Review of Too Much and Never Enough, How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, by Mary L. Trump
The title and subtitles of Mary L. Trump’s 2020 book are an indication that this document could acquire historical importance. Mary L. Trump is US President Donald Trump’s niece and has a doctorate in clinical psychology. Donald Trump was the fourth of five children in the family raised by Frederick Christ Trump and his wife Mary Anne McLeod Trump, referred to in the book as Fred and Mary, respectively. To write her book, Mary Lea Trump has relied on her memory of events in the Trump family, on interviews and conversations with many people, on articles in the media and on some legal documents in her possession.
Siblings in Fred and Mary Trump’s family were Maryanne born in 1937, Freddy (or Fred, Jr. ) born in 1938, Elizabeth born in 1942, Donald born in 1946 and Robert born in 1948. Fred was a real-estate developer operating in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York City. His company, Trump Management, owned dozens of apartment buildings and rented out thousands of apartments. It is now known that patriarch Trump’s real-estate empire had at one time a value approaching one billion dollars.
The internal Trump family life was less brilliant. In 1949 Fred’s wife, Mary, underwent hysterectomy along with the loss of her ovaries. She developed osteoporosis which over the subsequent years caused her to often suffer from broken bones. Frequently she had to spend time in a hospital and was therefore absent from home. The consequences for the children were dramatic because Fred was an intense businessman who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. As a result, both parents were often absent. A live-in housekeeper looked after the children as much as she could. Author Mary L. wrote: ”The five kids were essentially motherless”.
This meant that the father, Fred, ideally should have been more present to raise the kids, but that was not the case. Author Mary L. went further in describing the difficult family situation; she described Fred as ”a high-functioning sociopath”. Sociopathy is not rare, it affects three percent of the population. Mary L. wrote: ”Seventy-five percent of those diagnosed are men. Symptoms of sociopathy include a lack of empathy, a facility for lying, an indifference to right and wrong, abusive behavior, and a lack of interest in the rights of others.”
Those who have followed President Donald Trump’s political decisions will immediately see a relation with the symptoms of sociopathy, especially his lack of empathy.
When their mother Mary started having severe health problems Donald was only two and a half years old, and Robert nine months old, so that they were extremely vulnerable. Since the father was absent most of the time, these two toddlers were often deprived of their source of comfort, namely their mother. Mary L. wrote: ”In order to cope, Donald began to develop powerful but primitive defenses, marked by an increasing hostility to others and a seeming indifference to his mother’s absence and father’s neglect”.
The oldest son, Freddy or Fred, Jr., was remarkably different from his father Fred. He became interested in boating and fishing with his friends, and in flying, all topics that Fred had no interest in. Mary L. wrote: ”Fred dismantled his oldest son by devaluing and degrading every aspect of his personality and his natural abilities until all that was left was self-recrimination and a desperate need to please a man who had no use for him.”
Donald had a much better chance of succeeding because he became interested in his father’s buildings which were raking in profits of millions of dollars every year. Nevertheless, Fred managed to prevent Donald from developing fully normally. Author Mary L. wrote: ”he short-circuited Donald’s ability to develop and experience the full spectrum of human emotion. By limiting Donald’s access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it.”
Regarding Donald’s behavior at home, Mary L. wrote: ”Mary couldn’t control him at all, and Donald disobeyed her at every turn.” Donald was also getting in trouble at the Kew-Forest private school. Finally, over Donald’s objections, Fred and Mary enrolled him in the New York Military Academy, a private school 60 miles north of New York City.
Mary L. Trump has very much resented the fact that Freddy was not well supported in the Trump family and was even severely devalued. But there is more that has darkened the history of the Trump family. In 1991, at age 86, patriarch Fred ordered that his will, first written in 1984, be revised. The modified 1991 will stipulated that each one of his grandchildren, including Mary L. and her only brother Fred Christ Trump, III, were each awarded 202 000 dollars.
But unbeknownst to them until patriarch Fred’s death in 1999, the 1991 will awarded to the four siblings Maryanne, Elizabeth, Donald and Robert ownership of the real-estate empire in Brooklyn and Queen’s. What about Freddy’s share then wondered Mary L. She called Robert, the youngest sibling, and he told her that she had to sign. Mary L. wrote on page 168: ”And he did need my signature in order for the will to be released for probate. Though it’s true that my grandfather disinherited me and my brother — that is, instead of splitting what would have been my father’s 20 percent share of his estate between me and my brother, he had divided it evenly among his four other children — we were included in a bequest made separately to all of the grandchildren, an amount that proved to be less than a tenth of one percent of what my aunts and uncles had inherited.”
Mary L. and her brother Fritz informed the four siblings that they were not going to sign off on patriarch Fred’s will until they knew more. As Fred’s grandchildren, they did possess a share in one of the empire’s companies, namely Midland Associates. Robert’s reaction was to threaten them. He told them: ”Listen, if you don’t sign this will, if you think of suing us, we will bankrupt Midland Associates and you will be paying taxes on money you don’t have for the rest of your lives.”
Nine months after patriarch Fred’s death in 1999 Mary L. Trump and Fred Christ Trump, III, filed papers contesting the validity of the 1991 will. The four siblings retaliated by revoking the medical insurance that Mary L. and Fritz had had since they were born through one of patriarch Fred’s companies. After about two years, with legal bills piling up, Mary L. and Fritz decided to settle out of court with the four siblings. In arriving at a figure for the financial settlement, the lawyer representing the four siblings claimed that the patriarch Fred’s estate was only worth around thirty million dollars. Years later, Mary L. and Fritz learned that the estate was worth close to one billion dollars.
In 2017 a reporter for the New York Times by the name of Susanne Craig came and knocked on Mary L. Trump’s door. Ms. Craig wanted to know more about the settlement that she and Fritz had arrived at a few years earlier. At first Mary L. refused to talk to her. But a few months later, having fractured a bone in her left foot, Mary L. was forced to stay home and had time to re-examine the conditions of the settlement with the four siblings. In 2004 the four siblings had sold most of patriarch Fred’s empire for 705 million dollars. That was very far from the 30 million dollars that had formed the basis for calculating what Mary and Fritz could get.
Seeking to learn more about the financial history of Fred’s empire, Mary discovered through her lawyer that there were boxes of legal papers that belonged to her and Fritz and that were stored in one of the lawyer’s firm buildings. After a few days of sorting and identifying legal and accounting papers, Mary drove away with 19 boxes of legal documents and delivered them to the New York Times.
Author Mary L. wrote on page 190 of her book: ”On October 2, 2018, the New York Times published an almost 14,000-word article, the longest in its history, revealing the long litany of potentially fraudulent and criminal activities my grandfather, aunts and uncles had engaged in.”
On page 190 Mary L. goes on to write: ”Donald’s lawyer, Charles J. Harder, predictably denied the allegations but the investigative reporters laid out a devastating case. Over the course of Fred’s life, he and my grandmother had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to their children. While my grandfather was alive, Donald alone had received the equivalent of $413 million, much of it through questionable means: loans that he had never repaid, investments in properties that had never matured; essentially gifts that had never been taxed. That did not include the $170 million he had received through the sale of my grandfather’s empire. The amounts of money the article mentioned were mind-boggling, and the four siblings had benefited for decades.”
Showing the devastating power of written words, consider what we learn form page 190 of Mary L. Trump’s book. Donald Trump who had said in several interviews and documentary films that he had received ”a mere million dollars” from his father (see. p. 197), had in fact received 413 million dollars. That is the size of the credibility gap that is one of his trademarks.
In his debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, Donald Trump had boasted that he did not pay much in taxes because he is ”smart”. The future will tell us if he is smarter than the lawyers working for the Internal Revenue Service in Washington.
Michel Duguay studied physics at the Université de Montréal and at Yale University, graduating in 1966 with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. He worked for 21 years at AT&T Bell Telephone Labs, then at Laval University from which he retired in January 2020. He has a keen interest in belief systems underlying major decisions made by political leaders and their social support groups.