Markets and Republicans have shrugged off Trump's chaos, but Bob Woodward says 'people better wake up to what's going on' in the White House

  • Veteran journalist Bob Woodward says Americans need to "wake up" after writing a book that documents chaos in the Trump administration.
  • Republicans and financial markets have largely shrugged off any concerns about President Donald Trump's ability to govern.
  • Trump has repeatedly criticized Woodward's book "Fear," and tried to highlight a strong economy instead on Monday.

Investors and congressional Republicans have largely shrugged off concerns about chaos in President Donald Trump's White House, instead choosing to focus on strength in markets and the U.S. economy.

But Bob Woodward, who has written extensively about presidents for more than four decades, thinks more people need to "wake up" about the current administration.

The legendary investigative journalist's explosive new book, along with a recent anonymous New York Times column by an unnamed Trump administration official, have put fresh focus on disorder in the executive branch. And Woodward thinks Americans have not fully appreciated the national security risks that he believes Trump poses.

In a CBS interview that aired Sunday, Woodward said his time writing the book, titled "Fear," made him conclude "that people better wake up to what's going on." On Monday, Woodward separately told NBC's "TODAY" that White House disarray "has not been treated seriously enough."

"The things — some of the things — that Trump did and does jeopardizes the real national security," said Woodward, who has written books about several administrations and helped to break the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

The White House didn't immediately respond to questions about Woodward's remarks.

Woodward's book and the Times op-ed highlighted instances of high-ranking officials — in one example ripping papers off the president's desk to prevent a policy move — trying to subvert what they consider the president's worst impulses. As the revelations reverberate in Washington and around the country, they show a Republican Party and financial community largely unperturbed by Trump's temperament — at least as long as the economy and corporate profits stay strong.

Stocks may continue their steady rise. Most GOP lawmakers will likely defend the president as more stories about chaos surface. But what may decide Trump's political fate is whether the independent and GOP voters who will help to determine the swing races in November's battle for Congress care about the risks posed by Trump's presidency.

On Monday morning, Trump himself claimed Woodward used his book — which comes out Tuesday — to help Democrats. Pointing to Cabinet members' denials of explosive quotes attributed to them, Trump tweeted that the journalist "is like a Dem operative prior to the midterms."

No evidence supports the president's contention that Woodward is trying to help Democrats, who appear to be at least slight favorites to take a House majority in the next Congress. Control of the chamber would notably allow Democrats to start investigations into the administration, or potentially push for Trump's impeachment.

In a series of tweets Monday, the president tried to deflect attention from Woodward's book. The U.S. economy "is soooo good" that "Democrats are flailing & lying" with "phony books, articles and T.V. 'hits' like no other [politician] has had to endure," the president tweeted.

"And they are losing big," he added.

Notable Republicans, with only a few exceptions, have also shown little public concern about the episodes outlined in Woodward's book. They have instead focused on selling a strong U.S. economy and the positive boost they say last year's GOP tax overhaul and an emphasis on deregulation have provided.

"I know the president is very unconventional, and I know his tweeting and unconventional tactics bother people," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters last week after the Times op-ed was published. But the Wisconsin Republican said that "our branch of government is in charge of making sure that we pass good laws that improve people's lives."

"And guess what, we are passing good laws that improve people's lives," added Ryan, who is not seeking another term this fall.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed a similar sentiment when responding to former President Barack Obama's criticism of Trump's temperament and his effect on the country's discourse. In a tweet, he contended that voters "wanted a better way" than the path the Democratic president offered.

"The Obama years were dominated by higher taxes, slower growth, big government, a broken military, and a pathetically weak foreign policy," he tweeted Friday.

Some Republicans have at least occasionally criticized the president and continued to do so after excerpts of Woodward's book started circulating. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who once described the White House as an "adult day care center," said last week that the Times column did not shock him.

"I don't think those of us who have worked closely with people in the White House are shocked by the content," Corker, who will retire in January, said in a statement.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who has not hesitated to call out Trump, echoed Corker on Sunday.

"It's pretty obvious when you are engaging with the White House, as I do many, many times a week, there is a lot of chaos and a lot of reality TV circus and that is different than a long-term view," Sasse told CNN.

Financial markets have been resilient this year, even as Trump engages in an at times tense back-and-forth with North Korea over nuclear disarmament and faces pressure after his former personal lawyer named him as a co-conspirator in financial crimes. The president has denied wrongdoing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have climbed roughly 5 percent, 8 percent and 15 percent, respectively, this year.

Only Trump's escalating conflicts with major trading partners including China, the European Union, Mexico and Canada have appeared to rattle markets. The president is now considering whether to impose tariffs on an additional $400 billion or more in Chinese goods, which could give investors pause.

Tariffs have also brought the most resistance to the president among free trade Republicans, who worry that Trump will slow economic growth and increase costs for consumers.

Though most investors and Republicans have shown little concern about White House disarray and policy, Americans appear to have more fears. Trump has an approval rating of about 40.6 percent, versus 53.4 percent who disapprove, according to a rolling FiveThirtyEight polling average.

Democrats also lead by more than 8 percentage points in a recent average of generic ballots asking for a preference between a Democratic or Republican Congress, according to the data website.

Recent polls have also showed a desire among voters to check the president. In swing state Pennsylvania and even in red Texas, pluralities of registered voters said they wanted their vote to send a message that Congress needs more Democrats to provide a counterweight to the president, according to NBC News/Marist polls last month.

In both states, more than half of independent registered voters said they wanted more Democrats in Congress to check Trump. Those voters will be critical in November as Democrats try to win the 23 GOP-held House seats needed to take a majority.

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