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Confidence Man review: Maggie Haberman takes down Trump | Books


New York Times Trump whisperer Maggie Haberman delivers. His latest book is well over 600 pages of context, scoop and drama. It’s a political epic, tracing Donald Trump’s journey from the streets of Queens to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, his Elbe. There, the 45th President holds court and broods and plots his return.

Haberman gives Trump and those close to him plenty of voice and chord. The result is a cacophonous symphony. Confidence Man informs and entertains but is absolutely not funny at the same time. Trumpworld features a reptilian reality TV tableau made Lord of the Flies.

For just one example, Mark Meadows, Trump’s last White House chief of staff, is portrayed as erratic and detestable. Then there is the family. Haberman recounts how, after the 2016 election, Melania Trump won a renegotiated prenuptial agreement. Haberman also describes Trump repeatedly dumping on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. If only he sounded like Tom Brady and spoke in a deeper register. If only Ivanka hadn’t converted to Judaism.

The abuse becomes absurd even a kind of baroque. According to Haberman, during a 2020 campaign strategy meeting, Trump hinted that Kushner could be brutally attacked, even raped, if he ever went camping: Can you imagine Jared and his skinny ass camping? It would be like something out of Deliverance.

The reader, however, shouldn’t mourn Jared. In Habermans’ story, he’s the kid who was born on third base and mistakes his good fortune for a triple. For his part, Kushner is shown trashing Steve Bannon, the far-right ideologue who was campaign chairman and chief White House strategist but was kicked out within months.

Haberman overhears Kushner happily asking a visitor to the White House: Did you see that I cut Bannon’s balls?

To quote Peter Navarro, like Bannon now a former Trump official facing impeachment, nepotism and feces are getting worse.

I love being with her, says Trump. She’s like my psychiatrist. Haberman is neither flattered nor amused

It turns out that Bannon’s testicles grew back. Like Charlie Kushner, Jared’s father, he was pardoned by Trump. Bannon also helped spread the big lie that Trump won the election, stoking the attack on Capitol Hill.

These days, Bannon awaits sentencing, found guilty of contempt of Congress. He also faces criminal fraud charges stemming from an alleged charity scam at the border wall. In the Trump universe, there’s always a scam.

For Confidence Man, Haberman interviewed Trump three times. He confesses that he is drawn to her, like a moth to a flame.

I love being with her, he says. She’s like my psychiatrist.

The daughter of legendary New York Times reporter Clyde Haberman is neither flattered nor amused. She sees through her subject.

The reality is that he treats everyone as if they were his psychiatrists, writes Haberman. All offer him a chance to let off steam or test reactions or gauge how his statements play out or find out how he feels.

Also, Trump and Haberman haven’t always had a relationship. When he was president, she interviewed him and he attacked her. In April 2018, Trump tweeted that Haberman was a Clinton lackey he didn’t know or speak with, a third-rate reporter. He called her Maggot Haberman and even considered getting her phone records to identify her sources.

Trump is 76 but he remains the envious boy of an outer New York neighborhood, his face pressed against the glass of Midtown. Haberman isn’t the only Manhattan reporter he’s wooed and attacked. In 2018, he threatened Michael Wolff for writing Fire and Fury, Trump’s book that started it all. Later, he hosted Wolff at Mar-a-Lago.

Haberman brilliantly captures Trump’s lack of elbows. For just one example, according to Haberman, the President chose to enrich his first meeting with a foreign leader, Theresa May, by asking the British Prime Minister to imagine if tattooed animals raped your daughter and she became pregnant. .

Each of Trump’s three Supreme Court justices voted to overturn Roe v Wade. One wonders how the young woman in hypothetical Trumps would feel about that.

Haberman also pierces Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. All that talk about an audit was mere dodge, born on a campaign plane.

As Super Tuesday approached, the crucial primary day in March 2016, aides confronted Trump about his taxes. The candidate, writes Haberman, thought for a second about how to get me out of there, as he said. He leaned back, before launching into a sudden thought.

Trump sued by New York attorney general over fraudulent video

Well, you know my taxes are being audited. I am still audited. So what I mean is I could just say, I’ll release them when I’m no longer audited. Because I will never be audited.

These days, the Trump Organization is facing charges of tax evasion. Along with Ivanka, Don Jr and Eric, his children from his first marriage, Trump is also being sued for fraud by Letitia James, the New York Attorney General.

As a young journalist, Haberman made two stints at the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship American tabloid. Murdoch’s estate is planning his Lachlan, he told Trump in Confidence Man. The same goes for Tucker Carlson, the headline-grabbing Fox News host and Vladimir Putin’s kindred spirit.

According to Haberman, Carlson met with Kushner and asked Trump to commute Roger Stones’ conviction for perjury.

What happened to Roger Stone should never happen to anyone in this country, regardless of their political party, Carlson reportedly thundered, threatening to go public.

Stone has since become a central figure in the January 6 insurgency. Apparently, he has a weakness for violence. For some Republicans, a commitment to law and order is elastic.

As for the attempt to nullify the election and the attack on the Capitol it fueled, Trump’s fate rests with prosecutors in Washington DC and Fulton County, Georgia.

That old campaign song from 2016, Lock her up? It carries its own irony.




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