The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In a new book, Bob Woodward plans to reveal the ‘harrowing life’ inside Donald Trump’s White House

Bob Woodward speaks at the White House correspondents' dinner in April 2017. (Cliff Owen/AP)

In the worldwide capital of leaks and anonymous dishing that is Washington, secrets can be almost impossible to keep.

But somehow over the past 19 months, the fact that America’s most famous investigative journalist was quietly chipping away at a book that delves into the dysfunctions of President Trump’s White House remained largely unknown. On Monday night, that veil of secrecy will be lifted when Simon & Schuster plans to announce that it will publish “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward on Sept. 11, according to a copy of the release obtained by The Washington Post.

In the book, Woodward’s 19th, the 75-year-old journalist and author “reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies,” the publisher’s release states.

The expected tenor of the book is underscored by its unsettling cover, an extreme close-up of a squinty-eyed Trump depicted through a gauzy red filter. The hush-hush project derives its title from an offhand remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in April 2016. Costa asked Trump whether he agreed with a statement by then-President Barack Obama, who had said in an Atlantic magazine interview that “real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence.”

At first Trump seemed to agree, saying: “Well, I think there’s a certain truth to that. . . . Real power is through respect.”

But then he added a personal twist: “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word: ‘Fear.’ ”

Woodward, who declined to be quoted for this article, has privately described the remark as “an almost Shakespearean aside.”

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Woodward, an associate editor at The Post, is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of American journalism. He is famed for his Pulitzer-winning reporting at The Post with Carl Bernstein on the deceptions and misdeeds of President Richard Nixon in the 1970s that eventually led to the resignation of the 37th president of the United States. Their work was immortalized in the film “All the President’s Men,” in which Robert Redford played Woodward and Dustin Hoffman portrayed Bernstein.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward reflects on the Watergate scandal and the tapes President Nixon recorded, which turned out to be key evidence. (Video: Peter Stevenson, Thomas LeGro/The Washington Post)

A casual observer of American political news might be excused for thinking the 1970s never ended. Not only is Woodward publishing a Trump book, but Bernstein is also appearing regularly on American television screens after recently co-writing a scoopy piece for CNN that asserted Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen is willing to testify that Trump was aware in advance of a now-infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians offering dirt of Hillary Clinton.

Woodward is one of the best-selling American nonfiction authors of the modern era, and the publication of his books generally become news events in their own right. As usual, Woodward was represented by Robert B. Barnett, the powerhouse Washington attorney who also has negotiated literary contracts for former presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign opponent, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Woodward’s most recent work, “The Last of the President’s Men,” chronicled the story of Alexander Butterfield, the Nixon aide who revealed the existence of an Oval Office taping system. But with his new book, “Fear,” Woodward will be returning to the sort of endeavor for which he has been best known during his long career: real-time reporting on American power and the presidency.

His previous works on American presidents, including books about George W. Bush and Obama, have tended to focus primarily on single, all-important decisions, such as whether to engage in foreign wars. “Fear” is expected to be a broader examination of the presidency.

“Fear” will add to the avalanche of books that focus on the Trump presidency or issues related to his time in office. Among those who have generated headlines are former FBI director James B. Comey’s, “A Higher Loyalty,” Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” and the just-released book by Trump’s former press secretary, Sean Spicer: “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President.”

Woodward’s new book draws on the hallmarks of his approach to investigative reporting, pulling details from “hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries,” according to his publisher. “FEAR brings to light the explosive debates that drive decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.”

Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, touted the work as “the most acute and penetrating portrait of a sitting president ever published during the first years of an administration.”

While working on the book, Woodward has kept a lower profile than usual, limiting cable news appearances and attempting to stay out of the public eye. Instead, the author has told friends, he’s gone back to some of the signature moves of his youthful reporting days.

Late at night, he’s been prone to show up at important people’s houses unannounced to ask for interviews. He’s told friends that it feels like a “rebirth.”