I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year

Thương hiệu: Carol Leonnig
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Thông tin sản phẩm I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year
Thương hiệu Carol Leonnig là cái tên nổi tiếng được rất nhiều khách hàng trên thế giới chọn lựa. Với kiểu dáng đẹp mắt, sang trọng, sản phẩm I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year là sự lựa chọn hoàn hảo nếu bạn đang tìm mua một món Politics & Government cho riêng mình.
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Product Description

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

The definitive behind-the-scenes story of Trump's final year in office, by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, the Pulitzer-Prize winning reporters and authors of A Very Stable Genius.

“Chilling.” – Anderson Cooper
“Jaw-dropping.” – John Berman
“Shocking.” – John Heilemann
“Explosive.” – Hallie Jackson
“Blockbuster new reporting.” – Nicolle Wallace 
“Bracing new revelations.” – Brian Williams
“Bombshell reporting.” – David Muir


The true story of what took place in Donald Trump’s White House during a disastrous 2020 has never before been told in full. What was really going on around the president, as the government failed to contain the coronavirus and over half a million Americans perished? Who was influencing Trump after he refused to concede an election he had clearly lost and spread lies about election fraud? To answer these questions, Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig reveal a dysfunctional and bumbling presidency’s inner workings in unprecedented, stunning detail.
 
Focused on Trump and the key players around him—the doctors, generals, senior advisers, and Trump family members— Rucker and Leonnig provide a forensic account of the most devastating year in a presidency like no other. Their sources were in the room as time and time again Trump put his personal gain ahead of the good of the country. These witnesses to history tell the story of him longing to deploy the military to the streets of American cities to crush the protest movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, all to bolster his image of strength ahead of the election. These sources saw firsthand his refusal to take the threat of the coronavirus seriously—even to the point of allowing himself and those around him to be infected. This is a story of a nation sabotaged—economically, medically, and politically—by its own leader, culminating with a groundbreaking, minute-by-minute account of  exactly what went on in the Capitol building on January 6, as Trump’s supporters so easily breached the most sacred halls of American democracy, and how the president reacted. With unparalleled access, Rucker and Leonnig explain and expose exactly who enabled—and who foiled—Trump as he sought desperately to cling to power.
 
A classic and heart-racing work of investigative reporting, this book is destined to be read and studied by citizens and historians alike for decades to come.

Review

“A meticulous history. . . . An essential read for anyone seriously concerned with the fate of democracy in the United States. The book belongs in every library seeking to record the major forces and personalities shaping the 21st century.” New York Journal of Books

“A deeply-reported look at President Donald Trump and his chaotic administration . . . Shocking revelations.” —People
 
“What [ I Alone Can Fix It] argues in a detailed case is that the catastrophe of 2020 was a result of Trump's proclivity to put political optics above all else, including American lives.” —USA Today

“A blockbuster follow-up to A Very Stable Genius, in which Leonnig and Rucker chronicled the chaos of Trump’s first three years in office. I Alone Can Fix It pulls back the curtain on the handling of Covid-19, the re-election bid and its chaotic and violent aftermath. The pair are Pulitzer winners, for investigative reporting. Their book is essential reading. They have receipts, which they lay out for all to see.” The Guardian

"Incisive, dramatic and masterful . . . Leonnig and Rucker capture it all. Just when we think, in absorbing these horrific events of the transfer of power to Joe Biden, that we can’t be shocked any more we are. The tumult is raw and real and ugly. The Trump Oval Office is a place defiled. As they showed us previously, their reporting is as authoritative and seamless as the legends they have now succeeded Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein under the shield of the venerable Post." The Sydney Morning Herald

“We begin tonight with breaking news on just how unhinged the final days of the last administration were and how much worse they might have gotten . . . These and other chilling scenes are contained in a new book, I Alone Can Fix It.” —Anderson Cooper, CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”
 
“We begin with explosive new revelations about just how close American democracy came to the edge. Jaw-dropping excerpts from a new book about the aftermath of the 2020 election . . . I don’t want people to lose sight of the historic nature of what is being reported here.” —John Berman, CNN’s “New Day”
 
“We are now getting some bracing new revelations about Donald Trump’s final year, his final days in the White House, and they come from the Pulitzer Prize writing duo, friends of this broadcast, Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post in their new book, I Alone Can Fix It.” —Brian Williams, MSNBC’s “11th Hour”
 
“In never-before-seen excerpts from the brand-new book I Alone Can Fix It by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, we are learning that the Trump presidency was much, much worse than any of us imagined and that the people around him all knew it. They also knew he had autocratic tendencies and would do anything to cling to power, including endangering the life of his own Vice President and the Vice President’s family. Blockbuster new reporting in this yet-to-be-released book bears that out and adds to our understanding of the horrors of January 6th.” Nicolle Wallace, MSNBC’s “Deadline White House”
 
“Thank God we have reporters like Phil and Carol . . . to be able to go back and tell us what was actually going on. Everything is shocking.” —John Heilemann, MSNBC’s “Deadline White House”
 
“Explosive new reporting tonight describing the country’s most senior military officer comparing former President Trump’s lies about election fraud to Nazi-era Germany. . . . That’s according to the new book by two Washington Post reporters based on interviews with more than 140 people, with newly revealed details of fears from top military brass of how close the country was to chaos.” —Hallie Jackson, “NBC Nightly News”
 
“Bombshell reporting.” —David Muir, “ABC World News Tonight”
 
“That’s the importance of this book . . . We’re finally getting behind the scenes as to what our leaders were saying and knew about Trump.” —Carl Bernstein, CNN’s “New Day”

About the Author

Carol Leonnig is a national investigative reporter at The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2000, covering Donald Trump’s presidency and previous administrations. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on security failures and misconduct inside the Secret Service. She also was part of the Post teams awarded Pulitzers in 2018, for reporting on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and in 2014, for revealing the U.S. government’s secret, broad surveillance of Americans. Leonnig is an on-air contributor to NBC News and MSNBC and the author of Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service.
 

Philip Rucker is the senior Washington correspondent at The Washington Post and led its coverage of President Trump and his administration as White House Bureau chief. He and a team of Post reporters won the Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award for their reporting on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. In 2021, the White House Correspondents’ Association honored Rucker with the Aldo Beckman Award for overall excellence in White House coverage. Rucker joined the Post in 2005 and previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. He serves as an on-air political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC and graduated from Yale University with a degree in history.
 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

On January 20, 2017, Donald John Trump became president, unskilled in the machinery of government and unmoved morally by the calling of the position, but aglow in his unmatched power. The first three years of Trump’s term revealed a presidency of one, in which the universal value was loyalty—not to the country, but to the president himself. Scandal, bluster, and uninhibited chaos reigned. Decisions were driven by a reflexive logic of self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. Delusions born of narcissism and insecurity overtook reality.

In those early years, which we chronicled in our book A Very Stable Genius, Trump’s advisers believed his ego and pride prevented him from making sound, well-informed judgments. His management style resembled a carnival ride, jerking this way and that, forcing senior government officials to thwart his inane and sometimes illegal ideas. Some of them concluded that the president was a long-term and immediate danger to the country that he had sworn an oath to protect, yet they took comfort that he had not had to steer the country through a true crisis.


Trump’s actions and words nevertheless had painful consequences. His assault on the rule of law degraded our democratic institutions and left Americans reasonably fearful they could no longer take for granted basic civil rights and untainted justice. His contempt for foreign alliances weakened America’s leadership in the world and empowered dictators and despots. His barbarous immigration enforcement ripped migrant children out of the arms of their families. His bigoted rhetoric emboldened white supremacists to step out of the shadows.


But at least Trump had not been tested by a foreign military strike, an economic collapse, or a public health crisis.


At least not until 2020.


This book chronicles Trump’s catastrophic fourth and final year as president. The year 2020 will be remembered in the American epoch as one of anguish and abject failure. The coronavirus pandemic killed more than half a million people in the United States and infected tens of millions more, the deadliest health crisis in a century. Though the administration’s Operation Warp Speed helped produce vaccines in record time, its overall coronavirus response was mismanaged by the president and marred by ineptitude and backbiting.


The virus was only one of the crises Trump confronted in 2020. The pandemic paralyzed the economy, plunging the nation into a recession during which low-wage workers, many of them minorities, suffered the most.


The May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis ignited protests for racial justice and an end to police discrimination and brutality. Yet Trump sought to exploit the simmering divisions for personal political gain, quickly declaring himself “your president of law and order” and relentlessly pressuring Pentagon leaders to deploy active-duty troops against Black Lives Matter protesters.


The worsening climate crisis, meanwhile, was almost entirely ignored by Trump, who earlier in his term had rolled back environmental regulations and withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement. The president was instead preoccupied with stoking doubts about the legitimacy of the election. After he lost to Joe Biden, Trump fanned the flames of conspiracies and howled about fraud that did not exist. His false claims of a “rigged election” inspired thousands of people to storm the Capitol in a violent and ultimately failed insurrection on January 6, 2021.
 
The year 2020 tested the republic. Yet the institutions designed by the Founding Fathers were still standing by the time Trump left office. America’s democracy withstood the unrelenting assault of its president. Trump’s cries summoned tens of thousands of angry citizens to Washington to overturn the election, but Vice President Mike Pence and scores of lawmakers followed their constitutional duties.


“There is a good news story here,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the military brass at the conclusion of Trump’s presidency. “It’s the strength of the country. There is polariza- tion. But at the end of the day, the country did stand tall. There was a peaceful transfer of power. There weren’t tanks in the streets. And the line bent, but it didn’t break.”


Senator Mitt Romney, who often stood alone among fellow Republicans in his criticisms of Trump, said the president’s attacks on democratic institutions amounted to one of the greatest failings of any president.


“I think as we all recognize, democracy is more than taking a vote,” Romney said. “We’ve had a number of countries take votes to quickly fall into disrepair from a democratic standpoint in part because they don’t have the institutions that allow democracy to survive. Attacking the institutions here puts democracy itself in jeopardy, whether it’s our judicial system, our freedom of the press, our intelligence community, the FBI—these things underpin the strength of our democratic republic. So he attacked those along the way and then, as a final act, attacked election integrity itself. Those things have real consequences.”


The characteristics of Trump’s leadership, blazingly evident through the first three years of his presidency, had deadly ramifications in his final year. He displayed his ignorance, his rash temper, his pettiness and pique, his malice and cruelty, his utter absence of empathy, his narcissism, his transgressive personality, his disloyalty, his sense of victimhood, his addiction to television, his suspicion and silencing of experts, and his deception and lies. Each trait thwarted the response of the world’s most powerful nation to a lethal threat.


“The last year you see what happens when you actually have erosion in the capacity of government to respond, when you have a president and appointees who don’t take governing seriously and honestly don’t know how to use it,” said Margaret O’Mara, a professor of history at the University of Washington. “That’s the great tragedy. It shows how fundamentally oblivious the president was to governing and the immense power for good at his disposal.”


Most of Trump’s failings can be explained by a simple truth: He cared more about himself than the country. Whether managing the coronavirus or addressing racial unrest or reacting to his election defeat, Trump prioritized what he thought to be his political and personal interests over the common good.


“There come moments where you have to decide, am I going to do something that’s purely in my own self-interest if it is contrary to the interests of the people I represent,” one of Trump’s advisers remarked. “And in those moments, you’ve always got to pick the people you represent. The fact is that in 2020 Donald Trump put himself ahead of the country. When you do that as a leader, the people notice—and when they notice, they kick your ass out.”


Throughout his presidency, Trump cast himself as a long-suffering, tormented victim. He believed himself to be persecuted by what he called the “deep state,” a reference to any number of national security, intelligence, and law enforcement officials. Because some of these officials investigated his campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives amid Russia’s effort to help Trump win in 2016, he saw them as enemies. He branded any investigation pertaining to his conduct—whether it was Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, probes into his finances, or an impeachment inquiry into his pressure on Ukraine to help him smear Biden—a “witch hunt.” He also claimed the media were running a sophisticated disinformation operation to puncture his popularity. And he demanded apologies for criticisms and slights.

Trump’s incessant complaining ran counter to what had long been a core tenet of the Republican Party: personal responsibility. Yet Trump’s strategy of self-victimization yoked him to his supporters, who similarly felt disrespected by elites in Washington and felt wronged by the fast- changing global economy.


Trump’s standard tool kit for getting out of trouble—bullying, bluster, and manipulation—was useless in managing the pandemic. He tried to cloak reality with happy talk. He promised cures that would never be realized. He floated dangerous and unproven treatments, such as injecting bleach into patients’ bodies. He muzzled experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who challenged his shaky claims and became more popular than the president. He refused to lead by example and wear a mask. He picked feuds with health officials and state governors scrambling to respond to emergency outbreaks, striking out at those who didn’t praise his haphazard response. Not only did he fail to keep Americans safe; he couldn’t even keep himself safe. Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October 2020, zapping his false air of invincibility.


The coronavirus changed the world, altering how people worked, how families lived, and what constituted a community. These profound changes were accelerated by the recession and heightened by the tensions in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing. Trump, however, principally governed for a minority of the country—his hard-core political supporters—and chose neither to try to unite the nation nor to reimagine a postpandemic America. He egged on the anger and disaffection among many white people who felt economically threatened and culturally marginalized. He pitted groups of Americans against one another. He uttered racist phrases and used his immense social media platforms to spread messages of hate. He stoked fear and egged on violence.


“His view of America is provincial, it’s parochial, it’s sullied, it’s any other adjective that calls up a sense of narrowness and ugliness,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. “In so many ways, Donald Trump represents the death rattle of an old America, and it’s loud and it’s violent.”


A senior government official who worked closely with the president drew a parallel between Trump’s handling of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany.
 
“People either singularly or in crowds are interested in personal survival and stability and safety,” this official said. “When you are experiencing confusion and chaos and things you can’t quite make sense of, and you see this phenomena around you that’s getting scary—the economy and COVID and losing your job and immigrants crossing the border—along comes a guy who takes fuel, throws it on the fire, and makes you scared shitless. ‘I will protect you.’ That’s what Hitler did to consolidate power in 1933.”


Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker whose opposition to Trump was as resolute as any, twice presided over his impeachment—in 2019 for seeking help from Ukraine in his reelection, and in 2021 for instigating the Capitol insurrection. After he left office, she told us in an interview that she was grateful democracy had prevailed but feared another president might come along and pick up where Trump left off.


“We might get somebody of his ilk who’s sane, and that would really be dangerous, because it could be somebody who’s smart, who’s strategic, and the rest,” Pelosi said. “This is a slob. He doesn’t believe in science. He doesn’t believe in governance. He’s a snake-oil salesman. And he’s shrewd. Give him credit for his shrewdness.”


That shrewdness, coupled with shamelessness and unnatural political stamina, allowed Trump to deliver on many of his campaign promises. He pleased his conservative base by remaking the federal judiciary, including with three nominations to the Supreme Court; cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy; expanding the military; toughening border enforcement; and weakening the regulatory state. Trump also forged new bilateral trade agreements, negotiated peace accords in the Middle East, and won concessions from European allies he had argued were taking advantage of the United States.


Trump nearly won a second term. More than 74 million people voted to reelect him—the second-highest vote total ever recorded, the highest being Biden’s 81 million. Were it not for Biden’s victories in a handful of swing states, Trump would have won the electoral college and secured four more years in office. It would be foolhardy then to dismiss his presidency as a failure and to turn the page on this period. Rather, we must try to understand what made him appealing to so many, and what that reveals about the country.


Trump almost certainly would have achieved more had he governed effectively and nurtured a professional and productive work culture. Instead, he allowed his White House to become a nest of vipers, with senior officials often advancing their personal agendas and vendettas instead of a collective mission. “It was by far the most toxic environment I could imagine working in, and I’m not a fragile person,” a senior White House official recalled. “People were deeply cruel to each other.”


By his fourth year in office, Trump had surrounded himself as much as he could with enablers and loyal flatterers. Power in the West Wing consolidated around Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff who prioritized campaign politics and believed it was his duty to execute the president’s wishes.


“Where are the adults?” one Cabinet secretary lamented. “They are supposed to be in the White House advising the president. That’s a big part of the story of this administration. The people he has around him are putting things in his ears, but they aren’t giving him careful, thought-
through advice. There are no adults.”


A few sturdy guardrails remained. Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Attorney General Bill Barr were there when the president wanted to deploy the military to American cities. Barr, despite loyally looking out for the president’s interests at the Justice Department, also fended off some of his efforts to prosecute and punish his enemies. The leaders of federal health agencies prevented Trump from corrupting the coronavirus vaccine development by rushing approvals before Election Day. And then there was Pence, who certified Biden’s electoral college victory, after four years of unflinching fealty to Trump.


“Even though almost everybody who worked with Trump ended up taking a lot of grief and having reputational risk as a result of it, there were a number of good people who tried to prevent the worst at the White House over the years,” said a senior Republican lawmaker. “Clowns in one camp and people genuinely trying to prevent the worst in the other camp. There were some heroes there.”


“Good people at key moments taught him a lesson that the system is more important than anybody, including the president,” this lawmaker added.


These are conclusions drawn from our four years of reporting about Trump’s presidency and reflect the experiences and opinions of many of the most senior principals who served in the final year of his administration. They divulged, some for the very first time, what they witnessed firsthand, to tell the truth about this extraordinary year for the benefit of history.


As with A Very Stable Genius, the title of this book borrows Trump’s own words. On July 21, 2016, when he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland, Trump vowed, “I alone can fix it.” He offered himself to the forgotten men and women of America as their sole hope for redemption, and as a president, he was powered by solipsism. He governed to protect and promote himself. “I alone can fix it” was the tenet by which he led.


What follows is the story of Trump’s final year in office told from the inside. Some events have indelibly marked our nation’s collective memory; many behind-the-scenes episodes have never been reported until now. Some moments show perseverance and resilience; others expose cowardice and callousness. It is an attempt to make sense of a year of crisis, at the heart of which was a leadership vacuum. It is the story of how Trump stress-tested the republic, twisting the country’s institutions for personal gain and then pushing his followers too far. And it is the story of how voters, both fearful for their own futures and their country, finally discharged him.

 

by the calling of the position, but aglow in his unmatched

power. The first three years of Trump’s term revealed a presidency of one, in which the universal value was loyalty—not to the country, but to the president himself. Scandal, bluster, and uninhibited chaos reigned. Decisions were driven by a ref lexive logic of self-preservation and self-



aggrandizement. Delusions b reality.


rn of narcissism and insecurity overtook



In those early years, which we chronicled in our book A Very Stable Genius, Trump’s advisers believed his ego and pride prevented him from making sound, well-informed judgments. His management style resem- bled a carnival ride, jerking this way and that, forcing senior government officials to thwart his inane and sometimes illegal ideas. Some of them concluded that the president was a long-term and immediate danger to the country that he had sworn an oath to protect, yet they took comfort that he had not had to steer the country through a true crisis.

Trump’s actions and words nevertheless had painful consequences. His assault on the rule of law degraded our democratic institutions and left Americans reasonably fearful they could no longer take for granted basic civil rights and untainted justice. His contempt for foreign alliances weakened America’s leadership in the world and empowered dictators



and despots. His barbarous immigration enforcement ripped migrant chil- dren out of the arms of their families. His bigoted rhetoric emboldened white supremacists to step out of the shadows.

But at least Trump had not been tested by a foreign military strike, an economic collapse, or a public health crisis.

At least not until 2020.

This book chronicles Trump’s catastrophic fourth and final year as president. The year 2020 will be remembered in the American epoch as one of anguish and abject failure. The coronavirus pandemic killed more than half a million people in the United States and infected tens of mil- lions more, the deadliest health crisis in a century. Though the adminis- tration’s Operation Warp Speed helped produce vaccines in record time, its overall coronavirus response was mismanaged by the president and marred by ineptitude and backbiting.

The virus was only one of the crises Trump confronted in 2020. The pandemic paralyzed the economy, plunging the nation into a recession during which low-wage workers, many of them minorities, suffered the most.

The May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis ignited protests for racial justice and an end to police discrimination and brutality. Yet Trump sought to exploit the simmering divisions for personal political gain, quickly de- claring himself “your president of law and order” and relentlessly pressur- ing Pentagon leaders to deploy active-duty troops against Black Lives Matter protesters.

The worsening climate crisis, meanwhile, was almost entirely ignored by Trump, who earlier in his term had rolled back environmental regu- lations and withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement. The president was instead preoccupied with stoking doubts about the legitimacy of the election. After he lost to Joe Biden, Trump fanned the flames of conspiracies and howled about fraud that did not exist. His false claims of a “rigged election” inspired thousands of people to storm the Capitol in a violent and ultimately failed insurrection on January 6, 2021.



The year 2020 tested the republic. Yet the institutions designed by the Founding Fathers were still standing by the time Trump left office. America’s democracy withstood the unrelenting assault of its president. Trump’s cries summoned tens of thousands of angry citizens to Wash- ington to overturn the election, but Vice President Mike Pence and scores of lawmakers followed their constitutional duties.

“There is a good news story here,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the military brass at the conclusion of Trump’s presidency. “It’s the strength of the country. There is polariza- tion. But at the end of the day, the country did stand tall. There was a peaceful transfer of power. There weren’t tanks in the streets. And the line bent, but it didn’t break.”

Senator Mitt Romney, who often stood alone among fellow Re-

publicans in his criticisms of Trump, said the president’s attacks on

democratic institutions amounted to one of the greatest failings of any president.

“I think as we all recognize, democra y is more than taking a vote,” Romney said. “We’ve had a number of countries take votes to quickly fall into disrepair from a democratic standpoint in part because they don’t have the institutions that allow democracy to survive. Attacking the in- stitutions here puts d mocracy itself in jeopardy, whether it’s our judicial system, our freedom of the press, our intelligence community, the FBI— these things underpin the strength of our democratic republic. So he attacked those along the way and then, as a final act, attacked election integrity itself. Those things have real consequences.”

The characteristics of Trump’s leadership, blazingly evident through the first three years of his presidency, had deadly ramifications in his fi- nal year. He displayed his ignorance, his rash temper, his pettiness and pique, his malice and cruelty, his utter absence of empathy, his narcis- sism, his transgressive personality, his disloyalty, his sense of victimhood, his addiction to television, his suspicion and silencing of experts, and his deception and lies. Each trait thwarted the response of the world’s most powerful nation to a lethal threat.

“The last year you see what happens when you actually have erosion



in the capacity of government to respond, when you have a president and appointees who don’t take governing seriously and honestly don’t know how to use it,” said Margaret O’Mara, a professor of history at the Uni- versity of Washington. “That’s the great tragedy. It shows how funda- mentally oblivious the president was to governing and the immense power for good at his disposal.”

Most of Trump’s failings can be explained by a simple truth: He cared more about himself than the country. Whether managing the coronavi- rus or addressing racial unrest or reacting to his election defeat, Trump prioritized what he thought to be his political and personal interests over the common good.

“There come moments where you have to decide, am I going to do something that’s purely in my own self-interest if it is contrary to the interests of the people I represent,” one of Trump’s advisers remarked. “And in those moments, you’ve always got to pick the people you repre- sent. The fact is that in 2020 Donald Trump put himself ahead of the country. When you do that as a leader, the people notice—and when they notice, they kick your ass out.”

Throughout his presidency, Trump cast himself as a long-suffering, tormented victim. He believed himself to be persecuted by what he called the “deep state,” a reference to any number of national security, intelli- gence, and law enforcement officials. Because some of these officials in- vestigated his campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives amid Russia’s effort to help Trump win in 2016, he saw them as enemies. He branded any investigation pertaining to his conduct—whether it was Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, probes into his finances, or an impeachment inquiry into his pressure on Ukraine to help him smear Biden—a “witch hunt.” He also claimed the media were running a sophisticated disinformation operation to punc- ture his popularity. And he demanded apologies for criticisms and slights. Trump’s incessant complaining ran counter to what had long been a core tenet of the Republican Party: personal responsibility. Yet Trump’s strategy of self-victimization yoked him to his supporters, who similarly



felt disrespected by elites in Washington and felt wronged by the fast- changing global economy.

Trump’s standard tool kit for getting out of trouble—bullying, blus- ter, and manipulation—was useless in managing the pandemic. He tried to cloak reality with happy talk. He promised cures that would never be realized. He floated dangerous and unproven treatments, such as inject- ing bleach into patients’ bodies. He muzzled experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who challenged his shaky claims and became more popular than the president. He refused to lead by example and wear a mask. He picked feuds with health officials and state governors scrambling to respond to emergency outbreaks, striking out at those who didn’t praise his haphaz- ard response. Not only did he fail to keep Americans safe; he couldn’t even keep himself safe. Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oc- tober 2020, zapping his false air of invincibility.

The coronavirus changed the world, altering how people worked,

how families lived, and what constituted a c mmunity. These profound

changes were accelerated by the recession and heightened by the tensions in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing. Trump, however, principally governed for a minority of the country—his hard-core political supporters—and chose neither to try to unite the nation nor to reimagine a postpandemic America. He egged on the anger and disaffection among many white peo- ple who felt economically threatened and culturally marginalized. He pit- ted groups of Americans against one another. He uttered racist phrases and used his immense social media platforms to spread messages of hate. He stoked fear and egged on violence.

“His view of America is provincial, it’s parochial, it’s sullied, it’s any other adjective that calls up a sense of narrowness and ugliness,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. “In so many ways, Donald Trump represents the death rattle of an old America, and it’s loud and it’s violent.”

A senior government official who worked closely with the president drew a parallel between Trump’s handling of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany.



“People either singularly or in crowds are interested in personal sur- vival and stability and safety,” this official said. “When you are experi- encing confusion and chaos and things you can’t quite make sense of, and you see this phenomena around you that’s getting scary—the economy and COVID and losing your job and immigrants crossing the border— along comes a guy who takes fuel, throws it on the fire, and makes you scared shitless. ‘I will protect you.’ That’s what Hitler did to consolidate power in 1933.”

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker whose opposition to Trump was as resolute as any, twice presided over his impeachment—in 2019 for seeking help from Ukraine in his reelection, and in 2021 for instigating the Capitol insurrection. After he left office, she told us in an interview that she was grateful democracy had prevailed but feared an- other president might come along and pick up where Trump left off.

“We might get somebody of his ilk who’s sane, and that would really

be dangerous, because it could be somebody w o’s smart, who’s strategic,

and the rest,” Pelosi said. “This is a slob. He doesn’t believe in science. He doesn’t believe in governance. He’s a snake-oil salesman. And he’s shrewd. Give him credit for his shrewdness.”

That shrewdness, coupled with shamelessness and unnatural political stamina, allowed Trump to deliver on many of his campaign promises. He pleased his conservative base by remaking the federal judiciary, in- cluding with three nominations to the Supreme Court; cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy; expanding the military; toughening bor- der enforcement; and weakening the regulatory state. Trump also forged new bilateral trade agreements, negotiated peace accords in the Middle East, and won concessions from European allies he had argued were taking advantage of the United States.

Trump nearly won a second term. More than 74 million people voted to reelect him—the second-highest vote total ever recorded, the highest being Biden’s 81 million. Were it not for Biden’s victories in a handful of swing states, Trump would have won the electoral college and secured four more years in office. It would be foolhardy then to dismiss his



presidency as a failure and to turn the page on this period. Rather, we must try to understand what made him appealing to so many, and what that reveals about the country.

Trump almost certainly would have achieved more had he governed effectively and nurtured a professional and productive work culture. In- stead, he allowed his White House to become a nest of vipers, with se- nior officials often advancing their personal agendas and vendettas instead of a collective mission. “It was by far the most toxic environment I could imagine working in, and I’m not a fragile person,” a senior White House official recalled. “People were deeply cruel to each other.”

By his fourth year in office, Trump had surrounded himself as much as he could with enablers and loyal flatterers. Power in the West Wing consolidated around Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff who prior- itized campaign politics and believed it was his duty to execute the pres- ident’s wishes.

“Where are the adults?” one Cabinet secretary lamented. “They are supposed to be in the White House advising the president. That’s a big part of the story of this administration. The people he has around him are putting things in his ears, but they aren’t giving him careful, thought-

through advice. Ther are no adults.”

A few sturdy guardrails remained. Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Attorney General Bill Barr were there when the president wanted to deploy the military to American cities. Barr, despite loyally looking out for the president’s interests at the Justice Department, also fended off some of his efforts to prosecute and punish his enemies. The leaders of federal health agencies prevented Trump from corrupting the coronavirus vaccine development by rushing approvals before Election Day. And then there was Pence, who certified Biden’s electoral college victory, after four years of unflinching fealty to Trump.

“Even though almost everybody who worked with Trump ended up taking a lot of grief and having reputational risk as a result of it, there were a number of good people who tried to prevent the worst at the


White House over the years,” said a senior Republican lawmaker. “Clowns in one camp and people genuinely trying to prevent the worst in the other camp. There were some heroes there.”

“Good people at key moments taught him a lesson that the system is more important than anybody, including the president,” this lawmaker added.

These are conclusions drawn from our four years of reporting about Trump’s presidency and ref lect the experiences and opinions of many of the most senior principals who served in the final year of his administra- tion. They divulged, some for the very first time, what they witnessed firsthand, to tell the truth about this extraordinary year for the benefit of history.

As with A Very Stable Genius, the title of this book b rrows Trump’s

own words. On July 21, 2016, when he accepted the Republican presi- dential nomination in Cleveland, Trump vowed, “I alone can fix it.” He offered himself to the forgotten men and women of America as their sole hope for redemption, and as a president, he was powered by solipsism. He governed to protect and promote himself. “I alone can fix it” was the tenet by which he led.

What follows is the story of Trump’s final year in office told from the inside. Some events have indelibly marked our nation’s collective mem- ory; many behind-the-scenes episodes have never been reported until now. Some moments show perseverance and resilience; others expose cowardice and callousness. It is an attempt to make sense of a year of crisis, at the heart of which was a leadership vacuum. It is the story of how Trump stress-tested the republic, twisting the country’s institutions for personal gain and then pushing his followers too far. And it is the story of how voters, both fearful for their own futures and their country, finally discharged him.

 

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