Legendary reporter Bob Woodward spoke about cultivating sources within President Donald Trump’s administration for his new book, Fear, during an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Monday.
Over the course of his career, Woodward has covered multiple presidents and written 19 books that often contain explosive information about the inner-workings of the White House. After several decades of stunning scoops, Woodward said he’s still able to convince top officials to speak to him using a mixture of patience, flattery and tenacity.
“I remember going to one general’s house and he opened the door, we didn’t have an appointment, I was afraid I might get shot, and he looked at me and he said, ‘Are you still doing this shit?'” Woodward recalled. “And he meant it, so I just did poker face. In the CIA, they teach people let the silence suck out the truth. So just be quiet and people want to talk, and he said, ‘Come on in.'”
Colbert asked Woodward about some of the more prominent characters in Fear, including former Staff Secretary Rob Porter – who left after accusations of spousal abuse – and ex-economic adviser, Gary Cohn. In the book, Porter and Cohn are portrayed as part of a last line of defense against Trump and his worst impulses. Colbert pressed Woodward on whether both officials would try to play-up their stories in order to come across in a more positive light.
Woodward brushed aside the possibility, noting that there are so many people at the White House that there’s always another source or a document to back-up the original claim. He added of officials in the Trump White House specifically, “You get to know some of these people and you realize they’re speaking from conscience because they are worried about Trump doing things. So they steal papers off his desk… but Trump doesn’t remember!”
Elsewhere in the interview, Colbert asked Woodward how he feels when President Trump accuses him of lying in his book. Woodward quickly quipped, “I’m not,” before adding, “What is the contest in America other than the political contest, it’s the content for the truth. What is the truth?… [Trump] has his first amendment rights, he can say anything, but the great editor at the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, during Watergate, used to always says when there was a contest back-and-forth, he said, ‘The truth emerges.’ And the truth will emerge on this too.”