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Investigative journalist who’s been covering Trump for 35 years explains why you need to take Mary’s Trump’s book seriously

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David Cay Johnston
David Cay Johnston

Mary Trump’s book deserves your close attention because the president’s niece has two advantages that the small band of us who have studied Trump closely over the years do not.

First, she’s family. No one knows you like your family. Your family knows how you behaved at crucial moments when life changing events occur — births, deaths, divorces, medical emergencies and weddings — as well as mundane events like Saturday breakfast.

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The 55-year-old daughter of Donald Trump’s older brother is the first Trump family insider to go public about his behavior since he announced his run for the presidency more than five years ago. Her most chilling anecdote is about how as first son Fred Trump Jr. was rushed to a hospital where he died, Donald and his sister Elizabeth went to the movies and the parents stayed home.

Second, she’s a clinical psychologist with a doctorate degree. Her insights are informed by her deep education into how psyches develop and, in the case of her uncle, how personalities cold, cruel, and brutally demanding parenting warps personalities. Donald was so desperate to avoid his father’s wrath, which destroyed his older brother who died of an alcoholism induced heart attack, that he never developed a conscience, only a feral instinct for self-preservation.

There’s also good reason to trust what Dr. Mary Trump  writes because the anecdotes and observations in published excerpts are all consistent with my decades of reporting on Trump, as well as the penetrating works of my former New York Times colleagues Timothy O’Brien and Harry Hurt III and my good friend the late Wayne Barrett, the first journalist to expose Trump’s con games.

The new book, officially being published July 14,  is also consistent with Gwenda Blair’s richly detailed 2001 book “The Trumps.” Blair showed how the Trumps have been schemers all the way back to 1885 when Friedrich Drumpf fled the German draft, came to America, changed his name, got rich running bordellos and lied to get his American citizenship.

Friedrich died during the pandemic a century ago from influenza that killed 50 million people worldwide. That his grandson has no understanding of the science of pandemics, is itself a revealing insight into the utter lack of traditional family values in the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” who now resides in the White House.

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The Trump White House, in a statement, attacked the book as a work motivated by “financial gain.” That is a most curious charge to be leveled by Donald Trump’s minions given his lifelong indulgence and avarice and his endless false boasts that he is a multibillionaire.

Mary Trump, by any standard rich, is a very rich woman according to none other than Donald Trump. Back two decades ago, when he cut off healthcare to a newborn grandnephew, the son of Mary’s brother, he did so to leverage a settlement that would entitle him to more money from his father Fred’s estate at the expense of Mary and her brother.

He declared back then that the two children of his late older brother Fred Jr. lived luxurious lives thanks to his father, Fred Trump. Mary’s book says Trump often sees people only in monetary terms, something I observed in many conversations with him.

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But that Trump would dictate to his personal publicists, who are paid by taxpayers as White House press staff, to denounce making money from a book is a reminder that Donald Trump lives in the moment and assumes no one remembers the past or checks the record.

Trump, I have often explained, lies as easily as the rest of us breathe. Mary writes that for her uncle “cheating is a way of life.” She says he even hired a pal named Joe Shapiro to take his SAT tests, something hard to accomplish today but easily done in the 1960s when proctors did not check photo IDs.

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She writes of her joy – something Trump has never known – in collecting 19 boxes of Trump family financial documents and turning them over to three New York Times reporters. Those family business records furnished the basis of the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 expose establishing that Trump and his surviving siblings are, like their father Fred, major league serial tax cheats.

She also quotes Trump’s elder sister Maryanne, who did his homework for him, calling Donald “a clown” in 2015 after he announced his campaign for president.  Maryanne spent years as a federal judge, but resigned to stop the judicial ethics investigation into her role in the years of Trump family tax cheating.

The family has known all this for decades. The small band of journalists who have studied him closely have also known this for decades and reported it.

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Here’s one more compelling reason to believe Mary Trump. The president, through his little brother Robert, tried to block publication of the book, just as he did John Bolton’s revealing look at Trump’s incompetent and dangerous actions on national security. Both times he failed.

Like my 2016 biography The Making of Donald Trump, his niece’s book is a work of reliable information that he desperately hopes you won’t read because nothing is more dangerous to Donald than accuracy and truth.

Now at long last, one brave Trump family member has stood up to tell the truths Donald Trump has kept quiet with bribes, litigation and payoffs. Pay attention, please.

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