Trump's about-face toward Woodward, in spite of his history of compliments for the reporter, provides another stark example of the president's scorched-earth tactic of responding to his critics.
Excerpts from Woodward's forthcoming book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," portray the White House under Trump as chaotic and vindictive, with the president himself frequently undermining his top officials as those same people gripe about him behind his back.
According to the book — which is based on interviews with people who mostly spoke anonymously in order to share their stories freely — Trump called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a "traitor," "mentally retarded" and a "dumb southerner"; he said his former chief of staff Reince Priebus was "like a little rat" scurrying around; he mocked ex-national security advisor H.R. McMaster's demeanor and fashion sense, saying he dressed "like a beer salesman"; he told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, "You're past your prime."
The White House has broadly disputed the book as untrue. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad."
It also prompted full-throated denials from senior staff members, including current chief of staff John Kelly, who for the second time denied calling the president an "idiot," and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who asserted, "The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered by me or in my presence."
Woodward has said he stands by his reporting.
No one has pushed back against Woodward's forthcoming expose more forcefully than Trump himself, however.
Shortly after the first excerpts from the book were published on Sept. 4, Trump kicked off a stream of Twitter attacks on Woodward and his reporting that continued nearly a week later.