“In my family, being kind was considered being weak,” says Mary Trump, President Trump’s niece, a clinical psychologist and author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. We spend the hour with Mary Trump, discussing her book the president doesn’t want people to read, in which she describes his upbringing in a dysfunctional family that fostered his greed, cruelty and racist and sexist behaviors — which he is now inflicting on the world. Mary Trump also discusses the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, his long history of lies and misrepresentations, and the dangers of his reelection. “I believe that this country is on the knife’s edge, and I don’t want anybody going to cast their vote in November being able to claim that they just don’t know who they’re voting for,” she says.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. Today we spend the hour with the author of a book President Trump doesn’t want you to read. Mary Trump is the niece of President Donald Trump, a clinical psychologist, author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. She describes Donald Trump as a “sociopath” who grew up in a dysfunctional family that fostered his greed and cruelty, which he is now inflicting on the world.
Donald Trump’s younger brother Robert attempted to block the sale of the book on behalf of the Trump family, saying it violated a confidentiality agreement. But a New York judge ruled against him, the book was published in July, and Mary Trump was allowed to speak about it. Too Much and Never Enough sold more copies in a week than Trump’s Art of the Deal did in 29 years. Yes, Mary Trump’s book sold nearly 1 million copies in one day, the publication date.
In her book, Dr. Mary Trump writes, quote, “The out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of an economic depression, deepening social divides along political lines thanks to Donald’s penchant for division, and devastating uncertainty about our country’s future have created a perfect storm of catastrophes that no one is less equipped than my uncle to manage,” she writes.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll now stands at 160,000, by far the highest total in the world. Some estimates say it could rise to 300,000 by the end of the year.
Dr. Mary Trump, thanks so much for joining us.
MARY TRUMP: Thank you. It’s so great to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you have said that your uncle, President Trump, should face criminal charges for his response to the pandemic. Explain.
MARY TRUMP: It’s hard at this point to give him any slack for not having acted. You know, we now know what to do to mitigate the spread of this very infectious disease, and he’s not only not doing those things, he’s actively advocating against them still and continuing to claim that it’s just going to disappear, it’s still some kind of hoax, using the racist term “China virus” to get himself off the hook. And with over 160,000 Americans dead and rising, how can we not assume that there’s some kind of culpability here? And, you know, he is able to make steps to fix this problem, and since he’s not doing it, that, to me, also suggests criminal culpability.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you say so much in this book, give us a kind of deep background on the Trump family and Donald Trump himself, that we’ve ever read or seen. If you can talk about why you wrote Too Much and Never Enough?
MARY TRUMP: I wrote this book primarily to give people the kind of information they did not have access to in 2016. And there are reasons I wasn’t able to do that in 2016, having to do partially with, you know, nothing he did or said seemed to turn anybody off anyway, so I’m not entirely sure that my saying anything would matter. So, in 2020, there is such more at stake than there ever has been. I believe that this country is on the knife’s edge, and I don’t want anybody going to cast their vote in November being able to claim that they just don’t know who they’re voting for.
AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us about your family. You’re the daughter of Donald Trump’s older brother, Freddy Trump, who died at a young age. Take us back to your family, as you talk about and quote, oh, Victor Hugo, of Les Misérables, talking about deep darkness. I wanted to share that quote, if you want to talk a little about it.
MARY TRUMP: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: The book opening with that quote that says, “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness,” the epigraph clearly a reference to what Fred Trump, your grandfather, you say, did to Donald Trump.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah, I chose that quote specifically for that reason, but also because I think it works in the present day. You know, I think a lot of people in this country are purposely left in the dark and making bad decisions and self-defeating decisions because they are not given access to information that would help them make better choices.
But as far as my grandfather, he was basically the only person in the family whose opinion mattered. He had all of the power. You know, it was a very patriarchal system I grew up in. There was a lot of misogyny, so being a girl in that family was an automatic strike against you.
And my grandfather was the kind of man who believed in dynasty, in a way. I mean, he wouldn’t have put it in those terms, but, you know, he had his real estate empire, and his oldest son and namesake, my father, was going to be his successor, and his empire was going to last in perpetuity. Unfortunately for my father’s sake, he wasn’t the right kind of person in my grandfather’s eyes. My grandfather needed somebody who was a killer, who was a tough guy, somebody who would win at all costs and was not weak in any way. In my family, being kind was considered being weak. Admitting your mistakes and apologizing for them was equated with weakness, as well. So, I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, certainly, I would imagine by the time my dad was in college, my grandfather already knew that he was probably not going to cut it as his heir apparent.
So, Donald, who was seven-and-a-half years younger, learned from my grandfather’s psychological and emotional abuse of my dad. And the message was, essentially, “Don’t be like Freddy.” And since my grandfather ran my family as a zero-sum game, and there could only be one winner and everybody else was a loser, Donald was determined to win. And he — in my grandfather’s eyes, at least — did and, you know, successfully auditioned as my dad’s replacement.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a New York Times report, long ago, in 1927, that your grandfather, Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot in Queens, New York. The article is subtitled “Klan Assails Policemen.” It reports that a thousand Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all battle. It lists Fred Trump, with his address, as one of seven men who were arrested and arraigned for the assault. Charges against him were dropped. New York Police Commissioner Warren is quoted in the article saying, “The Klan not only wore gowns, but had hoods over their faces almost completely hiding their identity.” The report was found and published in 2015 by the website BoingBoing.
In a New York Times interview about the discovery, your uncle, Donald Trump, said, “I saw that it was one little website that said it. It never happened. And they said there were no charges, no nothing. It’s unfair to mention it, to be honest, because there were no charges. They said there were charges against other people, but there were absolutely no charges, totally false,” he said.
But we’re going back to that 2017 report in The New York Times. Do you know about this, Mary Trump? Did you hear about it as you were growing up?
MARY TRUMP: No, I didn’t, although my family wasn’t great at telling stories. But, you know, unlike Donald, I don’t doubt the validity of the report. It would be kind of a random thing to make up 60 years ago or 80 years ago, whenever it was. The only thing that surprises me, because, you know, my family was quite anti-Semitic, along with other things — so the only thing that surprises me is that my grandfather would take time away from his business to go do anything, honestly. But it wouldn’t surprise me that he shared the sentiments.
AMY GOODMAN: You say that Donald Trump and your family were anti-Semitic and were racist. Can you give us examples, particularly of President Trump, as you knew him growing up?
MARY TRUMP: You know, I can’t, because it was just the way it was, honestly. It was sort of the background. You know, the terms were thrown about rather casually. And, you know, I don’t want to suggest that like there was this sense of virulence in the household, but it was just language that was used, and it was a given. So, I can’t think of any specific examples. I mean, if I could, that would suggest that it didn’t happen very often, you know?
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever hear Donald Trump, your uncle, use the N-word?
MARY TRUMP: Yeah, sure.
AMY GOODMAN: “Yeah, sure”?
MARY TRUMP: No, you know, I know that sounds awful to put it that way, but when you live in a family and you’re a kid — it’s not that I didn’t know it was wrong. I did, because I lived a very different kind of experience growing up. I lived in Jamaica, Queens, which was, you know, lower-class, working-class and predominantly African American. I went to a school that was predominantly Jewish. So, I didn’t understand the animus, but it wasn’t shocking, because it’s just the way it was. This is how adults in my orbit spoke and behaved. And now, of course, I — you know, I learned a long time ago that it wasn’t just something I disagreed with, but it was deeply wrong. But, you know, I guess I say it the way I say it just to underscore how casual and accepted it was.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to then go to the 1970s. Your father was being sidelined in the Trump Organization, though it does sound like he very much didn’t want to really do that job. He loved flying. And I want to ask you about him in a minute. But Donald Trump came to the fore very quickly, became president when, what, he was in his early twenties.
In 1973, the Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump and the company for alleged racial discrimination at Trump housing developments in New York. Again, the Justice Department suing personally Donald Trump, his father — your grandfather, Fred — and Trump management in order to obtain a settlement in which Trump and his father would promise not to discriminate. It was settled like two years later, after Trump tried to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million for making false statements — allegations all dismissed by the court. Can you, Mary Trump, talk about what you understood, what happened at that time?
MARY TRUMP: Well, I was 8, so I’m not entirely sure I would have been aware of it. I do remember my dad was worried. He wasn’t working for my grandfather’s company anymore, but I know at that time he was worried about this lawsuit. And shortly before that, or a couple years before that, my grandfather had been involved with the Tomasellos, which allegedly had Mafia ties, that might have gotten my grandfather into trouble. And I know my dad was worried about that, as well. But he was outside of it, so I didn’t have any access into what was really going on until much later. And so, I essentially know what other people know about what happened, and how bringing Roy Cohn into the mix kind of changed the course a little bit of where Donald was heading.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could talk about your family, going back in time as we backtrack? Give us a family — kind of family tree. What’s interesting is, Donald Trump has continually said — not clear why — Fred Trump, his father, your grandfather, was born in Germany.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, your grandmother was. But it wasn’t just a misstatement where he said it once and maybe meant his own grandfather. He has continually said that his father was born in Germany. Can you understand why?
MARY TRUMP: It’s really fascinating, what Donald gets wrong sometimes. And you know, it’s difficult, on occasion, to know if he’s doing it on purpose or not. So, that confuses me. He used to say that he was Swedish. When asked what his ethnicity was, he would say Swedish, because, you know, the excuse given was that they worked with a lot of Jewish people, and they didn’t want to offend them by — he didn’t want to offend them by admitting to his German roots. But my grandmother was Scottish, so I’m not — he could have said Scottish. So it’s never really clear why. You know, he must know that his own father was born in the United States. Maybe it — you know, my grandmother was born in Scotland. She was an immigrant. I honestly can’t tell you. It’s very weird.
AMY GOODMAN: Right. I meant to say your grandmother was — how did your grandmother come here from Scotland? And how did she meet your grandfather? And then talk about that relationship shaping Donald, which we can then take to when you went to the White House —
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — and that picture missing, perhaps, from the White House —
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — of the family gallery, and that’s the picture of Donald Trump’s mother.
MARY TRUMP: That’s right, yeah. My grandmother was the youngest of 10, who grew up on a very tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland, not exactly a pleasant environment. It was a very harsh place to live in the early 20th century. It’s beautiful, but it must have been extremely difficult to live there all those years ago. So she came to the United States to join two of her older sisters who were already here, and I think both of them were already married at the time to American men. And I think she came in part because the male population on the Isle of Lewis had been decimated by World War I, the 1918 pandemic and a horrible shipwreck off the coast after — at the end of World War I.
So, she came as a domestic servant, I believe. And she met my grandfather at a dance very shortly after she arrived. And, you know, family lore says that my grandfather, who was living with his mother at the time, went home after the dance and told her that he had found the woman he was going to marry, and which he did, but it was five years later, which seemed — I never found out why it took so long. But anyway, they got married and, very shortly, started having a family. And my grandfather by that time was already very, very successful, and that never — you know, that trajectory never changed direction. He got more successful and more wealthy every year.
But when Donald was two-and-a-half, my grandmother got very ill. By that point, all five of their children had already been born. Maryanne was the oldest, then my dad, my aunt Elizabeth, Donald and, a year and a half years later, Robert, who was 9 months old when my grandmother became ill. She was essentially absent for almost a year. She had suffered very severe postpartum issues after my uncle Robert was born, that had gone undetected for so long that they were life-threatening.
And that was the first major experience that shaped Donald. He experienced her absence as an abandonment. And my grandfather, who was a straight-up sociopath, was incapable and unwilling to fulfill the caregiver role, so Donald was very lonely and very frightened at an extremely crucial developmental period. So, you know, he was never able to make up the deficits that occurred at that time. And I think my grandmother, even to the extent she got better, was never able to heal the rifts between them, because although clearly it wasn’t her fault that she got ill, she never really took responsibility for making it up to him and helping him heal that sense of abandonment. And then, I think by the time he was sent to the military academy at 13, and my grandmother did absolutely nothing to prevent it, I think that was the final betrayal as far as he was concerned.
So, it wasn’t surprising to me, when I visited the White House in April 2017, that the only picture he had on the sideboard behind the Resolute Desk was a picture of my grandfather, kind of at the height of his powers, and nobody else. So, my aunt Maryanne pointed out to Donald that he should maybe have a picture of their mother on the desk, too. And he basically said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a great idea. Somebody get me a picture of mom.” And what I find very interesting is that the picture I’ve seen that he has on his desk is a picture of my grandmother before she had even met my grandfather, so it’s a picture of Donald’s mother before she was his mother.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned that Donald Trump went to a military academy for high school.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain why he went there.
MARY TRUMP: In, I guess it would have been, you know, middle school, I guess, his behavior started to become increasingly belligerent and uncontrollable. And it wasn’t just at home; it was at school, as well. He went to a small school in Forest Hills, which is actually the same school I attended when I was a kid. And my grandfather was on the board of trustees at that school. So I think, on the one hand, my grandfather found it annoying that his son was creating problems in a school that he was associated with, but he was also out of control in the house, as well. My grandfather worked a lot. He worked six days a week, many, many hours a day. So my grandmother was the one who had to deal with the brunt of Donald’s disobedience and disrespect towards her.
So, at one point, somebody suggested to my grandfather that, you know, maybe the New York Military Academy would straighten Donald out. And because at the time Donald wasn’t on my grandfather’s radar yet, because my father was still his primary focus, and because my grandmother actually would have been quite happy to have him out of the house, he was sent to New York Military Academy. And it was really a punishment. You know, it wasn’t like he was being sent to Choate or something.
AMY GOODMAN: So he comes back. He goes to Fordham, starts there. And then you make a very serious allegation in your book: You say that he paid another young man to take his SATs.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you know.
MARY TRUMP: You know, this is a story that’s known in my family. I’ve been told this directly on numerous occasions. And it was because Donald, you know, at that time — I mean, certainly, since the time he was 12, probably, had a very inflated sense of himself. And Fordham wasn’t good enough. You know, he felt he needed a degree commensurate with his hyperbolic self-regard, if you will. So, he had heard of Wharton, which I guess already had a good reputation. And while he was at Fordham, though, Maryanne did his homework for him. And he also —
AMY GOODMAN: And Maryanne is the retired federal judge from New Jersey.
MARY TRUMP: That’s right. And she’s about nine years older. So, when Donald was at Fordham, he was living at my grandparents’ house, and Maryanne was living a few blocks away, already married with a child. And also, he hadn’t — when he graduated from high school, he hadn’t been accepted into any college. So, Fordham was an intermediate step for him, I guess. But because he didn’t do his homework himself, you know, I don’t know that he had confidence that his grades were good enough to get into the University of Pennsylvania.
So, just as a way to hedge his bets, he paid a boy in the neighborhood by the name Joe Shapiro, who was — I guess, had a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs, which, as it turns out, wasn’t necessary, because, I guess, University of Pennsylvania had a very high acceptance rate at the time, and also my dad’s very good friend from St. Paul’s, which is where he went to high school, worked in the admissions department at the University of Pennsylvania, so Donald probably would have gotten in anyway.
AMY GOODMAN: He’s made a big deal of having gone to the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. It’s very important to him.
MARY TRUMP: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: What did your father call Donald from a young age?
MARY TRUMP: He called him “the Great I Am.”
AMY GOODMAN: From what? Like the age of 12?
MARY TRUMP: Yeah, which just goes to show how long this has been going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Clearly, President Trump cloaks himself, constantly refers to the military, praising the military. But you also write that Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana, Ivana being the mother of Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka — that Donald Trump and Ivana threatened to disown Donald Trump Jr. if he went into the military?
MARY TRUMP: Yeah, yeah. My uncle Rob told me that story a couple of times years ago. And so, I don’t find it surprising, the way Donald speaks about the military now, simply because I believe, in his mind, the power of the military and the honor of the military reflects on him, you know, since he’s in the Oval Office. But he’s never demonstrated any use for it, or he’s never valued it before this. You know, my dad was a second lieutenant in the National Guard. Donald has never mentioned that. He, as we all know, got five deferments. He could have served his country, and chose over and over again not to. So, I think whatever he has to say about the military now is because he thinks it reflects on him. As we know, he refers to the generals in the United States military as his generals, which they most certainly are not.
AMY GOODMAN: Mary Trump is our guest for the hour. She’s the niece of President Donald Trump. She’s a clinical psychologist. Her book has just come out, broken every record, in the first day of publication sold a million copies. It’s called Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. We’ll come back with Mary Trump in a minute.
Briefly, we wanted to update you on where Truthout stands this month.
To be brutally honest, Truthout is behind on our fundraising goals for the year. There are a lot of reasons why. We’re dealing with broad trends in our industry, trends that have led publications like Vice, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic to make painful cuts. Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. And despite its lasting importance, news readership is declining.
To ensure we stay out of the red by the end of the year, we have a long way to go. Our future is threatened.
We’ve stayed online over two decades thanks to the support of our readers. Because you believe in the power of our work, share our transformative stories, and give to keep us going strong, we know we can make it through this tough moment.
We’ve launched a campaign to raise $43,000 in the next 6 days. Please consider making a donation today.