02-23-2018  1:58 pm      •     
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ENTERTAINMENT

CNN Political Unit

(CNN) -- Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Wednesday he was threatened by a senior Obama administration official following his reporting on the White House's handling of the forced federal spending cuts set to take effect on Friday.

"They're not happy at all," he said on CNN's "The Situation Room," adding that an e-mail from a senior administration official -- who he would not name -- communicated a message which caused him great concern.

"It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this," he said.

According to a Democrat aware of the situation, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, sent the email Woodward cited.

Woodward and Sperling have known one another for decades, dating back to the time Sperling served as a top economic adviser in various posts during the Clinton administration.

Woodward penned a 2012 book reporting that the idea for the spending cuts, known as the sequester, originated with the White House. It's a claim President Barack Obama originally denied, but the White House has since acknowledged.

But it was language that he used in an op-ed published over the weekend in The Washington Post that drew what he said was the Obama administration response.

"[W] hen the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts," Woodward wrote. "His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made."

Headlined "Obama's sequester deal-changer," it was widely cited by Republicans seeking to avert the across-the-board cuts without a tax increase.

"The fundamental question here the president has to decide -- does he wanna be president of a political party or does he want to be president of the United States?" House Speaker John Boehner asked at a Tuesday news conference. "It is time for leadership."

Obama, however, has argued for an approach that "balances" spending cuts and tax increases.

"I've laid out a plan that details how we can pay down our deficit in a way that's balanced and responsible," he said at an event in Virginia the same day. "We have the plan right on a website, the White House website. Everybody can go see it. It details exactly how we can cut programs that don't work, how we can raise money by closing loopholes that are only serving a few, as opposed to the average American."

While the days now turn to hours before the cuts kick in on Friday, Republicans and Democrats have not engaged in the sort of negotiations they have held before deadlines in previous fiscal crises.

Woodward said on CNN that the White House objection to his reporting has no basis in facts.

"It's irrefutable. That's exactly what happened," he said. "I'm not saying this is a moving of the goal posts that was a criminal act or something like that. I'm just saying that's what happened."

CNN extended multiple invitations to the White House to appear on the "The Situation Room," including after Woodward began his interview, but the invitations were not accepted.

But a White House official who would not speak if named said late Wednesday, "Of course no threat was intended."

The official said the email Woodward referenced "was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide's email in a friendly manner."

The e-mail had Woodward "very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you're going to regret doing something."

"Let's hope it's not the strategy," he said.

-- CNN's Jim Acosta and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report

 

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