This past Sunday, news broke that the president’s niece, Mary Trump, was on track to publish a “harrowing and salacious” book this summer about her world-famous uncle. By Sunday night, the president had been privately briefed on what he could expect from the upcoming book. By Tuesday, he had begun discussing siccing his lawyers on his niece.
According to two people familiar with the situation, Donald Trump has told people close to him that he’s getting his lawyers to look into the Mary Trump matter, to explore what could be done in the way of legal retribution—or at least a threat—likely in the form of a cease and desist letter. One of the sources with knowledge of the situation said that in the past couple of days, the president appeared irked by news of her book and at one point mentioned that Mary had signed an NDA years ago.
Mary Trump signed an NDA following a 2001 settlement after litigation disputing Fred Trump’s estate, according to people familiar with the matter. That NDA states she is not allowed to publish anything regarding the litigation or her relationship with Donald, Maryanne, and Robert.
It’s not clear what type of response the president or his personal legal team will ultimately pursue. But his administration and his outside counsel have been busy during this tumultuous election year—one already ravaged by a cratered economy, a mass protest movement against police brutality and institutional racism, and the coronavirus pandemic—combating other new manuscripts and memoirs authored by top Trump associates turned bitter enemies.
Trump administration lawyers have sued the president’s former national security adviser John Bolton in an effort to stop his book, another title from Simon & Schuster, from being published later this month. And on Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed an injunction to prevent Bolton’s work from being published, insisting that there was classified material within it (a charge Bolton’s reps deny). In late April, Trump’s lawyer shot off a letter to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, demanding Cohen cease writing his “tell-all” book about his onetime boss. That letter, sent on behalf of the Trump Organization, cited Cohen’s own nondisclosure agreement, knowledgeable sources said.
President Trump’s go-to legal eagle in the Cohen matter and others has been celebrity attorney and Gawker-killer Charles Harder—who in the past the president has sicced on Lawrence O’Donnell, NBC, and CNN, among others. Called for comment by The Daily Beast on Tuesday afternoon, Harder promptly hung up the phone.
Simon & Schuster declined to comment on any potential legal action, and the White House did not provide comment on this story by press time.
Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man is slated to be published on July 28. Late on Monday night, following The Daily Beast’s story, the publisher of Mary Trump’s book, Simon & Schuster, posted the book on Amazon, where it quickly soared up the charts with pre-sale orders.
In the book, Mary Trump is not only expected to discuss difficult internal family dynamics and offer revelations about a younger Donald Trump; she is also expected to out herself as a primary source behind a Pulitzer-winning New York Times investigation into her uncle’s taxes.
At the time of the Times story’s publication in late 2018, Trump had wondered aloud who the sources were: if it was a leak from within the federal government, or if it could be someone close to him, perhaps even in his family or someone who’d worked at the Trump Organization, according to a former senior administration official who heard him complain about the Times investigation nearly two years ago. In public, the president would decry the story as a “very old, boring, and often told hit piece on me,” while not actually denying the key facts in the article on Trump family tax schemes.
But even in the very early days of his ultimately successful 2016 presidential campaign, some of Trump’s staff would come across parts of the Mary Trump story, but shrugged them off as insignificant to the Republican primary.
“In preparation for then-Mr. Trump’s campaign, in doing research on his background, the issue of his lawsuit with... his niece on the inheritance of his deceased brother came up,” said Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Trump.
“It wasn’t an issue that needed to be preemptively addressed with preparation because, more to the point, the attack on then-candidate Trump would be more along the lines of, ‘You’re not self-made, you were born rich’… It could be, for instance, [a subject for] a deep-dive piece by The Washington Post or The New York Times, but it would not have affected GOP primary votes. So I didn’t discuss it with the then-candidate at the time, but I did discuss with him the general idea that other Republican primary candidates may accuse him on a debate stage of not being self-made.”
In a sign of the decades-long animosity Mary had held toward her uncle, when Trump won the 2016 election a Twitter account bearing her name tweeted, “This is one of the worst nights of my life. What is wrong with this country? I fear the American experiment has failed.”
And with her book on the horizon, veterans and current members of the Trump orbit are expecting this one to sting.
“Based on my experience, if you’re asking me which book the president would be more upset about, the Mary Trump one or the John Bolton one, it would be Mary Trump’s,” Nunberg added. “It’s about family, it’s a personal betrayal. The president has dealt with disgruntled past employees saying things and criticizing him. But in all my research—and I’m very well read on the Trumps—I’ve never seen something like this.”