In an extended conversation with NPR's Rachel Martin, Mary Trump said on Wednesday that her grandfather and family patriarch Fred Trump rewarded ruthlessness and dismissed any interests outside of the family real estate business, contributing to what she now views as an unfitness on President Trump's part to hold the office of the White House.
"It's kind of ironic in the sense that the traits my grandfather came to value in Donald were the traits that were a result of my grandfather's maltreatment of Donald," she said. "The bullying, the tendency not to care about other people's feelings, the willingness to cheat, lie to get what he wanted. And eventually ... my grandfather started to see a kindred spirit. Somebody who could advance his agenda."
Mary Trump, the president's only niece, describes an abusive and neglectful upbringing suffered by her father and uncles at the hand of Fred Trump, and said she will be supporting her uncle's rival, Joe Biden, in the 2020 election.
A trained psychologist living in New York, she was promoting her highly anticipated new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.
In the book, Mary Trump describes how her grandfather's relentless business ambition was passed down to Donald Trump.
"Honest work was never demanded of him, and no matter how badly he failed, he was rewarded in ways that are almost unfathomable. He continues to be protected from his own disasters in the White House," she writes in the tell-all.
"But now the stakes are far higher than they've ever been before; they are literally life and death. Unlike any previous time in his life, Donald's failings cannot be hidden or ignored because they threaten us all."
The White House has repeatedly dismissed the book as a money grab by the president's niece.
"The president describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him," White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said earlier this month.
"He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child. Also, the absurd SAT allegation is completely false," Matthews said, referring to a claim in the book that the president cheated on the SAT by paying someone else to take the exam on his behalf.
The book, which was released Tuesday, is the second high-profile expose of the president this summer. In June, former national security adviser John Bolton won a legal battle to publish a review of his time at the president's right hand.
Robert Trump, the president's younger brother, sought to have a court block Mary Trump's book release and her promotion of it. A New York judge on Monday freed Mary Trump from an existing gag order restricting her from discussing the book. A separate and earlier court ruling had already allowed the publishing house Simon & Schuster to move forward with producing the account.
Mary Trump said that while she is not afraid to speak freely about her family history, she felt there were risks associated with talking about the president unfavorably.
"Realistically speaking, Donald has a position with which comes an enormous amount of power," she said in the Wednesday interview. "He has a following which has proven to be fairly fanatical. And from what I've seen, anybody who comes forward to speak truth to power or fulfill their obligations to uphold and defend the Constitution, if that clashes with Donald's agenda, they do not fare well."
"It's a very divisive world we're living in at the moment. And I understand that what I'm doing will be misinterpreted — sometimes willfully misinterpreted. And I just need to be careful."
Mary Trump also offered her opinion of the president's mental fitness.
"If you're in a room with him for two minutes and you're paying attention, you know that he's not doing well," she alleged. "Psychologically, he's absolutely unfit. Emotionally, psychologically, he is absolutely unfit."
Mary Trump did not speak in an official capacity as a psychologist. Mental health professionals typically refrain from diagnosing public figures they have not examined.
Asked whether she would be backing her uncle in the upcoming Nov. 3 general election, Mary Trump said she would support former Vice President Joe Biden.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
For the first time, one of the president's own family members is speaking out about his fitness for office. Mary Trump is Donald Trump's niece. And her new book is called "Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The Most Dangerous Man In The World. (ph)" The White House tried and failed to block the publication of this book. And yesterday, Mary Trump talked with Rachel Martin, who's on the line. Rachel, good morning.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What kind of credibility does she have to write a book like this?
MARTIN: Well, as you said, she is the president's niece. She's the daughter of Freddy Trump, Donald Trump's older brother who died in 1981. And this is, in many ways, a chance for Mary Trump to tell a sympathetic story about her father as the Trump who was pushed out of the family business and left in financial ruin. And she definitely has her own long history of grievance with the president, we should point out, and the entire Trump family because she and her brother were written out of her grandfather's will.
And you will explain her - you will hear her explain her motives in a minute. She happens to be a licensed psychologist. She does, at points, diagnose her uncle from afar. We should be clear, she supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. She does not support Trump. But she is a member of this family. And that gives her more legitimacy than most critics of this president.
INSKEEP: Well, if she supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, obviously knew whatever she knows about the president at that time, why did she not speak up then?
MARTIN: Right. So that was the first question I asked her. Let's listen.
MARY TRUMP: I didn't think it would make a difference. I could easily have been painted as a disgruntled, disinherited, embittered niece. And nothing else he did seemed to make a difference. It also wasn't until after the inauguration that I began to understand that it wasn't just Donald. He's dangerous because of how many people continually seem to be willing to enable him.
MARTIN: What are they enabling? If you had to name one characteristic that makes him the most dangerous man, what would it be? What exactly has your family enabled?
TRUMP: His willingness to tear down everything - people, institutions, family - in order to get what he wants.
MARTIN: Where does that come from?
TRUMP: That comes from my grandfather. Donald learned from a very young age that in order to survive in my family, he needed to be what my grandfather referred to as a killer, you know, somebody who had no weaknesses - in other words, kindness, generosity, sensitivity. So I think, over time, those qualities were systematically drilled out of Donald by his dad.
MARTIN: Would you describe what Fred Trump, the patriarch of the family, would you describe what he did as child abuse?
TRUMP: Yeah, I would.
MARTIN: How did it manifest in Donald as a child?
TRUMP: Well, initially, the abuse came from neglect. My grandfather didn't have any patience for little kids or their needs. Also Donald got to witness the severity with which my grandfather treated my dad when he didn't behave in a way that my grandfather found fitting for his namesake.
MARTIN: You describe in the book your father's struggle with alcoholism and real pain that your family went through through your parents' divorce and your dad kind of bottoming out financially and having to move back home. And eventually, when he was at his emotional bottom, he physically declined. And he passed away. Do you blame your grandfather in part for his death?
TRUMP: I blame my grandfather 100% for his oldest son's death. I don't think there's any ambiguity there.
MARTIN: So I asked Mary Trump why her grandfather treated Donald so differently than he treated her father because, as she details in the book, Donald Trump didn't have the work ethic of his father or the business acumen. But Fred Trump, we should say, spoke English as a second language, right? He had this heavy German accent. He wasn't very good in front of TV cameras.
And Mary Trump says he saw utility in his son's abilities on that front. Donald had charisma. He had charm and the ability to weave a story about himself that the public just swallowed whole. Even though he had run several businesses into the ground, Donald Trump had convinced America that he was a self-made success, an American dream.
TRUMP: The traits my grandfather came to value in Donald were the traits that were a result of my grandfather's maltreatment of Donald - the bullying, the tendency not to care about other people's feelings, the willingness to cheat, lie to get what he wanted. And eventually, my grandfather started to see a kindred spirit.
MARTIN: Early reports about your book mentioned this story about how your uncle, you allege, paid someone to take his SATs in hopes of getting a higher score. In many of these instances, you were just a small child. How were you able to verify these stories, reconstruct them?
TRUMP: Yeah. Actually, when the SAT incident occurred, I wasn't even born. But, you know, I've had contact with some members of my family. And some things are, honestly, just family knowledge that dates back decades. I trust my source's telling of this story. I stand by its accuracy. And I think it's, honestly, for them to be asked that question.
MARTIN: I want to ask you about his relationship with his kids. Hillary Clinton, notably, in the 2016 presidential - in one of the debates was asked to say something positive about Donald Trump. And she said this, quote, "his children are incredibly able and devoted. And that says a lot about Donald." I mean, how have you observed the relationship Donald Trump has with his children?
TRUMP: It's important to remember that I'm much older than they are. Donny (ph) is 12 years younger. Ivanka was born a month after my dad died - or two months after my dad died. The only time I actually saw them when they were really young was at holidays. So my perceptions of them as adults are as distant as anybody else's, honestly.
MARTIN: But from what you have seen, if you are sitting watching the same media reports, tweets, stories about that family, does anything stand out to you?
TRUMP: Yeah. I mean, the first thing that stands out is that it's quite extraordinary to me that people who come from such incredible privilege fail to recognize how privileged they are. I'm also horrified by their racism, their pettiness and their lack of concern for their father. They know better than anybody what kind of shape he's in. I mean, if you're in a room with him for two minutes and you're paying attention, you know that he's not doing well. So if they really cared about him, the last thing in the world they would want is for him to continue to be in the Oval Office.
MARTIN: Do you think he is physically or psychologically unfit to be president?
TRUMP: I can't speak to his physical condition. Psychologically, he's absolutely unfit. Emotionally, psychologically, he is absolutely unfit.
MARTIN: Mary Trump goes into detail about this in her book. On page 13 she writes, quote, "Donald's pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he'll never sit for," unquote. And we talked earlier about Mary Trump's motives for telling his story. Well, this is how that came up.
You collaborated with The New York Times investigation about Donald Trump's finances. And you write in the book that you were compelled to help because you, quote, "had to take Donald down." Is this book really not a form of retribution for how Donald Trump and the family treated you and your brother and your mother?
TRUMP: Yeah. I'm regretting that phrase more and more because when I meant take him down, I meant I need to do whatever I can to stop him and this administration. That was my main focus because, honestly, if I had just wanted to do this for retribution or money, I would have done it 10 years ago when he was a public figure and it would've been safer for me, certainly. It would be ridiculous to say it's not personal. Of course, it's personal. And what I would say to people who would say I'm doing it for revenge is, no. I'm - to me, this is justice.
MARTIN: You say that it would have been safer to write this book 10 years ago. Do you feel unsafe right now?
TRUMP: No, not yet. But realistically speaking, Donald has a position with which comes an enormous amount of power. He has a following which has proven to be fairly fanatical. And from what I've seen, anybody who comes forward to speak truth to power, they do not fare well.
MARTIN: You're expecting that to happen to you or at least preparing for the possibility?
TRUMP: I'm preparing for it just to be on the safe side. It's a very divisive world we're living in. And I need to be careful.
MARTIN: Mary Trump clearly understands there's a cost to writing something like this, especially as a member of the Trump family - even an estranged member. She told me that in case there was any question, she is, indeed, voting for Joe Biden in November. We should say that a lawyer for the Trump family tried to block publication of this book. They took it to the courts. And they failed. The White House has been kind of mum on this. Last week, Kellyanne Conway was asked for a reaction. And she said on Fox News, quote, "I believe family matters should be family matters."
INSKEEP: We'll see if that silence continues. Rachel, thanks so much.
MARTIN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's our own Rachel Martin, who spoke with Mary Trump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.