KEY POINTS

  • Trump has proven himself not to be too fond of criticism, frequently finding himself at odds with the press or other politicians
  • Trump and his associates spent a good part of the 2020 summer trying to block the release of three books critical of the sitting president
  • The books were written by Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Trump's niece Mary Trump

If there is one thing Donald Trump has not been fond of during his presidency, it is criticism. Any critics of his performance have typically been met with a degree of hostility -- whether it’s the “deep state” undermining him or outlets he deemed to be “fake news.”

Former allies and associates have not been spared his verbal wrath, either, as the slightest hint of disloyalty is met with some snide comment or attack on Twitter. Jeff Sessions is a case in point, resigning as attorney general in 2018 after months of reported conflicts with Trump. Sessions said this was rooted in his decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.

Former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen was the most recent “turncoat” to find himself at odds with the Trump administration. Cohen on Thursday offered a taste of what’s to come in his forthcoming memoir, “Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump,” saying he knew “where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them.”

“In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man,” Cohen said in the book's foreword.

“He wouldn’t mind if I was dead.”

This excerpt was not met kindly by the White House, which issued a statement shortly after the foreword was released.

“Michael Cohen's book is fan fiction,” White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said in a press release. “He readily admits to lying routinely but expects people to believe him now so that he can make money from book sales. It's unfortunate that the media is exploiting this sad and desperate man to attack President Trump.”

However, if the Trump administration had its way, Cohen’s book may not have even seen the light of day.

Cohen, who was under house arrest in New York City after being released from federal prison due to the coronavirus pandemic, was returned to federal prison in July after reportedly refusing to sign a waiver that would have prevented him from publishing the book. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in retaliation against U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the warden of the New York state federal prison where Cohen was housed.

A federal judge ultimately ordered Cohen’s release, saying his imprisonment was retaliation for not backing down about his planned book.

“I've never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in court on July 23. “How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?”

“The purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement is retaliatory, and it is retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants.”

Cohen wasn’t the only one to face challenges from Trump or those loyal to him, and like Cohen, the First Amendment trumped Trump’s ego in each case.

Former national security adviser John Bolton faced fierce backlash from Trump in June over his book, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton was not shy about painting Trump in an unfavorable light, saying he was ill-equipped for the demands of the presidency.

Trump was equally harsh in his attacks, calling Bolton a “wacko” and a “disgruntled, boring fool.” This week Trump called him "dumb." The White House also attempted to have the book’s release blocked by saying the manuscript it vetted contained classified information. However, Bolton argued in a subsequent court filing the opposition had nothing to do with security and was based on the unflattering picture he painted of Trump.

“It is difficult to conceive of speech that is closer to the core of the First Amendment than speech concerning presidential actions in office, including actions at the heart of the president’s impeachment,” Bolton said in the filing. “It is difficult to conceive of a greater attack on the First Amendment than the suppression of that speech in the service of a reelection campaign.”

The third most recent book critical of Trump, “Too Much and Never Enough,” came from his niece Mary Trump, who also painted an unfavorable picture of the president.

Released on July 14, the book spoke about Trump’s dysfunctional family life growing up and how it helped mold him into the person he is today. She said her uncle and his siblings, including her father, were regularly berated by her grandfather Fred Trump Sr., calling her grandfather a sociopath and leading her uncle to develop the “unique” personality for which he is known.

“That’s what sociopaths do: They co-opt others and use them toward their own ends — ruthlessly and efficiently, with no tolerance for dissent or resistance,” Mary Trump said in the book.

Rather than go through the administration, Trump’s own family stepped in to try to block the release of the book. Trump’s brother, Robert Trump, filed lawsuits alleging the book violated a nondisclosure agreement his niece signed in the early 2000s after the death of her father, Fred Trump Jr.

“I have a brother, Robert, very good guy, and he’s — he’s very angry about it, but she signed a nondisclosure agreement and she’s obviously not honoring it if she writes a book. It’s too bad,” Trump told Axios on a June 21 interview.

Despite his brother’s efforts, Mary Trump ultimately won the lawsuits and was allowed to release the book in July.

US President Donald Trump also used the press conference to insult his opponents' mental fitness US President Donald Trump also used the press conference to insult his opponents' mental fitness Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON