Why did President Trump speak to Bob Woodward?

More from the "Rage" author, including why the president's intelligence team said he is a "threat to the national security."

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As information from Bob Woodward's new book "Rage" trickled out this week—including audio of President Trump telling the famed Watergate reporter that he purposefully downplayed the severity of the coronavirus—Senate Republicans have found themselves on the defensive. 

Why, some wondered, would the president agree to any interview with Woodward—let alone speak with him 18 times?

"Most of us say, 'What the hell is he doing talking to Bob Woodward at 11 at night?'" one Republican senator told The Hill.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Woodward said the president was a willing subject because he had not been before. Two years ago, President Trump refused to speak to Woodward for the journalist's book "Fear: Trump in the White House." But this time, the president hoped that by speaking to Woodward directly, he could help control the narrative. 

"He kept telling me, in the interviews for this book, that he made a mistake, not talking to me," Woodward told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. "And he actually said, at one point, it was his fault that he didn't talk. And so he heard, from people in the White House, people in his circle, that, actually, "Fear" was true, and that I would not put words in his mouth, if he talked to me."

Both "Fear" and "Rage" were published by Simon & Schuster, which is part of ViacomCBS. 

Woodward told Pelley the president initiated some of their conversations, calling as late as 10 pm. Each time, Woodward informed the president he was recording the interview. Woodward said he never used anything President Trump said specifically off the record. 

Woodward said he found the conversations both illuminating and vexing.

"He had things he wanted to say," Woodward said. "I think he decided that he was going to let me inside."

Trump a "threat to the national security" 02:16

In addition to phone calls, Woodward also met with past and present senior members of the administration and spoke with the president in the Oval Office. While in the White House, Woodward says he was privy to infighting within the administration, particularly on matters of defense. He said the president's decisions to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and South Korea were both met with an argument, particularly from then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. 

But neither fight was more forceful than President Trump's choice to withdraw troops from Syria.

"What I quote Mattis, in the book, telling an associate is, 'There were so many stupid things that the president decided. But withdrawing troops, in December 2018, was felony stupid.' And Mattis said, 'I quit. That was it. I was walking away. This was intolerable.'"

Woodward said former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also took issue with the president's decision-making. Coats said President Trump's unwillingness to listen to intelligence was dangerous. 

"For Coats, the not just reluctance, but the absolute defiance of the president to listen to others was a threat to the national security," Woodward said.

The clips above were edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.