The Portrait of the President: 5 Books about Donald Trump You Should Read

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Pavel Koshkin

One year ago Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th U.S. President. Throughout the last year there have been published numerous books about him and his presidency. Rethinking Russia reviews the latest ones.  

One year has be gone since the Jan. 20 inauguration of the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump. For this time, he has been in the media spotlight due to his obsession with Twitter. He published more than 2,3 thousand tweets in his blog in 2017 and started 2018 with harsh criticism of journalists. He announced results of the Most Dishonest and Corrupt Media Award, with The New York Times, ABC and CNN having taken first three places. Earlier he described journalists as producers of “fake news” and the “enemies of American people”.

Journalists don’t remain silent and keep responding to Trump’s accusations. Even before he became President and after his inauguration mainstream media outlets started a campaign against him. For last twelve months there have been published and republished at least 10 books, according to the Amazon online bookstore.

Fire and Fury, the book of the contributor of USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter and GQ, Michael Wolff, as well as the investigation of The Washington Post’s reporters, Trump Revealed, brought about a great deal of interest in media. The New York Times, The Guardian, The Time, USA Today, National Public Radio and BBC wrote about these works. A new book of Fox News’s host Howard Kurtz, Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press and the War over the Truth will be released on January 29.

Rethinking Russia reviews five latest books, which create a full political and psychological portrait of Donald Trump.

Fire and Fury (2018)

American journalist Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House became a hit and sold out in American bookstores in the early January, shortly after its release. By Jan. 26 it got 4.5 stars out of five in Amazon and took the first position in the list of the Most Read books. More than 3,700 readers wrote their reviews on Amazon’s website: Most positively assess the book, but they admit that it might contain some pieces of a false information. To compare, Trump Revealed got 4.3 stars at Amazon and brought together over 300 reviews.

Fire and Fury is provocative, with Trump’s lawyers having tried to stop its release, according to The Guardian. The book is based on more than 200 interviews with the president, the representatives of his inner circle and other high-ranking officials. The author claims that he could witness how the Trump White House really works. Wolff reveled the intrigues and rumors within the West Wing.

For example, he alleges that Trump’s daughter Ivanka pursues presidential ambitions and ridicules her father’s haircut. Wolff also describes the relations between Trump and notorious media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who allegedly disregards Trump and sees him as fool.

According to Wolff’s book former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon described the meeting of Trump’s son with a group of Russians before the 2016 presidential elections as treasonous. During that meeting the Russians allegedly offered some dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Moreover, Wolff claims that Trump and his pre-election headquarter didn’t count on their victory in the presidential race: All were discouraged, Trump never intended to win and the victory left him “horrified”. He was angry during the inauguration, because many Americans, including celebrities, didn’t attend the ceremony.  To quote Wolff, Trump was afraid of the upcoming presidency, with his team and his son-in-law and chief adviser Jared Kushner having failed to determine the key priorities.

The White House’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denies the facts, presented in Fire and Fury and claims the book is “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House”. In his Twitter, Trump described Wolff as “a mentally deranged author, who knowingly writes a false information”. The Guardian’s Peter Conrad views Wolff as “an omniscient narrator who imagines himself at meetings he only heard about from others, and writes as if he were privy to the mental calculations of his subjects.”

Trump Reveled (2016)

This book was released in August 2016, in the wake of the presidential campaign in the U.S. It is based on the materials of The Washington Post’s 20 journalists and more than 20 hours of interviews with Trump, the members of his administration and lawyers. This is an investigative journalism book on the 45th U.S. President edited by Michael Kranish and Mark Fisher: Everybody in the journalistic team were assigned to do a certain task to find out the details of Trump’s life, beginning with his childhood.

While some journalists collected information about Trump’s place of birth and childhood, interviewed his friends, classmates, teachers and neighbors, other reporters went deeper in his businesses Atlantic City and New York. They made a research on his ventures, related to sport and media. Two journalists “painstakingly fact-checked this book”, Michael Kranish and Mark Fisher wrote.

The authors also write about Trump’s relations with women and journalists and talk about his ups and downs in casino business. Finally, the book narrates about the reasons of why Trump decided to participate in the 2016 presidential race as a Republican candidate and why he won. Interestingly, among the contributors to the book is a veteran journalist of The Washington Post, Bob Woodward, who conducted a probe in the Watergate scandal and led to President Nixon’s impeachment.

The book describes numerous scandals, related to Trump’s sexual harassment of women and hundreds of court trials against him. The authors also pay attention to his political inconsistency. For example, they point out to his seven changes in party affiliation and the fact that he several times changed his position on abortions. Kranish and Fisher also talk about the 1970s Justice Department suit against Trump and father for racial discrimination, they revealed his financial and political machinations as well his alleged ties with organized crime.

Trump Reveled is an unbiased story of Trump the Businessman becoming Trump the President. “We began this reporting on the theory that Trump, like anyone else, is far more than his reputation or brand. We conclude this work on that same note, having discovered that the man elected as the nation’s 45th president is far more complex than his simple language might indicate, that his motivations and values are informed by his parents, his upbringing, his victories and his defeats, and his lifelong quest for love and acceptance,” Kranish and Fisher wrote.

The book was well met in the U.S. media circles. USA Today described it as “the best of investigative reporting”, The Boston Globe called it as “the most complete and nuanced life of Trump so far”, The New York Times agreed that their colleagues released a “rigorous” and “useful” book about the life of the 45th U.S. President.

However, Trump didn’t like the book. “The @WashingtonPost quickly put together a hit job book on me- comprised of copies of some of their inaccurate stories. Don’t buy, boring!” he wrote in his Twitter.

Media Madness (2018)

“Oh my God, he just tweeted this,” said in the late July the White House’s then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, when Trump published his another tweet. Earlier his administration had just finished an official review on transgender individuals serving in the army and presented it to him to discuss the topic. But Trump interrupted the conversation and tweeted in his blog that the government will ban transgender people from serving in the military.

This episode from the White House’s life was described in a new book of Fox News’s host Howard, Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, And The War Over The Truth. It will appear in bookstores on Jan. 29. It describes the relations between Trump and journalists. This book is about the war between the White House and media, about the way of how they see each other. This book is about the White House’s concerns with Trump’s Twitter obsession.

Kurtz portrays the White House “riven by chaos, with aides scrambling to respond to the president’s impulses and writing policy to fit his tweets, according to excerpts obtained by The Washington Post.”

“Nobody in the White House quite knew what to do,” Kurtz writes, describing the atmosphere within Trump’s team, when it faced with “Defiance Disorder” — “Trump’s seeming compulsion to do whatever it is his advisers are most strongly urging against, leaving his team to handle the fallout”. “Once the president had committed to 140 characters, he was not going to back off,” added Kurtz.

The author also writes about the White House’s attempts to find “leakers” within Trump’s administration. According to him, among the suspects was even the president’s daughter Ivanka. Yet ironically Trump himself is described as the main leaker in the White House.

“The president himself leaked to reporters as well, his aides believed,” writes Kurtz. “And sometimes it was inadvertent: Trump would talk to so many friends and acquaintances that key information would quickly reach journalists.”

The book got a positive feedback in media. “While Kurtz at times seems to offer a more flattering portrayal of the West Wing staff than some other media accounts, he also captures a White House struggling to perform basic tasks and advisers reacting to the whims of a hard-to-control president,” wrote The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker. Amazon describes Kurtz’s book as “the most important political book of the year.”

Understanding Trump (2017)

“When my father called my family together to confirm that he would run for president, he said he would quickly learn who our real friends were. … He was right. In a short time, it was clear that Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were true friends of the Trump family,” wrote the president’s son Eric Trump about the author of this book in the foreword.

The book came from a close friend of Trump — the 50th House of Representatives Speaker (1995-1999) and a former presidential candidate (2011-2012), Newt Gingrich. Released in summer 2017, it tells how Trump came up with his political views, how he thinks, make decisions and rules.  The author shares his two-years experience of working with Trump as his advisor during the 2016 presidential election and the first months of his presidency.

Gingrich describes Trump as “a unique president” who — despite the lack of political experience — left behind his party fellows during the primaries and heavyweights such as Hillary Clinton during the 2016 race. The author of Understanding Trump points out to the fact that Trump didn’t have many political, financial and media resources unlike his rivals, with all mainstream media having trying to discredit him. Gingrich is surprised and disappointed by the fact that ideologically motivated journalists don’t understand Trump and cannot recognize the scale of his achievement in his presidential victory.

Understanding Trump would be useful for those who seek to look at Trump and his presidency from the point of view of his close friend, his loyal supporter and his aid. By Jan. 25 Amazon published more than 800 reviews in this book, with about 83% having given five starts to Gingrich’s work, 10% gave four points. The rest of the reviews were between one and three. The average grade has been about 4.8 by the late January.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think (2018)

Journalist David Cay Johnston’s new book It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America was released on Jan.16. It is worth reading to find an alternative, if alarmist, take on the White House’s work. The book has gone sixth on Amazon’s Most Sold list by Jan.26. It got 4.4 stars out of five.

Well-known critic of the president, Johnston, who has been following Trump since 1988 and wrote not the first book about him, keeps warning about the risks from Trump’s presidency. According to him, the White House under Trump is dangerous for America, because the president undermines the U.S. institutions, creates the conflict of interest situation and appoints incompetent people from business and his circle to important political positions.

Johnston argues that Trump’s policy — starting with his intentions to build the Mexican wall to his intentions to roll back former President Barack Obama’s environment protection programs — will lead to grave implications. As a result, the author predicts that American taxpayers will have to pay for building the Wall and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will stop fulfilling its initial role. After all, Trump appointed former Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head EPA: Pruitt was among the critics of Obama’s EPA program, he might roll back   clean air and clean water provisions and undertake pro-pollution plans to satisfy the interests of oil and gas producers.

In fact, Johnston doesn’t reveal something new about Trump and his administration. He sums up the facts and concerns about the president, and gives them his assessment. “The last forty-four presidents all pursued policies that they believed would make for a better America tomorrow. The Trump Presidency is about Trump. Period. Full stop,” wrote Johnston, pointing out to Trump’s megalomania and narcissism.

Pavel Koshkin is a fellow of The Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies at Russian Academy of Sciences. He has PnD from Lomonosov Moscow State University. He is the former editor-in-chief of Russia Direct, an analytical media outlet.

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