Trump denies Bob Woodward's claim he called Jeff Sessions a "dumb Southerner"

President Trump and several top White House officials deny saying many of the quotes that appear in Bob Woodward's new book on the Trump administration. "Fear: Trump in the White House" describes the White House in disarray, with the closest aides afraid not of what the president might do to them, but what he might do to the country, reports CBS News' David Martin who has read the book and spoken to Woodward. 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the book is full of "fabricated stories" and said the president's approach, though "unconventional, always gets the results."

The president refers to his attorney general as "mentally retarded," and according to Woodward said, "He's this dumb Southerner." Tuesday evening, the president denied that account, adding that Woodward "made this up to divide!"

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump accused Woodward of forming a "picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact" and suggested that libel laws be changed.

Earlier in the day, speaking to the Daily Caller, President Trump claimed Woodward "had a lot of credibility problems" and on Twitter, wondered whether "Woodward is a Democratic operative?"

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who spends more time with the president than any other official, thinks the president is "unhinged," according to Woodward, who writes that in one small group meeting, Kelly said, "He's an idiot. It's pointless to try and convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails." Responding Tuesday, Kelly called that account "not true."  


Last year Kelly said being chief of staff is the hardest job he's ever had. Kelly is quoted by Woodward repeating that sentiment, saying, "we're in crazytown….this is the worst job I've ever had."

According to Woodward, Defense Secretary James Mattis told close associates the president acted like and had the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader."

After the president saw video of the aftermath of a poison gas attack on Syrian civilians in April 2017, he called Mattis, and according to Woodward, and fumed "let's f**king kill him," referring to Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad. Mattis said he would get right on it but told a senior aide "we're not going to do any of that." In a statement, Mattis said those words "were never uttered by me." 

Woodward tried but was not granted an interview with Mr. Trump. In a brief phone conversation last month, Woodward warned him what was coming.

"It's a tough look at the world and your administration and you," Woodward told the president over the phone, who replied, "Right, well I assume that means it is going to be a negative book."

Woodward also reports the president's former attorney, John Dowd, felt Mr. Trump would commit perjury if interviewed by the special counsel. Dowd believed the president had nothing to hide but, according to Woodward, thought he was a "liar" and not capable of giving factual answers. In a statement Tuesday night Dowd said he did not call the president a "liar."

"Fear: Trump in the White House" goes on sale September 11, 2018. It is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS.

Watch Martin's interview with Bob Woodward this week on "CBS Sunday Morning."