His sister described him as a liar and fake. A former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security deemed him a woeful danger to the country. A prominent friend with a prime-time slot on Fox News has called him “crazy,” according to new book about the network.
His onetime national security adviser wrote in his own book he cares little about human rights. A former Pentagon chief called him “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” Those sentiments were endorsed by a former chief of staff. A former secretary of state declared him “undisciplined.”
Another onetime national security adviser called his attempts to solicit foreign assistance in the election unacceptable. A Homeland Security adviser has called some of his actions “deeply disturbing.” A short-lived communications chief has questioned his mental state. A former aide and reality show contestant called him racist.
The litany of people who know and have worked alongside President Donald Trump – but who now question his fitness for the job – seems ever-expanding, a roster that now includes a member of his immediate family as well as an unusually large number of national security officials who departed the administration in its first three years.
For a president who prizes loyalty above nearly any other attribute – but who isn’t necessarily known for returning in kind – the defections from officials and confidants who knew him well are a blow not only politically but personally.
As Republicans prepare to renominate Trump this week at a four-day convention where he will occupy center stage, the roster of disillusioned associates provides an unspoken rebuttal to the glowing endorsements scheduled from current administration officials, members of the White House staff and Trump’s adult children.
Campaign and administration officials say their goal at the convention is to portray Trump as tirelessly working for the American people, hoping to negate the accusation Democrats made at their own event that he ignored the coronavirus pandemic and is generally unfit and uninterested in being president.
Part of their argument will rely on testimonies from everyday Americans who have benefited from Trump administration policies and from those who work with Trump closely, including the man who manages his Twitter account, Dan Scavino.
Yet plenty of others who worked with Trump, or have known him for his entire life, offer a starkly different view – one where competence is missing and coldness pervades.
That includes Miles Taylor, a political appointee who served at the Department of Homeland Security from 2017-2019 and last week announced he was supporting Trump’s rival Joe Biden. In making his announcement, Taylor recalled troubling experiences with the President during his tenure, including accusing Trump of repeatedly using his office for political gain and of demonstrating heartlessness, like when Taylor said Trump appeared to endorse the use of tear gas on migrants along the US-Mexico border.
It also includes Maryanne Trump Barry, Trump’s sister and a retired federal appellate judge, who in new recordings is heard calling her brother “cruel” and lamenting his presidency.
“It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty,” she said in the recordings, which were created by Mary Trump, author of a recent bombshell book about the President and his niece.
“His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God,” she said elsewhere in the recording. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”
Trump himself has shrugged off rebukes from people who once worked for him by framing the criticism as sour grapes from people who couldn’t handle the heat. He called Taylor a “lowlife” and in a statement on Saturday, he similarly sought to project nonchalance about his sister’s rebukes.
“Every day it’s something else,” he wrote, “who cares.”
In reality, it does sometimes feel like every day another onetime friend or staffer is turning on Trump, often in dramatic fashion and in many instances in conjunction with the sale of their new book.
All White Houses find themselves confronting the odd tell-all memoir or interview from a jaundiced aide. But Trump, who is famous for demanding loyalty, has not appeared to inspire great confidence in those who quit or were dismissed from his administration.
Those officials aren’t just comprised of holdovers from the Obama administration, staff compelled to testify under oath, or career intelligence and Justice Department officials Trump has dubbed as being part of the so-called “deep state.”
There’s a long list of allies-turned-critics that includes several of the men and women Trump hand-selected to lead agencies across the federal government.
Many of the sharpest critiques have come from the national security realm, including former national security adviser John Bolton, former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In varying degrees of severity, all have described Trump as unserious about the job and a danger to American security.
Others have taken aim at Trump’s character, including Omarosa Manigault Newman, once a contestant on “The Apprentice” who came to the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. Manigault Newman claimed she was fired because she knew too much about a possible audio recording of Trump saying a racial epithet.
Even some of Trump’s closest friends reportedly question his state of mind. In a new book about the relationship between Trump and Fox News, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter reports that Sean Hannity – one of Trump’s close friends and a loud public booster of his agenda – has privately described the President as “batshit crazy.”
The dwindling list of people who know Trump and are willing to vouch for his character and leadership compounds the void that will be left by departing White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, who announced late Sunday she was leaving the administration to focus on her family.
In her appearances on cable television, and during her subsequent gaggles with reporters on the White House driveway, Conway often pointed to Trump’s character as a defense against Democratic attacks, calling him an advocate for women, a studious commander and a warm boss.
There is virtually no chance Conway joins her former West Wing counterparts in criticizing the President, and as of now she is still slated to speak at this week’s convention. Yet her departure does deprive the President of a reliably supportive voice from within the building, one who used her stature with the President to defend him in sometimes logic-defying ways – even as others who know him offered a different story.