Trump-bashing is an international sport, of course, but no one who has so far attempted it knows him even fractionally as well as Mary. A clinical psychologist, she imagines him on the couch: “In order to get a complete picture of Donald, his psychopathologies, and the meaning of his dysfunctional behaviour, we need a thorough family history.”
Looming large is Fred Trump snr, her “sociopathic” grandfather; he hated his daughter-in-law, Mary’s mother, whom he blamed for Fred jnr’s drinking. Fred jnr, to whom the book is dedicated, died aged 42 in 1981, when Mary was 16. The Trump family left him unattended at a hospital on the night that he died, Mary writes. Donald and his sister, Elizabeth, were at the cinema.
According to Mary, Fred Trump snr’s empire was at one point worth $US1 billion, yet the tight-fisted patriarch kept much of his family in one-bedroom squalor. His daughter Maryanne had to beg her mother for “change for the laundry”. Fred jnr was unable to get a mortgage and, when he told his father he wanted to be a pilot, Fred snr called it being “a bus driver in the sky”.
“Everyone in my family experienced a strange combination of privilege and neglect,” Mary writes.
Donald Trump, Mary suggests, was traumatised by an abusive father, and “institutionalised for most of his adult life”.
He emerges from her analysis as domineering, incapable of kindness and adept in the “casual dehumanisation of people”. She speculates that he suffers from sociopathy, narcissism, even an undiagnosed learning disability – not helped by sleep disorder, “a horrible diet”, 12 Diet Cokes a day and no exercise.
Mary kept in touch, attending the wedding of Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and even assisting Trump with his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback. But the family ties were severed in 1999 when Fred Trump snr died, and Mary and her brother, Fred Trump III, discovered they had been cut out of his will, depriving them of what they believed was their rightful share of millions.
It was later claimed by The New York Times that Donald Trump had tried to give himself sole control of the estate – a Machiavellian scheme only stopped, his sister Maryanne said, by “sheer luck”.
It was a nasty court battle; at one point, medical benefits were cut off to Fred Trump III’s infant child, who was born with cerebral palsy. Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne, a former federal judge, tells Mary that she considers him “a clown” with “no principles”. Asked rhetorically what Trump has ever achieved, Maryanne replies: “He has had five bankruptcies.”
In 2001, Mary and her brother settled the lawsuit. The exact terms are not known, but the settlement included a payment to them both, and a confidentiality agreement, which Mary has adhered to for nearly 20 years. Why break it now?
Before the election, she explains, she worried she “would be painted as a disgruntled, disinherited niece looking to cash in or settle a score”.
Then, in 2016, she felt that “62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family”. Her urgent message to voters is that there is “no one less equipped than my uncle to manage” the tsunami of disasters confronting America.
Under its clinical surface, Mary’s book is at heart catty tittle-tattle. Unlike the devastating memoir of Trump’s adviser John Bolton, which revealed the President’s ignorance, inconsistency and lack of moral fibre in office, her book just confirms what many people believe already: he’s just not a very nice person, riven by “pathological weaknesses and insecurities”.
The White House has described Mary’s book as “fiction”, written in her “financial self-interest”; a spokesman has said the President has described his father in warm terms; and that Mary’s allegation about him paying another student to sit his SAT college admission tests for him is “completely false”.
Mary hopes that the grenades being lobbed by her, Bolton, Michael Wolff and others will work. “Unlike any previous time in his life, Donald’s failings cannot be hidden or ignored, because they threaten us all,” she writes. “The walls of his very expensive and well-guarded padded cell are starting to disintegrate.”
The Telegraph, London