>> Behind the scenes in Donald Trump's world, according to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, this week on "Firing Line."
>> This is the chance to work for me at a huge salary.
>> Love it or hate it, the story of a real-estate developer and reality-television star who became the 45th president of the United States... >> Please raise your right hand and repeat After me.
>> ...has dominated media coverage for the last six years.
>> The President pouring gasoline on a political fire.
>> President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting face to face.
>> President Trump suggested scientists look into disinfectants as a treatment.
>> New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman has dominated the beat.
She's been inside the Oval Office and Donald Trump's head.
>> Fame is the overarching desire for him and has been since he was in his 20s.
>> Haberman scoops have also frequently put her on the receiving end of Donald Trump's wrath.
>> So, Maggie Haberman gets a Pulitzer Prize.
She's a third-rate reporter.
>> Now Haberman is out with a bestselling book about Trump's life that starts at the beginning.
She interviewed hundreds of sources, including the former president himself.
What does Maggie Haberman say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Maggie Haberman, welcome to "Firing Line."
>> Thank you for having me.
>> You are out with a bestselling book, "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America."
You have spoken with him countless times throughout his life, three times for this book specifically, and you've spoken to more than 250 sources in reporting on this book.
Was there anything especially revelatory or surprising to you as you wrote this book?
>> So, there were a couple of moments, I would say, that were surprising.
For instance, having a biracial girlfriend in the 1990s, who was a model, and she is the daughter of a Black woman and a white man, and he told her that she had gotten her beauty from her mother and her brains from her dad, the white side.
That stopped me when I heard it.
The individual actions surprised me.
The broader portrait of who he is, however, I think is really consistent with what we have seen over a very long period of time, and that is somebody who cares about dominance and power and money and bullying and himself.
>> And celebrity.
>> And celebrity and fame.
And fame is absolutely -- I left out the most important one.
Fame is the overarching desire for him and has been since he was in his 20s.
>> You write about how Donald Trump grew up in a wealthy household where there were servants and chauffeurs.
He was a paper boy in his childhood, but when it rained and there were storms, he would be chauffeured along his paper route to deliver the papers.
He received help and financial support from his father through the business, help that was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Why do you think Trump got into the habit of peddling this notion that he was -- he had a hard-knock upbringing?
>> He received that help from his father well into the 1990s.
His father helped him in ways seen and not seen for decades.
But the idea that he had to rely on someone else and was not a self-made man has, for whatever reason, always bothered him.
And I think it's because part of his ego needs to sell the idea that he did this all on his own, and he can't sa-- A, he can't stand sharing credit, which we know, but having to be seen as Fred Trump's derivative for the rest of his life was clearly something that he bucked up against at a very young age.
And Trump was very clearly intimidated by his father, and he spent his whole life intimidated and, you know, afraid and resentful.
But because he spends so much time mythmaking about others and himself, it was very important to him to spin this idea that he did this all on his own.
>> And who will be The Apprentice?
♪♪ >> You write about, in "The Apprentice," Trump had his first consistent paycheck at the age of 57.
But the whole set was a facade.
>> He was actually fighting bankruptcy while he was filming the program.
Talk about "The Apprentice" and how that played into eventually him becoming president.
>> It wasn't clear to me until I was in Dubuque, Iowa, in January of 2016 at one of his airport-hangar rallies, and one after another, everyone told me they were caucusing for him.
One man looked at me like I had eight heads when I asked why, and he said, "I watched him run his business," and he was talking about "The Apprentice."
And I had not really understood until that moment how much the line between news and entertainment just was obliterated on the other side of the screen and how much people were taking this, as you say, this fantasia about what his business life was like, as if it was representative.
And so without "The Apprentice," I do not believe he would have become president.
I think he knows he would not have become president without it, because it created this image, this myth, of him sitting in a high-back leather chair.
I think it created a baseline for him with the public.
>> The title of your book is "Confidence Man," which is the old-fashioned term for a con man.
Many supporters of Donald Trump concede that he doesn't always tell the truth, but they also see him as being uncommonly authentic.
So how do you, having been on this beat, understand that contradiction in terms, this fact that he is seen as so authentic even though he's a liar.
He's an authentic liar.
>> That's such a good question and such a good way of putting it.
And you're right.
There are a number of his supporters who describe him as, you know, "he tells it like it is."
You know, "He says things.
He's not politically correct.
He's just saying, you know, what's really there."
And I get back to "The Apprentice."
I know he's what he says he is because I saw it with my own eyes.
>> So he established credibility with them.
>> Look, Donald Trump is facing a number of ongoing investigations.
The Justice Department is investigating his handling of classified records.
Prosecutors in Georgia are looking at his attempt to overturn the 2020 election by telling Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, that he should just find 11,870 votes.
There's also this criminal tax-fraud trial involving the Trump Organization, which begins this week.
Of all of these, which actually has the most potential to damage Donald Trump?
>> It's a really good question, and I think there's a difference between what has the most potential to damage him criminally, what has the biggest potential to damage him in ways that he considers to be wounding, and which ones he's most concerned with.
And so with those three buckets -- >> And you think they're not the same?
>> I don't.
And let me work backwards.
>> Go for it.
>> The one that he has been talking about, at least until the Trump Organization arguments began in earnest this week -- the one that he had been talking the most about was this defamation suit that E. Jean Carroll, a writer who claims that he raped her, filed against him.
He has been wracked with anger about it and yelling about it to aides.
The Trump Organization trial, that has the potential to expose his business as it is, as opposed to how he has wanted people to see it or not see it.
He has spent years trying to keep people from seeing the inner workings of the Trump Organization.
It's very opaque.
So that worries him personally, 'cause that goes to his wealth, that goes to his image-making.
The one that has the greatest potential for criminal charges against him, federally, it's the investigation into the documents he had of Mar-A-Lago.
It's not the January 6th investigation.
On the state level, the Georgia one remains a real threat.
But he just doesn't experience any of these things the way most people would, so I have to put it in those different buckets.
>> You've reported extensively on the classified-records investigation.
This past August, the FBI, of course, searched Mar-A-Lago where they discovered thousands of documents, 18 of which were labeled top secret.
Nearly a year before that, in September of 2021, you had asked him whether he had taken any mementos from the White House.
Take a listen.
>> Did you leave the White House with anything in particular?
Are there any memento documents you took with you?
Anything of note?
>> Nothing of great urgency.
>> I have great things.
You know, the letters, the Kim Jong-un letters, and many of them -- >> You were able to take those with you?
>> Look at what's happen-- No, I think that has the -- I think that's in the archives.
But most of it is in New York.
>> But the Kim Jong-un letters-- We have incredible things.
I have incredible letters with other leaders.
>> I've heard you say that you just asked him that on a lark.
Why'd you ask him that?
>> Because if you know Donald Trump, he loves his trophies.
If anyone has ever spent any time in his corner office at Trump Tower, you get shown Shaquille O'Neal's shoe or, you know, the framed photo that Scott Walker sent him.
And he's a packrat.
So I asked.
It was, you know, a random question -- >> Seemed plausible.
>> Random question.
And then he starts musing about the Kim Jong-un letters and I thought was saying that he had them.
And I was surprised.
And I said, "You were able to take those with you?"
Something flickered across his face.
You obviously can't see it in that audio, but something passed on his face when I said, "You were able to take those with you?"
And he said, "No, I think those are in the archives."
And so it was fascinating to me because I asked this question.
His immediate impulse is to say, "That's not true."
Then to kind of show off, it seemed, by talking about the letters.
And then when he registered my reaction, to backtrack and say, "No, no, no, I don't -- I don't have those."
>> So at that point, did you suspect that he had documents?
>> It was very hard to know exactly what was going on when he said that.
You know, it's a piece of audio that becomes much more interesting after the August 8th FBI search of Mar-A-Lago, which was almost a year after this interview.
It was -- It was strange.
I mean, it was -- I have no other way to describe it.
It was strange.
>> In your book, you detail how Trump took boxes of papers to the White House residence, tore up documents, threw some scraps even down the toilet.
How do you understand that behavior?
>> It could be one of a couple of things, the same way him taking those documents to Mar-A-Lago could be one of a couple of things.
>> Well, if you take them to Mar-A-Lago, you take your tchotchkes because you have trophies.
>> Or because you want leverage over someone or something.
>> If you're ripping it up and putting it down the toilet... >> Well, that -- That was different.
And that was, you know -- The staff who were aware that this was happening would speculate as to why, and they generally all speculated it was something he didn't want people to see.
For whatever reason, this was stuff that he wanted to keep to himself.
And sometimes it was stuff that didn't seem to matter much.
But, you know, just based on the things that -- I got photos of notes that he had thrown into toilets in two different places.
And in one case, it just seemed to be, you know, notes ahead of an event.
And so it's not clear why these are things that he was disposing of that way.
>> You reported earlier in October that the Justice Department believes Trump may still have more documents in his possession.
What do you think the likelihood is?
I mean, based on, you know -- based on what we know about the fact that he was told repeatedly to give material back and they kept finding more.
>> You spent a lot of time in your book talking about the influences on Donald Trump, and you write extensively about how the the person who was most influential over Donald Trump, other than his father, was a man by the name of Roy Cohn.
He was the chief lawyer of Senator Joseph McCarthy's hearings during the Red Scare, and he later represented Trump when the federal government was investigating him for housing discrimination in 1970.
Roy Cohn was a guest on the original "Firing Line" with William F. Buckley Jr. in 1976, defending the FBI against accusations of overreach.
Take a look.
>> If the FBI can't have a certain amount of latitude in internal-security cases to get enough information together so it can at least be forewarned and try to do what it has done, a successful protective job along those lines, we're going to destroy our own freedoms under the guise of trying to save.
>> In 2017, Donald Trump lamented, "Where's my Roy Cohn?"
when he was frustrated that his attorney general was not doing enough to protect him from the Russia investigation.
What do we see in Donald Trump, the president, that he absorbed from his mentor, Roy Cohn?
>> What he learned from Cohn is, fight against everything, you know, say up is down and down is up.
Say that you are being persecuted.
You know, never settle, except, of course, when you do settle, insist you really haven't and don't acknowledge defeat.
And he also learned that there is a type of lawyer who will do anything for you, that, you know, a lawyer can be converted into a different job, like Mafia don or defender.
And one of Trump's old friends once said to me that Trump likes lawyers who are willing to do anything.
And that's clearly what he saw in Cohn and then what he expected everyone around him was going to do, regardless of context.
>> You reject the notion, based on your reporting, that Trump is an authoritarian.
So explain this distinction.
>> I want to caveat it with the idea that I think it's a distinction without a difference, in terms of how it ends up.
I don't think it means that Donald Trump is a more, you know, benign, gentle soul.
Trump is much more of a bossist, which is basically that he wants to be seen as in charge.
Violence very much informs his idea of what comprises strength, and then that strength comprises what makes an effective leader.
And so that is how he views leadership.
Authoritarianism is a more coherent through line of governance, and he has no coherent through line of governance because, as you noted, and as I've noted, everything he does is about avoiding blame.
He wants credit, he doesn't want blame.
He doesn't want responsibility.
An authoritarian generally doesn't really care.
>> They're happy to have responsibility.
>> You cite this in the context of January 6th.
>> That's right, that's right.
>> You say that Donald Trump, if you had studied him, you would have known he would have sent a mob.
>> Because that you can take credit for without having to take responsibility.
If he had called -- The thing official Washington was most worried about was that he would use the military.
But you say he never would have done that because he would have had to take responsibility.
>> Yeah, and because he wasn't sure how it would play out.
Everything with him is about trying to figure out how to -- You know, again, he's not strategic, but he is calculating.
And so he does spend a fair amount of time in his head trying to figure out, you know, how far he can -- he can push transgressive behavior.
Because he really never understood where the levers of power were as president, he didn't know what would happen if he issued an order like that.
>> I mean, there are those who will say these fears of authoritarianism are overstated.
>> Well, no, the fears of authoritarianism are not overstated because there are plenty of people who actually like the qualities that he espouses, even if they're not actually, you know, somebody who behaves like an authoritari-- like a true authoritarian.
It is a distinction without a difference because a lot of the behaviors are very similar.
>> So it's not less dangerous.
>> In some ways, I think it's more dangerous, Margaret, because I think that -- because I don't think that he believes in anything.
I think if you are willing to do whatever in any given moment, as long as it benefits you, that actually makes you less predictable, in some ways.
>> You report in your book, two weeks after the election, Trump told aides, quote... Tell me more about that quote.
>> So I heard about it well after his second impeachment trial ended.
That was February 2021.
I just want to make that clear at the outset.
It was pretty striking to me.
Was it hugely surprising against the backdrop of everything else we saw him do?
We clearly know he wanted to hold on to power.
We know that he was trying to do everything he could to subvert the election.
But a president saying something like that and people being aware he was saying something like that as soon as, you know, the second week after the election, was pretty striking to me because it really speaks to a mind-set and it speaks to how much people around him were hoping this was all going to just go away.
So, you know, I'll give you a for instance.
I broke a story on December 19th about a meeting that had taken place in the Oval Office the night before with Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn and Trump.
And, you know, there was discussion about using the mil-- using the military to -- to get involved in the election.
And a very senior Republican texted me after that story published and said, "Are we going to have an issue with the transfer of power?"
And I said, "Yes.
Yes, we are.
Look at -- You are."
>> Let's just take the fact that senior Republicans are asking you.
>> Because you have more information than they do?
>> They didn't at that point.
I mean, Trump was not speaking to Mitch McConnell.
His relationship with McCarthy was fraught for a variety of reasons.
You know, he was not on speaking terms with his attorney general in any meaningful way at that point.
Most of his own aides didn't want to talk to him.
And what was striking to me was not so much that they were asking me this information because they couldn't get it themselves, although you're right, but it was more that, how can you not see that at this point?
I mean, what more do you need to realize that there is, you know, iceberg straight ahead?
So... >> Much of the Republican Party has embraced Trump's lies about 2020.
All of this stems from one man's will to preserve power.
>> Are you surprised that, two years later, Trump has so completely warped reality within the GOP?
>> I am.
I mean, I -- That is not something that I can say I expected.
When I look back, I should have expected it When Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-A-Lago within two weeks after Trump leaving office to try to smooth things over.
and Trump put out a picture of him and McCarthy together, which is a Trump signature move.
That was the moment that I think it became clear that Trump knew that these folks were going to come to him, that he was going to continue bending them to his will even out of office, that they needed him in their elections.
But the degree to which the entire party has turned itself over to promoting things he's saying about 2020 that are just not true, that have been demonstrated as not true over and over again, and that the majority of the voters in the party don't seem to care.
It's -- It's shocking.
>> There are reports that Trump and his allies will challenge the election results in the midterm elections in the state of Pennsylvania, in the Senate race there.
The Arizona gubernatorial candidate has suggested that, you know, she may or may not accept the results.
>> Is this just the downstream effect of Donald Trump's warped reality?
>> I think that it is a new reality.
I think that it is Republicans believing that they need him to be on their side, no matter what happens.
He isn't even a candidate yet for 2024, although I expect that he will be.
And yet they are all so concerned about -- You know, not all, but most of them are concerned about offending him or about incurring his wrath.
Trump, and I write about this in the book, has told people that part of why he endorsed candidates like Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania was that he believed that Oz, you know, would support him if the election was challenged in 2024 or if he were to get elected again and then impeached again.
So I think what you're seeing is, it's not really just a downstream.
It's actually Trump building this whole new infrastructure around himself.
>> You've reported that he may very well announce his campaign in the coming weeks after the midterm elections.
And you've also said it's because he's backed himself into a corner that he'll likely run in 2024.
>> I think that he has not, for most of the last year, seemed particularly excited about running again, although I think he's getting more so as the midterms are drawing to a close.
And I think he's very, very invested in trying to claim credit for the midterms.
So I think that's a piece of it.
He's not excited about, you know, having to do the work of a candidacy over the next two years again.
I think even for him, the rallies have kind of lost their luster.
But I think that he see-- I know he sees these as a good defense against all these investigations.
He can say it's a witch hunt and it's political, and they're after me because I'm running.
The armature of the presidency, I think, he sees as an allure.
It is the main way he raises money now is being a political figure, and it is the main way he stays relevant and gets attention, which is the thing he craves the most.
He still is not getting the mainstream media attention that he once did, and we'll see what happens if he's a candidate.
But he needs it to get all of that.
>> If Donald Trump is a candidate in 2024, is there any reason he wouldn't clear the field?
Is there any reason to expect a different set of outcomes than we've seen with him previously?
>> Certainly in the primary, I think it's unlikely.
I think in the primary, I don't know if he will outright clear it.
That's going to depend on whether somebody like Ron DeSantis runs.
I think way too much weight is being put on Ron DeSantis as a -- as the Trump stopper.
I don't think we have any clue yet what he will look like nationally if he runs.
>> Why do you think there is so much fanfare around the possibility of Ron DeSantis as being the person who can stop Donald Trump?
>> I think it's some combination of wish-casting, honestly.
I think that's a big piece of it, along with the fact that he does articulate, you know, some of Trump's combativeness and a lot of his culture-war sensibility and does it in a way that's pretty unapologetic, and so I think that's a lot of it.
>> A piece of your reporting in the book points out that -- what Donald Trump actually thinks of Ron DeSantis.
And, you know, what is so clear is that Donald Trump has this reptilian sense of being able to sense somebody's weakness and then exploit it.
He did this with "Lying Ted Cruz," with "Little Marco."
>> "Low Energy Jeb."
>> "Low Energy Jeb," right?
So we got a glimmer of what the criticisms would look like when Trump decides to focus on DeSantis.
Because as you write, he, Trump, refers to DeSantis as fat and phony and whiny.
Is there any reason to think that Trump won't just do the same thing with DeSantis as he's done with every other primary contender?
And he's already said to be working out nicknames, and he's already started taking swipes at DeSantis in public on his social-media website.
And I expect that's going to continue.
>> In recent weeks, we've seen Donald Trump begin to amplify and, frankly, fully embrace QAnon.
The AP reported that he reposted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel overlaid with the words "The Storm is Coming."
Of course, "the storm" in QAnon lore refers to the time where Donald Trump will return to the presidency and execute his enemies on live television.
What should his full embrace of the conspiracy theories tell us?
>> Number one, this is who he is, and, number two, this is who he will be if he comes back into office.
I'm not saying he's going to execute his opponents, but I am saying that he is -- he is reveling in a pretty violent conspiracy theory and he is gearing up for a potential term, should he win and should he run, that would be largely based on spite.
>> Let me ask you.
Trump has been, since January 6th, without one of his primary tools.
And Elon Musk has taken control of the company last week.
He has expressed his support for lifting the Twitter ban on Donald Trump's Twitter feed.
Donald Trump, of course, says he doesn't want to go back to Twitter.
He's perfectly happy with his Truth Social, although nobody can actually sincerely believe that.
>> I don't.
>> Should he be allowed back on Twitter?
>> One thing I think is going to give the social-media companies pause -- or should give them pause -- is the fact that he has been using his own social-media website to attack U.S. Jews, as he did, you know, in the last couple of weeks, and tell them that they should get their act together and behave more like Israeli Jews and be grateful to him for actions that he took relating to Israel.
That kind of language has real consequence, and it spreads like wildfire on social media.
And, you know, if he's doing that on his own site, I don't know why he wouldn't do it on Twitter.
>> You have been personally attacked by Donald Trump on Twitter, off Twitter, in many ways.
Why does he call you and talk to you on and off the record?
>> It's really his fascination with The New York Times, honestly.
He just wants to see if he can sell you.
And he is uniquely obsessed with The New York Times.
>> Maggie Haberman, the book is "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America."
Thank you for joining me on "Firing Line."
>> Thanks for having me.
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> You're watching PBS.