Kushner camping tale one of many bizarre scenes in latest Trump book
In a meeting supposedly about campaign strategy in the 2020 election, Donald Trump implied his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, might be brutally attacked, even raped, should he ever go camping.
“Ivanka wants to rent one of those big RVs,” Trump told bemused aides, according to a new book by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, before gesturing to his daughter’s husband.
“This skinny guy wants to do it. Can you imagine Jared and his skinny ass camping? It’d be like something out of Deliverance.”
According to Haberman, Trump then “made noises mimicking the banjo theme song from the 1972 movie about four men vacationing in rural Georgia who are attacked, pursued and in one case brutally raped by a local resident”.
The bizarre scene is just one of many in Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, which will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.
The book has been extensively trailed. Headlines drawn from it have concerned Trump’s racism (he thought Black White House staffers were waiters); his transphobia (he asked if a notional young questioner was “cocked or uncocked”); and his belligerent ignorance (he mistook a health aide for a military adviser because he wore uniform, and asked if he could bomb Mexican drug labs).
Trump’s undiplomatic crudity has also been put on display. According to Haberman, he asked the British prime minister, Theresa May, to “imagine if some animals with tattoos raped your daughter and she got pregnant” and called Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, “that bitch”.
In other shocking scenes, Trump is reported to have said he could not afford to alienate white supremacists because “a lot of these people vote”, and to have been called a fascist by John Kelly, his second chief of staff.
Haberman also writes that when the liberal supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was battling cancer, Trump sarcastically prayed for her health and asked: “How much longer do you think she has?”
Haberman even reports that Trump may have called a Democratic congresswoman, pretending to be a Washington Post reporter and angling for comments about himself.
The story about Trump mocking Kushner’s suitability for outdoor pursuits, meanwhile, is of a piece with other scenes in which Trump is shown to mock and belittle his son-in-law.
According to Haberman, Trump criticised Kushner for observing religious customs (“‘Fucking Shabbat,’ Trump groused, asking no one in particular if his Jewish son-in-law was really religious or just avoiding work”) and for being effete.
“He sounds like a child,” Trump is said to have commented in 2017, after Kushner spoke to reporters following an appearance before a congressional committee.
In a scene which echoes the former Trump aide Peter Navarro’s description of an abortive campaign coup against Kushner, Trump is also shown resolving to fire Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, by tweet – but being talked out of doing so.
Trump’s political career has generated a stream of books by Washington reporters and tell-alls by ex-White House staffers. Nonetheless, Confidence Man is eagerly awaited, touted as “the book Trump fears most”.
Haberman has covered Trump since his days as a New York property magnate, reality TV host and celebrity political blowhard. Known in some circles as “the Trump whisperer”, she was even seen taking calls from the then president in a documentary about the Times, The Fourth Estate, which was released in 2018.
Having written countless scoops about the Trump White House, Haberman has continued to cover a post-presidency in which Trump has maintained control of the Republican party while seemingly plotting another campaign, having escaped being brought to account over the January 6 insurrection.
Like other authors of Trump books, Haberman draws on interviews with the former president. As with other authors, Trump appears to have enjoyed the process. At one point, Haberman writes, he “turned to the two aides he had sitting in on our interview, gestured toward me with his hand, and said, ‘I love being with her; she’s like my psychiatrist.’”
But such comfort may have prompted Trump to reveal more than might have been advised.
In one exchange that has excited widespread comment, Trump admitted taking classified material from the White House – a decision now the source of considerable legal jeopardy.
In light of the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago on 8 August, some observers have questioned whether Haberman should have reported Trump’s admission immediately or even alerted the Department of Justice.
Most of Haberman’s reporting, however, has been greeted with familiar glee, not least the opening salvo of her pre-publication campaign: a picture of presidential documents torn up and put down a toilet.