hearing in Sacramento creates another hurdle as Bailey tries to unseat Democratic incumbent Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year.
No decision is expected from the commission until well after the Nov. 6 election. Bailey eventually could be publicly admonished even though he is no longer a judge, but not disqualified from the attorney general’s race.
“Judge Bailey initially expressed interest in running for attorney general because of the office’s recent trend toward hyper-partisan politics to the detriment of public safety,” James Murphy, one of Bailey’s attorneys, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We question if this inquiry is nothing more than a politically motivated and brazen attempt to sabotage his campaign.”
He denied that Bailey’s actions interfered with his judicial impartiality and blamed inadvertent error for several of the allegations, including that Bailey provided a written testimonial for a political survey company.
The commission is deciding whether to discipline Bailey over claims of conduct “that brings the judicial office into disrepute” and of “willful misconduct in office” — the worst possible charge and enough that it could potentially have prompted his removal were he still a judge.
They include allegations that for a year he improperly used his judgeship to raise funds and promote his candidacy for attorney general. Bailey says in his response that he retired months before filing his formal declaration of candidacy in February and that the board is infringing on his constitutional right to free speech and to run for office.
He is also alleged to have repeatedly ordered defendants to use an electronic monitoring service without disclosing that his son worked at the company providing it or that the company’s owner was a friend who worked on his 2008 judicial campaign. The commission also alleges that he ordered a defendant to pay $140 in restitution in 2009 after a letter signed by the judge’s son said the man owed that amount for electronic monitoring.
Bailey says in response that he followed the ethics advice of other judges that he did not have to routinely disclose the relationship with his son, and that the owner was a “professional acquaintance” with no real involvement in his campaign. He says the monitoring company was approved by the county probation department, as required by law, and that he arranged to have a second, competing company also provide monitoring services.
Bailey also is accused of accepting hundreds of dollars in gifts between 2009 and 2012, including nearly $350 from a Placerville attorney. The commission says he appointed the same attorney to oversee a case in 2011 at the unusually high rate of $350 an hour to be paid by the defendant, without disclosing that the attorney was a friend.
He denied failing to report or falsely reporting travel-related payments and reimbursements, saying he believed all the gifts were permitted.
He also denied that he was showing bias by telling another judge in response to a compliment about a shirt that he got it from a “gay guy” and that “gays really know how to dress.”
The hearing is expected to last until Sept. 14 before one appellate judge and two superior court judges appointed by the state Supreme Court. The special masters then have about 60 days to report their findings to the commission. Both sides may respond to that report in writing and in an oral argument before the commission.
The commission must ultimately decide if the allegations are proved by clear and convincing evidence and whether to impose discipline.
Gordon, never a hurricane, killed child in mobile home
By JAY REEVES
Wednesday, September 5
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama (AP) — Tropical Storm Gordon never became a hurricane but it was deadly all the same, killing a child by blowing a tree onto a mobile home as it made landfall. The storm later weakened into a depression on Wednesday but remained dangerous, dumping rain, spawning tornadoes and kicking up heavy surf in its wake.
The National Hurricane Center said Gordon was weakening on a path into Arkansas after striking the coast at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength, near Pascagoula, Mississippi. The remnants will likely cause flash flooding across parts of seven states and as far north as Iowa in the coming days.
The storm was going out swinging: Forecasters said radar spotted possible tornados spun off by the storm overnight in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle, and more were possible through Wednesday night in Mississippi and western Alabama.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage, other than the child killed by a large oak tree branch that fell onto a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida. Neighbor Amanda Ray told the Pensacola News Journal that she heard a crack and a scream as the limb fell around 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was just awful,” she said, adding that the sounds were almost indistinguishable from the storm’s howling winds. The Escambia County Sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page that responding deputies discovered the child had been killed. Officials haven’t released the child’s identity.
Escambia county received 10 calls overnight for downed trees in roadways, along with multiple reports of arcing power lines as the storm blew through with peak gusts of 61 mph (98 kph). Beachgoers in the area were being warned Wednesday that it’s too early to return to the water; dangerous rip currents prompted red-flag warnings, meaning it’s illegal to enter the Gulf of Mexico.
Driftwood and other debris made for hazardous driving early Wednesday on the causeway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, which was partly flooded by seawater overnight, leaving people to drive over sand and around lawn furniture on the main road. Siding was peeled off some houses, but Mayor Jeff Collier said “for the most part, we did OK.”
Dominic Carlucci drove back to his home on the barrier island in his Hummer, and found no damage, just a sagging wooden fence. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when Nate, the last hurricane to strike the U.S., came ashore last October in nearby Biloxi, Mississippi. “We’re good,” he said.
The center predicted total rain amounts of 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) in the Florida panhandle and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Rainfall could be even more intense in isolated places, dropping up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) through early Saturday.
A storm surge covered barrier islands as the storm blew through, and some inland roadways were flooded by the rain. The National Weather Service in Mobile cautioned that the Styx River near Elsanor, Alabama, could reach moderate, and possibly major, flood stage later Wednesday.
More than 27,000 customers were without power as Gordon began pushing ashore, mostly in coastal Alabama and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle around Pensacola, with a few hundred in southeastern Mississippi. Crews were already restoring electricity early Wednesday.
Rain was still falling but the lights were on at a Waffle House restaurant in Mobile, where factory worker Jerome Richardson said he lost power at 9 p.m. as the storm passed overhead. He was still without electricity as he left before dawn for his 12-hour shift.
“I just hope I don’t have to throw out everything in my refrigerator when I get home,” he said.
Governors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency to better mobilize state resources and National Guard troops for the storm. Mississippi shut down a dozen Gulf Coast casinos. Workers on at least 54 oil and gas production platforms were evacuated. Communities along the coast provided sand and bags, and many hustled to protect their properties ahead of the storm. New Orleans braced for flooding, but in the end got only a glancing blow.
Gordon was not the only storm being watched by forecasters. Hurricane Florence has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, on a path toward Bermuda, and lining up behind it, another potential storm was likely to form not far off the coast of Africa.
It’s way too early to know if either of those storms will have any impact on land, but Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said attention should be paid: “It’s the peak of hurricane season. Now is the time to get your plans all set,” he said.
Associated Press contributors include Stacey Plaisance in Gulfport, Miss; Kevin McGill in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; Jeff Martin and Ben Nadler in Atlanta; Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi; Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina.
Police: Boy was hidden for a year after seeing dad’s slaying
By JOHN SEEWER
Friday, August 31
An Ohio teenager who witnessed his father’s fatal shooting last year and then disappeared has been found unharmed in a house where he was hidden all the time without going to school or seeing friends, police said.
Investigators say they are now looking into how and why several people hid 15-year-old Jacob Caldwell, who was found this week after months of searching.
Caldwell appeared to be healthy and there were no signs he had been locked up or restrained against his will inside the house just outside Dayton, said Sugarcreek Township Police Chief Michael Brown.
He was discovered Monday night after investigators received an anonymous tip that he might be at the house, Brown said, adding four adults were also found in the house at the time.
He said Caldwell was not very talkative and appeared nonchalant after detectives took him from the home. The teen’s long hair, which looked like it hadn’t been cut in a year, was about the only thing indicating he had been kept isolated, according to Brown.
The teen was last seen on Aug. 21, 2017, less than a week after he and two younger siblings witnessed his father’s fatal shooting in a parking lot outside an office park near Dayton.
Authorities in March charged six people, including the boy’s mother in the shooting of Robert Caldwell, who died just weeks after winning custody of his children. His ex-wife and another man were charged with murder in the shooting and are awaiting trial.
Jacob Caldwell and his brothers began living with his grandparents after the shooting, but he left their house. Investigators believe he ran away at the encouragement of someone, Brown said. The two younger brothers remained with their grandparents.
“We always felt that he was fine,” he said. “We had a feeling, a really strong feeling it was a family member that was involved.”
The four adults found in the home were associates of his mother’s family members, the police chief said. No charges have been filed yet.
Caldwell was found in a basement where he usually slept, and it appeared he was able to move around freely inside the house, Brown said.
The teen, who authorities say has a history of running away, has been in a juvenile detention center since he was taken out of the home. He was being held on an unruly charge that’s related to him running away before the shooting, Brown said.