RNC spent nearly $100,000 on Don Jr.’s new book before it landed atop New York Times bestseller list

A book agent says RNC could have bought copies directly from the publisher. This approach games book sales instead

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 22, 2019 10:45AM (EST)

Donald Trump Jr. and his book "Triggered" (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images/Center Street/Salon)
Donald Trump Jr. and his book "Triggered" (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images/Center Street/Salon)

Donald Trump Jr.’s new book got a big boost from the Republican National Committee before it landed on the New York Times bestseller list last week.

President Donald Trump hailed his son’s book, “Triggered,” for debuting at No. 1 on the bestseller list, but many pointed to a denotation next to the title to speculate on how it got there. The book's entry was marked with a dagger, which The Times explains indicates “institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases.” The president himself has relied on this method to propel his books onto the Times bestseller list. Trump Jr.’s book was the only one on the list to include the symbol.

Trump Jr. attributed the sales to “the Deplorables” and a source “close to Trump Jr.” insisted to Fox News that the book “would be No. 1 even without bulk sales.”

“The asterisk-like disclaimer is irrelevant and 'Triggered' would be first on the Times’ list regardless of books that were purchased by the Republican National Committee for its donors,” the source claimed.

The RNC denied to The New York Times that it “made a large bulk purchase” of the book.

“We haven’t made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand,” RNC spokesman Mike Reed told the outlet. “Each book is sold to an individual who supports the Republican Party.”

On Thursday, Times reporter Nick Confessore published a Federal Election Commission disclosure showing that the RNC spent $94,800 at Books-a-Million on “donor mementos” one week before the book’s release. Reed confirmed that the money was used in connection to their “promotion of Don Trump Jr.’s book,” Confessore tweeted.

Books-a-Million, which held a fundraiser for Trump Jr. earlier this month, lists the book for $23.09, which would come out to more than 4,000 copies of the book if purchased at cost. An RNC spokesman told BuzzFeed News that the party raised $500,000 off the book.

“A win-win for the Trumps and the RNC. Party raised about $500,000 off of the promotion, owing to donor interest in ‘Triggered,’” Confessore wrote. “Guesstimating off the Books-a-Million discount price, Don Jr. could have sold around 4,000 books. Doesn't take too much more to hit the list.”

Asked why the RNC claimed they had not made a bulk purchase of the book, Reed told the reporter, “we stand by our statement.”

“Using books as a means to fundraise is standard practice from political parties on both sides of the aisle,” an RNC official told BuzzFeed News. “Triggered has been very popular among our supporters, helping us raise funds to support the reelection effort.”

But a New York literary agent said that the purchase suggested that the RNC was trying to game the sales of the book.

If the RNC "just wanted books to resell, they could have gotten them for less money, direct from the publisher," the agent told BuzzFeed News. "They spent more, of donors' money, to buy them from BooksAMillion, clearly in an effort to look like 'real' sales."

It’s a strategy the president is well familiar with. The Trump Organization helped boost Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal” by purchasing “tens of thousands of copies,” former Trump Organization executive Jack O’Donnell wrote in his 1991 tell-all “Trumped!”

Trump Jr.’s book, subtitled “How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us,” ignores the president’s reliance on divisive rhetoric and attempts to silence critics and instead posits that the president and his family are the real victims.

"In one sense, the left and the liberal press effectively put me out of work. All that was left for me to do was spend my time campaigning for my father,” Trump Jr. wrote in the book, even though his father bucked centuries of tradition by keeping his business and putting Trump Jr. and Eric Trump in charge.

At another point in the book, Trump Jr., citing a satirical article as if it is real, claims that conservative students on college campuses are “scared” of the increasingly intolerant left, a core theme of the book. While promoting the book at UCLA, Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle were heckled off stage by a group of Trump supporters.

“A victimhood complex has taken root in the American left,” he wrote in another section of the book, before proceeding the compare the investigation into his father’s campaign’s ties to Russia to the years-long smear campaign against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by the FBI.

At one point, Trump Jr. mentioned that his mother’s parents were under surveillance while living in Czechoslovakia.

“So, I guess it’s not just me and my father,” he wrote. “People in my family have been getting spied on by governments for generations!”

Trump Jr. goes on to counter critics who call his dad racist by pointing out that he let him and Eric play with pop star Michael Jackson as children and sent him on vacation with a football player.

Considering "all the things my father has been called, particularly a 'racist,'” he wrote, “it sure sounds odd that he’d let his son vacation with a black man or hang out with Michael Jackson, doesn’t it?"

Trump Jr., who bills himself on Instagram as a “general in the meme wars,” goes on to compare his family’s sacrifices to those of fallen soldiers while recounting a trip with his father to Arlington National Cemetery.

“In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed — voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off the office,’” he wrote. "Frankly, it was a big sacrifice, costing us millions and millions of dollars annually . . . Of course, we didn't get any credit whatsoever from the mainstream media, which now does not surprise me at all.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh