July 8, 2020 at 5:29 a.m. GMT+9
A tell-all book by President Trump’s niece describes a family riven by a series of traumas, exacerbated by a daunting patriarch who “destroyed” Donald Trump by short-circuiting his “ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion,” according to a copy of the forthcoming memoir obtained by The Washington Post.
President Trump’s view of the world was shaped by his desire during childhood to avoid his father’s disapproval, according to the niece, Mary L. Trump, whose book is by turns a family history and a psychological analysis of her uncle.
But she writes that as Donald matured, his father came to envy his son’s “confidence and brazenness,” and his seemingly insatiable desire to flout rules and conventions, traits that brought them closer together as Donald became the right-hand man to the family real estate business.
Mary Trump’s father, Fred Jr. — the president’s older brother — died of an alcohol-related illness when she was 16 years old in 1981. President Trump told The Post last year that he and his father both pushed Fred Jr. to try to go into the family business, which Trump said he now regrets.
The memoir chronicles Fred Jr.’s fruitless efforts to earn his father’s respect as an employee, and how his younger brother Donald reliably ridiculed him as a failure who spent too much time following his passion of aviation, and not enough on the family business.
Donald escaped his father’s contempt, Mary Trump writes, because “his personality served his father’s purpose. That’s what sociopaths do: they co-opt others and use them toward their own ends — ruthlessly and efficiently, with no tolerance for dissent or resistance.”
The book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” became an instant bestseller based on advance orders, underscoring the intense interest among the public about the forces that shaped the man who became president. Mary Trump, 55, has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, told reporters Tuesday that President Trump loved his late brother and always speaks favorably of him. Of the president and his niece, Conway said, “He’s not her patient, he’s her uncle….As for books generally, obviously they’re not fact checked, nobody’s under oath.”
The president, Mary Trump says, is a product of his domineering father and was acutely aware of avoiding the scorn that Fred Sr. heaped on the older brother, called Freddy. “By limiting Donald’s access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it.”
From an early age, Mary Trump writes, the future president demonstrated a willingness to cheat and a penchant for ridicule, once telling a neighborhood girl how “disappointed” he was by where she attended boarding school.
Donald delighted in tormenting his younger brother, Robert, whom he perceived as weaker. Donald repeatedly hid his brother’s favorite toys, a set of Tonka trucks he received for Christmas, and pretended he didn’t know where they were. When Robert threw a tantrum, “Donald threatened to dismantle the trucks in front of him if he didn’t stop crying.”
After graduating from military school and living at home with his parents and commuting to Fordham University, Donald decided to apply to the University of Pennsylvania, which he perceived as a more prestigious school, but worried his grades alone wouldn’t win him entry.
Mary Trump says that Donald’s sister, Maryanne, “had been doing his homework for him,” but that she couldn’t take standardized tests in his place. To hedge his bets, Mary Trump writes, Donald “enlisted a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs for him. Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well.”
For years, Donald Trump said that his admittance to what was then called the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania was proof that he was a “super genius.” The Post reported last year that the admissions officer who interviewed Trump was a close friend of Fred Jr., that the majority of applicants to the school were admitted at that time, and that he did not see any evidence that Trump was a “super genius.”
Mary Trump writes that her grandfather’s children routinely lied to him but for different reasons. For her father, “lying was defensive — not simply a way to circumvent his father’s disapproval or to avoid punishment, as it was for the others, but a way to survive.”
For her uncle Donald, however, “lying was primarily a mode of self-aggrandizement meant to convince other people he was better than he actually was,” Trump writes.
Mary wrote that her father had a “natural sense of humor, sense of adventure, and sensitivity,” which he worked hard to hide from the family patriarch.
“Softness was unthinkable in his namesake,” she writes.
“Fred [Sr.] hated it when his oldest son screwed up or failed to intuit what was required of him, but he hated it even more when, after being taken to task, Freddy apologized. ‘Sorry, Dad,’” Mary says of the way her grandfather treated her father. Fred Sr. “would mock him. Fred wanted his oldest son to be a ‘killer.’ ”
Donald, 7½ years younger than his brother, “had plenty of time to learn from watching Fred humiliate” his eldest son, Mary Trump writes.
“The lesson he learned, at its simplest, was that it was wrong to be like Freddy: Fred didn’t respect his oldest son, so neither would Donald.”
Mary Trump writes that this is not her first effort to write about her uncle. Decades ago, she wrote, Donald Trump asked her to help write his book “The Art of the Comeback.” She said that she did research and sought to interview her uncle, but he kept putting her off, and the publisher eventually sought someone with more experience as a co-author. The anecdote underscores that Mary Trump’s relationship with her uncle was, at times, a close one.
But the relationship fell apart when she learned that Donald and his siblings were trying to prevent her and her brother Fred III from receiving most of what they believed they would inherit from Fred Sr. If her father had lived, he would have expected to get 20 percent of the estate, she wrote. Instead, she said, the Trump family intended to give her “less than a tenth of one percent of what my aunts and uncles inherited.”
While Mary Trump says she and her brother challenged the will, she does not say how much she eventually received, which is covered under a confidentiality agreement. Robert Trump, the president’s younger brother, filed a petition seeking to stop publication of the book by citing that agreement, but the New York Supreme Court last week lifted a temporary restraining order against publisher Simon & Schuster.
Mary Trump writes that when her uncle announced his candidacy for president in 2015, “I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t think Donald took it seriously.” The heir to the family business, she writes, “simply wanted free publicity for his brand.”
Trump’s sister, Maryanne, who served until last year as a federal judge, shared her niece’s assessment. She and her aunt were incensed to see prominent religious figures, notably the evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell Jr., embrace Trump and hold him out as a religious man. “The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there. It’s mind boggling. He has no principles. None!” Maryanne Trump said, according to her niece.
During the fight over the inheritance, Mary Trump says she was told that her grandfather’s estate was worth $30 million. But after being contacted by a reporter for The New York Times in 2017, she retrieved boxes of financial papers that she said showed the estate was actually worth $1 billion. She wrote that she became a key source for the newspaper’s 2018 investigation of the family finances, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
She described how one of the Times’s reporters gave her a disposable cell phone to communicate securely. She said she loaded 19 boxes of Trump family financial material into a truck and shared the boxes with several Times reporters. She said she had a new mission: “I had to take down Donald Trump.” The Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment and previously has declined comment.
Despite lauding the Times’s effort, and acknowledging the work of a number of journalists who have written about her uncle and the family, Mary Trump writes at another point that there were “few reporters” who challenge the president about his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her analysis is that Donald Trump so far has relied on “lying, playing to the lowest common denominator, cheating and sowing division.”
At the end of the book, Mary Trump concludes that it was inevitable that her uncle would rely on division to govern the country, replicating the way she says Fred Sr. “turned his children against each other.” Donald Trump, she writes, “knows he has never been loved.”