'Trump had severe memory issues': Writer details his meetings with Trump for new book

So a new book out tomorrow is shedding light on how Donald Trump's time hosting the reality TV show The Apprentice cemented his image as a successful businessman and ultimately helped catapult him into the White House. In Apprentice in Wonderland, How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass, author Ramin Satuda reveals the tricks Trump learned from starring in the reality show to get the voting public hooked on his Make America Great Again message. Satuda also shares several behind the scenes secrets, including how Trump was humiliated by his initial salary of $25,000 per episode. So he hatched a poorly received plan to become one of the richest men in television by asking for $6 million per episode, equal to the combined salary of the cast to friends at the time. And the author of Apprentice in Wonderland, Ramin Satuta joins us now. He's also Co editor in chief for Variety. It's great to have you on this morning. You know, Romaine it, it is so fascinating you talk about this, this sort of Alice in Wonderland through the looking glass thing that was created by Trump and Burnett. I, I, I still remember business people in Manhattan just dying laughing at the prospect of Donald Trump being this great businessman when they all had stories about, you know, his bankruptcies or his, his failure to pay bills or you name it, his, his bad judgment as a business person. And yet, TV made this reality true for millions of Americans and Donald Trump has dined off of it since. This is the story. This is the reason why Donald Trump became President United States. This is the reason why he is now the nominee and could become President United States again. And I think the important thing about this book, what I want everyone to know is it's based on a lot of access to Donald Trump. I interviewed him starting in 2021. I, as a journalist, spent more time with him than any other journalist since he left the White House on the record. We talked a total of 6 times. We were sitting together in the boardroom at Trump Tower watching clips of The Apprentice together. And yes, this book is about the show and the warp reality that we all live in, but it's also a story about a president in exile, Donald Trump's mental temperament in the months after he left the White House, his desire for revenge, his fixation on famous people. Joe, he's actually very fixated still on you. He talked in very specific detail about an interview that you did in 2015 where Lawrence O'Donnell was questioning how much money he made off of The Apprentice. Most presidents post presidency are thinking of happier thoughts or thinking of moving on with their life. But he was still remembering everything, every negative thing that anyone said. And this book is also a warning because Donald Trump knows how to use the media. He's never been taken out. People keep saying, OK, the Trump era is over. We're moving on. And he won't leave because he's a reality star. And it's very hard to move on from reality stars. They really know how to captivate their audience. Yeah. Ramin. Yeah. And, and, and, and and, by the way. Really, really quickly. That's that's just a reminder. We don't do this so much anymore, but for a guy that ever watches our show. Hi, Donald Maura, next question. Well, like you, Joe, you know, I grew up in New York actually. And so my memory is similar to to Joe's memory of this show, which is kind of, you know, looking at at this show and and thinking is, is this guy for real? I mean, I knew as a kid even that I knew about the bankruptcies. I knew about the Central Park 5 case. I knew that he was desperate to be an insider in New York society, but really was never an insider. Can you talk a little bit about actually what it is about the show that you think really resonated with so many Americans outside New York and LED us to this point? What was it about The Apprentice and this this idea that he had that seemed to make him relatable? So The Apprentice provided in 2004, at the time, I just moved to New York City. I was a reporter at Newsweek and I started covering the show at the time. So I had a lot of insights into the show and a lot of access to Donald Trump going back 20 years. And so at the time, what was so ground breaking about the show? There was Survivor, there was Fear Factor, There were a lot of reality TV shows, but they were always aimed at the lowest common denominator. The Apprentice positioned itself as smart reality TV. It was going to teach you about business. Everyone had a job. A lot of millennials, people in their 20s and 30s at the time, saw it as aspirational reality TV where they could go on the show, they could show how smart they were. And then Donald Trump was the voice of judgment. He decided who was good, who was bad. He went in the boardroom, he hired someone. They could go work for his company and make $250,000 a year. It was seen as smart reality TV and Donald Trump, because of the editing that he got, because of the in which Mark Burnett, who created the show, portrayed him on The Apprentice, people started to think he was smart, he was funny, he was a good family man and he was very good at business. And that image is the image that made him president of the United States. Those are the voters, the millions of people that watched The Apprentice for the 14 seasons that Donald Trump posted it, that became his base. Yeah. I mean, you, you, you look at it. I mean, you can look at The Apprentice, you can look at the Art of the Deal. I mean, as far as the branding goes, yeah, it's pretty extraordinary for where he ended up going. But I remember after The Apprentice came out, Mika, I remember well, a couple things. First of all, my son then at the time who was 12 or something like that, you know, starts walking around the house going you're fired, you're fired. And I like this is breaking through number one, Number one. Number two, I remember driving around lower Manhattan cab driver and I always, I always interview. I always interview people that are driving me around. Hey, how you doing, where you from? Like, you know, how you know, when did you get to America? Whatever. And I remember one guy saying to me, he said, you know, I'm driving a cab now. I've been doing this for six months. I'm going to save enough money. I'm going to buy a car, then I'm going to get 2, then I'm going to have four. And one day I'm going to be just like Trump. And I sat there thinking this is probably 2005, 2006. I was like, you know what, you talk about a brand resonating. Yeah, for sure. This is this really is. And I mean, I'm wondering if you've taken a look at. And, you know, there's so many episodes. And I've also, you know, you hear rumblings about outtakes and, and what the fate of those are. I guess they're not legally gettable and seeable. But apparently there's a lot to learn about Donald Trump, not only in the episodes but in the outtakes. Well, he was Mike the entire time, and he loved being in the boardroom. It was his favorite part of the show. He didn't understand why there had he talked to me about how he didn't understand why there had to be all this extra stuff with the contestants. Not surprisingly, he just wanted the camera to be on himself. So the boardroom scenes would go on for even though they were on TV, there were only 10 minutes. They'd go on for sometimes three or four hours. And he was miked during all of that. And I asked him about the the tape, the alleged tape that exists where he allegedly said the N word and he denied it. Mark Burnett denied it. They said there's no bunker in which that tape exists. But that has been something that's followed him and persisted and people have talked about. But the other thing that I think is really interesting because I really got to know Donald Trump post presidency and I got to see what he was like. And over the weekend, he was talking about how Joe Biden needs to take a cognitive test. Joe Biden, you know, isn't all there. Donald Trump had severe memory issues. As the journalist who spent the most time with him, I have to say he couldn't remember things. He couldn't even Remember Me. We spent an hour together in 2021 in May. And then a few months later, I went back to the white, to the I went back to Trump Tower to talk to him about his time in the White House. And he had, I said he, you know, he had this vacant look on his face. And I said, do you Remember Me? And he said, no, he had no recollection of our lengthy interview that we had. And he wasn't doing a lot of interviews at that time. So I think that the American public really needs to see this portrait of Donald Trump because this shows what he is like and who he is and who he has always been. Ramin, I'm curious, why do you think he talked to you so much? I mean, I, I, it seems he's obviously he loves the identity of being ATV star. I mean, that's, that's self-evident. But why you why do you think he talks so much? And why do you think that his people were so willing to let you do it? He was very excited to talk to me. He actually reached out to me when the book was announced. As the editor in chief of Variety. He has a lot of affection for Variety. He has the Variety ratings from The Apprentice up framed up in his wall. He wanted to talk to me about show business. And he was really excited that someone was interested in going back and revisiting The Apprentice because that is something that he has such fond memories of and he was so excited about. And he was broadly loved when he was the host of The Apprentice. When he was the president of the United States. He wasn't. And he's very aware of that as someone who's savvy about his own media image. And so we kept extending the time. He was very pleased with our interviews. He really liked when I showed him the opening theme song from the show, he lit up and was very, very happy. When he watched himself firing Omarosa, he lit up and he was very, very happy. And so we went back and visited key scenes on the show in Trump Tower, and it was the happiest he was. And then he would talk about being president and he would become very gloomy and upset and resentful. And then he'd have his list of enemies. I, I'm curious. I, I, I saw a headline on top of you while you were saying something. It said that Donald Trump's that The Apprentice was Donald Trump's proudest achievement. Would you put that on par with him being elected president of the United States? The success in breaking through during The Apprentice, do you think that's what he's still the proudest of? Absolutely. There's no question about that. That's from the Washington Post. They have an excerpt of the book today. And he said to me that he was. He would go back and forth about whether or not he'd still be president without The Apprentice. A lot of people around him said he wouldn't have been president. And he told me that he didn't know if he would have run for president if it wasn't for The Apprentice. That is how important it was. I also talked to Eric Trump, who said it taught the family how to be public, how to be in the media. It taught their father how to react in debates, those debates that, you know, next week he's going to be debating Joe Biden. He's going to be using the tactics he learned in the boardroom when he'd be around celebrities or other contestants and undermine them and be funny and silly and ridiculous. And for whatever reason, it really works for him. And politically, if you're a politician without that training, it's very hard to keep up. The new book is entitled Apprentice in Wonderland, How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass, and it goes on sale tomorrow. Ramin Satuta, thank you very much. Congratulations on the book and thank you for coming on the show this morning. We appreciate it.

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