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An Analysis Of New Books About Donald Trump's Presidency


This month has brought a wave of new books written by American journalists on the final year of the presidency of Donald Trump. The books offer a vivid and often disturbing picture of life inside the White House in 2020 and especially in the first month of 2021. Joining us now to discuss these books and what they say about Trump and our times is NPR's Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent on the Washington Desk. Ron, why all of a sudden, all these books, all in a month?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: To some degree, it's a race to the bookstore and a race to the radio and TV studios - probably some concern involved about beating other books that may still be coming by other authors. It also takes time to produce a book, and lots happened very late in the year last year and early this year - the election, the pushback from the president, the insurrection on January 6 and then another impeachment trial.

So earlier this month, we started seeing excerpts and leaks from Michael Bender of The Wall Street Journal. He's their senior White House correspondent. His book is called "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story Of How Trump Lost." That triggered a similar process with other books by authors of previous Trump books who now have new ones - two Washington Post reporters, Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker, their book is called "I Alone Can Fix It," and well-known magazine writer Michael Wolff, whose book is called "Landslide."

MARTÍNEZ: Ron, those titles sound like things Trump would say or maybe did say.

ELVING: Yes, he famously said all those things, and, of course, none of them is factual. But we should note the former president also cooperated in each of these three books. That's not always been the case with books about Trump. These all include fresh face-to-face interview material with him. Now, his people have issued denials regarding some of the statements and some of the information in these books. But the former president was willing to sit down and talk with all four of these authors and probably others as well at his resort at Mar-a-Lago.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so what does the former president have to say for himself?

ELVING: He generally hit his talking points and grievances and grudges about the election, about how he feels it was stolen and how he feels he's been treated very unfairly. He does not soften his tone at all or get historical in his perspective, which suggests someone perhaps maintaining political viability. Of course, that raises the question of him running again in 2024. The general consensus seems to be here that he will keep that option open as long as possible to maximize his influence in the party and in political affairs in general and also his fundraising ability.

MARTÍNEZ: And we already knew that the Trump White House was tumultuous at the very least. And taken together, Ron, what do these books change about what we already know about the Trump presidency?

ELVING: They are primarily extending what we knew deeper into the details and the detailed history of 2020 - the pandemic response, then the campaign, the disastrous rally in Tulsa, the street protests after the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, the debates with Joe Biden, election night and then, of course, a great deal of emphasis on the 11 weeks during which Trump tried to stay in office and convince the country he had won.

MARTÍNEZ: Including the allegation that he wanted to use the military to stay in office.

ELVING: Yes, most extensively in the Rucker-Leonnig book. They have copious material from Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about Trump's interest, at least, in using regular troops against street protesters after George Floyd and then his maneuverings around the end of the year regarding control of the Pentagon. So Trump's spokesperson has denied he ever considered using the military to stay in power, but this is one of the most interesting episodes, particularly of the "I Alone Can Fix It" story.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, that's NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks a lot.

ELVING: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.