When renowned Washington Post editor Bob Woodward was doing research for his forthcoming book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," the author tried repeatedly to speak directly with President Donald Trump.
The interview never happened. But in a taped phone call from early August, released on Tuesday, Trump blamed White House staff, saying they failed to tell him about the requests, even as the president admitted that he knew Woodward had asked for an interview.
"Nobody called my office," Trump told Woodward during the call, as the president struggled to explain why the author was never granted an interview. "It's really too bad, because nobody told me about it, and I would've loved to have spoken to you," Trump said, according to a tape of the phone call obtained by The Washington Post.
Over the course of nearly 12 minutes, Trump repeatedly claimed that he would have liked to have spoken to Woodward but that the reason he never did was simply that he never knew Woodward was trying to reach him.
Yet during that same call, Trump admitted that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told him that Woodward had been trying to reach him for an interview. He also told Woodward, "you know I'm very open to you. I think you've always been fair,."
Given Woodward's stature as one of the country's foremost presidential biographers, it seems unlikely that, for more than two months, no one in the White House mentioned to the president that Woodward wanted to interview him.
The phone call did not provide real answers as to what exactly happened to Woodward's requests. But it did provide a window into the breakdown of key parts of the chain of command in the West Wing in recent months.
The chaos in the White House has been exacerbated by the president's reported decision to sideline his chief of staff, John Kelly, and his decision to act as his own de facto White House communications director following the departure of Hope Hicks, his most trusted aide, in March.
The bizarre phone call between Trump and Woodward also seemed to illustrate the portrait of the Trump White House that is emerging from excerpts of Woodward's book. "Fear" paints a picture of Trump as an uncontrollable and unstable leader, whose closest aides, including Kelly, consider him to be a pathological liar and a threat to national security.
The book, to be released Sept. 11, also describes how top White House officials reportedly disparaged the president, undermined his policy directives, and even removed documents from his desk to keep him from signing them.