The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game

The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game

by Ronald Kessler


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The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game by Ronald Kessler

The unvarnished and unbiased inside story of President Donald Trump and his White House by New York Times bestselling author Ronald Kessler
Based on exclusive interviews with the president and his staff, The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game tells the real story of what Donald Trump is like, who influences him, how he makes decisions, what he says about the people around him, and how he operates when the television lights go off, while portraying the inside story of the successes that have already brought solid results as well as the stumbles that have turned off even longtime supporters and undercut his agenda.

The Trump White House reveals:
•  Trump aides Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have been responsible for Trump’s most disastrous decisions. Trump is aware that his daughter and son-in-law are problems and has hinted to them that they should go back to New York. Seeing Jared on TV, Trump said, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”
•  First Lady Melania Trump has a tremendous impact on policy and strategy. She sits in on meetings and is widely admired by aides for her judgment.
•  Kellyanne Conway is the No. 1 White House leaker.
•  Trump’s Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles proposed withdrawing protection from some Trump family members and aides to save money. Horrified White House staffers shot down the idea.
•  Trump has told friends that billionaires are constantly asking him to fix them up with longtime Communications Director Hope Hicks, a former model, but he says he refuses.
•  Trump calls certain reporters directly, feeding them stories attributed to “a senior White House official,” creating the impression that the White House leaks even more than it already does.

Never before has an American president had so much impact on the country and the world in so short a time as Donald Trump. Yet no president has stirred so much controversy, dominating media coverage and conversation both pro and con.
Months after Trump took office, consumer confidence hit a seventeen-year high, unemployment plummeted to the lowest level in seventeen years, and the stock market zoomed to repeated record highs.
At the same time, ISIS was nearly defeated, Arab countries banded together to stop financing terrorists and promoting radical Islamic ideology, and Trump’s decision to send missiles into Syria because of its use of chemical weapons and his strident warnings to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made it clear to adversaries that they take on the United States at their peril.
Yet for all the media coverage, Trump remains a cipher. Ronald Kessler has known Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for two decades and understands him better than any other journalist. The book includes an exclusive interview with Trump, the only interview he says he has given or will give for a book as president. Crammed with media-grabbing revelations. The Trump White House is the unvarnished and unbiased inside story that answers the question: Who is Donald Trump?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525575719
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 20,629
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of The First Family De¬tail, The Secrets of the FBI, In the President's Secret Service, and The CIA at War. A former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post investigative reporter, Kessler has won eighteen journalism awards, including two George Polk Awards: one for national reporting and one for community service. He was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine. Kessler lives in Potomac, Maryland, with his wife, author Pamela Kessler.

Read an Excerpt



For twenty-­six years, Norma Foerderer was Donald Trump’s top aide. When she joined the Trump Organization in 1981, he had only seven other employees. During her career with him, Foerderer oversaw almost every aspect of the mogul’s business, including public relations, hiring and firing, and negotiating book deals and contracts. No one knew so well both the personal and business side of Donald Trump.

In the only in-­depth interview she ever gave, Foerderer, who has since died, told me there are two Donald Trumps: one is the Trump that appears to the public, making often outrageous comments on television to get attention; the other is the real Trump only insiders know.

“I mean Donald can be totally outrageous, but outrageous in a wonderful way that gets him coverage,” Foerderer told me. “That persona sells his licensed products and his condominiums. You know Donald’s never been shy, and justifiably so, in talking about how wonderful his buildings or his golf clubs are.”

The private Trump, on the other hand, is “the dearest, most thoughtful, most loyal, most caring man,” Foerderer said. That caring side inspires loyalty and is one of the secrets to his success.

Confirming Foerderer’s point, Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal that “if you are a little different or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.” Trump followed his own advice in spades.

Illustrating the difference between the public and private Trump, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3.2 million business owners, announced during the campaign that its members would be boycotting all Trump’s properties following his statements on illegal immigrants and his vow to build a wall across the entire Mexican border. But Trump subsequently met privately with Javier Palomarez, the chamber’s CEO.

“There were no bombastic statements of any sorts,” Palomarez said admiringly on CNN as he left the meeting. “It’s kind of interesting, the dichotomy between the private Donald Trump and the public Donald Trump. He listened a lot more than he spoke.”

Yet even back when he was running his business, Trump played employees off against each other and could erupt in unmitigated anger at them. For nearly three decades, Anthony P. “Tony” Senecal was Trump’s personal butler at Mar-­a-­Lago, Trump’s home and club in Palm Beach, Florida. When Trump hired Bernd Lembcke to be the managing director of his newly opened club, he introduced Senecal to him.

“He’s mine,” Trump told Lembcke. “Nobody touches him but me.”

From that day on, Trump would give Senecal instructions that Lembcke, given his job title, should have been carrying out, including plans for renovation and suggestions on employees who should be fired. According to Senecal, Lembcke steadfastly ignored him, never carrying on a conversation with him. “It was like he would see me, and he would see the wall,” Senecal says.

As with everything else in his empire, Trump exaggerated Senecal’s importance. Senecal is a former mayor of Martinsburg, West Virginia. He came to national attention when the Washington Post accompanied a front-­page feature story about changes in West Virginia with a photo of Senecal sitting with his cat Morris on the shoeshine stand of his tobacco shop.

“When I first started, I wasn’t the servant type,” Senecal told me. “It was touch-­and-­go, until Mr. Trump found out I was a former mayor. That made me a cut above. Then,” Tony said wryly, “I became the mayor of the wealthiest and largest town in West Virginia.” In fact, Martinsburg is neither.

One Saturday, alerted that there was a visitor, Senecal opened the door at the main entrance to Mar-­a-­Lago to find Martha Stewart standing there. She had bicycled over to the club, and she asked if she could take a tour. Happy to oblige, Senecal asked her to return the next day at three p.m. when it would be convenient for Senecal, whom Trump eventually named the Mar-­a-­Lago historian.

When Trump came by later that day, Senecal told him about Martha Stewart and the tour he had set up for Sunday.

“Fine, just treat her right,” Trump said.

But hours later, Senecal went to see if Trump needed anything. He encountered his boss outside the master bedroom in what is known as the Pine Hall, a glittering antechamber with a crystal chandelier and murals that had once graced the walls of homes in France.

Without warning, Trump lit into the butler, screaming at him and calling him a “dumb ass” for scheduling the tour at three p.m. when workers would be shifting furniture around. Trump yelled that Senecal instead should have scheduled the tour for lunchtime, when well-­heeled club members would be on hand to impress and be impressed by Martha Stewart. A perfectionist, Trump could not stand it when things were not done his way.

As her husband was tearing into Senecal, Melania entered the Pine Hall.

“I don’t think you should talk to Tony in that tone,” Melania said to Trump in her usual soft voice.

Stewart had not left a phone number nor said where she was staying. But Senecal used what he calls the “Palm Beach butler network” to find her and reschedule the tour for around noon the next day.

Trump never said another word about it. But the next morning when he and Senecal were in the mansion’s living room, Trump, without explanation, handed him two thousand dollars in twenties.

“It was his way of apologizing,” Senecal says.

Despite the occasional blistering tirades, Senecal says he loved working for Trump, who would act as if nothing had happened after delivering an attack. To be sure, giving his butler cash in twenties was strange, but, “Everything about Mr. Trump is strange,” Senecal says.

Trump was often generous with praise for employees at all levels when they were doing a good job. He would make it a point to compliment them in front of their bosses.

“He keeps a wad of hundred-­dollar bills in his pants pocket and will distribute them widely to groundskeepers, plumbers, or other low-­level employees when he likes the job they are doing,” Senecal says.

There are three things none of Trump’s employees should do, Senecal says: “You don’t steal from him, you don’t lie to him, and you don’t embarrass him.”

Senecal says Melania’s quiet comment and her husband’s later remorse is typical of her influence. Almost always, Melania delivers her advice in private, but occasionally, Senecal would pick up on their exchanges.

“Melania rules the roost,” Senecal says.

Some years ago, when Senecal’s home air-­conditioning system gave out, Trump had it replaced. When Senecal paid his own way to attend Trump’s father’s funeral in New York in June 1999, Trump was so touched he ordered his pilot to fly the butler back to Palm Beach, a passenger of one. The cost for jet fuel and maintenance for the flight to Florida and the return was forty thousand dollars.

When Senecal needed surgery to implant a stent, Trump called him and asked, “So when do you go under the knife?”

“Tomorrow,” said Senecal.

“Well, if you don’t make it, don’t worry about it. You’ve had a good life,” Trump said. And then he said, “Listen, I don’t want you going back to your place. You come and recuperate at Mar-­a-­Lago.”

Trump will hand out hundred-­dollar bills to janitors or McDonald’s cashiers and write checks for tens of thousands of dollars to people he has learned are in distress. But one of the White House media staff’s frustrations was that Trump did not want the public to see this side of him and know what he is like behind the scenes, Spicer says.

“He’ll walk into a room with a bunch of workers, and gather them up and hand them out each a hundred-­dollar bill,” an aide says. “There’s no camera there. Those are the moments people just don’t see, like when he’s telling us about how an emotional event has impacted him, and he doesn’t want anyone to see it. He likes to display the tough, rough exterior.”

In the same way, Ronald Reagan quietly wrote personal checks to people who had written him with hard-­luck stories.

“Reagan was famous for firing up Air Force jets on behalf of children who needed transport for kidney operations,” says Frank J. Kelly, who drafted Reagan’s presidential messages. “These are things you never knew about. He never bragged about it. I hand-­carried checks for four thousand or five thousand dollars to people who had written him. He would say, ‘Don’t tell people. I was poor myself.’ ”

Like Reagan, Trump never forgot what it is like to be down and out. That was in the 1990s when his companies were $3.4 billion in the hole, and he was personally liable for $830 million of that debt, giving him a negative net worth.

One day, Trump was walking along Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower with his then-­wife Marla Maples.

“I pointed across the street to a man holding a cup and with a seeing eye dog,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Comeback.

“Do you know who that is?” Trump asked Marla.

“Yes, Donald. He’s a beggar. Isn’t it too bad? He looks so sad!” she replied.

“You’re right. He’s a beggar, but he’s worth about $900 million more than me,” Trump said to her.

When Trump came up with the idea of branding his condos and office buildings back in the 1980s, everyone in the real estate business thought he was nuts: traditionally, obscure companies that no one had ever heard of sold and leased real estate.

But the Trump brand came to stand for quality, prestige, and success. In the same way, Trump brands his presidency, marketing himself by making provocative comments to get attention. That brand consists of the tough-­guy image Trump wants to project, never admitting a mistake or showing his softer side, keeping his emotions in check, always counterpunching when he is attacked.

Whether in real estate or politics, Trump sees himself as the Lone Ranger, always fighting for what he believes in against the establishment. To Trump, admitting mistakes or showing an emotional side is a sign of weakness. As president, Trump wanted staff photographer Shealah Craighead to photograph him mainly at official functions and from a distance, gazing out a window, never betraying emotion. His typical facial expression is to set his mouth in a moue, somewhere between a pucker and a pout. It says, I’m a handsome guy; I’m going to WIN.

Trump’s tough guy image goes back to his childhood growing up in Queens, New York, where he could erupt in anger, pummeling another boy or smashing a baseball bat when he struck out. In school, he misbehaved so often that the initials DT became his friends’ shorthand for detention.

Trump has said that his primary focus in elementary school was “creating mischief, because for some reason, I liked to stir things up, and I liked to test people”—­not out of maliciousness but rather aggressiveness.

“Who could forget him?” said Ann Trees, who taught at Kew-­Forest School, where Trump was a student through seventh grade. “He was headstrong and determined. He would sit with his arms folded with this look on his face—­I use the word surly—­almost daring you to say one thing or another that wouldn’t settle with him,” according to the Washington Post book Trump Revealed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher.

His older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, described Trump as extremely rebellious.

“He tested the rules and the teachers to their limits,” said Barry, now a senior circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. A camp counselor said Trump had an “ornery” disposition. He said he would “fight back all the time.”

“He had a reputation for saying anything that came into his head,” said Donald Kass, who was a schoolmate. When Trump misidentified Rocca, the pro wrestler, Kass recalled, “We would laugh at him and tell him he was wrong, and he’d say he was right. The next time, he would make the same mistake, and it would be the same thing all over again.”

Trump wanted to be first at everything and wanted everyone to know he was first. His highly competitive nature came out in his love of baseball.

“I like to hear the crowd give cheers, so loud and noisy to my ears,” Donald wrote as a poem in his yearbook. “When the score is five to five, I feel like I could cry. And when they get another run, I feel like I could die . . .”

To teach him discipline, Trump’s father sent him to military school when he was in the eighth grade. Like Trump, Fred Trump, a builder and developer, was a perfectionist. He wore a jacket and tie even at home. While his father could be sharply critical if tasks were not performed perfectly, Trump respected him and has described him as his hero. His mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, was charming, vivacious, and shrewd. Like her son, she enjoyed socializing and being the center of attention.

Trump’s self-­destructive moves—­from the firing of FBI director James Comey that led to the appointment of a special counsel, to failing to emphasize his condemnation of white nationalists and domestic Nazis in Charlottesville—­go back to an instinctive, defensive need to hit back at critics, no matter the consequences. For all his wealth and all his power, he seems to feel cornered, much like the instincts that led him to be a bad boy as a kid.

“I’ve gotten a sense he always feels under attack,” Spicer says. “That people are saying that he didn’t earn this, that he’s not this, he didn’t win this, he can’t do X. He’s not smart enough. He didn’t do whatever it is. I think that he constantly feels under attack, and he feels the need to justify his position, either on an issue or position or how he came to achieve something. He has built up a DNA of defensiveness.”

Now that bad boy had become president.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 The Two Faces of Donald Trump 7

2 Life Is a Game 18

3 Darkness Is Good 31

4 Teflon Aides 49

5 Blueberry 58

6 The Real Trump 66

7 Melania 82

8 Scam Artists 104

9 Deal Maker 122

10 Winter White House 133

11 Mogul 150

12 Intrusion 162

13 Mooch 172

14 Access 180

15 Hopester 192

16 Socratic Method 203

17 Russia 217

18 Special Counsel 237

19 Sovereignty 252

20 Victim Mentality 271

21 Taking a Knee 279

22 Hair Spray 294

23 The Red Button 303

24 Interview with the President 317

25 Bravado 326

Acknowledgments 341

Index 343

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The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author, a Trump friend and policy supporter raves about the president's virtues. In Fire and Fury, the author, a Trump critic, raved about the president's faults. I found the contrast to be quite interesting. Most importantly, both authors tell the exact same story about the Trump White House. Both authors depict a chaotic, disorganized administration suffering from ego, personal ambition and damaging Nepotism. Whether you love or hate this president, this is a good read.