New ‘Apprentice’ Book Paints Trump as Wounded, Forgetful and Hung Up on Hollywood

It was May 2021, and Donald J. Trump was wounded. Four months earlier, his supporters had ransacked the Capitol. He had departed Washington, disgraced, defeated and twice impeached. His party had abandoned him, however temporarily, and he’d been kicked off his social media accounts. He holed up inside Trump Tower and stewed.

An entertainment journalist named Ramin Setoodeh came knocking. He told Mr. Trump he wanted to write a book, not about the unpleasantness of the previous four years, but about that prelapsarian period before Mr. Trump entered politics. Then, he was merely the star of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that aired on NBC beginning in 2004 and “changed television,” as Mr. Setoodeh put it to the former president.

Mr. Trump was sold. He granted the reporter several long, recorded interviews. “He was at his lowest then,” Mr. Setoodeh, 42, said over lunch in Manhattan’s West Village on Friday. “I think talking about ‘The Apprentice’ allowed him to feel comfort.”

Mr. Trump became so excited about the book that he offered to promote it at his rallies, saying that the merchants who follow his traveling roadshow would help peddle it. “You’ll sell 10,000 books at one rally,” he told Mr. Setoodeh. “Let’s see how this works out.”

Not well, as it turns out — at least for Mr. Trump. “Apprentice in Wonderland,” published Tuesday, depicts its subject as a lonely and sometimes dotty man, longing for the days when he was still accepted by his fellow celebrities, even as he seems to crave political power.

One minute he’s bragging that Joan Rivers voted for him in 2016 (she died in 2014); the next he’s excusing himself to go deal with “the whole thing with the Afghanistan,” as he told Mr. Setoodeh, who happened to be interviewing him the week President Biden was pulling U.S. troops out of the country. It was unclear what Mr. Trump meant.

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