“People are tired of the f- - -ing drama,” Bill Barr told Donald Trump in 2020, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. The attorney general was saying voters were tired of Trump’s antics, and the election results suggest he was right. But could the same axiom be applied to the seemingly endless stream of books detailing Trump’s presidency? We may find out soon: on Tuesday, Haberman released her book Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.
Haberman is considered one of the country’s foremost Trump chroniclers, and she interviewed the former president three times for this book (which did not stop him from calling it a “fake book” with “many made up stories” on Truth Social). Yet despite her proven talent for getting huge Trump scoops, the reports on Confidence Man’s revelations so far feel less like bombshells and more like laundry lists of erratic presidential behavior.
The Times’ review of the book suggests that’s because Haberman has produced something deeper than the typical Trump-administration tell-all. “This is a book more notable for the quality of its observations about Trump’s character than for its newsbreaks,” writes Joe Klein. But lovers of batshit Trump tales can rest assured that there’s still plenty of gossip in Confidence Man. Here’s a ranking of what we’ve learned thus far, starting with the good stuff. Feel free to tap out if you get too tired of the f- - -ing drama.
1. Trump Liked to Flush Memos Down the Toilet
Way back in February, during the earliest stages of the Trump classified-document scandal, Axios ran this incredible paragraph under the headline “Haberman book: Flushed papers found clogging WH toilet“:
While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man.”
Then on August 8 — weirdly, just hours before the feds raided Mar-a-Lago — Haberman took this delightfully gross story a bit too far. She shared a toilet photo that backed up her reporting but also forced Trump gossip hounds like myself to confront some uncomfortable questions about how we’re using our time on this earth.
2. Trump Suggested He Wouldn’t Use Same Toilet As Obama
I know this may come as a shock, but the guy who made “birtherism” the foundation of his political career may be incredibly racist — and he may have some issues with Barack Obama specifically. Haberman reports that Trump liked to show visitors what he called a “secret bathroom” off the Oval Office that he claimed he had renovated. Per the Daily Mail:
“‘You understand what I’m talking about?’ Trump said to one guest,” Haberman writes in a passage obtained by DailyMail.com — in a comment the Trump visitor took as code for disgust with his predecessor.
“The statement was strange and vague and open to interpretation as to why he emphasized the changes, but the guest interpreted it to mean Trump did not want to use the same bathroom as his Black predecessor,” Haberman writes.
Incredibly, it appears the bathroom hadn’t been renovated at all. Haberman writes that “only the toilet seat was replaced, which was customary during a change in office holder. The most significant addition he made might have been the collection of hairsprays that some visitors took note of.”
3. Trump Might Have Impersonated a Reporter As President
Sometimes presidents try to ditch their bad habits when they get to the White House. For Obama, that meant giving up cigarettes. For Trump, it meant dropping his decades-old habit of occasionally adopting an alter ego on the phone so he could praise himself to reporters — or so we thought. Trump might have found a job for John Barron in D.C., per the Washington Post:
Haberman describes Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) getting a phone call from an unknown number. “When she answered, the man on the other end identified himself as a Washington Post reporter and said he knew her husband from his investigations in Congress. The name he gave was not one she recognized. The man asked Dingell if she was looking for an apology from Trump. No, she replied, merely that people could be civil to one another. As the man talked, Dingell couldn’t shake the idea that his voice sounded like that of the 45th president.”
4. Clinton Was Warned That Trump Might Poison Her Via Handshake
The Trump allegation at the center of this anecdote isn’t true, but the fact that members of the Clinton team thought it could be is pretty juicy gossip. Per the Post:
“During preparations for the third debate in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s team was disrupted by a warning from the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said he had been told that Russians might try to poison Clinton through a handshake with Trump, to inflict a dramatic health episode during the debate,” Haberman reports.
She says Clinton did not take it seriously, and now–White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who was helping with debate prep, questioned whether Trump could poison Clinton but not himself. “Her communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, took the prospect seriously enough to check it out; the warning turned out to be mere speculation from a historian with no knowledge of Russian plans,” she says.
5. Trump Almost Fired Jared and Ivanka via Tweet
Back in 2018, a Times report by Haberman and Mark Landler said Trump wanted his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner out of the White House, but rather than just firing his two advisers, he asked then–Chief of Staff John Kelly to help him do it. In Confidence Man, Haberman suggests that Kelly, the couple’s nemesis, actually saved them from a Twitter firing. Per the Post:
“In meetings with Kelly and [White House counsel Don] McGahn, Trump gave instructions to essentially fire the pair. Kelly and McGahn resisted, expressing their fear that he would not back them once his daughter and son-in-law pushed back. At one point, Trump was about to write on Twitter that his daughter and son-in-law were leaving the White House. Kelly stopped him, saying Trump had to talk to them directly before doing so. Trump agreed, then never followed up with the conversation,” the book says.
6. Trump Considered Bombing Mexico
The headline and introduction to the Post’s summary of Confidence Man focus on Trump’s interest in bombing Mexican drug labs:
As president, Donald Trump weighed bombing drug labs in Mexico after one of his leading public-health officials came into the Oval Office, wearing a dress uniform, and said such facilities should be handled by putting “lead to target” to stop the flow of illicit substances across the border into the United States.
“He raised it several times, eventually asking a stunned Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether the United States could indeed bomb the labs,” according to a new book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. White House officials said the official, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, often wore his dress uniform for meetings with Trump, which confused him.
This is certainly insane, and Haberman reveals the story had a ridiculous conclusion: “The response from White House aides was not to try to change Trump’s view but to consider asking Giroir not to wear his uniform to the Oval Office anymore.” Yet the tale lacks a bit of oomph because it was already used to promote Esper’s book back in May.
7. Trump Openly Refused to Leave the White House After the 2020 Election
In the days after Trump’s 2020 election loss, he repeatedly told aides he planned to stay in the White House anyway. CNN reports:
“I’m just not going to leave,” Trump told one aide, according to Haberman.
“We’re never leaving,” Trump told another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”
Many were furious when this CNN report was published in early September, accusing Haberman of withholding dangerous information from the public so she could put it in her book. But it was pretty obvious at the time that Trump might try to stay, and as Poynter noted, “we have no idea as to when Haberman learned of this particular detail, nor should it be assumed that not previously reporting Trump’s threats posed a national security threat.”
Still, the criticism got so bad that a Times spokesperson released this statement:
Maggie Haberman took leave from The Times to write her book. In the course of reporting the book, she shared considerable newsworthy information with The Times. Editors decided what news was best suited for our news report.
8. Trump Wanted to Wear a Superman Shirt After Beating COVID
It turns out Trump’s triumphant/contagious mask removal after being discharged from Walter Reed medical center could have been even more insane. Haberman writes in the book that “He came up with a plan he told associates was inspired by the singer James Brown, whom he loved watching toss off his cape while onstage, but it was in line with his love of professional wrestling as well.” She continues, per Axios:
[H]e would be wheeled out of Walter Reed in a chair and, once outdoors, he would dramatically stand up, then open his button-down dress shirt to reveal [a] Superman logo beneath it. (Trump was so serious about it that he called the campaign headquarters to instruct an aide, Max Miller, to procure the Superman shirts; Miller was sent to a Virginia big-box store.)
9. Trump Lied About Taking Classified Documents to Mar-a-Lago
Lying to a reporter isn’t a crime, of course, but the Feds may be interested to know that at the end of the summer, Trump claimed he hadn’t removed anything “of great urgency” from the White House. Haberman wrote in The Atlantic:
He demurred when I asked if he had taken any documents of note upon departing the White House — “nothing of great urgency, no,” he said, before mentioning the letters that Kim Jong-un had sent him, which he had showed off to so many Oval Office visitors that advisers were concerned he was being careless with sensitive material. “You were able to take those with you?” I asked. He kept talking, seeming to have registered my surprise, and said, “No, I think that’s in the archives, but … Most of it is in the archives, but the Kim Jong-un letters … We have incredible things.”
10. Trump Noted White Supremacists Vote Too
When former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) pressed Trump to more forcefully condemn white supremacists, particularly avowed white supremacist David Duke, during his 2016 campaign, Trump said he would — but he was in no rush. “A lot of these people vote,” Trump said, describing some of the white supremacists, before ending the call.
11. Trump Doesn’t Consider Jared a Great Outdoorsman
Kushner suggests in his own book that his father-in-law heaped praise on him all the time. But Haberman reports Trump regularly belittled Kushner, at times complaining that he “sounds like a child” and grousing about “fucking Shabbat” when Kushner was observing religious customs. Trump also suggested his son-in-law wouldn’t make it on a camping trip, according to The Guardian:
“Ivanka wants to rent one of those big RVs,” Trump told bemused aides, according to a new book by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, before gesturing to his daughter’s husband.
“This skinny guy wants to do it. Can you imagine Jared and his skinny ass camping? It’d be like something out of Deliverance.”
According to Haberman, Trump then “made noises mimicking the banjo theme song from the 1972 movie about four men vacationing in rural Georgia who are attacked, pursued, and in one case brutally raped by a local resident.”
12. Trump Joked About RBG’s Imminent Death
Trump doesn’t get a lot of credit for his acting skills, but in light of Haberman’s reporting, you should take another look at that weird video of him learning of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Per the Post:
Trump was often crass and profane about world leaders and others in his orbit. He referred to German prime minister Angela Merkel as “that b- - - -,” according to the book. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was dying in 2020, the book says, Trump would sarcastically raise his hands to the sky in prayer and say, “Please, God. Please watch over her. Every life is precious,” before asking an aide, “How much longer do you think she has?”
13. Trump’s Pizza Hut Commercial Made Marla Maples Throw Up
It’s a problem that comes up in many marriages: one spouse does a Pizza Hut commercial with their ex, and only works up the nerve to tell their current partner after filming it. In Confidence Man, Haberman reveals that Marla Maples did not react well when she learned in 1995 that her husband had teamed up with his first wife Ivana Trump to promote stuffed crust pizza:
Donald Trump, who was 49 at the time, had filmed the Pizza Hut commercial in Trump Tower while Maples was away at Mar-a-Lago. The room where the commercial was filmed was made to look like the inside of the Plaza Hotel, “Confidence Man” says. …
He had not told Maples, and [consultant Alan] Marcus recommended he do so.
After coming clean to his wife, Trump disclosed to Marcus and Ribis that it didn’t go well.
“The poor kid,” he said, according to the book. “I started to tell her and she got sick. She said she had to go.”
Trump’s voice, the book adds, “turned to a nasal falsetto.” He said Maples told him she had to “puke her fucking guts out.”
14. Trump Worried About What Ghislane Maxwell Said About Him
During a July 2020 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump asked aides if Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislane Maxwell, who would later be convicted of sex trafficking and sentenced to 20 years in prison, was gabbing about their friendship to the press. The Guardian reports:
According to a new book by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Trump asked “campaign advisers … ‘You see that article in the [New York] Post today that mentioned me?’
“He kept going, to silence. ‘She say anything about me?’”
15. Trump Assumed Staffers of Color Were Waiters
In addition to making many casually racist remarks throughout his life, the book says Trump kicked off his presidency by treating congressional staffers like the help. Per Rolling Stone:
IT WAS JANUARY of 2017, and a newly inaugurated President Donald Trump held a reception at the White House to meet with top congressional leaders. Hors d’oeuvres were on the menu. And the new president turned to a row of racially diverse Democratic staffers and asked them to retrieve the canapes, according to a new book.
Then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus rushed to correct Trump’s remark, telling the then-president that he’d just addressed top congressional aides before going to find the actual White House waitstaff.
16. Trump Made a Weird Abortion Remark to the U.K. Prime Minister
When Trump first met former British prime minister Theresa May, he made small talk by bringing up America’s thorniest political issue, then pivoting to some light corruption. The Post reports:
“Some people are pro-life, some people are pro-choice. Imagine if some animals with tattoos raped your daughter and she got pregnant?” [Trump] said, according to the book. Pointing to then–Vice-President Mike Pence, he described him as the “tough one” on abortion. He soon moved the topic away from Northern Ireland to an offshore wind project he wanted to block near his property, the book says.
17. Trump Tweeted a Classified Photo Because It Looked ‘Sexy’
Trump wouldn’t let classification rules get in the way of his art (i.e., generating tremendous Twitter content). Per the Post:
In another part of the book, Trump shows his lack of care about classified markings. Aides tried to stop Trump from tweeting a photo of an Iranian facility until they could remove classified details, Haberman writes. But he liked how the image looked and proceeded. “If you take out the classification, that’s the sexy part,” he told aides, she writes.
18. Trump Is Trans- and Homophobic
Trump has endorsed an adviser’s claim that he’s the “most pro-gay president in American history,” but Haberman’s reporting — and plenty of other evidence — says otherwise. According to a book excerpt published by The Daily Beast, Trump has always loved guessing about who might be gay, and during debate prep in 2016, he responded to a hypothetical question from a female transgender student about whether she could use the girl’s bathroom by asking, “Cocked or decocked?”:
Offering up a “blank stare,” the group was taken aback.
“Decocked?” an unspecified individual in the room responded.
Trump then began making “a chopping gesture.” “With cock or without cock?” he said.
At that moment, his advisers sitting within Trump Tower had come to understand that Trump wanted to know if the imaginary student had transitioned and undergone bottom surgery.
“What difference does that make?” an adviser in the room responded to Trump. The now former president shot back that such a determination would impact his answer.
“What if a girl was in the bathroom and someone came in, lifted up a skirt, and a schlong was hanging out,” Trump continued.
19. Trump Pretended He Didn’t Watch the Capitol Riot
Trump claiming he didn’t watch TV on any random day would be suspect, but on January 6, 2021? Haberman wrote in The Atlantic:
I pressed him on what, at that point, was one of the persistent mysteries of January 6, which would become central to the congressional select committee’s investigation: what he had been doing in the hours when the Capitol was under assault from his supporters. He insisted that he was not watching television, despite volumes of witness testimony and other evidence to the contrary. “I didn’t usually have the television on. I’d have it on if there was something. I then later turned it on and I saw what was happening,” he said. He lied throughout that bit of our interview: “I had heard that afterward and actually on the late side. I was having meetings. I was also with Mark Meadows and others. I was not watching television.”
20. Trump Came Up With Tax Return Excuse on the Fly
The Guardian notes that Trump came up with a reason for not releasing his tax returns on the fly, both literally and figuratively. Haberman describes a scene from Trump’s campaign plane during the 2016 Republican primary:
Trump, [Haberman] says, was discussing the issue with aides including Corey Lewandowski, then his campaign manager, and his press secretary, Hope Hicks. The aides, Haberman says, pointed out that as Trump was about to be confirmed as the favourite for the Republican nomination, the problem needed to be addressed.
Haberman writes: “Trump thought for a second about how to ‘get myself out of this’, as he said. He leaned back, before snapping up to a sudden thought.
“‘Well, you know my taxes are under audit. I always get audited,’ Trump said … ‘So what I mean is, well I could just say, ‘I’ll release them when I’m no longer under audit. ‘Cause I’ll never not be under audit.’”
21. Trump Berated Stephanopoulos for Asking About Putin
During the 2016 campaign, ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he had a relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump said he didn’t have one, and the anchor pushed back, noting that he’d said repeatedly that they did have a relationship. Haberman reports that Trump pulled Stephanpoulous aside and laid into him after the interview, per the Reliable Sources newsletter:
“Trump summoned an ABC producer into a small area away from the cameras, where Trump was surrounded by Secret Service agents, and snarled, ‘That was bullshit,’” Haberman reports. “The producer, John Santucci, asked which part of the interview he meant. ‘Russia,’ Trump replied. ‘Eight fucking follow-ups—are you fucking kidding me?’ he thundered. ‘It’s like asking me if I beat my wife. You ask me once, I say ‘Fuck no,’ and we move on. You don’t then ask if I hit her with a fucking baseball bat or a fucking golf club! That was bullshit and you better fucking fix it in the edit.’”
22. Trump Urged Giuliani to ‘Go Wild’
You never need to tell Rudy Giuliani to be kooky; that’s just who he is. But this tidbit confirms that Trump wasn’t the innocent victim of Rudy’s erratic post-2020-election behavior. The Post reports:
Trump gave former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) control of his legal team because his other lawyers were not willing to go far enough to overturn the 2020 election, Haberman writes. “Okay, Rudy, you’re in charge. Go wild, do anything you want. I don’t care,” Trump said over the phone, as he pushed him to help overturn the results. “My lawyers are terrible.” He frequently berated White House counsel Pat Cipollone, according to the book.
This post has been updated.
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