My Sunday Book Review is for one of the Best Selling books of 2020 – Mary Trump’s tell all – Too Much and Never Enough – How my family created the world’s most dangerous man.
I will preface my review here by saying that this book was a beautifully written memoir-ish lowdown about Mary’s life, growing up Trump, family horrors and dysfunct.
The story takes us into the lives of several Trump members. We learn how disobeying will get you disowned – like Mary’s father Freddie Jr., the makings of DJT, how he got himself into the public eye, his manipulations and unorthodox tactics, and a deep look into his lack of morals and compassion and narcissism with Mary’s analysis on the reasons that influenced DJT to become who he is. With almost 29,000, 4 and 5 star reviews for this book, it commands attention, not just for Americans but globally because what happens in the US often affects the world.
My review below is probably the longest one I’ve written, but I included a lot of pertinent quotes from the book. And there were many faceted stories that I tried to encompass as snippets and highlights. This isn’t a fairytale with a happy ending, but stories about one dysfunct family of broken people where power and money takes precedence over human emotions.
The review below is quite lengthy at over 3K words. I’ve written it as more of a synopsis for those who wish to learn more about the Trump dynasty and how it evolved with central characters and points candidly shared by Mary Trump.
In this revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him, Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.
Mary Trump spent much of her childhood in her grandparents’ large, imposing house in the heart of Queens, New York, where Donald and his four siblings grew up. She describes a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse. She explains how specific events and general family patterns created the damaged man who currently occupies the Oval Office, including the strange and harmful relationship between Fred Trump and his two oldest sons, Fred Jr. and Donald.
A firsthand witness to countless holiday meals and interactions, Mary brings an incisive wit and unexpected humor to sometimes grim, often confounding family events. She recounts in unsparing detail everything from her uncle Donald’s place in the family spotlight and Ivana’s penchant for regifting to her grandmother’s frequent injuries and illnesses and the appalling way Donald, Fred Trump’s favorite son, dismissed and derided him when he began to succumb to Alzheimer’s.
Numerous pundits, armchair psychologists, and journalists have sought to parse Donald J. Trump’s lethal flaws. Mary L. Trump has the education, insight, and intimate familiarity needed to reveal what makes Donald, and the rest of her clan, tick. She alone can recount this fascinating, unnerving saga, not just because of her insider’s perspective but also because she is the only Trump willing to tell the truth about one of the world’s most powerful and dysfunctional families.
Note: This review contains slices of just some of what’s revealed in the book. And since it’s not a novel, and more like a tell-all written style, with events leading up to the eventual writing of this book, much of the review is taken from context in the book. Facts could be considered spoilers for some.
My 5 Star Review:
I’m giving this book 5 stars – certainly not for the subject matter, but because Mary Trump’s excellent and easy writing and presentation, and her courage to write and publish this book.
The book begins with a quote from Victor Hugo in Les Miserables: “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 prologue takes us into a visit to the WH by the Trump family in honor of celebrating sister Maryanne Trump’s birthday, a place to show off as DJT adds “This place has never looked better since George Washington lived here.” Yes, the WH didn’t exist when Washington was president.
The story begins with Mary sharing a conversation she had with her Aunt Maryanne when Maryanne stated, “He’s a clown.” They discussed DJT as a faded reality star and failed businessman that would surely doom his run for president. Nobody in the family could conceive the thought he would get elected. Mary recalls how at every family meal Trump would disparage women, calling them denegrading names, and when he spoke of anyone more accomplished than himself, they were referred to as losers. Mary asserts that nobody in the Trump family except his children, supported his campaign.
Mary dives into the history of ‘the father’ Fred Trump and the heartbreaking story of how her father, Freddie Trump Jr.’s lineage was wiped out after Freddie’s tragic death in 1981. We’ll learn how DJT’s reckless hyberbole hides his pathological weakness and how he became his own cheerleader. And she continues by saying that none of the Trump siblings were unscathed by Fred’s sociopathy, especially DJT and her father Freddie Jr. Mary also provides the evidence, as a clinical pyschologist, how DJT fits every criteria of being a narcissist and that he meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, sociopathy, criminality, arrogance and disregard for the rights of others. Mary delves into his pathological ways about dividing the country, petty revenge and his withholding of pertinent information. “Fred created the monster,” Mary adds, “There would be no love for Donald, just his agonizing thirsting for it.” And states that he is running the country like her ‘malignantly dysfunctional family.”
Freddie Trump Jr. died beneath Fred’s cruelty. Mary tells us the division her grandfather created among his own children, “…is the water Donald always swum in.” Mary continues to tell us that DJT understands nothing about history, principles, geopolitics or diplomacy and his presidency is purely financially motivated, thinking the US Treasury is his personal piggy bank. Mary adds that the events of the last three years compelled her to write this book because four more years of DJT, ” . . .would be the end of American democracy” with his hubris and willful ignorance, reminding that he had never had to negotiate alone.
“Donald, following the lead of my grandfather and with the complicity, silence, and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father. I can’t let him destroy my country.”
Mary’s grandparents – Fred and Mary were absent parents. Mary – a mother who never knew how to comfort or stand up for her children, and Fred – a sociopath with a lack of empathy, a penchant for lying, indifference to right or wrong, and a lack of interest for anyone but himself, proving apples don’t fall far from the trees. The home, the children alienated from one another and their neediness housed a dangerous tension. Mary continues by saying DJT’s lack of mothering had him going to Fred for solace, becoming the source of DJT’s terror. His needs weren’t met and was deprived of love, which would become the scars of his life. So DJT developed an increasing hostility to others. Eventually, Fred Trump championed the traits that made DJT unloveable.
Mother Mary was a frail woman with multiple illnesses that had her frequenting hospital stays. Fred was barely at home, out wheeling and dealing, using government loopholes to obtain loans and free money, to build his empire. From Fred’s father, down the line to all the Trump boys – nobody served in the military.
Mary and Fred Trump wed in 1936 and moved to Queens, N.Y. Mary migrated to US from Scotland. She went from being live-in help to running her own household, although Fred was the boss, and she became quick to judge others who came from her same beginnings. Fred became well-connected with politicians, the mob, and government handouts for his building projects. Fred set up ‘trust funds’ for all his children, a parking spot to avoid paying income tax. With plenty of government funding, Fred was building on the taxpayer’s dime. Other than for business, Fred was known as a miser with his money. Fred wasn’t humble and loved to show off. He loved to brag and send out press releases every time he completed a new project. (Sounds familiar.)
Fred wanted to prime his eldest son, Freddie Jr. to get involved with the business, but Freddie had other aspirations, which left 2nd son Donald to be groomed and Freddie to pay dearly for disappointing his father. For DJT, lying was a way to self-aggrandize, for Freddie, lying was his weapon of self-defense from his father. Weakness wasn’t tolerated by Fred and he abhorred Freddie’s gentle nature, and DJT followed in Fred’s footsteps.
Fred devalued and degraded Freddie for wanting to become a pilot instead of his yes man, and DJT relished in it, and this pleased his father. Sowing division is an old game for DJT, passed down from his father. The house rules dictated: be tough at all costs, lying is fine, apologizing and kindness is weakness, there can only be one winner and everyone else is a loser. Donald was a bully to his two brothers, and never reprimanded for it. Fred admired Donald’s disregard for authority. And encouraged by his father, Donald began believing his own bullshit. Freddie Jr. referred to his brother as ‘the great I am’. DJT drove his mother crazy because she couldn’t control him. He talked back to her, contradicted her, he was a slob, teased children and bullied them, and could never admit when he was wrong. His mother eventually sent him to military school, hoping he’d become a better person. We all know how that turned out. Father Fred had no use for the military.
Fred Trump was basically a slum landlord and taught his son Don how to do it. Freddie Jr. was appalled at his family’s behavior and did his own thing and paid for it dearly, eventually ostrasized by his father and the whole lot of them. According to father Fred, being a pilot was being a “bus driver in the sky”. The banishment and belittling of Freddie by his father was the beginning of Freddie’s alcoholism, and the eventual end of his pilot’s license, and ultimately, his marriage, overtime. Freddie lived in one of his father’s slum apartments and caught pneumonia from the decripit apartment in sore need of repair and drafty windows, and his dad even gave him a discount on the rent!
The Trump daughters had their share of rough times financially too, and they didn’t dare ask their father for help.
Heir apparent, used his connections with shyster lawyer Roy Cohn to get his sister Maryanne on the bench as a judge. Maryanne was a District Attorney in New Jersey at the time – early 80s. Cohn arranged with his buddy, then President Ronald Reagan. Why would Donald do something so kind? Because Maryanne did all his homework for him. But she couldn’t write his SATs for him, so, she told Mary he paid his good friend Joe Shapiro to write his entrance exams.
Fred knew his son Donald didn’t have the attention span to run his business, but made him president of Trump management. Fred thought his son had a lot of nerve, plus he was good at selling snow to Eskimos so Don came in handy for smooth-talking bankers and weedling his way into upper echelon circles. And the Trump rule was ‘no renting out apartments to black people’. This act got both Fred and Donald sued in 1973 for violating the Fair Housing Act – one of the largest federal housing discrimination suits ever brought to court. It was hired slime lawyer Roy Cohn who taught Donald to always fight back with a counter law suit to drag things out. According to the documentary I recently watched about Roy Cohn, he had similar values as Don the con – not paying employees and sliming people. Fred didn’t mind his son taking credit for Fred’s success because it was making them famous. In the early 80s, Fred began publicly giving Donald free reign because – ‘Everything he touches turns to gold”. Fred was the puppeteer who couldn’t get caught pulling the strings. By the mid 80s, Donald was losing lots of Fred’s empire so he had to intervene trying to mitigate the damage his son was doing, understanding he created a monster.
Donny boy created a fictional personna and stuck to the script to hang with the important people. Fred didn’t mind and kept the money coming for basically doing nothing except giving orders, NOT paying employees and taking credit for his father’s successes. His favorite word for all those beneath him is ‘loser’.
Fred Trump had zero compassion for anyone, including his family, even Donald. Mary shares events of past Christmas’s at her grandparents’ home, when her and her brother would receive ‘regifting’ or cheap-ass gifts like a package of underwear with the $12 sticker still on the pack from first wife Ivanna. And continued on about the the millions Don con siphoned from father Fred, especially for the Atlantic City casino that went bust. Fred even tried to help save it by having ‘someone’ buy 3 million dollars worth of casino chips and take them out of the casino to look like a loss and write-off.
Meanwhile, Freddie Jr got very ill. Having no money he shamefully went back home and was allowed to stay in a small room where he slept on a cot. When someone in that house finally cared to call Freddie an ambulance as he withered alone in the little room, he was pronounced dead not long after. And neither parent even bothered going to the hospital. Freddie was not even given a church ceremony. There was no will. Mary had to fight with her uncles over giving him the proper funeral. And that night at dinner, Donnie and dad discussed women, politics and best deals, like Freddie never existed.
Mary continues on about Donald’s money ventures, and who he slimed to build Trump Tower in 1980, built with ‘alleged’ mob money and was a continuing controversial subject in the media. By the early 90s, DJT was in debt for billions. But the banks kept on lending him money because, apparently, they felt abandoned projects would lose them more money, so they ‘banked’ on the Trump name and kept lending. This empowered DJT to think he could do no wrong and the money tree was always ripe for picking. New York’s elite dubbed Donald, ‘the court jester from Queens’.
When the banks finally did stop lending Don con money, Fred clamped down and only gave Donnie a monthly allowance that according to Mary – “was enough for a family of four to live comfortably for 10 years!” Mary states that Donald’s ‘talent for deflecting responsibility’, lying and cheating, was a trait he picked up from his father’s playbook.
As the bankruptcies kept on coming, Donnie devised a plan for more money. He approached his father’s lawyers and had a codicil added to Fred’s will – a great escape hatch for siphoning money alloted to his siblings. As Fred was halfway into dementia, Don got his father to sign. This would put him in charge of all Fred’s money upon his death, including his dead brother Freddie’s shares. But apparently, this didn’t pass ‘the smell test’ to Fred, even half lucid. Ultimately, a new will was made with Donald, sister Maryanne and brother Robert as executors, plus an add on, “whatever Donald got from Fred was to be matched to each child”. Sadly, that didn’t include brother Freddie, because, you know, he was already dead, so who cared about his family. Well, Mary Trump did! Sister Maryanne made comment if they hadn’t changed that will, they’d all have to be begging Donnie for money to buy them a coffee. Donald was under the impression that only he was important to his father.
In the late 90s, DJT asked his niece Mary if she’d ghostwrite his next book for him. Although she took him up on it, nothing developed because he would never sit down and work with her and gave her nothing to work with. Even though he’d given her one transcript of a recording he made as a ‘stream of consciousness’. It was an aggrieved collection of mutterings – about women who refused to date him, calling them the ugliest and fattest slobs he’d ever seen. Mary ripped it up and stopped asking him for interviews, and eventually, wrote no book for him. She also remarked that after hanging out at his office during bookwriting time, she still didn’t know what he did for a living.
Before Fred died, he was well into dementia. He didn’t remember many family member’s names, or even who they were. Fred was a terrible example of a father and grandfather and was mean to Mary. But ironically, as he lost his mind, he took a shining to her and called her ‘nice lady’. Donald only had contempt for Fred by that point, as he had no more use for his father. He treated his father just the way Fred had treated Freddie Jr. when he had no interest in his father’s empire and his dealings. The only thing Fred worried about, even through his dementia, was losing his fortune.
Fred died in 1999, and at his funeral, each sibling had something scripted to read for their father. Only, Donald went off script and elaborated on about how great he , himself, Donald Trump was, which nauseated sister Maryanne to the point she told her own son, “to please never let any of my siblings speak at my funeral”. Mary and her brother Fritz were left out of the will. Instead of each of Fred’s five children to get 20% each of his estate, even with Freddie being dead, and should be going to his two children, four other Trumps got 25% each. Separately, there was a bequest Fred made for his grandchildren for an amount that was less than 1/10th of 1% of what Freddie’s four siblings received.
Mary held up the will for months in probate as she nor her brother would sign off. Months later, uncle Rob had enough and they met up. Mary wanted answers as to why she was left out, Rob’s reply: “He didn’t give a shit about any of his grandchildren.” Mary asks again why her and her brother were cut out of the will just because her father was dead. Rob’s reply: “As far as your grandfather was concerned, dead is dead.” Not one Trump gave a shit about Mary or her brother.
Mary knows her father had holdings when he died. Rob wants her signature, but Mary decided with her brother, to sue the four Trumps to release their money. The four who were assigned to protect her interest! But Rob blackmails Mary threatening not to release her money ever, threatening she will go broke paying lawyers – the old Trump standard. So Mary goes to the only allie one of Fred’s lawyers to ask about those holdings and finds out they’re worth millions and he encourages her to sue them. Rob runs to his mamma and fed her some BS conspiracy and grandma Trump calls Mary and tells her granddaughter that her father was worth nothing and hangs up on her.
Irwin the lawyer suggests having Fred’s last will overturned because Fred was being taken advantage of his dementia when he signed. Irwin sent Mary to a shark lawyer for their lawsuit, and one week after the foursome got their notice, Mary got a letter. The foursome had Mary and her brother’s family Trumpcare medical coverage removed while her brother’s son was very ill, in and out of hospital, despite Rob’s prior promise he made Fritz that he’d always look after his sick son. So Mary and bro Fritz launch another lawsuit for the healthcare issue, all the while not signing off on the will yet. Finally, there was a settlement out of desperation for need of money for Fritz’s son’s health, and they got mucho ripped off in value they were given. In the midst of the settlement, grandma dies, and Mary and her bro weren’t even in the bequest part of her will. They were erased.
Three years ago the NYT approached Mary for interview, alerting her to the fact they were working on her uncle’s finances, Mary declined, but eventually Mary changed her mind and called the journalist back who’d left her card. Mary had access to 30 banker boxes of financial files from the lawsuit her and her brother filed on her aunts and uncles. Mary had had enough of her uncle and wanted to take him down. When the NYT came out with the reports in Oct 2018 that Fred had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to his children, Mary learned just how much money Fred left. And in 1992, after Donald tried to rip off his siblings with the codicil to Fred’s will, they finally came together with a common mission – they had to find a way to hide the millionssss of dollars Fred left them, so they opened a shell company. While Fred was still alive and not very cognizant, they realized they would be hit with millions in taxes and siphoned millions into the shell company from Trump management co – large gifts disguised as business transactions, enough that when Fred died he was said to only have 1.9 million – despite the siblings selling over 700 million worth of Fred’s assets a few years later, which I will add other than Donnie boy, the other three wanted to retain the holdings and live off the interest, but Donnie wanted his lump sum.
From Mary: “Donald’s need for affirmation is so great that he doesn’t seem to notice that the largest group of his supporters are people he wouldn’t fondescent to be seen with outside of a rally.”
“Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered at every moment because he knows deep down he is nothing of what he claims to be. He knows he has never been loved.”
“He was neither self-made nor a good dealmaker. But that was how it started – with his misuse of language and the media’s failure to ask him pointed questions.”
“It’s people weaker than he who keep him there.”
“Donald’s checkered personal history and his unique personality flaws make him extremely vulnerable to manipulation by smarter, more powerful men.” Cruelty and humiliation are his best traits he inherited from his father.
He turned Coronavirus briefings to “… mini campaign rallies, filled with self-congratulation, demagoguery and ring-kissing.” Mary affirms that DJT has always been given a free pass for his failures and transgressions against decency, law and his fellow human beings. He knows he lies, but will always test to see how far he can get away with. As Mary says, “And so far, he’s gotten away with everything.”
“Donald is a petty, pathetic man.” Mary continues telling us that to offset his powerlessness and rage he will punish others in revenge.
“As my father lay dying alone, Donald went to the movies. If he can in any way profit from your death, he’ll facilitate it, and then he’ll ignore the fact that you died.”
“The simple fact is that Donald is fundamentally incapable of acknowledging the suffering of others.”
” . . .Donald requires division. It’s the only way he knows how to survive – my grandfather ensured that decades ago when he turned his children against each other.”
Astounding to read, and my lengthy review only touches on just some of the shenanigans that continues down this dangerous line.