On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos interviewed Mary Trump, the niece of President Donald Trump, and the author of the new book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” The following is a transcript of the interview:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for doing this.
MARY TRUMP: Thank you for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Too Much and Never Enough.” Explain why you chose the title.
TRUMP: In thinking about my family — it applies because people associate money with them, understandably. And for my grandfather in particular, there was no such thing as having enough money. And so I was thinking about what that meant, and also thinking about the psychology behind him and his children, I was very curious about the foundational issues that Donald and his siblings lived through.
And I realized when really carefully examining the kind of childhoods they had, particularly Donald and my father, there was this very real sense for Donald when he was quite young that there just wasn’t enough love, attention, support and for my father, who was quite a bit older, there was too much attention. You know, he was the heir apparent. My grandfather focused on him, was extraordinarily hard on him.
So because there was such an odd degree of difference in terms of what the children received, again, particularly the two brothers, for Donald there could never be enough to compensate for the loss of what he experienced as a child. And for my father, there was always too much of the wrong thing. And that impacted everybody in the family.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It all begins with your grandfather.
TRUMP: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say he’s a sociopath.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you mean by that?
TRUMP: He had no empathy. He was incredibly driven in a way that turned other people, including his children, his wife, into pawns to be used to his own ends. If somebody could be of service to him, then he would use them. If they couldn’t be, he excised them.
And in my father’s case, tragically, he was not of use. He was the wrong kind of person. He was the wrong person. He was the wrong son. And my dad never recovered from that. And my grandfather essentially needed to get rid of him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say your grandfather destroyed both your father, because he wasn’t the person your grandfather wanted him to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump is president of the United States, yet you say your grandfather destroyed him as well.
TRUMP: Yes. He went about it differently because unfortunately for Donald, he could be of use to my grandfather. It wasn’t as simple as that, of course. Donald had many years of watching my father be the wrong one. Behaving differently, not being accepted for who he was.
And it’s impossible to know who Donald might’ve been under different circumstances and with different parents. But clearly he learned the lesson from watching his almost 8-year-old brother be punished for being kind, for being generous, for being sensitive, for having interests outside of what my grandfather thought was acceptable. You know, he loved to hang out with his friends. He loved to boat and fish and fly. By the time he graduated from college, he had his private and his professional pilot’s licenses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He wasn’t a killer.
TRUMP: He was not a killer. And shockingly, (LAUGH) that was a bad thing. And Donald learned that lesson. And he essentially had to sacrifice whatever goodness there may have been in him once, whatever capacities for experiencing the full range of human emotion to my grandfather.
And on the surface of things, yes, he’s been successful, however you want to define that term. I mean, certainly in material terms and in terms of his current position. But at what cost? And I would suggest it was at the cost of him, and sadly, now, all of us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who did he learn to become for his dad?
TRUMP: He learned to become the killer you mentioned. The man who needs to succeed at all costs, who recognizes that other people are expendable, who does not need to take responsibility, who will do anything to get attention, financial rewards, and to “win.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: You write that “he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be. He knows he has never been loved.” His children love him.
TRUMP: I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know my cousins very well. They’re much younger than I am. And I guess it also depends on what that means.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does it mean to you?
TRUMP: To me love means being connected to another human being in a very deep way, being able to share things with them and trust them. In terms of a parent for a child, it means sacrificing for them, and accepting them no matter what, and never putting them in a position to lie for you or cheat for you or take from you. And I don’t know that most people in my family understand that
STEPHANOPOULOS: You paint the picture of a family that is, I guess, in your words, malignantly dysfunctional. How so?
TRUMP: From very early on, the kids were separated. Not physically, but emotionally and psychologically. They were never able, really, to count on each other in ways that mattered. They were in competition with each other for resources that — felt, over time — scarce. Which is absurd.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, that’s one of the strange things you write about. Fred Trump was an extraordinarily wealthy man.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet his children, for the longest time, didn’t fully share in that?
TRUMP: With the exception of Donald, that’s true. Yeah. Both my dad and Maryanne, particularly after 1970, struggled mightily — financially. And either because it was — considered crass or because of misplaced pride, they were unable to ask for help, either from their parents or from each other.
So while Donald was living a very different life driving around in limousines and bidding on properties and frequenting places like Le Club — my dad was living in a basement apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, and Maryanne was struggling to put food on the table.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald figured out what his father wanted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His mother, not so much.
TRUMP: No. No. She was, in some ways, very much a creature of that generation. The gender divide in my family was stark, even for the ’40s and ’50s. She had very little to do with the boys. It was almost as if the boys were my grandfather’s purview and the girls were hers.
So I think from quite early on Donald just didn’t expect much from her. He knew, I think, by the time he was sent to New York Military Academy that she wasn’t going to stand up for him. And after that very tragic year when she was quite ill and inaccessible when he was only two and a half, I don’t think the rift was ever repaired.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You describe her as being, more or less, at her wit’s end with Don before he’s sent to the military academy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
TRUMP: He didn’t listen. He didn’t respect her. I believe that because of that initial rift, which wasn’t her fault. You know, she was extraordinarily ill. She was in and out of the hospital for six to 12 months. And after that, I don’t believe that she was attended to properly. Her physical wellbeing was perhaps addressed, but her psychological wellbeing was not.
And for whatever reason, she was not able to repair what that absence had wrought. So as he grew older, I think that he didn’t know how to relate to her. Couldn’t trust her. And what I’m sure he experienced as an excommunication to boarding school was probably the last straw.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Interviewed him on Mother’s Day a few years back. He said she was a warm, loving and generous person. It was his father who was the hard one. Yet you tell a story of going to the White House in April of 2017, and noticing what’s on the desk behind —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — the president.
TRUMP: Yes. Yeah. It was pretty striking. And to be honest, I didn’t notice until I saw the picture my brother had taken of me while I was sitting by the Resolute Desk. And there was my grandfather right over my shoulder.
So I, of course, heard the conversation that Donald had with Maryanne: “You know, maybe you should get a picture of mom on your desk.” And his saying, “Oh yeah, somebody get me a picture of mom.” But it wasn’t until I saw that image of my grandfather hovering in the background that I realized how striking it was, that my grandmother was nowhere to be seen. You know, not even an afterthought, really. Although, of course, a picture was gotten. (LAUGH) And it’s — I believe it’s still there now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tell me about your father at his best.
TRUMP: Unfortunately, I can only do that through other people. By the time I was born, he was quite ill.
TRUMP: Yes, which, you know, caused all other kinds of illnesses too. And because my family, for reasons that are rather complicated, were very invested in portraying my father as a loser, somebody who didn’t toe the party line, somebody who betrayed my grandfather by not going into the business, doing the entirely irresponsible thing of becoming a professional pilot for TWA at the dawn of the jet age. I, much to my shame, didn’t understand what he had accomplished. I was often ashamed of him. Not realizing that he had no support in the family, and was treated as somebody who was damaged beyond repair, and wasn’t worth investing in, in any way, emotionally or otherwise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You write, “Donald, following the lead of my grandfather, and with the complicity, silence and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father.”
TRUMP: Yeah, that was hard to write. Much harder to witness. Partially because my dad, at his best, which unfortunately was in the early ’60s, not that it matters, but he was an extraordinarily handsome man. But he was also charming, but in a deep way. Kind, generous, fiercely loyal and beloved.
I’ve been in touch with his friends who haven’t seen him since college or even before that. And they remember him as the most wonderful human being they ever met. They remember the wonderful times they had together. You know, he would put them in his Cessna and fly them to Bimini for the weekend to go fishing, or out east to Montauk. And it’s extraordinary to hear, almost 50 years later — 60 years later — what an indelible impression they made upon him, and how fondly they still remember him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that was a hard sentence to write. I left out the next sentence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is?
TRUMP: I’m sorry, I don’t remember.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “I can’t let him destroy my country.”
TRUMP: Ah, yes. Yeah. I should remember that. That sounds pretty arrogant, so let me explain what I mean. I feel, as I write in the book, that there are so many parallels between the circumstances in which my family operated — and in which this country is now operating.
I saw firsthand what focusing on the wrong things — elevating the wrong people — can do. You know, the collateral damage that can be created by allowing somebody to live their lives without accountability. And it is striking to see that continuing now on a much grander scale. And what I was getting at there is if I can do anything to change the narrative and to tell the truth, I need to do that. Because I don’t believe the American people had the entire truth four years ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why didn’t you write the book four years ago?
TRUMP: I thought long and hard about saying something, a book wasn’t in my head at that time. And honestly, it took me awhile, to take the election — his part in it seriously. So even if I had thought of writing a book, there wouldn’t have been time.
But I did think of speaking out, knowing that it would’ve been quite risky to do. And then I realized there literally was nothing I could say at the time. Nothing stuck. You know, he insulted a Gold Star family. He called upon people at the Republican National Convention to come up with a Second Amendment defense against Hillary Clinton. And then, you know, by the time the “Access Hollywood” tape rolled around, I knew that if I had said anything, I would’ve been painted as a disgruntled, disinherited niece who just wanted her 15 minutes, which obviously is still being said about me now. But it wouldn’t have made —
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s exactly what the White House says. They say it’s a book of falsehoods that you’re writing out of financial self-interest. Basically, you’re lying for money.
TRUMP: It makes perfect sense that they would say that. Projection is a powerful thing. But if I had wanted money or revenge, I would’ve done this ten years ago, when it was infinitely safer. And he was still a very public figure. But neither one of those things interested me. I was living my life. I was beyond — you know, well beyond what had happened 20 years ago with my family. And it would’ve served no purpose, other than getting revenge or maybe making some money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what do you say to the people who say, “America knew exactly what they were doing when they elected Donald Trump. He’s kind of an open book”? What don’t they know?
TRUMP: Yeah, I don’t think that’s at all true. Because outside of New York, I don’t think people really quite understood the truth behind his business record and his financial failures, which are legion and serial. Beyond that, it was such a complex election, there was so much going on that — I don’t think the choices — that people had to make were necessarily based on an honest appraisal. You know, there was so much interference from so many different sources. And the other thing that I think is really important to realize — and that I certainly didn’t realize before 2016 — was just how enabled he would be. Which maybe I should’ve seen coming, ’cause —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it’s one of the things you write about. You say that —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — basically, he was enabled — institutionalized, is your word, his whole life. What did you mean by that?
TRUMP: As I say, there’s a through-line from the house to Trump Management, which was my grandfather’s company in Brooklyn, to the Trump Organization, which my grandfather helped Donald set up in Manhattan, to the White House. And those are all situations and circumstances in which Donald has always been protected and continues to be protected from his inadequacies, from his incompetence, from his lack of knowledge, from his failures.
And he’s always had support of more powerful people. He’s always had people protecting him from his mistakes, or from people who would try to hold him account. And he’s always been amply financed. So you know, as I also write, how do we gauge this man’s ability to function in the real world, as he’s never really had to? And that, to me, is quite terrifying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re a trained clinical psychologist.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You come to the conclusion he’s a narcissist.
TRUMP: I avoid — I explicitly avoid diagnosing him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was gonna ask about. Do you have any qualms —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — as a psychologist, laying out the possible things that he could be suffering from?
TRUMP: No. I think it’s useful, especially since so many other people have done it. And I thought it was important to address that — since it has been such an important issue — especially given the Goldwater rule — versus the duty to warn that a psychologist and psychiatrist have been grappling with.
So I wanted to address all of that without explicitly saying, “This is his diagnosis.” He is not my patient. He’s never been my patient. I do, however, have access to information about him that nobody else has had. So it was a lot easier for me to put the diagnoses that are out there in context of his developmental history.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boil it down. What’s the single most important thing you think the country needs to know about your uncle?
TRUMP: He’s utterly incapable of leading this country. And it’s dangerous to allow him to do so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Based on what you see now, or what you saw then?
TRUMP: Based on what I’ve seen my entire adult life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Talk about the relationship between your father and his younger brother.
TRUMP: My dad was very patient with Donald.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was about eight years older?
TRUMP: About 7 1/2, 8, yeah. So it’s a very big gap, you know. They were in practically different generations. — they didn’t travel in the same circles. But my dad, when they were younger, included him when he could. You know, especially when Donald was sort of at loose ends– when he was at Fordham and living at the house and didn’t have a lot of friends, and Dad would in– ask his friends to invite him to dinner parties, or take him out on the boat with his fraternity brothers, fishing. Donald was much younger.
But I don’t believe, they weren’t close. And I think as soon as it became clear my father was not going to be able to continue with Trump Management — and this would’ve been in the early ’60s — I think Donald saw an opening. And I wanna make something clear. This is very important to me. It’s not that my dad wasn’t good at it, or had no interest in succeeding my grandfather in his company. He had every intention of being the next in line, and working hard to make sure that he was successful in his father’s business.
My grandfather didn’t give him a chance, and made it impossible for my dad to succeed. And he was so miserable that he finally realized that, you know, he wasn’t going to be given responsibility, he wasn’t going to be given respect, so why stay?
And that’s when he opted to apply to TWA, which he did, and who accepted him right off the bat. And moved him to Boston, and he flew the Logan-LAX route, which was a big deal at the time. But because that was considered a betrayal, it didn’t last.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Betrayal by your grandfather.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump wasn’t a fan of it either. He says now, and he has said for the last couple of years, that he regrets the pressure he put on your father.
TRUMP: He should. But he was also following his dad’s script. So Donald was — he just graduated from high school. So I can’t fault him necessarily for doing what his father asked him to do. It was terrible to have put him in that position, certainly.
What isn’t OK is the revisionist history. You know, that Freddy was bad at it, you know, we should have let him, as if Donald had any power over what my dad did, we should have let him do what he wanted to do. Which again, at the time, they considered being a glorified bus driver.
And also, the way my dad his presented, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Donald talk about my dad as a pilot, as a member of the Air Force National Guard, or any of that. it’s more as somebody who couldn’t hack it in the family, and lost his way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your father once dumped a plate of mashed potatoes on Donald’s head?
TRUMP: Yes. Yeah. That’s one of our favorite family stories. They were really young kids, and — I think Donald was maybe 7. And one of his favorite things to do was torment my Uncle Rob, who was a couple years younger. And it was, you know, my grandmother’s cooking dinner, and getting the table ready, and Donald was just being merciless. And Maryanne and my dad could not get him to stop.
And finally, my dad had no other option but to pick up a bowl of mashed potatoes and just dump it on his little brother’s head. And it ended the — (LAUGH) it ended the fight. But I think it also started something, because Donald was humiliated by it, as evidenced by the way he reacts to the story now, is no sense of humor about it whatsoever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It came up when you were at the White House in April 2017 —
TRUMP: Uh-huh. Yes. Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who brought it up?
TRUMP: My Aunt Maryanne. Yeah. And we know that he doesn’t like the story, so I think it was a bit of a dig. It’s also a way to remember my dad in a way that’s not charged. ‘Cause all of us except Donald think it’s funny and sweet. But he did not — he doesn’t like that story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Election night, 2016. I think you tweeted out, “It’s the worst night of my life.”
TRUMP: One of them, yeah.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “One of the worst nights of my life.” Then why go to the White House in April 2017?
TRUMP: Families are very complicated. I had been on the outside of this family for a really long time. And after my cousin Ivanka’s wedding, which for reasons I still don’t understand, I was invited to– my Aunt Maryanne and I started talking. And we developed a relationship which we’d never had before, quite honestly.
And it mattered to me, you know. It was the first time I’d felt part of the family since I was a kid. And somehow it was very easy for me to put aside all of the things that had happened previous to that. And I enjoyed her company. She’s funny, she’s smart. And when I got invited to her birthday party, I felt that I should go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: According to the conversations you had with her — it doesn’t sound like she believed that Donald Trump would be president, or should be president.
TRUMP: None of us did. Part of it is because we know him. He’s family. But part of it is also ’cause we grew up in New York, and we live in New York, and we’ve seen, you know, the history of his businesses. And– it just seemed unthinkable that anybody would believe the narrative that was being spun, that he was a success. You know, it was really hard for us to understand that people in the rest of the country didn’t have access to the kind of information we did. So no. She very emphatically did not believe it would happen, or think it should —
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did she say?
TRUMP: She thought that because he was a man without principle nobody would vote for him. She was horrified by the white evangelical embrace of his candidacy. And because she knew that he had no deep convictions about religion one way or the other, and considered going to church a photo op.
And was quite surprised that people wouldn’t hold his many bankruptcies against him. Especially since those were being completely glossed over, and he was continuing to be touted as this incredibly successful– developer and businessperson.
STEPHANOPOULOS: According to you, she said that the way he talked about your father was a sin?
TRUMP: Because his descriptions of my dad completely elided the truth of him. Not just his accomplishments, which were striking and impressive by anybody’s estimation. But his character. You know, if you ask Donald about my father, he’ll say he’s a handsome guy. And he was kind.
But in my family, that’s one of the worst things you can say about somebody. Not the handsome part, but the kind part. You know, he was kind. That was his downfall. that’s pretty challenging environment to grow up in if you are a kind person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also write that — she — Maryanne — was quite blunt with the president in his early days?
TRUMP: Yes. For a long time, she was — or believed to be — the only person he would listen to. And she took that seriously and tried in the early days of his administration to offer advice, to help him course correct. But that was never going to happen, that would mean he had to admit that he made a mistake.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How did he react?
TRUMP: Well, eventually, I think they just stopped speaking. But initially, he just– he got angry, you know? And reminded her that he owed her. And where would she be without him? Which is a quite typical response.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He takes credit for her becoming a federal judge?
TRUMP: Yes. Yeah, because he was able to ask Roy Cohn, who at the time had very strong connections to the Reagan White House. And I guess Ed Meese in particular — to clear the way for her nomination.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How did she react to that?
TRUMP: Not well. She said, “If you ever say that to me again, I will level you.” I don’t think she meant anything by it. She was angry. It was more about being very upset that he reduced her entire career to this one event. And erasing all of her accomplishments, which is something it’s a tactic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was struck by something you wrote actually — at the end of the book, in the acknowledgements. You thanked Maryanne for the enlightening conversations. So did she know that these conversations were gonna be part of a book?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think — do you know what her reaction is to the book?
TRUMP: I don’t. As far as I know, she hasn’t said anything publicly. The reason I acknowledged her, part of it was an acknowledgment of feeling for the first time that somebody in my family was actually telling me stories about my dad — most of which I’d never known — ’cause nobody’d bothered to tell them to me. And her willingness on occasion to acknowledge that mistakes had been made. And her willingness to stand up for my dad now, even though a bit late. But I did appreciate it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is a hard question, but I’m gonna ask it anyway. Is writing the book an extension of the dysfunction of the family?
TRUMP: Probably. You know, I didn’t write it as a form of therapy or anything like that. In fact, I would have preferred not to write it. It was quite difficult. And I sometimes feel I would have been better off not knowing some of the things I now know.
But yeah, the book is absolutely born of the family dysfunction, you know? Nobody can escape that. You know, obviously, my generation was less affected than my father’s. But we’ve been affected. And I’m not going to speak for anybody else in my generation. But it hasn’t been easy. And it’s an interesting question. And I think you’re right. It is in part.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your brother’s not happy with the book.
TRUMP: I believe that my brother is entitled to his privacy and his opinion. And I am completely supportive of whatever relationship he has with my family and whatever choices he makes. It’s none of my business. This is entirely my doing. I didn’t consult anybody. Nobody knew — in my family — nobody knew it was happening.
You know, I didn’t feel that I needed to ask permission by any stretch of the imagination. But I didn’t want to implicate anybody, you know? this is my responsibility. And I believe very strongly that it’s my obligation. But if other people don’t feel that way, I completely respect that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You do have one potentially explosive allegation in the book. At least one. And you write that– when the president was trying to transfer from Fordham to Penn, he had someone else, a man named Joe Shapiro, take his SATs?
STEPHANOPOULOS: This was 1964. How do you know that?
TRUMP: I’ve been told this by people in my family. I am absolutely confident that it’s true. I’m happy to finally to be able to speak about it. I also know that it was not the Joe Shapiro people have been focusing on, who just happened to be at UPenn when Donald was and who happened to be born in New York along, I’m guessing, with many, many, many other Joe Shapiros at around that time. But I stand by it, absolutely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So to be clear, it’s not Pam Shriver — widow —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pam Shriver the widow of Joe Shapiro has come out publicly and said, “He didn’t meet Donald Trump until Penn. There’s no way this is true.”
TRUMP: Yes. And I feel terrible that she’s been subjected to this, honestly. I wish I could have said something sooner. But obviously, I couldn’t. I’m happy to now. And I absolutely stand by the story. And I think the only people other than me who can address it are other people in my family. And I look forward to hearing their response to that question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you know it’s true?
TRUMP: I trust my sources.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Joe Shapiro still alive?
TRUMP: That I don’t know. I have no idea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you ever met Joe Shapiro?
TRUMP: I have not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you believe in your sources. How do your sources know?
TRUMP: They were alive at the time. So they have firsthand knowledge of this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you believe other members of your family also know this is true?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Donald Trump knows it’s true?
STEPHANOPOULOS: White House says it’s an absurd falsehood.
TRUMP: Of course they would. But the White House isn’t Donald. And it isn’t — and the press secretary for the White House does not represent my aunts and other uncle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you prove it’s true?
TRUMP: No, because I’m counting on people I trust who told me this story. So in terms of documentation, no, I can’t prove it. But I can certainly– say with 100% certainty that I was told this story by– a source very close to Donald.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Talk about Christmas at the Trump house.
TRUMP: It was-strangely grim and hysterical often at the same time. You know, it was, like many families, it was very much the same every year. Thanksgiving and Christmas were indistinguishable except for the presents under the tree at Christmas. Same food, same routine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, same food every time except once.
TRUMP: Except once when my grandmother made the grave mistake of cooking roast beef instead of turkey, which was a fiasco, even though it was perfectly fine roast beef. But Donald and Robert did not like having the routine disrupted. And were quite mean about it to my grandmother — who essentially hung her head in shame throughout the entire meal — and never made that mistake again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like the dynamics shifted a little bit when Donald married Ivana —
STEPHANOPOULOS: — Trump.
TRUMP: Yes. It was very striking actually. Even though I wouldn’t have put it in these terms at the time, it was the first instance in which there was a sense of wealth. You know, the way they dressed, the way they just sort of entered the house, the hair, the makeup, the expensive suits. ‘Cause generally speaking — pretty conservative lot. And for all of his wealth, my grandfather did not live as if he were an extraordinarily rich man.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Nearly a billionaire.
TRUMP: I would never have known that. Never. I mean, partly I was a kid. And that’s how we grew up. But, you know, there weren’t butlers. And there weren’t private jets. Or there was no traveling practically. So it was suddenl- a very different feel to the holiday.
And I don’t even know if I would have remembered it if it hadn’t been for the presents they started giving us, which became a highlight honestly. Because holidays could be difficult with this family. You know, it was sometimes could feel outside of things and not really included. But the presents sort of gave me and my brother and cousin David a way to bond. And we sort of had an unofficial competition to see who got the most ludicrous present. I’m proud to say I usually won.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the first present you got?
TRUMP: A three-pack of Bloomies underwear, retail $12.
STEPHANOPOULOS: From your uncle?
TRUMP: And aunt. Well, Aunt Ivana, yes. what’s interesting though is before that I have no idea what Donald ever got me. So at least it was remarkable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And another year — a fruit basket?
TRUMP: Yeah, one of those baskets you get at — you know, that you give to somebody, like, at an office party or something. This one — I don’t believe it had fruit in it. But it had an interesting combination of vermouth-soaked olives, a salami table, water crackers, and — an empty space, which — my cousin theorized was probably caviar. (LAUGH) But it had been removed. So we can’t really prove that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it was a regift?
TRUMP: Oh sure. Yeah. Yes, the underwear thankfully was not. (LAUGH) But– the other– others certainly were.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Many years later, you’re an adult. You’ve graduated college. And Donald Trump actually hires you to write the sequel to “The Art of the Deal” — “The Art of the Comeback.” How did that happen?
TRUMP: Completely out of the blue and random. He had been sent a letter from Tufts University, which is where I got my undergraduate degree. And it– I think it included a letter I had written in support of a professor of mine who was up for tenure.
And it was very effusive and supportive, obviously. So Donald liked what he read. And I had no idea why or what he was talking about until I realized that– he liked the fact that I was apparently quite good at complimenting another person in writing. And I think that was the basis for the job offer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you take the job?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What happens?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, his publisher knew nothing about it, which I didn’t know. So it was an entirely unofficial thing. There was no contract. There was no discussing it with publishers or an editor or anything. But as I knew nothing about that process, seemed perfectly normal to me I guess.
So I got a desk in the back of his office. And spent my days going through files and talking to other people in the office. And — went out to Las Vegas once — because he was planning on or hoping to build out there. Went to Atlantic City a few times. Went down to Mar-a-Lago a few times.
He wanted me to see, you know, the breadth of the empire and what he had and what he was working on. But was never willing to sit down with me for an interview. So I was very much operating in the dark. This is a book about his comeback after a very difficult, you know, two or three years of serial bankruptcies.
And I thought my goal was to tell the story of how he regrouped, pulled himself up by his bootstraps so to speak, and, you know, was back bigger and better than ever. Unfortunately, there was — there was no evidence of this that I could find.
And because he wouldn’t speak to me, in terms of the book. I mean, we spoke every day. I stopped by his office every day. But because I was not able to ask him pointed questions– there was no way for me to know what hand he had in anything, what his strategies were — what his plans were for the future until finally I realized it was impossible, you know? I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know — finally — and bizarrely, I didn’t know what he did other than talk on the phone —
STEPHANOPOULOS: He sent you materials though, right?
TRUMP: Only once. And I was quite pleased when I found out that he was going to be doing that ’cause I thought — finally, a breakthrough. But it turned out to be a transcript of some stream-of-consciousness stuff that he had spoken into a tape recorder.
And it was almost exclusively about women. Women he dated, women he wanted to date but wouldn’t date him, not that he put in those terms, women who probably — because they rejected him — he disdained. And there were a lot of ad hominem attacks. And it was quite distressing. And at that point, I realized that it maybe wouldn’t be so useful to talk to him after all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you didn’t have all that much to do except you were down at Mar-a-Lago. And you describe a scene when you went and greeted Donald Trump and Marla Maples, he’s married her by then, by the pool?
TRUMP: Yeah. Yeah — it was the first time I’d ever been in a setting like that with him. Because it — we were either at my grandparent’s house or at Peter Luger or at my grandparent’s country club, which had a pool, but we never used it. So Mar-a-Lago was comparatively pretty casual.
So lunch was outside. And I went to the table just wearing shorts and a bathing suit. And Donald was in his golf clothes. And Marla was casually dressed as well. And he looked up as I approached the table and just commented on my appearance in a way that was really shocking to me.
Because he was my uncle, sure. But also because it was as if — seriously as if he’d never seen me before. It was quite disturbing. And, you know, I was 29. I wasn’t easily embarrassed. And it wasn’t that I felt self-conscious necessarily. It was that my uncle was commenting on my physical appearance in a way that seemed wildly inappropriate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t want to repeat what you wrote?
TRUMP: I said I wasn’t embarrassed. Apparently I was. (LAUGH) He said, oh, he swore. So he swore. He exclaimed something, and then said, “Mary, you’re stacked,” or something like that. And I grabbed a towel and put it around my shoulders. (LAUGH) And somehow got through lunch.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You do write that he once had a spark of kindness?
TRUMP: Yeah. I think he did. The evidence for it is slim. And in all seriousness, what’s tragic about it to me is that I think he had those impulses. But they had been so perverted by my grandfather. They’d been so perverted by the example my grandfather had made of my father that he didn’t quite know how to do it.
So when Donald was trying genuinely to be kind, and I’m not talking about the superficial charm he uses quite effectively to draw people in, initially. I’m talking about really wanting to connect or be there in some way. He just can’t do it. Or he couldn’t. I don’t — honestly, I don’t — I don’t think that’s even an issue anymore. We’re talking about decades ago.
I believe, and I write about this, the very early stuff, that one of the unforgivable things my grandfather did to Donald was he severely restricted the range of human emotion that was accessible to him. Which makes it– incredibly–
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean?
TRUMP: It means that certain feelings were not allowed.
TRUMP: Sadness. Well, kindness isn’t a feeling. So feelings, impulses, the impulse to be kind, the impulse to be generous. And for the boys. I’m speaking of the boys now, particularly Donald and my dad. Those things that my grandfather found superfluous, unmanly — “a stupid waste of time” is probably how he would have put it — were punished, ruthlessly punished.
And my dad couldn’t change who he was. So he just was dismantled over time. Donald tried his very best not to be destroyed in the way my dad was destroyed. So he ended up with a very narrow range in which he could safely operate as a human being. And it’s made it extraordinarily difficult for him to live in the world. And as I said earlier, he’s never really had to. So it’s created this quite dangerous situation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The hardest scenes to me to read in the book are the way the family — I should add the — say the men in the family deal with weakness, sickness, death. Starting out with Fred Senior when his wife is ill.
TRUMP: Yeah. Yes. My grandfather was an adherent to Norman Vincent Peale’s doctrine of positive thinking. It certainly — it didn’t begin with Norman Vincent Peale. My grandfather had always been the kind of person who could not deal with negativity, had no patience.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You call it toxic positivity?
TRUMP: Yes, because it allowed room for nothing else. And there are times in our lives when we are legitimately distressed. We’re legitimately sad. We’re legitimately in pain. And to be prevented from being able to feel those feelings honestly and openly is a form of torture.
You know, my grandmother, who was sick and often and broke bones more times than I can count because of her osteoporosis, was in agony much of the time. You know, she’d come home from the hospital. She’d be in a hospital bed doing physical therapy. And just moving was extraordinarily painful for her.
And my grandfather could not tolerate it. You know, it impinged on this idea he had that everything had to be great at all times. And the only people who suffered for that were the people who were actually in pain. You know, first my grandmother, then my dad, and then anybody else in the family who showed the weakness of being human.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your father got very ill, deathly ill. And you get a phone call from your grandfather?
TRUMP: Yes. Yeah, that’s the kind of experience that’s shaped as much by what happened after as it is in the moment. And I remember that conversation verbatim. It was so striking at the time, but also given what I now know was the truth while I was having that conversation — I’ve never — I will never forget it.
I had been told to call home. I didn’t know why. My mother wasn’t home. So I called– I was told to call my grandparents in that event. And when my grandfather got on the phone, he said– “Your dad’s sick.” “Is it serious?” “Oh, he’s in the hospital, but it’s not serious.” “Okay. But, you know, why am– (LAUGH) why am I calling you at 10:00 on a Saturday night if it’s not serious?” I was thinking to myself.
So I said, “Well, is it his heart?” ‘Cause he had had open-heart surgery three years earlier at the age of 39. And he said, “Yes, it’s his heart.” And I said, “Well, then it is serious.” “Yes, it’s serious. But don’t worry about it. Call your mother in the morning.” And as I found out two minutes later when I called my mother to find out what was going on, my father had died two hours earlier.
STEPHANOPOULOS: More or less alone?
TRUMP: Completely alone. Obviously with strangers surrounding him, but no family.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You write that his brother went to the movies?
TRUMP: Yes. Yeah, I — that shocked even me when I heard about it. You know, it was bad enough. It was probably worse honestly that my dad’s parents just sat in the library in the house waiting for a phone call. I will never know why they didn’t go to the hospital to be with their son who was clearly dying.
So maybe it isn’t surprising that Donald didn’t think he needed to be there. Maybe that would have looked bad to his father. And maybe sitting around waiting for the phone call was too burdensome. I don’t know. But, you know, I’ve often wondered what movie did he go to see that seemed more compelling than sitting with his dying brother? But I’ll never know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then many years later, Fred Senior has dementia. And you write that his son Donald treated him with contempt?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the evidence of that?
TRUMP: Just my experience, you know, what I witnessed in the family. It was, at the time, really unnerving– that my grandfather who had been such a forceful, domineering presence, you know, so strong and confident in everything he did was suddenly very timid — sometimes confused and sometimes frightened man, who clearly wasn’t sure what was going on around him much of the time.
But that even in the safety of his own home he couldn’t let his guard down or let go of worrying about his uncertainty and his fears, because if he left the hair dye in too long so his mustache and eyebrows had turned magenta or if he put his wig on wrong and he, you know, according to the family wasn’t fit to be seen in public. He would just get these reactions as if they were still dealing with a rational human being, who was in full command of his faculties.
And, you know I can’t say — it wasn’t anything more really than just dismissiveness and impatience and an absolute and utter unwillingness to treat this man with the kindness that was required in his situation. You know, he wasn’t Fred Trump anymore. He was a scared old man who barely knew who anybody was anymore.
STEPHANOPOULOS: For many years after your father died, you were taken care of by the Trump family.
TRUMP: Yeah. Uh-huh.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then Fred Trump dies and you have the impasse, which you’re still dealing with the consequences today?
TRUMP: Yeah. I just want to clarify something. You say “taken care of.” The sense in which that’s true is no different from the sense in which it’s true for anybody else in my family. You know, my dad had trust funds, which my brother and I inherited when my father died.
We had the same health insurance through my grandfather’s company that everybody else in the family had. It wasn’t as if, you know, we were getting handouts. We had the same exact arrangements everybody else had with the difference that, you know, we– our father was no longer alive. And not that I knew it at the time, but that we had we had no further expectations from my grandfather. Didn’t find that until quite a bit later.
So it’s interesting to me that they have this — very — self-serving double standard when it comes to describing– what I’ve received because of my grandfather’s wealth and because my father died when I was 16 and their own circumstances.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the dispute was basically you believe — you and your brother believed — that you deserved your father’s share of the family —
TRUMP: That’s actually not entirely accurate, because the lawsuit was less about my grandfather’s estate than it was about a partnership buyout. I don’t know at the time I would have been able to put in those terms. But that’s essentially what it was. So that’s where the problems arose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the dispute got ugly. your brother has a son who had health issues. And at one point they threatened to cut off his health insurance?
TRUMP: They did cut off our health insurance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And where did it go from there?
TRUMP: We had to sue them to have the health insurance reinstated. It never was. I do believe though some accommodations were made for my nephew, thankfully. But that was my last involvement in any way with the family.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When it was all settled, when the lawsuit was done, did you think it was a fair settlement?
TRUMP: No. But I didn’t have enough information to understand in what way it wasn’t fair. And at the time — again, this is a very long time ago. And I was very close with my grandmother. So a lot of it for me was wrapped up in the quite honestly devastation I felt when she let us go so easily because of money. So that was much more important to me than the other side of it. And it certainly made the dealing with the — you know, the money issues harder. Because —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it was all about the money, wasn’t it?
TRUMP: I’m a Trump, you know? Everything’s about money in this family. But I’m also different from them. And for me, what I understood and one of the reasons it was so devastating was that money stood in for everything else. It was literally the only currency the family trafficked in. So I knew that it was also about love. And to be disinherited, to be shut out entirely from the wealth of the family was to be told quite explicitly that “You don’t count and you are not loved.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of the settlement was a nondisclosure agreement?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you feel today that it’s not necessary to abide by that?
TRUMP: There are a few reasons. One some of those reasons are technical. And I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t want to go into too much of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your lawyers made those arguments. So you —
TRUMP: They did. And they did brilliantly. And they’re extraordinary. Ted Boutrous, Anne Champion, they’re extraordinary human beings and attorneys. But the technical stuff aside, I didn’t feel that the NDA mattered one way or the other because what I have to say is too important. And whether I had to publish this book on my own or suffer the consequences of a court battle, I didn’t care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 2017 — a few months after your aunt’s birthday at the White House — you start getting calls from The New York Times. Describe that.
TRUMP: Actually, it started with a knock on my door. (LAUGH) So– there was no easing in with phone calls. Yeah, Susanne Craig, investigative reporter extraordinaire, knocked on my door I believe it was June of 2017. And told me that they were trying to rewrite the history of my family’s finances. And she believed that I could help them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did she know or was she fishing?
TRUMP: I don’t know, actually. Either way — (LAUGH) she was spot on. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t remember that I had anything in my possession. I’d put it as far behind me as I could. And I said to her, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak to reporters.” But I took her business card anyway. And then she started writing letters and called on occasion.
And it wasn’t until I got trapped in my house, because I fractured my fifth metatarsal and was completely stuck on the couch for about four months that I started thinking about her letters, which seemed increasingly compelling, and called her.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the pitch?
TRUMP: The pitch was that I had in my possession, because of the lawsuit, documents that they believed could help them uncover certain financial improprieties that my family, starting with my grandfather, h– been engaged in for decades. And, you know, finally, I guess at some point I thought, “Why not?”
You know, if I can help. I knew that my speaking out wasn’t going to make a difference certainly then. But if — if there’s anything I can do to help, I did not like what was happening– in the country. I did not like the way things were going. It’s impossible to pick– a last straw.
But just the unraveling– you know, the destruction of institutional memory, the degradations of institutions — the– from the Muslim ban on down to the kidnapping and incarceration of children at the border, it was unbearable.
And it wasn’t just Donald. It was, as I said earlier, the number of people willing to enable this. So I said, “All right.” And I went to the office of my then-attorney. And took awhile. It wasn’t — it didn’t just happen in one day, but eventually I got 19 boxes full of documents, drove them to my house, and handed them over. And the rest is history. One of the, if not the, most extraordinary pieces of journalism I’ve ever seen in my life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As a reporter, I can’t imagine — or describe it. Not whether I can’t imagine or not. Their reaction when you brought them 19 boxes of tax documents.
TRUMP: We were really happy. (LAUGH) It was — yeah, it was amazing. They were — we were ecstatic, because it finally felt real. And they had been working on the story for months already.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you didn’t even know what was in the documents really.
TRUMP: No. I had no idea, no idea. Bu they seemed to think that it was extremely valuable. And I knew that they knew what they were doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A year later, Pulitzer Prize. The story breaks. And it describes a few things. That Donald Trump’s dad was far wealthier than people knew, far wealthier than you and your lawyers knew when the will was being fought over. That Donald Trump was far less wealthy than people knew but for his grandfather – And also raised the question that perhaps some of it was done in a way that could constitute tax fraud. What about that surprised you?
TRUMP: Honestly, none of that surprised me. What did surprise me was the lengths they allegedly went to. The formation of All County, which from what I understand was simply a shell corporation designed to siphon money away from my grandfather’s very valuable and successful company so that that money could sort of be disappeared and the money left to pay taxes on was significantly less. So– that amazed me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of the reason you didn’t put up a bigger fight when the will was being disputed was that your lawyer believed that the entire Fred Trump estate was $30 million. What was it?
TRUMP: It was almost a billion dollars. So $970 million or more.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Were you surprised at how little political impact those revelations seemed to have?
TRUMP: I was. You know, a lot of people were rightly effusive and grateful– for the brilliant work and the startling revelations that should have mattered. But how many times have we seen this play out? And this is one thing that I grapple with trying to understand.
For most of us, our mistakes are cumulative. You know? Our transgressions are cumulative. So when there’s a reckoning, the sum total of what we’ve done is taken into account. That does not seem to exist (LAUGH) in Donald’s– universe. It’s this horrible thing happens and then this horrible thing happens so we forget about the first horrible thing. So they just replace each other.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: But for you, the political had become personal. The personal had become political. You write, “I had to take Donald down.”
TRUMP: Yes. Maybe a bit of — an overstatement there in the sense that — I didn’t ever think that there was any one thing I or anybody else could do. But certainly in that moment that I’m describing I felt that I needed to do anything I could not just to stop this but also to make up for the fact that I hadn’t done anything in the past.
That weighed on me even though I knew that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference — you know? If this almost 14,000-word article didn’t have the kind of impact it should have had by all rights, then nothing I would have said necessarily would have mattered. But I definitely felt the responsibility of — needing to do something.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you want to happen now?
TRUMP: This country is on a precipice. And we have a decision to make in the not too distant future about who we want to be and where we want to go as a country. It’s hard for me to process just how many awful things are going on simultaneously on a daily basis. And people need to know. People need as much information as is available in order to make a decision that makes sense for our future as a country, as Americans, as citizens of the world so to speak.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The New York Times’ review of your book concludes saying it’s been written from pain and designed to hurt. Fair critique?
TRUMP: No. Written for pain, absolutely. Hurting wasn’t my — it wasn’t a goal. It wasn’t an intention. If telling the truth, if telling the stories as I remember them, as they were told to me causes pain then the people who participated in them need to look to themselves.
STEPHANOPOULOS: April 2017. I’m gonna end where I began.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You see the president in the Oval Office. And you tell him, “Don’t let them get you down.” Did you mean that?
TRUMP: I did, actually. that was four months in? He already seemed very — strained by the pressures. You know, he’d never been in a situation before where he wasn’t entirely protected from criticism or accountability or things like that.
And I think, you know, Michael Flynn had just had to be fired. And from the get go it hadn’t been going well in particular. So I did mean it — in some sense, you know? I didn’t mean, “I want you to keep doing what you’re doing and get away with it.” and also so much of what has happened since then hadn’t yet happened.
And I just remember thinking, “He seems tired. He seems like this is not what he signed up for — if he even knows what he signed up for.” And — I thought his response was actually — more enlightening than — my statement. And he said, “They won’t get me.” And so far, looks like he’s right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you were in the Oval Office today, what would you say to him?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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