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All of the biggest revelations from Maggie Haberman’s new Trump book

Then-President Trump spoke to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2021.Al Drago/Bloomberg

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s new book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” was released on Tuesday, following weeks of it generating buzz.

“Confidence Man” sheds new light on the mindset of former president Donald Trump in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, and offers further insights into his actions while serving in the White House and as a business leader.

Excerpts from the book were published by a number of outlets in both September and October, including by The Atlantic, the Washington Post, CNN, and Rolling Stone. Here’s a look at some of the major revelations.


Trump and his team tried to make White House transition difficult for Biden

In the waning days of his presidency, Trump’s team attempted to sabotage the incoming Biden administration, according to excerpts published by Politico.

Haberman wrote that a staffer for John McEntee, who served as the director of the Presidential Personnel Office, stuffed copies of photos of Hunter Biden into the air conditioning unit at the White House. The unit broke as a result.

Haberman also wrote that top members of Biden’s team were perplexed by how members of the Trump administration were acting.

Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, said he was working to ease the transition while simultaneously appearing to “encourage the cohort of Trump world figures pushing to keep the president in office,” according to the excerpt.

“I know the president’s saying these things… we’ll get it worked out,” Meadows, who was referring to Trump’s claims about election integrity, told his successor, Ron Klain, according to the excerpt.

While seeming to assuage concerns, Meadows was also texting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, about the election. She was actively disputing election results and pushing conspiracy theories about it.


“This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows told Thomas, according to the excerpt.

Haberman wrote that Meadows also complicated matters for Biden’s team in other ways, including refusing to grant them access to a computer system they needed to begin working on Biden’s budget.

During another instance, Klain told Meadows that Biden needed to start receiving the intelligence briefing. But the response he received baffled him. Meadows asked Klain how many days a week Biden wanted the briefing, to which Klain said every day.

“No president ever does that. That’s never happened,” Meadows told Klain, according to the excerpt. “It seemed so beyond Meadows’ own experience that he could not comprehend it.”

Trump wanted to wear a Superman shirt after COVID hospitalization

When Trump was about to be discharged after receiving treatment for the coronavirus, he had an idea to make a bold statement about his recovery, according to an excerpt published by Axios.

Although he later abandoned it, Trump “told associates [he] was inspired by the singer James Brown, whom he loved watching toss off his cape while onstage, but it was in line with his love of professional wrestling as well,” Haberman wrote.

He wanted to be “wheeled out of Walter Reed in a chair and, once outdoors, he would dramatically stand up, then open his button-down dress shirt to reveal [a] Superman logo beneath it,” according to the excerpt.

Trump, who was serious about the plan, Haberman wrote, “called the campaign headquarters to instruct an aide, Max Miller, to procure the Superman shirts.” Miller was sent off to a big-box store in Virginia.


He returned to the White House in October 2020 on Marine One following a three-day stay at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Trump wanted Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump to depart the White House

Trump regularly pitted aides and family members against one another, according to an excerpt published by the Washington Post on Wednesday.

For instance, Haberman wrote that Trump often told then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he wanted his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump to leave the White House.

“In meetings with Kelly and [White House Counsel Don] McGahn, Trump gave instructions to essentially fire the pair. Kelly and McGahn resisted, expressing their fear that he would not back them once his daughter and son-in-law pushed back,” Haberman wrote. “At one point, Trump was about to write on Twitter that his daughter and son-in-law were leaving the White House.”

Kelly stopped Trump from sending the tweet, and told him that he “had to talk to them directly before doing so,” Haberman wrote. Trump agreed, but “then never followed up with the conversation.”

CNN also published an excerpt on Wednesday about how Trump nearly fired Kushner and Ivanka. Although he never did, Trump often diminished and mocked Kushner, Haberman wrote, including when Kushner spoke during congressional testimony in 2017.

Trump saw staffers of color at White House and assumed they were waiters


Haberman describes incidents of Trump expressing crass and offensive remarks about race and gender throughout the book, according to an excerpt published by Rolling Stone on Wednesday.

One of those moments occurred when a newly inaugurated Trump was holding a reception at the White House to meet with top congressional leaders. When Trump turned to several “racially diverse Democratic staffers,” he asked them to retrieve the canapés, according to the excerpt.

“Why don’t you get” the food, Trump told staffers for Senator Chuck Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and others, according to the excerpt.

Haberman wrote that then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus immediately corrected him and informed him that he had just addressed top congressional aides. Priebus then left to find White House waitstaff.

Later on during that same meeting, Trump also told Schumer and Pelosi that the only reason why he lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton was because of ballots cast by “illegals,” according to the excerpt.

“I don’t believe so, Mr. President,” Pelosi said, according to the excerpt.

Trump resisted denouncing white supremacists

During the 2016 campaign, Trump was under pressure to more forcefully denounce white supremacists, particularly David Duke, who had expressed support for Trump.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie urged Trump to condemn white supremacists during one conversation, but Trump told him he was not in a rush to do so, according to the excerpt published by the Post.

“A lot of these people vote,” Trump told Christie before he ended the call, according to the excerpt.


Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico

Trump considered bombing drugs labs in Mexico after one of his leading health officials entered the Oval Office while wearing a dress uniform, which led Trump to believe the official, assistant secretary for health Brett Giroir, was a member of the military, according to the excerpt published by the Post.

While there, Giroir told Trump that such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illegal drugs across the border into the United States, according to the excerpt.

“[Trump] raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” Haberman wrote.

Giroir often wore his dress uniform for meetings with Trump, White House officials told Haberman. This confused Trump.

“The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view, but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore,” Haberman wrote.

Giroir told the Post that he “does not comment on such private conversations with Trump.”

Trump feared the impact the pandemic would have on his presidency

When the coronavirus pandemic became a major issue in early 2020, Trump downplayed the virus and its effects in public. But in private, he cast himself as the victim and privately acknowledged its severity, according to the excerpt published by the Post.

“Can you believe this happened to me?” he said, according to the excerpt. He feared the political impact the virus would have on his presidency.

Haberman also wrote that Trump was scared of dying and how his condition worsened after he was infected with the virus.

“Deputy chief of staff of operations Tony Ornato warned the president that if he fell into a more dire situation, procedures to ensure the continuity of government would have to be set into motion,” Haberman wrote.

Despite that, Haberman wrote that Trump was appalled by face coverings and told his aides to remove them when they were around him in 2020.

He also wanted credit for the vaccines, but said he could not get it because of the “radical right” — in a reference to his own supporters, according to the excerpt.

Trump also told aides, those in his political orbit, and other politicians to avoid talking about the coronavirus, out of concern it would harm him politically, according to the excerpt.

“Don’t make such a big deal out of this,” Trump told then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a conversation in March 2020, according to the excerpt. “You’re gonna make it a problem.”

Trump bashed his supporters: ‘They’re [expletive] crazy’

Trump repeatedly launched criticisms at his own customers and supporters, Haberman wrote in the excerpt published in The Atlantic. On one occasion, he referred to those spending money on the floor of the Trump Plaza casino as “losers” while talking with his consultant, Tom O’Neil.

While serving in the White House, Trump was “stunned at his own backers’ fervor,” and told his aides, “They’re [expletive] crazy,” Haberman wrote. But because “they loved him,” she wrote, that was all that mattered to him.

After he was defeated in the 2020 election, Trump immediately turned to those same “ardent fans for support” in his efforts to raise money off his claims of fraud, Haberman wrote.

Trump called Mitch McConnell a ‘piece of [expletive]’

Haberman wrote that “strength” was of high importance to Trump, playing a role in how he approached his career in the real estate business. Citing examples of those he viewed as powerful leaders, Trump referred to both Democratic Party boss Meade Esposito and China’s President Xi Jinping as having ruled “with an iron fist.”

When Haberman asked Trump if he thought the presidency would function the same way, he instead said that is how he believed congressional leaders would act on his behalf, according to the excerpt published in The Atlantic.

He then proceeded to blast Mitch McConnell despite his repeated efforts to keep “Republican senators in line over and over to advance Trump’s policy” and “protect his political standing as the leader of the Republican Party,” Haberman wrote.

“The Old Crow’s a piece of [expletive],” Trump said of McConnell, using what Haberman wrote was “his new favorite nickname” for him.

Trump said he would likely still run for president if he had to do it again

In what Haberman referred to as a candid admission that “was as jarring as it was ultimately unsurprising,” Trump said he would probably still run for president again if he had to do it all over, citing the wealthy people in his circle, according to the excerpt published in The Atlantic.

“The question I get asked more than any other question: ‘If you had it to do again, would you have done it?’” Trump said of running for president. “The answer is, yeah, I think so. Because here’s the way I look at it. I have so many rich friends and nobody knows who they are.”

Haberman wrote that Trump then went on to “talk about how much easier his life would have been had he not run.”

When she asked him what he liked about being president, according to the excerpt, Trump responded: “Getting things done.”

Trump said he was not watching television during the attack on the Capitol

Trump’s actions while the Capitol was under assault from his supporters during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection have come under intense scrutiny — emerging as “central to the congressional select committee’s investigation,” Haberman wrote.

He insisted during an interview with Haberman that “he was not watching television, despite volumes of witness testimony and other evidence to the contrary,” according to the excerpt published in the Atlantic.

“I didn’t usually have the television on. I’d have it on if there was something. I then later turned it on and I saw what was happening,” he said, according to the excerpt.

Haberman wrote that he “lied” during that part of their conversation.

“I had heard that afterward and actually on the late side. I was having meetings. I was also with Mark Meadows and others. I was not watching television,” Trump said, according to the excerpt.

Trump said he took ‘nothing of great urgency’ when asked about White House documents

Trump taking classified documents from the White House upon departing and bringing them to his Mar-a-Lago Club has become one of the largest storylines to emerge in the aftermath of his presidency.

When Haberman asked Trump if he had “taken any documents of note,” she wrote that he demurred and said he took “nothing of great urgency, no.” Trump then mentioned letters that Kim Jong-un had sent him, according to the excerpt published in The Atlantic.

“You were able to take those with you?” Haberman asked him, according to the excerpt. Trump continued to keep talking.

“No, I think that’s in the archives, but … Most of it is in the archives, but the Kim Jong-un letters … We have incredible things,” Trump said, according to the excerpt.

He did not return the letters “— which were included in boxes he had brought to Mar-a-Lago — to the National Archives until months later,” Haberman wrote.

Trump was once allegedly paid by a leaseholder in gold bars

The former president occasionally received portions of lease payments in cash, Haberman reported. This included one instance when a leaseholder sent Trump a box of a dozen gold bricks.

The person sent the gold bars in order to “cover the cash portion of the lease on the parking garage in the General Motors building in Manhattan, which Trump purchased in 1998,” according to the reporting obtained by CNN.

Trump, however, told his aides that he didn’t know what to do with the gold bars, Haberman reported. He ended up directing Matthew Calamari, a former security guard and later the organizations’s chief operating officer, “to wheel the bars up to his apartment in Trump Tower.”

Haberman reported that it’s unclear what happened to the gold bricks. She wrote that Trump called it a “fantasy question,” and that a lawyer for Calamari declined to comment.

Trump’s financial situation was more precarious than people realized

Former officials told Haberman that Trump’s financial situation at his company was often more dicey than most people knew.

Haberman reported that at one point, Trump allegedly borrowed several million dollars from George Ross, an executive with the Trump Organization. Ross told Haberman that he did loan Trump the money, but said it was to “cover a situation that was disposed of very quickly” rather than for payroll expenses.

Trump was more involved during a situation with the SEC than the company let on

Haberman reported that when Trump’s hotel and casino company was rebuked by the Securities and Exchange Commission over a misleading earnings statement, he was more involved than the company made known.

Jay Goldberg, who was serving as Trump’s lawyer at the time, blamed company officials for the misleading projections in 1999, according to the reporting. He insisted that Trump was not involved.

However, Haberman reported, a former company consultant named Alan Marcus said Trump personally marked up a draft of the release that was being looked at. Marcus said Trump did so in order to make the existing projections appear better than they were, according to the reporting.

Haberman reported that Trump denied that account.

Trump said his New York business dealings had to sometimes interact with the mob

Trump told Haberman in an interview that his business dealings in New York meant that his organization would sometimes have to interact with the mob. However, Haberman reported, Trump downplayed how aware he was about the interactions.

“Well, anybody that built in New York City, whether you dealt with them indirectly, or didn’t even know they existed, they did exist,” Trump said. “Well, you dealt, you had contractors and you don’t know if they were mob or controlled or maybe not controlled, but I will tell you getting bids sometimes is very tough. You’d get one bid, it’d be a high end disappointing bid. And then there was nobody else to bid.”

Trump vowed to stay in the White House following election loss

In the days following his election loss, Trump repeatedly told aides that he would remain in the White House instead of allowing President Biden to take over, Haberman reported. His insistence on staying has not been previously reported.

“I’m just not going to leave,” he told one aide, according to Haberman.

“We’re never leaving,” Trump allegedly told another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”

Trump was seemingly embarrassed by the outcome of the election and even appeared to recognize that he had lost to Biden, according to Haberman. At one point, Trump asked his advisers to inform him on what had gone wrong.

“We did our best,” Trump told one adviser, according to Haberman.

“I thought we had it,” he also reportedly said to junior press aides.

But his mood eventually shifted, Haberman reported, and Trump started telling his aides that he had no plans to depart the White House in January 2021. People in his circle were uncertain about what steps Trump would take next.

“Why should I leave if they stole it from me?” he was overheard saying to Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, according to Haberman.

Jared Kushner was reluctant to confront Trump on the loss

In her book, Haberman also details what those closest to Trump were doing and thinking following his election loss.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was reluctant to confront him about it, according to Haberman. After he encouraged a group of aides to brief Trump at the White House, Kushner was asked why he wasn’t joining them for the meeting.

Haberman reported that Kushner likened the situation to a deathbed scene.

“The priest comes later,” Kushner said, according to Haberman.

Read more book excerpts about the Trump administration

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.