Trump’s worldview forged by neglect and trauma at home, niece says in book

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A 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 the president 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 wrote, 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. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

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, often 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 whom he was trying to charm 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 had gone. 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 would not win him entry.

Mary Trump says that Donald’s sister, Maryanne, “had been doing his homework for him,” but that she could not take standardized tests in his place. “To hedge his bets he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs for him,” Mary Trump wrote. “Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well.”

For years, Donald Trump said 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 wrote 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,” she wrote.

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, 7 1/2 years younger than his brother, “had plenty of time to learn from watching Fred humiliate” his eldest son, Mary Trump wrote.

“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 shares a history of family tragedy and division with President Trump, especially regarding her father’s death. Friends of her father told The Post last year that they questioned whether Donald and other members of the family bore some responsibility for Fred Jr.’s decline.

President Trump, who rarely admits mistakes, told The Post in an interview last year that he regrets the way he and his father pressured his brother to go into the family business instead of encouraging him to continue with his dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot.

“I do regret having put pressure on him,” Trump said. Running the family business “was just something he was never going to want” to do. “It was just not his thing. . . . I think the mistake that we made was we assumed that everybody would like it. That would be the biggest mistake. . . . There was sort of a double pressure put on him” by his brother and his father.

Mary Trump provides an early glimpse of Donald Trump the real estate mogul, writing that as her father fell from the Trump patriarch’s favor, her uncle learned the intricacies of the family business, which was primarily focused on rental properties in the outer boroughs of New York City. “Donald discovered he had a taste for the seamier side of dealing with contractors and navigating the political and financial power structures” of the city, Mary Trump wrote.

After her father died, the Trump family agreed to help support Mary and her brother, Fred III.

But when Mary’s grandfather Fred Sr. died in 1999, she and her brother did not get the inheritance they expected, a sum that might have equaled the amount that would have gone to their father, had he lived. Mary and Fred contested Fred Sr.’s will, contending that one or more people connected to the Trump family coerced him to change it and give them less money.

Fred and Mary eventually reached a settlement with Donald and his siblings, receiving an undisclosed amount and signing a confidentiality agreement. President Trump’s younger brother filed a petition in New York Supreme Court seeking to stop publication of the book on grounds that Mary had agreed not to publish an account about the family. But the court’s appellate division ruled last week that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, was not a party to that agreement and lifted a temporary restraining order against it.

As Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Mary Trump did not appear to have said anything publicly about him. But when it became clear that her uncle had won the presidency, she took to Twitter. “Worst night of my life,” she wrote at least 12 times in tweets that have been deleted recently. She wrote that “we should be judged harshly. . . . I grieve for our country.”

The publisher said that it had shipped thousands of copies, and that it moved the publication to July 14, two weeks ahead of the original schedule. Mary Trump has sought to lift the temporary restraining order against her, and a decision on that could come within days.

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