tv Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker I Alone Can Fix It CSPAN July 25, 2021 7:20pm-7:51pm EDT
broadband is a force for empowerment and why charter has invested billions, building infrastructure, upgrading technology, and powering opportunity and communities big and small. charter is connecting us. now on booktv more television for serious readers welcome to "washington post" live. i'm jonathan carl with abc news and today i have the honor and privilege of interviewing my friend, my colleague and fellow officers of the books about donald trump. carol leonning and phil rucker, the author just today out, "i alone can fix it" donald j trump's catastrophic final year just out hours ago but already a runaway bestseller following up on the first best seller, a very
stable genius. welcome to you both. it's great. i've been wanting to do this for a while. the book is filled with extraordinary revelations about things we thought we knew about already. i wanted to start with you, carol. the two of you reported on this administration and you wrote a very stable genius, a fantastic book about the first three years of the trump presidency. did you learn anything new about donald trump given how much time you had already spent and how much effort you put into the reporting on him and his white house? >> you know, jonathan, you are the perfect person to ask that question and interview us on your launch because you know the material so well. we look forward to your book when it comes out. i think the honest answer about
what we learned about donald trump is that all of the basic boundaries of who he is and how he leads and how he governs are pretty well known by us. he is interested in his own benefit and not so much interested in anybody else's. he cares very little about what washington should do, what is polite and proper. the new thing phil and i learned and was chilling to us as hardened journalists as we are is how much he was willing, the degree to which he was willing to put american lives and the democracy and peril for his own personal gain and quest to maintain that grip on power that
he became addicted to. insiders in that administration who looked from the outside and even to the reporters as we were silently acquiescing, silently standing by were secretly in a panic about the danger he was putting the country in during the black lives matter protest and during the pandemic but we saw march across the country and then finally, in a riot that he helped insight at the capital that lawmakers and the vice president in the crosshairs, in actual danger. a. >> i think that is well said. one of the things that was extraordinary for me about digging through and going over the major events of that catastrophic year is how willing the people close to donald trump
were to talk. i want to get to some of that and some of the motivations behind people like you and people like me and the eagerness to set the record straight and tell us they had those concerns. do you write something in the beginning of the book that is a really extraordinary statement. you say that this is a quote from your introduction. most can be explained by simple truth. he cared more about himself than his country. you are a reporter. you didn't write that sentence lightly. >> we did not in fact that sentence i think is the only conclusion that we could really
draw from the reporting we did for the book. the president himself and they all acknowledged and were concerned by the fact the president prioritized himself and his political fortune. almost every decision he made in 2020 about the coronavirus pandemic was based on his reelection hopes speaking about how to position himself and how to look strong, how does he get down to to the public. but it was all built around that and how to empower and get elected. that was the guiding force for the president throughout but especially in the year 2020 and didn't that is according to the
people that served and he saw what he was like behind the scenes of the oval office. >> your trip i think you and i went just a couple of weeks apart. i was struck reading your description because it was so similar to the visit i had. you described to the interview taking place right there at the middle of the lobby.
in other words exactly when people start to show up for happy hour and dinner you wanted to be seen being interviewed by people time after time after time in the white house briefing room he called me a third rate reporter and many other things we can't even say on "washington post" live. and he invited us down to do this interview to see that we are there. the darker the conversation got, the more he spoke about his grievances, the more happy he seemed to be talking about it and he said to me i find all of
this so interesting and exhilarating and i got that sense from reading your description. he's talking about really dark things and is accusing people that are close to portraying him and he is excited about it. why did he put you down and invite me down, why did he do this? >> just as you described is sitting in that lobby we couldn't believe we were going to be interviewed in a room where anybody could walk by including the crew that was setting up the bar for dinner. he wants people to realize how sought after he is and how his conversation is a draw. he wants people to know that. but to your point about the exhilaration, i couldn't agree more. and i know phil feels the same
way. when he was lashing out into the late john mccain, a hero in his state, he brought his when in arizona saying he didn't lose because he criticized mccain and began talking about what an awful person he was, how he was a flip-flop or that nobody could rely on many people who agreed and rightfully so was one of the president's best lieutenants. most loyal, most in the weeds of getting donald trump reelected. he was ecstatic to describe to us that bill barr failed him in the end and got worried about media criticism and failed by
not doing what he needed to do to investigate and prosecute the allegations of fraud that trump said existed and called nonsense. he finally gets to tell his version of the reality. even if it doesn't stack up with the truth, he gets to say it. >> a lot of the coverage in your book that you've gotten with glowing reviews and you've made news everywhere with this which also is an estimate to how much is there, the idea that a presidency that was reported on so exhaustively for four years and especially in the past year, you were able to get jaw dropping new information and some the chairman of the joint
chiefs of staff, extraordinary kind of blow-by-blow account with donald trump supporters and the comparisons with nazi germany that could take a step. it's not like a random thing but as a military officer in the united states chosen for that job by donald trump. my question to you, you show his break precedes at least a bit of the infamous walk that took extraordinary he to four and that is particularly with a very strong statement but he certainly wasn't alone in condemning them for that disastrous photo up.
and you show that earlier in the morning they all pushed back very aggressively against trump and his desire to get active-duty troops on the streets of american cities by invoking the insurrection act but i wonder if you could go beyond that. for two years as the chair man of the joint chiefs, were there any indications before that that he felt uncomfortable with the leadership or crossed him in any way? when did that falling out happen? >> it's a great question. he's such an interesting character not only in this book but the trump presidency and the whole era that we have been living through. he had to such a front row seat and yet he wasn't a political
actor. he's raised in the military, served in battle of a number of instances he came through with the military chain of command to be the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff but he's not a political appointee and doesn't consider himself a representative so to speak and he became increasingly uncomfortable according to the reporting with some of the things the president was trying to do in his presidency and also with the lack of knowledge and intellectual curiosity. he felt president trump didn't understand the constitution or the divisions or the norms or traditions of the government in the united states and that was concerning as a student of history, not only military history, but governmental history and understanding the way the government works. but the breaking point came as you mentioned after the george
floyd protest when there was a clearing of the square outside of the white house that he was wearing his camouflage uniform as with other administration officials across the park to do that photo up in front of st. john's church. it was a moment that he regretted participating in and he gave a very thoughtful and forceful speech apologizing for it which is a point that ruptured his relationship with the president because he was very upset that he wouldn't apologize for the photo off and after that moment, he made a vow to himself that he was going to serve to protect the independence of the military, that he wasn't going to allow the united states military to become a political tool for president trump ahead of his campaign and that he was going to commit to ensure a peaceful transition of power on january 20th when the new
president joe biden was sworn in. it became so much more harrowing after the election between hitler and trump and what trump was saying with the misinformation about election fraud but he continued to try to be a safeguard in preventing what he thought could have been the coup to stay in power. >> in that powerful speech mentioned i think on june 11th, 10 days after the walk across the park, the first defense secretary came out and expressed his regret almost immediately. he thought it would get him fired and it almost did. why do you think he took ten days to come out which in the kind of news cycles we have now
he was getting pummeled everywhere walking across that park what do you think was behind that delay? >> it's funny that you say that about getting pummeled because he got pummeled literally as soonest he issued that public statement i think as we've relayed in the book and a in acinematic detail as soon the defense secretary gave that debriefing where he said he wouldn't support the insurrection act he was supposed to be giving a briefing to the president in the oval office in about an hour and a half and when he got away from this press conference he got a call from the chief of staff who said what are you doing, the president is going to rip your face off and indeed that is what happened when he arrived at the white
house. the president proceeded like a lion to roar in his face about how he undermined him. he reminded him his oath was to the constitution. he told him that he had usurped his authority and it was a final break in the relationship so it was a final for him it was just different. the delay i think based again on our reporting from people around him was really that he planned to give a speech at the national defense institute and he was scheduled to be there and he thought that was basically the right venue instead of asserting himself, throwing himself in front of a stage he knew he was going to have a speech soon enough. he took his time and rewrote the speech according to the reporting and explained that he felt very, very deeply about
america's 400-year-old sin, racism that underpins the country and he was very upset about a way which. he didn't want the military in any way to look political, and he apologized for that. and again within moments of finishing his speech he heard from the president who said why did you apologize? and he said you know, i am a catholic. when i do something wrong i say i'm sorry and i move on. trump responded to him what's wrong with walking with your president. it's funny the way he treated them were quite different. he had more respect is for the n with the gold on his chest. >> regarding this as one of the
things that upset trump was the press conference at the same time as lindsay graham was holding a hearing about how trump had been mistreated during the russia investigation. he was worried about the counter programming notion of it. i want to ask about another key player -- >> can i break in there and say it was humorous to phil and me because according to reporting, esper was like what are you talking about, what hearing? the president is thinking about the tv schedule and he has no idea what he's talking about. anyway, just amazing. >> always programming. so, january 6th you write about one of the few people.
robert o'brien was traveling. jared was coming back from a trip to the middle east. the place seemed kind of empty. one person was there as described is ivanka. this is regarding what giuliani had been saying about the election fraud and so on. this isn't right, this isn't right. who did she say that to? she said that standing on the oval office she kind of whispered to a couple advisors in earshot.
at the same time president trump was at the desk on the telephone with vice president pentz. this was after he went out to give his speech before mike pence made his way to the capital to begin peas siding over the joint session of congress and trump was pressuring him on the phone to do what trump thought to be the right thing to use his power to overturn the results and ivanka felt that was wrong and not the right thing. after the phone call ended according to the reporting she went to the private dining room of her father and spoke with him one-on-one to try to persuade him she was obviously not effective there because he proceeded to go out and make the feelings known to the world then in the afternoon he got back to the white house once the rioters
broke into the capital and began their siege, ivanka had to be called into the oval office multiple times by the chief of staff meadows to try to get her father into a place where the president would be able to call off his supporters. remember it took two hours to finally issue that stand down and go home. for the daughter that is said to have a special relationship with her father even if she couldn't break through until the end and it just speaks to the determination to permit this to continue because it was under his own name and banner. >> you also write that she attended the rally but it didn't speak. i want to read a passage from that chapter on january 6th.
when she didn't appear onstage, however, organizers asked her to give a speech which she declined. the first were told she had become increasingly uncomfortable to overturn the results and yet she said she decided to attend because she hoped to calm the president and keep the event on an even keel. if that was the goal she failed miserably. what i am wondering is obviously this is the story ivanka tells. do you believe she was really trying to calm her father and do you see any sign before january 6th that she was actually taking any actions whatsoever to get him off of this, that the repeated lies and the disaster everybody can see coming, if she felt so uncomfortable and that this was so wrong that she did anything
about it before this failed effort i guess on january 6th? >> based on the reporting it appears that she was essentially the stable pony for her father. she came into essentially calm down the resource. they said she may have been feeling these things and whispering them quietly, she wasn't very forceful at least in the beginning. but when things fell off the rail after the rioters reached the capital and everyone could see essentially one of the icons of democracy under assault, under the battlefield on capitol hill, when that happened, a lot of people started to get very worried and she was among them. multiple times, she was brought down by mark meadows the chief
of staff to return to the office to try again to persuade her father to make a stronger statement no, no, just a little stronger, to call off the dogs essentially. i take your point though and we are really on guard for this and in the reporting. i take your point that it's a very effective and calm her for her father at least as the storm was growing and was obvious to so many. >> it seemed they were kind of mia during those weeks. and then of course, ivanka's one statement herself on her twitter feed was calling the american patriots and telling them to go home, which of course she deleted.
let me ask you, i think that one of the things you've done so effectively which has been so opaque, what is your sense of getting the national guard troops to the capitol hill. is there any evidence that he was resisting it on january 6th? talk a little bit about that because i think that you drove minute by minute. what was going on, talk about that role on january 6th. >> that is an important question. reporting shows that it played no role mobilizing the national
guard. in fact vice president mike pence would be held in a secure location underground at the capital. it felt like those on the phone with the pentagon and on the phone with congressional leaders and urging that swift response and acting as the commander-in-chief and that is because according to the reporting he was back at the white house and the private dining room watching it all unfold on television but not actually doing his duty as the president and as the commander-in-chief to respond in any way in the hours you have a president completely missing and the vice president filling in the gap and the pentagon's senior leader chris miller the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and others were responding and taking orders and in close contact with speaker pelosi and senator schumer, mitch mcconnell
and other congressional leaders to sort of strategize and understand what was happening and they didn't really care what he had to say because the resident said nothing. >> what you just said, let's not just let it pass by. that's an extraordinary statement from the acting defense secretary. chris miller was on the phone during the riots at the capitol with nancy pelosi, chuck schumer, mitch mcconnell and he listed all of those people and others that reached out to him, and not once did you hear from the president of the united states. >> no. >> that is just an extraordinary statement. >> we have less than a minute left. i want to put you on the spot quickly does he run again. there's two of you so you can give me yes and no and one of you will be right. >> i think that he is making all
of the noise of somebody that wants to run again. we know how much he enjoys the spotlight. we are not in the prognostication business, but right at this moment he sure sounds like a guy that is running. >> i agree if he had to make the decision tomorrow the answer would be yes but we know that a year or two in politics is a long time. who knows how his health is going to be when he arrives. and we want to know what you think, john. >> i've been thinking know but i am more convinced than that given the events of the last several weeks. we will see. anyway, we are out of time. usually i say that to avoid answering questions, but author of the already runaway bestseller just out, there it is, "i alone can fix it." great to talk to you.