As President Trump compares the deadly COVID-19 outbreak to the flu despite being hospitalized for the virus, we speak to his only niece, Mary Trump, about his increasingly erratic behavior in the final weeks of the election season and how his family views illness as a weakness. “To be treated for something is to admit that you need the treatment, and I don’t see him having any self-awareness,” she says. “Clearly the people closest to him don’t care about his well-being. If they did, he’d still be at Walter Reed.” She also warns that the “worst-case scenario” would be for President Trump to overcome his illness relatively quickly, because it would convince him to continue ignoring the pandemic. Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist. In July, she overcame Trump’s legal threats and published the now best-selling book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
AMY GOODMAN: As President Trump continues to battle COVID-19 from the White House after leaving the hospital on Monday, at least 11 White House officials and their aides have tested positive for the virus. The people around him, it’s more like two dozen. On Tuesday, Trump’s anti-immigrant senior adviser Stephen Miller became the latest high-level official to announce a positive test. The disease has also reached the highest echelons of the U.S. military. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley and several other senior members of the Pentagon’s leadership are quarantining, after the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Ray, tested positive.
In a tweetstorm Tuesday night, Trump fired off more than 40 tweets and retweets over about a half an hour, posting about voting security and conspiracy theories, attacking his political rivals, demanding action on coronavirus relief package, just hours after he had cut off negotiations over the stimulus bill until after the election. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden fired back, tweeting a GIF of him saying, “Get off Twitter,” with the caption “Please.” Trump also falsely claimed in his tweets that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, even though the virus has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States. This is the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, responding to Trump during an interview Tuesday on NBC News.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You don’t get a pandemic that kills a million people, and it isn’t even over yet, with influenza. So it is not correct to say it’s the same as flu.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior this election season, we’re joined by Mary Trump, the only niece of President Donald Trump. She’s a clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book, published in July, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
Mary Trump, welcome back to Democracy Now!
MARY TRUMP: Thanks, Amy. It’s great to be here again.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s begin with getting you to elaborate on your tweet on Friday in response to learning that your uncle, President Trump, tested positive for COVID-19. You wrote, “I reserve my sympathy, empathy, and despair for those who are sick and for those who have died because they were misled, lied to, or ignored. Wear a f—ing mask,” you tweeted.
You have said that illness was seen as unacceptable by both Donald Trump and his father, Fred Trump, your grandfather, that illness was seen as a, quote, “display of unforgivable weakness,” whether it was themselves or others.
Can you talk about what the president, your uncle, has done this weekend, after getting released from the hospital and during? Now he’s drugged up. He’s receiving steroids, dexamethasone, among other drugs, remdesivir and an unusual investigational drug cocktail. And we’re seeing massive numbers of tweets, big switcharounds, from saying he’s canceling stim to maybe he would support it. Can you talk as a clinical psychologist and a person with deep knowledge of your family?
MARY TRUMP: Sure. First of all, I think it’s very important to remember that this man, who is directly at this point responsible for the death of over 210,000 people and this illness of who knows how many millions, received — is receiving world-class healthcare in world-class medical facilities, provided to him by a system he does not pay into. So there’s that. Ninety-nine percent of Americans do not receive such care.
And unfortunately, I think this is sort of a worst-case scenario. Now, obviously, we don’t know yet what the course of Donald’s illness will take. You know, COVID-19 is something that’s very tricky and changes course without warning. So, as his doctor said, we do not know if he’s out of the woods yet. But if he contracted COVID-19 and then emerges relatively unscathed, that’s the worst-case scenario, because, as we saw in his tweet the other day, he’s not going to take it seriously. He’ll think, “I beat it. So, too bad for the rest of you suckers. I got my care. I got better. You deal with it on your own.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about how illness was treated within your family by the various generations, of Fred Trump Sr., obviously, and then, obviously, brought down to Donald Trump, how illness is viewed?
MARY TRUMP: Sure. I mean, interestingly, and I don’t know how this plays into it, but my great-grandfather died from the 1918 flu pandemic, so when my grandfather was about 12 years old. So, I’m not sure if that had an impact. I’m sure it did have an impact on him, but I’m not entirely sure how.
But what I do know is that my grandfather did not tolerate illness. He did not tolerate weakness of any kind, but he interpreted weakness or defined weakness in a very odd way. Weakness was kindness, generosity, sensitivity, physical illness, addiction. All of those things he considered weak, they weren’t accepted, and they were barely acknowledged.
So, part of the problem is, my grandfather never got sick. He wasn’t sick until he was in his eighties. And his children were raised with this belief system. And Donald totally bought into it and also is somebody who’s very rarely been sick. So, it’s easy under those circumstances to maintain the position that if you get sick, you’re weak, or if you succumb to an illness, you’re weak. And I think that has been a large part of how his willful and criminal response to COVID-19 has unfolded.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And also, the narcissism that is almost daily on display on the part of the president when he holds his press conferences or talks to reporters, your — as a clinical psychologist, your sense of how this narcissism — it’s almost delusional at times. Everyone is always, according to him, praising the enormous accomplishments of his administration. I’m wondering — you’ve obviously seen this often, as we have, on television. Your reaction to it?
MARY TRUMP: It’s of a piece with how he’s been in his entire life. For various kind of complicated reasons, Donald understood from a very early age that in order to survive in the family, he had to present himself as somebody who was the best, the greatest, the — somebody who was never wrong, so therefore never had to admit mistakes.
And we’ve seen this get worse as people enable him. And that, to me, is the biggest question right now, and it’s the greatest danger. Why are people in his inner circle continuing to enable this man, who clearly is unfit and, I mean, has been, but now I don’t know if we’re dealing with the side effects from the dexamethasone, which can include mania, or what? But, you know, these displays of extraordinary narcissism are delusional and are creating a situation of untenable uncertainty.
AMY GOODMAN: In speaking about how Donald Trump deals with illness in the family and among friends, we all know from research on his relationship with Roy Cohn, where the vicious anti-communist, who worked next to Joe McCarthy, was very close to Donald Trump, right? Donald Trump learned at his knee. He would eventually die of AIDS. They were deeply close, talked and visited all the time. As Roy Cohn was dying, Trump distanced himself, cut him off — himself off from Roy Cohn. And then you have the situation of your own dad, Mary, of your father, who you talk about Donald Trump leaving when he died in the hospital. Can you describe that for us?
MARY TRUMP: Yeah. In both cases, it was certainly the illnesses that Donald couldn’t deal with, but it was also the cause of the illness — in Roy Cohn’s case, his homosexuality, which I’m pretty sure Donald would not have been comfortable with, and in my dad’s case, his alcoholism, which, in my family, was considered a moral failing.
So, when my dad, at the age of 42, was finally taken to the hospital, after having been very ill for a couple of weeks, at least, Donald went to my grandparents’ house, and my grandparents sat in their library waiting by the phone to hear from the doctors, while my father was in an emergency room dying alone. And in order to pass the time, instead of sitting with them, Donald and my aunt Elizabeth went to the movies.
AMY GOODMAN: And there, your father was dying without his family there.
MARY TRUMP: Yes, as the COVID patients must do.
AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to read from Vanity Fair. “'Don Jr. thinks Trump is acting crazy,' one of the sources told me.” This is a story by Gabriel Sherman. Of course, Donald Trump Jr. is your cousin, Donald Trump, the son of the president. Vanity Fair goes on to say, “The stunt outraged medical experts, including an attending physician at Walter Reed. According to sources, Don Jr. has told friends that he tried lobbying Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Jared Kushner to convince the president that he needs to stop acting unstable. 'Don Jr. has said he wants to stage an intervention, but Jared and Ivanka keep telling Trump how great he's doing,’ a source said. Don Jr. is said to be reluctant to confront his father alone. 'Don said, “I'm not going to be the only one to tell him he’s acting crazy,”’ the source added.”
Now, this has all been denied. But your response to the enabling by the family? You know, we saw at the first debate — who knows if there will be another presidential debate? President Trump says he’s going to do it, but he’s infected with COVID virus right now, and Vice President Biden said he’s not going to debate him if he’s still infected. But you have at that first debate the entire family sitting down, taking off their masks, and despite a Cleveland Clinic doctor coming over to give them masks and say, “Please put them on,” they refuse, the entire group of them. Do you find this likely, what your cousin, Donald Trump Jr., said? And just your overall response to this?
MARY TRUMP: Where to start? First of all, I have no idea why they can’t hold these debates virtually. But that having been said, it doesn’t sound right. I mean, first of all, has Donnie not been paying attention? Like, he’s just beginning to realize that Donald is behaving erratically? So, but if he did say those things, it doesn’t surprise me at all that the rest of them lobbied against him and are going to continue to enable Donald.
These are the most arrogant, entitled people. That display at the first debate was grotesque. Now, what I don’t understand is why they weren’t made to leave. They agreed to the debate rules. They broke the rules. And then they sat there, their smug, satisfied selves, potentially infecting all of the people around them. Do they not understand that they are just as at risk as everybody else, and they could be bringing the virus home to their children? It’s just — I know they don’t care about anybody else. We need to be very clear: Donald doesn’t care about anybody else. His children don’t care about anybody else. You know, I guess they’re just entitled people who think that they are immune and above it all. But they’re not complete idiots. Unlike the people they’re trying to pull a fast one on, they believe in science. So, for them to sit there and be so cavalier with their own health and the health of their families is extraordinary. But since they are like this, why do these people continue not to have to play by the rules?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Mary Trump, I’d like to go back to that first debate that you’ve mentioned, the extraordinary display of Donald Trump, the president, in terms of refusing to abide by the rules that his own campaign had set up. Chris Wallace tried everything possible to try to get him to abide by the rules, and was unsuccessful in doing so. As you watched that, what was your reaction to the total lack of respect for any kind of rule and order that the president displayed?
MARY TRUMP: Well, it’s totally on brand, first of all. Not sure when he’s ever shown respect for the rules or the norms. But mostly what I saw was a desperate man. I am fairly certain he probably went into this debate knowing that he had to flood the zone, which is one of his favorite tactics, to avoid serious, in-depth policy discussions, because his administration has failed on the policy level across the board. So, he didn’t want anybody, especially Joe Biden, to get in any valid points.
But I think as soon he realized it wasn’t working — you know, he wasn’t getting under Joe Biden’s skin, and the talking points that he had prepared in advance weren’t sticking — he lost control. And I don’t think anybody could have put a stop to it. You know, it would have been great if they could have cut his mic. But I think we’re just going to see more of the same, especially if he’s still on these medications that have such powerful and potentially debilitating side effects.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And are you aware whether Donald Trump has ever been treated for any kind of psychological disorders?
MARY TRUMP: I’m not aware. I would be shocked if he had been, because to be treated for something is to admit that you need the treatment, and I don’t see him having any self-awareness. And clearly, the people closest to him don’t care about his well-being. If they did, he’d still be at Walter Reed.
AMY GOODMAN: And President Trump putting those Secret Service agents at risk by demanding to be brought outside and do a drive-by wave to his supporters? And then it goes to the household help, so to speak, the staff at the White House. We watched as President Trump walked up those steps to the first floor balcony of the White House — certainly, where you have visited, Mary Trump — and he took off his mask, in a very deliberate action, gave the thumbs up, did a salute and then didn’t put the mask back on as he walked in. He kept it off. Let’s talk about the household staff. Ai-jen Poo of Domestic Workers Alliance had a harsh tweet criticizing this. We already know that two members of the staff have tested positive. The staff at the White House — and we’re talking about scores of people, nearly a hundred — we know at least two have tested positive. But before the White House press secretary got sick with COVID herself, she said they’re no longer going to say numbers or names. They’re overwhelmingly older, African American, people of color. Mary Trump, if you can talk about his attitude to the people who work for him?
MARY TRUMP: One of the greatest scams in recent political history was getting people to believe that he cared about working people. This is beyond disgraceful. The people who work in the White House, many have been there for decades. You know, they do their part to serve their country. These are dignified, dedicated working people. And he doesn’t care about them. People need to get this through their heads: Donald doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about the American worker. He doesn’t care about the people closest to him. So, there can’t be any pretense anymore.
You know, I saw the entire scene at Walter Reed and the drive-by and the balcony, where he took off that mask, as if he were a tough guy, which he’s not. First of all, it was just a total — it was a perfect distillation of this administration. It’s Donald confronting his abysmal weakness by pretending he’s strong. It’s the people around him continuing to fail to rein him in, either because they don’t want to risk anything or they just don’t care, and Donald showing his complete disregard for anybody else’s safety because he’s so selfish.
It’s got to stop. I don’t know what’s going on with the Republican Party, but I’ve said this before, and I will continue to say it. At this point, Donald is knowingly and willfully getting people in this country sick, and many of them are dying. There’s no other way to put it, but it’s mass murder, because he knows what could be done to stop it, and he’s continuing to do nothing, and he’s making it worse every single day through his lies and his behaviors.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Fauci says, by December, if this keeps up, we could see something like 400,000 Americans dead. But last month — I wanted to switch gears, Mary — you filed a lawsuit in Manhattan accusing President Trump, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and his recently deceased brother Robert Trump, your aunt and uncles, of civil conspiracy and fraud. You claim your father’s siblings tricked you into signing away your stake in the family company after your father, Fred Trump Jr., died. Can you talk about this and this lawsuit that you have just launched since we last spoke and the revelations that have come out by some of the same reporters who reported on the information you got from your lawyer decades ago, when you had a settlement with your family?
MARY TRUMP: Sure. Yeah, it was not until the brilliant Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner published that article in October 2018 that I realized just what had been done to me. And what was even worse than the fraud my family committed against me was how many decades they had spent committing the fraud. So, it was a very well-orchestrated, long-term strategy they had.
So, part of it, part of the reason they were able to pull it off, was because my dad died when I was 16, and they became my trustees and fiduciaries, and they just kept me in the dark about everything. I had no idea what I had a share of. I had no idea what my partnerships meant or anything. So, when my grandfather died when I was 36 years old, I still didn’t really know what I had. So, they were able to fix the numbers to their liking, and those numbers were what we based the settlement on. And now, 20 years later, I know that their valuations of my holdings were incredibly low. I mean, we’re talking tiny fractions of what I was entitled to.
So, you know, people have asked me if I wrote this book for money. And the answer is, no, I wrote this because I’m a deeply concerned American citizen. The lawsuit, however, is about money, because I would really like to have my stolen property returned to me.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for joining us again, Mary Trump, the only niece of President Donald Trump. She’s a clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
When we come back, a reckoning. We talk about the Greensboro massacre and what happened last night with the Greensboro City Council. Stay with us.