President Donald Trump grew up in a "dysfunctional" family that believed “money stood in” for acts of love and one whose patriarch used his own kin as "pawns" -- creating a “quite dangerous situation” for America decades later, the commander-in-chief’s niece warned in an exclusive interview with ABC News.
“He is utterly incapable of leading this country, and it’s dangerous to allow him to do so,” Mary Trump told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
She said “it’s impossible to know who Donald might have been” had he been born into a different family, but his father, Fred Trump, was a “sociopath” who pushed his children to “succeed at all costs,” to view people as “expendable,” and to “do anything to get attention, financial rewards, and to ‘win.’”
Mary Trump’s own father, Fred Trump Jr., the president’s eldest brother, didn’t conform to those family standards and was “punished for being kind, for being generous … [and] for having interests outside of what my grandfather thought was acceptable,” she claimed.
But Donald Trump “clearly learned the lesson from watching his [older] brother" and seeing how poorly his brother was treated by the family patriarch in return, she said.
Donald Trump's father "was incredibly driven in a way that turned other people, including his children [and] wife, into pawns to be used to his own ends," Mary Trump said.
The exclusive interview with ABC News came Tuesday as Simon & Schuster released her much-anticipated book, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."
The book presents a scathing depiction of the sitting president, largely drawing, Mary Trump says, from the author’s own memories, conversations with family members, and legal, financial and family documents.
The book’s 210 pages are sprinkled with potentially embarrassing personal anecdotes, including a disputed allegation that Donald Trump paid a childhood friend named Joe Shapiro to take the SAT exam for him, helping him transfer from Fordham to the Wharton School.
The White House has denied the claim and dismissed the book as a work full of "falsehoods" and "absurd allegations." But in her interview with ABC News, Mary Trump said she is “absolutely confident" that someone else took the SAT exam for her uncle, insisting that while she never met Shapiro and didn't know if he was still alive, she learned what happened from “a source very close to Donald.”
As reports about the allegation mounted last week, Pam Shriver, the ESPN analyst and former tennis star, said publicly that if the book is referencing her late husband Joe Shapiro, who was a friend of Trump, it cannot be true because her husband said he only met Trump after Trump had already transferred to the Wharton School.
In the interview on Tuesday, Mary Trump said the Joe Shapiro she was talking about is not Shriver's late husband.
“It was not the Joe Shapiro that people have been focusing on,” she said, adding that she feels "terrible" for what Shriver was "subjected to" as a result of her allegation.
Mary Trump's uncle Robert, the president’s younger brother, unsuccessfully urged a court to block the book’s release. And another legal effort by Robert Trump to block Mary Trump from publicly promoting the new book also failed, with a New York judge ruling Monday that she was free to speak publicly.
“I saw firsthand what focusing on the wrong things, elevating the wrong people can do – the collateral damage that can be created by allowing somebody to live their lives without accountability,” she said in her interview with ABC News. “And it is striking to see that continuing now on a much grander scale.”
According to Mary Trump’s account, tensions within the family reached a boiling point in 1999, after her grandfather died and she learned that he had essentially cut her and her brother out of his will. When she and her brother then filed a lawsuit, the rest of the family sought “to cause us more pain and make us more desperate," ending the medical insurance they had always received through their grandfather’s company, Mary Trump wrote.
They eventually reached a settlement, but in her interview with ABC News, she described the settlement as unfair.
“I’m a Trump. Everything is about money in this family,” she said, while also insisting she's different from them. “Money stood in for everything else. It was literally the only currency that the family trafficked in.”
Mary Trump’s own father died in 1981.
The White House on Tuesday referred ABC News to its previous statements about the book. The White House said earlier: "Mary Trump and her book’s publisher may claim to be acting in the public interest, but this book is clearly in the author’s own financial self-interest."
"President Trump has been in office for over three years working on behalf of the American people – why speak out now? The president describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child," the statement continued.
In a pair of tweets Wednesday, Donald Trump's son Eric Trump appeared to address Mary Trump's public accusations, saying, "Every family has one..." and "It's usually telling when that 'one' stands alone."
ABC News’ Lucien Bruggeman, Nadine Shubailat and John Santucci contributed to this report.