I really like speaking with Mary L. Trump. Actually I just really like Mary L. Trump. Remember, as I wrote the last time I spoke with her, that middle initial differentiates her from her grandmother, who was not one of Mary's idols, to put it mildly.
Trump doesn't put things mildly. She is honest, straightforward, perceptive and smart - and fun - which are reasons why talking to her is such a pleasure. You don't get a script with Trump. You get the unvarnished truth, and genuine conversation, which is such a departure from the rest of her less than honest and dubious family, including some cousins and one uncle in particular.
She rocketed to fame last year after the release of her best-selling book, Too Much and Never Enough, that ripped apart the psychology of her psychotic uncle. Now she's written another tome, The Reckoning: Our Nation's Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal, that examines America's national trauma, primarily rooted in our history of systematic racism, and how it has been exacerbated by the impact of the Trump administration's corrupt and immoral policies. This one is less about Donald Trump the person and more about how he inflamed America's racism.
I have absolutely no envy that her last name is Trump. That's a curse she's got to live with for the rest of her life, but it also allows her to expose the family, and the repercussions of her uncle's reign of terror, which she does in her new book.
The great part about Trump is that you can talk to her about anything, but the sad part, at least for her, and for me in the job at hand, is that talk inevitably goes back to her calamitous Uncle Donald. She really doesn't refer to him as 'uncle.' It slips out a few times, but she's more inclined to call him Donald, a less personal and literally less relative way of having to talk about a man that was the brother to her late father.
I didn't want to start talking about Donald, so we just began by chit-chatting, and when I asked her how she was doing, she sounded the same way she did a year ago, and that was a good thing.
"I'm doing ok. My life really hasn't changed that much, and I think it's because of COVID. When the first book came out, a book tour was cancelled because of the virus, so I didn't travel anywhere, and did all my interviews remotely. Basically, I'm raising my daughter the best I can, and like everyone else, dealing with all of the worries around COVID, particularly for my daughter. I do realize every day that I have it so much better than so many other people, so there's been a lot to be grateful for."
Trump admitted that she's been in the spotlight much more than she's used to since the first book came out, primarily because she has become somewhat of a media credibility source about her uncle. "It's been interesting and challenging. Going on MSNBC all the time, for example, you have to be concise in the answers you give, but I like having conversations with people like you where the dialogue can be more freewheeling, and we're able to talk about things that aren't directly tied to Donald or what's going on in the world. That said, it's pretty hard to get away from talking about him and all the damage that he's done."
I told Trump that I had written recently about the confluence of overruns in the news as of late; the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan, and the Delta variant overrunning parts of the United States. Does she feel like her uncle has blood on his hands with these two crises? "He most certainly is responsible for the Delta variant since there's a direct line from him to those who aren't vaccinated and refuse to mask-up. And we know that the unvaccinated are the ones who are most susceptible to getting and spreading the Delta virus. He discouraged, and continues to discourage those people from wearing masks and getting the vaccine. He was booed in Alabama recently when he tried to talk about the vaccine, and then backpedaled once he heard that rejection, which is typical for Donald."
And as far as Afghanistan goes, Trump didn't hold back. "Someone mentioned to me that he created a time bomb with Afghanistan. He knew that the crisis would explode during the Biden administration with his agreement with the Taliban. During his administration thousands of political prisoners were released from jails in Afghanistan, and President Biden mentioned this in his speech to the nation yesterday. Many of those freed were ISIS-K, and they were responsible for the horrific bombings around the Kabul airport, so there's no doubt about the residual effects of what Donald did while he was in office."
"The war was lost years ago. We all knew that, but Donald instigated catastrophe with his agreement with the Afghan government of a May 1, 2021 U.S. withdrawal. He knew that that was a dangerous move that would blow up during the Biden administration."
I told Trump that I also wrote about Lindsey Graham's obsession with her uncle, golf, and Mar-a-Lago. I wondered what she makes of Donald's horde of sycophants, namely Graham, Governors DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas. Do these people know the history of being burned and torched by getting too close to Uncle Donald?
"These people never learn, and they never will. They are obsessed with power, and will do anything to keep it, and if that means following the lead of my uncle's strategy of burning down the house they'll do it. You know, it's not even that they're following any type of plan. They are just mimicking the vile behavior of Donald, and thinking that that will be enough to get them reelected. They are all motivated by different reasons, but have one common goal, staying in power."
"And with Lindsey Graham. I thought my uncle was the most spineless individual that there was, but here's this guy. He really gives Donald a run for his money with how pathetically gutless he is."
Yesterday, seven Capitol Hill police officers sued Uncle Donald, the Proud Boys, Roger Stone and others, in a suit that some are calling the most comprehensive one brought about the insurrection events of January 6. I asked Trump about the litany of suits against her uncle, and if any of them has the chance of finally bringing him down?
"Donald has always had multiple lawsuits against him at any time in his life, but these lawsuits that are currently filed against him, including mine, are more ominous for him. The one by the Capitol Hill police officers is very detailed, very personal, and it draws a very direct line from Donald to the Proud Boys, and the other organizations being sued. They were all working together, under Donald's direction."
"I think that the insurrection lawsuits and the ones in New York by the State Attorney General and the Manhattan D.A. will go a long way toward bringing him down. I do think that his luck will run out."
If the luck starts to run out, and if prosecutors start looking at her cousins, would they turn on their father to save themselves? "His kids would turn on him in five seconds. No make that one second. Actually a half a second. They'll do anything to save themselves. Just like their father, and he would turn on them just as fast if he was given the choice. There is no loyalty in that family."
There's been some news reports about Jared and Ivanka keeping their distance from Donald. I asked Trump if she was aware of that, and what she thought about their efforts. "It's funny that Jared and Ivanka are keeping a low profile, hiding out, and not saying much. I think they feel that people will just forget how knee deep they were as accomplices to Donald, and if they stay quiet long enough, that they can magically move back to New York City and become a part of high society again. That will definitely not be the case," Trump added with an emphatic laugh.
Now to her second book. I asked her what prompted the subject matter since it's very explicit and ashamedly true. "I always felt that a second book was going to be a little bit of a memoir about me and my father, but last October, when the death count from COVID hit over 300,000 and the racism from Donald just exploded, particularly during the debate when he told the Proud Boys to 'stand back and stand by,' I felt like there was a more urgent matter to write about."
"We never addressed inequality in our country. I think many of us thought we had, but then my uncle came along and really held a mirror up to the country, and all he did was give all those people who harbored and hid hate a reason to come out from behind a curtain. He gave them an excuse to be open about who they are, and he ignited and endorsed all the racism that existed in this country, and that really came to life under his administration. And we never dealt with systematic racism in our government, not only locally but nationally and in our justice system. We have a long way to go to fix this country, and I think the book is just about trying to explain to people that these problems have existed for years, and still exist and we have a lot of work to do."
To that end, she writes, "Ours is an ugly history full of depraved, barbaric, and inhumane behavior carried out by everyday people and encouraged or at least condoned by leaders at the highest levels of government. A denial of that history is a denial of our trauma." Only remembering will heal us. Maybe it will even set us free."
"If you look at Donald's time in office, 100 percent of the government of his administration represented something like 22 percent of the very worst of the U.S. population. What's even more frightening is that over 10 million more people voted for him in 2020, despite knowing who he was, and all the destruction he caused. If you supported him, you supported racism. There is no gray area. I have wiped from my life every single person who supported him. There is no saying, 'oh, I'm not racist, I just like tax cuts.' There is absolutely no room for conflating racism with anything else."
I told Trump that I did the same thing, and that even came to family members. I reminded her that when we last spoke, I asked her what she thought of parents of LGBTQ+ individuals who supported her uncle, and her response was, "They owe their kids an apology." I relayed to her that I told my mother, who supported her uncle for most of his term, what she had said about apologizing, and how my mother laughed at me. "I'm really sorry to hear that," she said with a long sigh of empathy.
Ok, enough about her uncle or Donald, or whatever you want to call him. Speaking of LGBTQ+ issues, I asked Trump how she felt about becoming a queer icon? "I have to laugh because my aunt used to call herself a gay icon, which was such a joke, so no, I definitely don't consider myself a gay icon, at least in the way that she thought she was."
"But I will say it's been inspiring hearing from and meeting so many people from the LGBTQ community during this past year. I remember our conversation last year when I started being open and speaking about it to you for the first time, and it's something that I'm happy about. But, to me, I'm still a mom of a teenager who is just trying to live her best life, and make sure their child is happy and successful. I don't consider myself someone that might be a hero or an inspiration. There are just so, so many people throughout our history that have really made an impact, and it's those people that I admire and consider gay icons. Not me. And definitely not my aunt."
Finally, I asked Trump what's ahead. With her well-spoken and well-written points of view, and her commitment to make people understand about our country's scar of racism, I asked if she would ever consider running for a political office?
"People have asked me that before, and they thought that I was giving them a typical political answer when I said that I didn't know, or that I didn't consider it. But I was truly just being honest. I don't know what life has in store for me."
"I can't say that I would never do it, on the one hand, but on the other hand I really think there is something to be said for staying outside of politics and having a voice. I don't have to be constrained in a way that I would be if I was a politician, and had to spend most of my time raising money. Now, I live in New York City, one of the most liberal parts of the country, so it's not like I wouldn't be representing people who are a different political stripe than I am. But that's a question that I honestly don't have an answer for, at least not yet."
I told Trump about being a press secretary on Capitol Hill for many years, and that if she decided to run for office to give me a call. I would make sure she got great press. She had a good laugh about that, but I'm sticking to my end of the deal by providing this column as a platform for her impressive perspective. Now Mary, it's your turn!
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.