Former US President Donald Trump wants “revenge on President Biden, the media and on a whole range of people”. That’s the reason he wants to run for presidency in 2024 so that he can continue to raise money and get attention, both of which disappear if he does not.
“I think Trump misses the pomp and legal protections that the presidency afforded him. I also think he wants revenge on Biden, and on the media, and on a whole range of people. And he wants to be able to continue to raise money and get attention, both of which disappear if he doesn’t run,” says Maggie Haberman of the New York Times (NYT), who has been covering Trump for a long time.
“What I’m not clear on is that if he really wants to wage another campaign, in part because he’s that much older and in part because he seems less engaged generally,” says Haberman in her book “Confidence Man” being released on Tuesday.
But that will reveal itself in the coming weeks or I think the criticism about too much coverage of Donald Trump felt very real to his primary opponents in 2016, and often to the Clinton campaign. But I would argue that he was leading the polls in the primaries, says The NYT in a newsletter mailed to the media and subscribers today quoting her where a NYT columnist David Leonhardt reviews her book.
Donald Trump is the leading candidate to be the Republican nominee for President — for the third straight election — and he’s also a subject of multiple criminal investigations. My colleague Maggie Haberman has been covering him the entire time and has written a book about him, “Confidence Man”, being published on Tuesday. She often broke stories in ‘The Times’ that she uncovered while reporting for the book, says Leonhardt in the newsletter.
Q: David asked the author that since she spent more time covering and interviewing Trump and when she was a New York Post reporter in the 1990s, she had claimed that Trump lies a lot. How is he in reality when he is actually not confined by reality?
A: Trump is a former President and a potential future candidate, with huge influence over the party. Among other things, interviewing him helps illuminate how he keeps that influence: his obsession with us-versus-them politics, with salesmanship and with presenting a version of himself that is often very different from who he actually is. Additionally, there are moments of unintended candor by him, says Haberman.
Q: Trump’s comments about the letters from North Korean supremo Kim Jong-un that he apparently kept after leaving the White House gas gotten a lot of attention recently. Haberman says that it was a question I asked him on a lark, during our third interview for my book, held at his club at Bedminster, N.J., on September 16, 2021.
A: I asked him if he had taken any “memento” documents from the White House, knowing how proud he had been of items like his letters from the authoritarian Kim Jong-un, she said.
Trump’s immediate response was to deny having taken anything significant, saying, “Nothing of great urgency, no,” before — unsolicited — mentioning the Kim Jong-un letters, appearing to suggest he had them in his possession. A few months later, we learned he had a huge trove of White House material, including dozens of individual documents with classified markings.
The newsletter said that it was a pattern with Trump that he was certainly not being straightforward. But he was also being just vague and confusing enough that it was hard to pin down exactly what he was saying. As the journalist Joe Klein has written, referring to this larger pattern, “He deployed words with a litigator’s precision — even if it sounded the opposite.”
That’s exactly it, Haberman said adding that one of the difficulties of interviewing him, or tracking what he says, is he is often both all over the place and yet somewhat careful not to cross certain lines. “This was a hallmark of his business career, when he would tell employees not to take notes, although behind closed doors with employees he tended to be clearer in his directives.”
At his rally at the Ellipse on January 6, he told people to go “peacefully and patriotically” but also directed them to the Capitol with apocalyptic language about the election. Frequently, people around him understand the implications of words, even when he’s not being direct, Haberman said.
Q: Trump often said he was not watching TV on January 6, the day of the Capital Hills insurrection, so, isn’t there widespread documentation to the contrary?
A: Trump’s aides told The Times that day and in the following days that he was watching television, and a public hearing held this year by the House committee investigating January 6 documented that he was watching television.
“It represents two things, I think, Haberman said that its Trump’s desire to construct an alternate reality, and his particular sensitivity to anyone suggesting he watches a lot of television, which he associates with people diminishing his intelligence (even though he watches a very large amount of television).
How does one get to interview Trump? says Haberman. “I try to get specific pieces of information, answers that only he would have, even with all the caveats about what can be believed coming out of his mouth. One example was when I asked if he would be facing the same legal troubles if Robert Morgenthau, the former Manhattan District Attorney, still held the office. His answer was no, because Morgenthau was “a friend of mine”. That was revealing about Trump’s engagement with prosecutors, as he has escaped one investigation after another over years.
Trump has a “relentless desire to hold the media’s gaze”. Do we cover him too much? Says Haberman that now, he’s a former President with a huge following, as he undermines faith in elections and embraces conspiracy theories. I’m not sure there’s a good argument for ignoring him, because he still gets heard through other means. There is a good argument for contextualising him.