Democracy Dies in Darkness

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‘I think you buried the lead’: Stephen Colbert asks Bob Woodward about the final line of his book

September 11, 2018 at 3:25 AM

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Through scenes of chaos, disagreement and petty insults, veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward meticulously documented a "nervous breakdown" at the White House in his new book, "Fear." (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)

Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump administration became a mine of joke fodder for late-night hosts before it even hit bookshelves.

And on Monday, one of those hosts got to offer a little critique of how “Fear” was structured.

“The very last line” has an expletive in it, Stephen Colbert said during his Monday interview with Woodward on “The Late Show.”

As described in the book, the president’s lawyer, John Dowd, staged practice testimony at the White House. Acting as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Dowd asked Trump questions. “Trump goes ballistic, makes things up, starts screaming,” Woodward told Colbert.

Then Dowd tells Trump that the president can’t testify and “you are disabled,” according to Woodward. The journalist added: “I mean, imagine your lawyer telling you you’re disabled. And you can’t testify because you can’t tell the truth. You just make things up.”

Related: [Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump administration is an absolute gift to late-night hosts]

Eventually, as described in the book, Dowd tells Trump: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

But then comes the very end of the book, which Colbert told Woodward he would read for the audience, “because I don’t have the credibility you do.”

“ ‘Dowd knew he could not bring himself to say to the president, you’re a [expletive] liar.’ And that’s how you end the book,” Colbert said. “I think you buried the lead.”

“Fair point,” Woodward offered.

“Fear” is chock full of eye-popping scenes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who has also written books about previous administrations.

Stephen Colbert and guest Bob Woodward during Monday’s show. (Scott Kowalchyk/CBS/)

On Monday, Colbert also asked Woodward if he ever considers the motives of his sources, such as former White House aide Rob Porter, ousted amid abuse allegations from ex-wives. Generally, no, Woodward said, who then explained how he uses information sources offer and cross-checks it with what other sources have, down to “microscopic detail[s],” until he can know exactly what happened when.

Related: [Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency]

Woodward’s book isn’t officially out until Tuesday, but publisher Simon and Schuster already announced it’s printing 1 million hardcover copies.

The buzz around the book, including a Washington Post report last week on how it detailed the “nervous breakdown” of the Trump presidency, has prompted sharp criticism from the White House.

On Monday, Colbert asked Woodward, “How do you feel when the president says you’re lying?”

“I’m not,” Woodward responded.

Related: [Stephen Colbert wasted no time shaming former CBS chief Les Moonves over sexual misconduct allegations]

“What is the contest in America other than the political contest? It’s a contest for the truth — what is the truth — and I’m willing to put myself out here,” Woodward continued. “I’ve done the work. This is the best reporting you can do, or that I can do.”

Trump has his “First Amendment rights. He can say anything,” Woodward continued. He then quoted former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who helmed the paper during the Watergate years.

“When there was a contest, back and forth, he said, ‘the truth emerges,’ ” Woodward recalled. “And the truth will emerge on this, too.”

Elahe Izadi is a pop culture writer for The Washington Post. Prior to joining The Post in 2014 as a general assignment reporter, she covered Congress, race and local news. She has worked for National Journal, WAMU, and The Gazette community newspapers.

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