Trump was "doing his best Mussolini impression" after his COVID diagnosis, niece writes in new book

Mary Trump recounts the moment Donald Trump ripped off his face mask upon returning to the White House

By Jon Skolnik
Published August 11, 2021 12:19PM (EDT)
U.S. President Donald Trump removes his mask upon return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump spent three days hospitalized for coronavirus.\ (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump removes his mask upon return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump spent three days hospitalized for coronavirus.\ (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Donald Trump was "doing his best Mussolini impression" when he took off his mask to greet a crowd while battling the coronavirus, his estranged niece Mary Trump writes in her forthcoming book.

In the new book, excerpted by The Guardian, Trump posits that despite Trump's "display of invulnerability," the former president was in fact "biting back anger or clamping down on her pain."

"I have asthma," she wrote. "So I am acutely aware of what it looks like when somebody is struggling to breathe. He was in pain, he was afraid, but he would never admit that to anybody – not even himself. Because, as always, the consequences of admitting vulnerability were much more frightening to him than being honest."

Last October, Donald Trump was shortly admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center in D.C. after the White House announced that he'd been infected with COVID-19. Three days later, the former president was discharged from the hospital, after which he greeted a crowd celebrating the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barret, took off his mask and told supporters: "You're going to beat it [coronavirus] … As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there's danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front, and led."

Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at the hospital, later criticized Trump's behavior, calling his appearance "insanity" – a comment for which he was fired. "Every single person...in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential "drive-by" just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," Phillips wrote in a since-deleted tweet. "They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater."

A number of outlets reported that Trump appeared to be struggling to breathe at the time. Later in February, The Guardian revealed that the former president had downplayed the severity of his illness, as Trump had actually experienced "extremely depressed blood oxygen levels." A number of officials were reportedly concerned that the former president would need to be put on a ventilator. Despite these reports, Dr. Sean Conley, who was serving as Trump's personal physician at the time, claimed that Trump was "doing very well" and raised "no cause for concern".

The latest round of revelations stem from Mary Trump's upcoming book "The Reckoning: Our nation's trauma and finding a way to heal." Trump argues that the nation is currently experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress in the wake of Trump's presidency. 

Last week, she revealed that the former president had used the phrase "it is what it is" in reference to the surge in the coronavirus death toll last year, according to Insider. "That was a popular expression in my family, and hearing it sent a chill down my spine," she wrote. "Whenever my grandfather, my aunt, or one of my uncles had said it, it was always with a cruel indifference to somebody else in despair."

"Donald had said it to me at my grandparents' house in Queens when I'd asked him why my grandfather insisted that my father's ashes were to be buried in the family plot instead of scattered off the coast of Montauk, as he'd wanted," she wrote.

She then added that her uncle quipped: "It is what it is, honeybunch."


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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Book Clip Coronavirus Covid Mary Trump Mask Mussolini