WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s niece says he was scarred by his father and developed habits of lying and self-deception that shadowed him into the White House, according to a copy of her much-anticipated memoir obtained by USA TODAY.
“This is far beyond garden-variety narcissism,” Mary Trump writes in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” “Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be,” she writes.
“In Donald’s mind, even acknowledging an inevitable threat would indicate weakness. Taking responsibility would open him up to blame. Being a hero – being good – is impossible for him,” she writes in the book.
The memoir, the subject of a legal battle between Mary Trump and her family members, including the president’s brother Robert Trump, is set to be published July 14 by Simon & Schuster, two weeks earlier than planned.
In many ways, the book is a biography of three Trumps: The president, his father, Fred Trump Sr., and his older brother, Fred Trump Jr., the author’s father.
Mary Trump, a 55-year-old psychologist, blames Fred Trump Sr. for giving Donald his bad habits. She also blames the family patriarch for driving her own father to alcoholism and an early death.
The elder Trump is cast as a cold and forbidding patriarch who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps – his eldest son. But as young Fred struggled, the father shifted his attention to young Donald – demanding him to follow less-than-scrupulous real estate practices and eventually propping him up if his own initiatives failed.
“When things turned south in the late 1980’s, Fred could no longer separate himself from his son’s brutal ineptitude; the father had no choice but to stay invested,” Mary Trump writes.
“His monster had been set free.”
In the book, Mary Trump describes how she helped The New York Times obtain tax documents showing the Trump organization consistently undervalued its properties to reduce its tax bills. Those documents also showed that Fred Trump Sr. propped up Donald Trump after his business failures.
She also writes that in order to get into a private Ivy League university, the young Donald Trump hired someone to take his Scholastic Aptitude Test.
The book says that after Trump announced his White House run in 2015, Trump’s sister, retired appeals court judge Maryanne Trump Barry, mocked him.
“He’s a clown – this will never happen,” Judge Barry said, according to her niece.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Mary Trump’s memoir a “book of falsehoods.”
“It’s ridiculous, absurd allegations that have absolute no bearing in truth. Have yet to see the book, but it is a book of falsehoods,” she told reporters.
In a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews accused Mary Trump of being only interested in the money while claiming “to be acting in the public interest.”
“President Trump has been in office for over three years working on behalf of the American people – why speak out now?” the statement said. “The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child. Also, the absurd SAT allegation is completely false.”
‘Fantasy worlds’ and Madonna’s gum chewing
Donald Trump tended to create his own fantasy worlds, Mary Trump writes.
In order to get into the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the future president paid someone to take his SAT, she writes.
“To hedge his bets he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SAT’s for him,” Mary Trump wrote. “That was much easier to pull off in the days before photo IDs and computerized records.”
During the 1990’s, she wrote, her uncle asked her to ghostwrite a book about him to be called “The Art of the Comeback.” Mary Trump writes that she was given little guidance on what the book would contain, so she tried to focus on the adversity that he had overcome to reach his success. But there was little evidence to support that narrative considering he was about to enter his fourth bankruptcy with the Plaza Hotel, she writes.
One night, she said, he called her, sounding excited, to let her know that Rhona Graff, his longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization, would hand her some pages he had been working on for the book. Mary Trump said she received a manila envelope the next day, containing about 10 typewritten pages, that she had hoped would help her glean insight on how he ran his business or the role he played in development deals.
“It was an aggrieved compendium of women he had expected to date but who, having refused him, were suddenly the worst, ugliest, and fattest slobs he’d ever met,” she wrote.
Among those women was Madonna, who “chewed gum in a way Donald found unattractive,” and Katarina Witt, a German Olympic figure skater and two-time gold medalist who Trump thought “had big calves.”
Mary Trump writes that Donald Trump never paid her for the book project and eventually he sent someone else to fire her from the gig.
Later in 1998, when Mary was first introduced to Melania Trump, the future president told his future wife that Mary had dropped out of college (true) and had come back herself from a drug problem. (Mary said she has never taken drugs).
“By conflating my dropping out of college and his hiring me to write his book (while throwing in a fictional drug addiction), he concocted a better story that somehow had him playing the role of my savior,” Mary wrote.
She added: “The story was for his benefit as much as anybody else’s, and by the time the doorbell rang, he probably already believed his version of events.”
While it may have seemed harmless at the time, the people surrounding Donald Trump – including members of the media – consistently normalized his “aberrant behavior” and mischaracterized him, Mary Trump writes. In his debut on the New York real estate scene, Trump was described as a “brash, self-made dealmaker,” she said.
“He was neither self-made nor a good dealmaker,” she said. “But that was how it started – with his misuse of language and the media’s failure to ask pointed questions,” she said.
‘He’s a clown’
Trump’s own sister dismissed the idea of him running for president, Mary Trump writes.
Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal appeals court judge, mocked the idea of his running after his announcement in mid-2015, Mary Trump writes.
“He’s a clown – this will never happen,” Judge Barry said, according to her niece.
Trump Barry – who said Trump has “no principles! None!” – later criticized him for invoking their brother’s alcohol problems during a campaign discussion about addiction.
She told the author: “He’s using your father’s memory for political purposes and that’s a sin, especially since Freddy should have been the star of the family.”
Putin, Kim Jong Un and Mitch McConnell
Mary Trump has especially harsh words for the people who surround Trump and enable him to stay in power.
“The people with access to him are weaker than Donald is, more craven, but just as desperate. Their futures are directly dependent on his success and favor,” she said. “Although more powerful people put Donald into the institutions that have shielded him since the very beginning, it’s people weaker than he is who are keeping him there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Republican Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “all whom bear more than a passing psychological resemblance to Fred,” recognized after the election that Donald Trump’s personal history and personality flaws made him vulnerable to manipulation, Mary Trump writes.
“His pathologies have rendered him so simple-minded that it takes nothing more than repeating to him the things he says to and about himself dozens of times a day – he’s the smartest, the greatest, the best – to get him to do whatever they want, whether it’s imprisoning children in concentration camps, betraying allies, implementing economy-crushing tax cuts, or degrading every institution that’s contributed to the United States’ rise and the flourishing of liberal democracy.”
A ‘petty, pathetic little man’
The president’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic “underscores his need to minimize negativity at all costs,” Mary Trump writes.
“Fear – the equivalent of weakness in our family – is as unacceptable to him now as it was when he was three years old,” she said.
She points to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response to his state’s outbreak of COVID-19 cases as an example of “real leadership,” further revealing the president as a “petty, pathetic little man – ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost to his own delusional spin.”
“He’ll withhold ventilators or steal supplies from states that have not groveled sufficiently,” she said. “What Donald thinks is justified retaliation is, in this context, mass murder.”
At the end, Mary Trump writes “Donald isn’t really the problem after all” – it is his enablers, from his father to the celebrity media to the congressional Republicans who acquitted him of impeachment.
“This is the end result of Donald’s having continually been given a pass and rewarded not just for his failures but for his transgressions – against tradition, against decency, against the law, and against fellow human beings,” she writes.
A golden shoe and Ivanka’s wedding
Mary Trump also dishes on other members of the Trump family.
Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, had a penchant for regifting, according to Mary Trump. She recalls receiving a gold lame shoe with a four-inch heel filled with hard candy, wrapped in cellophane, for Christmas. The gift was so puzzling, Mary Trump wrote, and she wondered whether it had been a door prize or a party favor.
The following year solidified Ivana’s habit of passing off other gifts: a gift basket containing a tin of gourmet sardines, water crackers, vermouth-packed olives and a salami. The tissue paper in the basket had the indentation of where another jar was clearly removed. Mary Trump joked with her cousin David that the absent jar was “probably caviar.”
Mary Trump’s mother once received a luxury handbag from Ivana that “contained a used Kleenex.”
In another part of the book, she recounted seeing her family for the first time in nearly a decade at the October 2009 wedding of her cousin Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, considered by many to be the president’s shadow chief of staff.
Before the vows, she recalled Kushner’s father, Charles, recalling that when his son first introduced him to Ivanka, he “had thought she would never be good enough to join his family.”
“It was only after she had committed to converting to Judaism and worked hard to make it happen that he had begun to think she might be worthy of them after all,” she wrote.
Mary Trump said she found “his condescension a bit out of line” considering he was just released from jail over tax evasion and witness-tampering, a charge that included him hiring a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband, having the encounter secretly filmed and then sending the recording to his sister at his nephew’s engagement party.
Though the book’s publication date is set for next week, it remains the subject of a legal battle.
In a lawsuit he filed in New York at the end of June, Robert Trump argued that Mary had no right to speak or write about her family. His lawyers said she signed a family estate settlement almost 20 years ago that included a confidentiality clause explicitly saying members of the family would not “publish any account concerning the litigation or their relationship,” unless they all agreed.
A New York appellate court last week ruled the publication could go ahead.
But a temporary restraining order remains on Mary herself. A lower court judge in New York is due to consider whether to continue or drop that order later this week.
Mary Trump’s lawyers and lawyers for Simon & Schuster argued that blocking the book amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment rights of Mary Trump and the publisher.
Chris Bastardi, a spokesman for Mary Trump, declined comment, noting that the book is still in litigation: “The restraining order is still in place on our side.”