Trump Niece's Tell-All Describes a Family of Liars, Cheats & Abusers Who Destroyed Her Dad
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 7 but is being updated with the Tuesday release of Too Much and Never Enough.
Mary Trump, as she writes less than 20 pages into the new memoir her family tried to stop her from publishing, has a story to tell about her grandparents, aunts and uncles — including the president, Donald Trump.
"And I am the only Trump who is willing to tell it."
Last week, publisher Simon & Schuster made copies of Mary's Too Much and Never Enough available to reporters before its new release date on Tuesday.
As of this writing, the book is the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, marketed as an order of magnitude different from previous unflattering memoirs out of the Trump administration (including another top 10 Amazon seller: a book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton).
Mary's memoir was rushed up by two weeks ahead of what the publisher said was "high demand and extraordinary interest," a seeming reference to the much-watched lawsuit the president's younger brother, Robert Trump, had filed late last month seeking to stop Mary from saying anything.
While Simon & Schuster said Too Much and Never Enough would be "authoritative" and "explosive," revealing the "toxic family" that raised President Trump, Robert slammed Mary's work as a "disgrace" full of sensational mischaracterizations.
At the same time, Robert argued she was bound to confidentiality by a settlement agreement signed in 2001.
Soon after he filed suit, a judge imposed a temporary restraining order on Mary though a similar gag on Simon & Schuster was lifted after an appellate court intervened.
On Monday, the court ruled against Robert, paving the way for the distribution of what the publisher said was more than 600,000 copies of Mary's memoir. She is also reportedly set to begin giving interviews this week.
PEOPLE — like other national outlets — obtained an early copy of Too Much and Never Enough, which White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week was "a book of falsehoods."
Separately, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters: "As for books generally, obviously they're not fact-checked. Nobody's under oath."
Here is what Mary writes.
'In Order to Understand'
The first thing Mary notes in Too Much and Never Enough is that much of it "comes from my own memory," supplemented by interviews with relatives, friends and others as well as documents and records and previous news reporting.
Mary's aunt Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired judge, appears to have also been a key source for some information about their family and receives an acknowledgement as such.
Elsewhere in the book, Mary details how she secretly sent extensive records produced as a result of a 20-year-old lawsuit over patriarch Fred Trump Sr.'s estate to The New York Times for a 2018 financial investigation into her family's finances.
The book contains dialogue and scenes of conversation throughout, but the quotes are not verbatim.
While Mary recounts many brief anecdotes, her goal with her book is not an extensive, fly-on-the-wall account of life in the Trump family. Citing her own background as a clinical psychologist, she writes that the time has come to subject President Trump, her uncle, to a kind of X-ray of the soul — "unlike any previous time in his life, Donald's failings cannot be hidden or ignored because they threaten us all."
"No one knows how Donald came to be who he is better than his own family," Mary writes early on. "Unfortunately, almost all of them remain silent out of loyalty or fear. I'm not hindered by either of those."
While the president is a major focus of Mary's book, her interest is farther reaching: It begins with her grandparents, the president's mother and father, even before he was born.
In her telling, Too Much and Never Enough traces the overgrowth of decades of family dysfunction, which in turn sprouted cycles of abuse and addiction and despair and distrust as well an array of dodgy and deceitful behaviors to preserve the family's wealth, back to its roots: Trump Sr.
She writes: "In order to understand what brought Donald—and all of us—to this point, we need to start with my grandfather."
Generations of Problems
Mary's father, Fred Trump Jr., died in 1981 after years of alcoholism. He was 42 and, she writes, in the eyes of almost everyone including Trump Sr., he was a failure. They called him "Freddy."
The first half of Too Much and Never Enough recounts the early years of Trump Sr.'s family: How he met and married Mary Anne MacLeod; how they built a 4,000-square-foot home in Queens; how they raised — and neglected and malformed — each of their five children, starting with their oldest: Trump Jr.
Mary begins with a bloody scene of matriarch Mary MacLeod Trump's health issues after giving birth to her youngest, son Robert Trump. As a result, the elder Mary spent six months "in and out of the hospital" — an absence in the Trump home to which the younger Mary ascribes a long and damaging shadow.
"[P]rone to self-pity and flights of martyrdom, she often put herself first," Mary writes, later adding of her grandmother: "Whereas Mary was needy, Fred seemed to have no emotional needs at all. In fact, he was a high-functioning sociopath."
None of their kids were spared, according to Too Much and Never Enough.
"Maryanne, the firstborn, was saddled with being a smart, ambitious girl in a misogynistic family," Mary writes, beginning to list them off in turn.
"Freddy's problem was his failure to be a different person entirely.
"[Daughter] Elizabeth's problem was her family's indifference. She was not just the middle child (and a girl) but separated by her brothers on either side by an age gap of three or four years. Shy and timid as an adolescent, she didn't speech much, having learned the lesson that neither of her parents was really listening. ... Robert's problem was that he was the youngest, an afterthought."
And the second youngest?
Mary writes: "Donald's problem was that the combative, rigid persona he developed in order to shield him from the terror of his early abandonment, along with his having been made to witness his father's abuse of Freddy, cut him off from real human connection."
From this view, Too Much and Never Enough traces the "parallel lines" of Freddy's deterioration despite his nominal place as the family scion and the rise of his younger brother Donald, here described as a brash, boundary-less bully — not so much greedy as a black hole, warping any rule or restraint around him.
He cheated on his SATs, Mary claims; which the White House said was "absurd."
Mary's book may have been anticipated as a more conventional memoir. But, in fact, the first half of it (save for an initial chapter describing Mary having dinner at the White House in 2017) is actually almost entirely about the early years of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, well before she was born, and what led up to her dad's death.
She is merciless in her view of her grandfather Trump Sr.
Though she writes that she never saw him be physically violent — perversely, he often seemed in a good mood in a kind of blind insistence on "positive thinking" — he was destructive in many other, subtler ways: controlling, unrelenting, inflexible, with a heartless view of human worth.
His oldest son he destroyed, according to Mary.
The man who would become president, however, he turned into a kind of Frankenstein's monster.
"In the end, there would be no love for Donald at all, just his agonizing thirsting for it," Mary writes. "The rage, left to grow, would come to overshadow everything else."
Much of her memoir follows in this way: historical recollections — seemingly pulled from what her family has told her as well as what has already been reported or was available from documents — then built into an unsparing psychological thesis, which is ultimately Mary's focus.
Too Much and Never Enough is not, in contrast to other Trump tell-alls, a quasi-novelistic book. It does not dish itself out.
Growing Up Trump
The memoir's second half begins after Mary's father death of ostensibly natural causes, following years of declining health and professional and personal ruination: divorced but still tied to Trump Sr. — the family's "black sheep."
Mary recounts her dad's last trip to a Queens hospital where the family was not as well connected, rather than two other facilities where he would have gotten "the best treatment."
While Trump Jr.'s siblings and parents gathered at the family home to await word of his condition, Mary writes, no one actually went to visit him and the president and Mary's aunt Elizabeth left for a time to go to the movies before returning.
By this point, Mary was a teenager. Whereas Too Much and Never Enough began by describing events decades before her birth, its latter chapters feature her more centrally — after her dad's funeral on to her adult life.
This section appears to draw more on her own memories, including her aborted stint as her uncle Donald's ghostwriter, for what was then supposed to be his third book.
(He later had the publisher fire her: "I didn't even mind .... The project had hit a wall. Besides, after all of the time I had spent in his office, I still had no idea what he actually did.")
Still, much of the chapters continue to train the spotlight on the future president and his dad, Trump Sr. Mary's aunts and uncles and her grandmother receive their share of notice but other figures in the family are largely sidelined, save for a few anecdotal accounts.
Ivana Trump, according to Mary, was a notorious re-gifter; while future First Lady Melania Trump is described as strategically tight-lipped. Donald Trump Jr., in attendance at the 2017 family dinner at the White House, at one point "bounded" after sister Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, "like an excited puppy." (At another point, in the Oval Office, Vice President Mike Pence was observed with "a half-dead smile.")
President Trump's second wife, Marla Maples, is remembered as "down to earth and soft spoken where Ivana was all flash, arrogance, and spite."
And so on.
Late in the book, Mary mentions that she was married to and then divorced from a woman with whom she raised a daughter, Avary
In the ‘90s, Mary writes, she and her grandmother “had been talking about Princess Diana’s funeral, and when she had said with some vehemence, ‘It’s a disgrace they’re letting that little f----- Elton John sing at the service,’ I’d realized it was better that she didn’t know I was living with … a woman.”
But the book's narrative hangs on Trump Sr. and his sons: As Trump Sr. declined from dementia before dying in 1999, the future president embarked on a roller coaster business career bankrolled by the patriarch — some of the same financial dealings later exposed in stark relief by the Times, for which Mary turned over boxes and boxes of secretive documents.
The Times investigation in October 2018 "found [President Trump] received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s."
"He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show," the paper reported. (The president’s attorney claimed the reporting was “100 percent false.”)
But Trump Jr.'s children — Mary and her brother, Fred Trump III, whom she calls Fritz — were largely cut out of Trump Sr.'s estate. That legal battle gets its re-telling in her book as well.
Their dispute was ultimately settled in 2001, resulting in the same confidentiality agreement Robert unsuccessfully argued Mary was violating with her book. (Simon & Schuster has said it had no knowledge of this until after the book was already completed and was not a party to any nondisclosure.)
In the end, Mary writes how she resumed more regular contact with some members of her extended family. She was invited to Ivanka's wedding in 2009 and afterward kept in touch with aunt Maryanne — whom, she writes, has told the president he was doing "not that good" in the White House after he called for her feedback.
At least according to Mary's book, her relatives didn't suspect she had been a source for the Times.
She closes Too Much and Never Enough with more of her assessment of the president's flaws.
"Donald's monstrosity is the manifestation of the very weakness within him that he's been running from his entire life," she writes. "For him, there has never been any option but to be positive, to project strength, no matter how illusory, because doing anything else carries a death sentence; my father's short life is evidence of that."
"But," according to the president's niece, "he can never escape the fact that he is and always will be a terrified little boy."
The Trumps Bite Back
In late June, as he moved to block Mary's memoir, Robert Trump told the Times in a statement that “her attempt to sensationalize and mischaracterize our family relationship after all of these years for her own financial gain is both a travesty and injustice to the memory of my late brother, Fred, and our beloved parents."
"I and the rest of my entire family are so proud of my wonderful brother, the president, and feel that Mary’s actions are truly a disgrace,” he said then.
In a separate statement late last month, Robert's attorney, Charles Harder, has vowed to "vigorously litigate."
"The actions of Mary Trump and Simon & Schuster are truly reprehensible," Harder said in a statement late last month. "We look forward to vigorously litigating this case, and will seek the maximum remedies available by law for the enormous damages caused by Mary Trump’s breach of contract and Simon & Schuster’s intentional interference with that contract. Short of corrective action to immediately cease their egregious conduct, we will pursue this case to the very end."
Mary's brother also washed his hands of her memoir, in a statement released by the Trump Organization.
The White House also pushed back on some of the specific claims in her book and cast doubt on her character.
"Mary Trump and her book’s publisher may claim to be acting in the public interest, but this book is clearly in the author’s own financial interest," a White House spokeswoman said last week in a statement to various news outlets.
"President Trump has been in office for over three years working on behalf of the American people — why speak out now?” the spokeswoman said, continuing: “The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child."
"Also," the spokeswoman said, "the absurd SAT allegation is completely false."