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

WASHINGTON — A tell-all 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.’’

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 Trump matured, his father came to envy his son’s ‘‘confidence and brazenness,’’ as well as his seemingly insatiable desire to flout rules and conventions, traits that brought them closer together as Trump became the right-hand man to the family real estate business, according to a copy of the forthcoming memoir obtained by The Washington Post.

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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 go into the family business, which Trump 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, aviation, and not enough on the family business.

Donald Trump escaped his father’s contempt, Mary Trump writes, 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. Mary Trump, 55, has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

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Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, told reporters Tuesday that President Trump loved his late brother and always speaks favorably of him. Of the president and his niece, Conway said, ‘‘He’s not her patient, he’s her uncle . . . As for books generally, obviously they’re not fact-checked, nobody’s under oath.’’

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, 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.

Donald Trump 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 were. 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 wouldn’t win him entry.

Mary Trump says that Donald’s sister, Maryanne, ‘‘had been doing his homework for him,’’ but that she couldn’t take standardized tests in his place. To hedge his bets, Mary Trump writes, Donald ‘‘enlisted a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs for him. Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well.’’

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For years, Donald Trump said that 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 writes 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,’’ Trump 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.’ ‘‘

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Donald, 7½ years younger than his brother, ‘‘had plenty of time to learn from watching Fred humiliate’’ his eldest son, Mary Trump writes.

‘‘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 asserts that her uncle has all nine clinical criteria for being a narcissist. And yet, she notes, even that label does not capture the full array of the president’s psychological troubles.

“The fact is,” she writes, “Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neurophysical tests that he’ll never sit for.”

Her relationship with Trump fell apart when she learned that Donald and his siblings were trying to prevent her and her brother Fred III from receiving most of what they believed they would inherit from Fred Sr. If her father had lived, he would have expected to get 20 percent of the estate, she wrote. Instead, she said, the Trump family intended to give her ‘‘less than a tenth of one percent of what my aunts and uncles inherited.’’

While Mary Trump says she and her brother challenged the will, she does not say how much she eventually received, which is covered under a confidentiality agreement.

During the fight over the inheritance, Mary Trump says she was told that her grandfather’s estate was worth $30 million. But after being contacted by a reporter for The New York Times in 2017, she retrieved boxes of financial papers that she said showed the estate was actually worth $1 billion.

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She wrote that she became a key source for the newspaper’s 2018 investigation of the family finances, which won a Pulitzer Prize.

She said she loaded 19 boxes of Trump family financial material into a truck and shared the boxes with several Times reporters. She said she had a new mission: ‘‘I had to take down Donald Trump.’’


Material from The New York Times was used in this report.