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A Blunder in the Woodward Book?

A Blunder in the Woodward Book?

Bob Woodward, a former Washington Post reporter, discusses about the Watergate Hotel burglary and stories for the Post at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California April 18, 2011. | (Photo: Reuters/Alex Gallardo)

I've noticed a major blunder in the Woodward book about President Trump, just released. Will there be more to come?

Reporter Bob Woodward, of Washington Post/Watergate fame has launched his literary missile, Fear: Trump in the White House. The book is a supposed expose, but the title tells you everything you need to know about both the starting and the ending point of Woodward's take on the current Administration. President Trump has called it fiction. But no need to wrestle with that. Right off the bat, I think that Woodward and CNN, the news site that is touting the book, have already goofed in an epic way.

In a September 6th article by Marshall Cohen, CNN's political researcher and Jamie Gangel one of its correspondents, the network promoted Woodward's book. The CNN piece included a letter from the Woodward book that was reputedly lifted from the Oval Office ("Read the stolen letter from Trump's desk reported in Bob Woodward's book," the headline shouts). CNN obviously considered the letter a blockbuster. Author Bob Woodward clearly thought it was. They were all wrong. And so are the cadre of media sites heralding the author's take on this topic.

Here's the context: the document at issue purports to be a September 5, 2017 draft letter from President Trump to the President of South Korea, our obvious ally, indicating that the existing tree trade agreement between the United States and South Korea was not in the best interests of America and accordingly, was to be terminated in 6 months, adding, though, that the U.S was prepared to re-negotiate trade terms in the meantime. The Woodward hit-piece against Trump that is lauded by CNN ominously argues that such an action would have affected South Korea's agreement to monitor the missile activities of North Korea on our behalf.

The plot thickens. Key to dramatic soundtrack - Dun, dun, duuuuuun. But never fear, for Woodward and his CNN surrogates point out that former Economic Advisor Gary Cohn rescued the American Republic by grabbing it off of Trump's desk and making sure he never signed it. The Republic was saved, as the story goes, or at least as Woodward's book sees it, and as CNN echoes it.

Oh, but there's a "rub," as the Bard would say. At the top of the letter reproduced in the Woodward book and included in the CNN piece there is an interesting disclaimer imprinted at the top of the Oval Office letter. Here is what it says –

Pre-decisional/ Deliberative

Those words are, as we lawyers would say, words of art. They find their derivation from the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Those terms signal the fact the document reflects, not a final, official decision, but only a preliminary idea that was in the process of being considered. Those kinds of records are guarded by FOIA from disclosure to the public because every Administration needs the breathing room to consider, without the prying eyes of political or governmental opponents, countless numbers of strategies every day, both domestic and foreign. Such tentative ideas, like the unsent letter to South Korea in this case, need at least the same privacy and confidentiality that juries get every day when they go into deliberations. A draft document that declares at the top that it is merely an idea under consideration, so preliminary in fact that it doesn't even bear the format of the White House letterhead, would usually be a protected record. Unless of course, someone steals it from the President's desk and leaks it to a hostile press.

But there is more. According to breaking news from The Daily Caller, Gary Cohn has now stated that Woodward's "book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House." Considering all of this, can we really believe that his document snatching saved our nation from the dangerous impulses of a President? CNN and the left-leaning media would have you believe exactly that. If it is because they believe Cohn to be credible, they now need to distance themselves from the book in light of Cohn's refutation. Or is it, perhaps, something else that is at play; the elite media's unabated disgust with our current President and his policies.

This is just another chapter in some of the journalistic irresponsibility currently reigning in Washington, like the New York Times' recent publication of an anonymous op-ed hit-piece against the Administration. Regardless of our feelings, pro-or-con, about President Trump, caveat emptor is the watchword: beware the "truth" that some in the press are asking you to buy into. When it comes to Big Media, I would reverse the old Reagan adage and put it this way: Verify first, then trust.

Craig Parshall is a civil liberties attorney and best-selling fiction author of suspense novels featuring political and legal themes. He also serves as Special Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice. His opinions, here, are entirely his own.

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