Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office

Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office

by Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


"This is a book for everyone who has developed an unexpected nostalgia for political 'norms' during the Trump years . . . Other books on the Trump White House expertly detail the mayhem inside; this book builds on those works to detail its consequences." —Carlos Lozada (one of twelve books to read "to understand what's going on")

"Perhaps the most penetrating book to have been written about Trump in office." —Lawrence Douglas, The Times Literary Supplement

The definitive account of how Donald Trump has wielded the powers of the American presidency

The extraordinary authority of the U.S. presidency has no parallel in the democratic world. Today that authority resides in the hands of one man, Donald J. Trump. But rarely if ever has the nature of a president clashed more profoundly with the nature of the office. Unmaking the Presidency tells the story of the confrontation between a person and the institution he almost wholly embodies.

From the moment of his inauguration, Trump has challenged our deepest expectations of the presidency. But what are those expectations, where did they come from, and how great is the damage? As editors of the “invaluable” (The New York Times) Lawfare website, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes have attracted a large audience to their hard-hitting and highly informed commentary on the controversies surrounding the Trump administration. In this book, they situate Trump-era scandals and outrages in the deeper context of the presidency itself. How should we understand the oath of office when it is taken by a man who may not know what it means to preserve, protect, and defend something other than himself? What aspects of Trump are radically different from past presidents and what aspects have historical antecedents? When has he simply built on his predecessors’ misdeeds, and when has he invented categories of misrule entirely his own?

By setting Trump in the light of history, Hennessey and Wittes provide a crucial and durable account of a presidency like no other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250785671
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 01/12/2021
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 460,221
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes are executive editor and editor in chief of Lawfare. Hennessey is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and CNN contributor; she was previously an attorney at the National Security Agency. Wittes is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Law and the Long War and The Future of Violence, among other books.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "It's Modern Day Presidential" 3

1 "I do solemnly swear": The Oath 17

2 "The President needs help": White House Decisions 35

3 "This president runs this government": The Non-Unitary Executive 57

4 "When a President speaks…it is for keeps" The Official Voice 81

5 "An inexhaustible fund of political lies": The War on Truth 105

6 "The love of power, and the Jove of money": Ethics in the White House 135

7 "The power to protect the guilty": Corrupting Justice 165

8 "A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!": Investigating the President 195

9 "Without deliberation…or appreciation of facts": The Conduct of Foreign Affairs 227

10 "It squints towards monarchy": The Kingly Powers 253

Conclusion: "A man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper" 281

Postscript 293

Notes 307

Acknowledgments 399

Index 401

Customer Reviews