A family legacy of darkness and dysfunction: Why Donald Trump's niece Mary wrote a tell-all memoir

Ms Mary Trump's memoir sheds new light on a decades-long saga of greed, betrayal and internecine squabbles. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - For most of her life, Mary L. Trump was shunted aside by her own family.

Her uncle, President Donald Trump, for years looked down on her father - his own brother, Fred Trump Jr, an alcoholic who died when she was a teen.

Her grandfather, Fred Trump Sr, hated her mother, whom he blamed for Mr Fred Trump Jr's drinking, court papers say.

Her aunt, the president's sister, once accused Ms Mary Trump and her brother in a legal deposition of being "absentee grandchildren".

Even when Ms Mary Trump shared Christmas with her family, her grandfather was often annoyed by what he took to be her disrespectful nature.

Her crime, court papers say: She showed up wearing a baggy sweater.

Ms Trump's status as an outcast culminated in 1999 when Mr Fred Trump Sr died, and she discovered that she and her brother had been cut out of his will, depriving them of what they believed was their rightful share of untold millions.

A dispute over the will devolved into a court fight, its details shielded by a confidentiality agreement that Ms Trump has adhered to for nearly 20 years.

Now, however, the story of that fight - and other new allegations - has been thrust into the spotlight with the publication of her memoir, a copy of which The New York Times obtained on Tuesday (July 7).

The book, along with a number of court documents that have never been reported, sheds new light on a decades-long saga of greed, betrayal and internecine squabbles, laying out what Ms Trump has described as her family's legacy of darkness and dysfunction.

The book makes a number of allegations that Ms Trump depicts as family secrets, among them a claim that a young Donald Trump paid someone to take his SAT, the standardised test used for college admissions.

It also alleges that his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a former federal judge, considered him "a clown" who had "no principles" and that the Trump family left Mr Fred Trump Jr unattended at a hospital on the night that he died.

Ms Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, calls her grandfather - the president's father, Mr Fred Trump Sr - a "sociopath" who damaged his children.

That behaviour, she concludes, led the president to adopt bullying and other aggressive behaviours to mask his own insecurities.

While several close associates of Mr Donald Trump have published exposes of him and his time in office, Ms Trump, who is 55 and lives on Long Island in New York, is the first member of the family to have broken ranks by writing a book.

She and her brother, Mr Fred Trump III, were the only children of Mr Fred Trump Jr - the eldest sibling of President Trump - and Mrs Linda Clapp Trump, a one-time flight attendant who did not win her father-in-law's approval.

Mr Fred Trump Jr was not inclined to the family real estate business, so President Trump stepped into the role of his father's successor.

The eldest Trump sibling became a pilot and struggled with alcoholism.

In her book, Ms Trump writes that her uncle Donald watched her grandfather mock her father, learnt from the ridicule to become the favourite son, and joined in it.

Mr Donald Trump told his brother, referring to his career as a pilot: "Dad's right about you: You're nothing but a glorified bus driver."

Her father started to spiral downward.

He had tried to buy a house but could not get a mortgage.

"Our family was effectively trapped in that run-down apartment in Jamaica," Ms Trump wrote.

"At 29 years old, my father was running out of things to lose."

Mr Fred Trump Jr died of a heart attack in 1981 at age 42.

His children, who had already been given US$400,000 each in trust by their grandfather, inherited a 20 per cent stake their father had been granted in Trump apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Queens, several ground leases and other revenue-producing businesses.

Long after their father's death, Ms Trump and her brother continued attending family events, including a Mike Tyson fight in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with Mr Donald Trump; their grandfather's birthday party at Peter Luger Steak House; Ms Ivanka Trump's eighth birthday party; and weddings, holidays and visits with their grandmother.

Still, they remained at the edges of the family.

Mr Fred Trump Sr never liked Mrs Linda Trump, according to testimony in a battle over his will, and worried that any money left to his two grandchildren would end up in her hands.

When Mr Fred Trump Sr's will was revised in 1991, he left US$202,000 to each grandchild, including Ms Mary Trump and her brother.

The bulk of the Trump fortune would pass to his four living children.

His other grandchildren stood to eventually inherit their parents' portion.

But Ms Trump and her brother - without their knowledge - were cut out of a 20 per cent share of their grandfather's estate that they might have received had their father lived.

"This is tantamount to disinheriting them," an adviser told the Trump patriarch in a memo before the will was finalised.

"You may wish to increase their participation in your estate to avoid ill will in the future."

After Mr Fred Trump Sr died June 25, 1999, Ms Trump and Mr Fred Trump III learnt that they had been cut out.

Nine months later, they contested the will in court in New York, arguing that their grandfather had been suffering from dementia and that his children had manipulated him to influence the way the will was written.

Litigation over the will and the health insurance became the vehicles for the Trumps to hurl insults and raise grievances that had hung in the air for years.

"They live like kings and queens," Mr Donald Trump said of his niece and nephew in his deposition.

"This is not two people left out in the gutter."

Ms Maryanne Trump Barry testified there was "no relationship" between Mary and Fred III and her father, calling them "absentee grandchildren" even as she acknowledged that they had attended Christmas at her parents' house and other family events.

The Trumps settled their disputes in April 2001, court records show.

As part of the deal, Mary and Fred III received an undisclosed cash settlement, and they agreed to turn over the 20 per cent stake in Trump assets they had inherited from their father.

After the Times reported on the family's questionable valuations of its real estate assets in 2018, Ms Trump concluded that she and her brother were duped in the settlement, she has claimed in the run-up to publishing her book.

When her uncle Donald announced that he was running for president in June 2015, Ms Trump did not take it seriously, assuming, she wrote, that he "simply wanted the free publicity for his brand."

Throughout the campaign, which was marked by scandals like the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, Ms Trump did not speak out, fearing that her voice would not be heard and that her views would make no difference, she wrote in the book.

She stayed in touch with her aunt, Ms Barry, whom she quotes as saying about the presidential race, "He's a clown - this will never happen", during one of their regular lunches in 2015.

Ms Barry was particularly baffled by support for her brother among evangelical Christians, according to the book.

Ms Trump has grown apart from the brother with whom she had been aligned in the family conflict years ago.

While she has chosen to speak out against the family, he has taken a different path, nurturing a relationship with their uncle.

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