Skip to main content

Exposing Trump's Playbook

Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.


The Formative Years

To understand how Trump created his playbook, one has to go back to his formative years. After reading excerpts from his book, The Art of the Deal, I realize his formative years start when he is with his dad making the rounds, collecting money from the apartment complexes that his dad built. He learns how to be mean and lean while demanding to get rent payments from their tenants.

He was known as an unruly teenager and troublemaker with his friends and family. So, his parents enrolled him in the New York Military Academy thinking it would discipline him. It is said that he thrived on the structure and discipline. In his senior year, he became captain of his class. While in the academy, one of the lesson he learned and still uses today is how to divide and conquer his adversaries.

Business and Relationships

After the academy, he enrolled in Fordham University in the Bronx and after two years, transferred to Penn States' Wharton School of Business where he earned his degree in business.

After graduation, he decided to go into business for himself That period of time is somewhat of a blur of affairs, marriages, business deals, law suits, and attorneys. However, there was one attorney in that period who had a profound effect on Trump. His name was Roy Cohn and he served as Trump’s mentor. Roy Cohn was known for his handling of the Joseph McCarthy Witch Hunt of the 50’s and was McCarthy’s ruthless prosecutor in bringing alleged communist sympathizer to trial. But that is another story.

Roy Cohn and Donald Trump

Roy Cohn and Donald Trump

Roy Cohn, Trump's Mentor

Trump met Roy Cohn in 1973 and asked for his advice on discrimination of black tenants. “Tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court and let them prove you discriminated,” Cohn shot back. The Trumps would soon retain Cohn to represent them.” Through the years, Trump learned Cohn’s playbook for dealing with people. Cohn had a three-dimensional defense strategy, which Trump still uses today.

1. Never settle, never surrender.

2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately.

3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.”

Trump also learned from Cohn how to use words like, "I can tell you this", "people tell me", "they tell me." He learned how to use these snippets when under attack or was being questioned about something, like one of his conspiracy theories.

According to his Art of Deal, he also learned how to speak with bravado, embellish his speech with exaggerated truthful hyperbole, and play to people’s fantasies. At this time, he also realizes that he gets more gratification from deal making than from the money. He said, "I have plenty of money, but I enjoy the deal as it has become my art form." So, Trump now has his playbook of strategies to manipulate and deal with people.

President Trump and the Art of Manipulation

One of the first thing Trump does after entering office is, dividing the news media into two competing factions. The liberal main stream media is called the fake news and the conservative Fox News is his go to news platform. His intention is to divide and conquer the country as he did in his military academy days.

I have watched him use these strategies on everything and everybody that he interacts with. At first, I thought he was narcissistic and a sociopathic liar, but knowing what I know now, I think he is playing a game with all of us, like in The Art of the Deal and he enjoys a good fight.

Inside Trump's Playbook

When he appears in public now, I can see that he is really a Roy Cohn clone when dealing with people and issues. Here is what I think his playbook might look like. What I find fascinating is that Trump can deftly insert these strategies into any conversation, dialogue, or monologue without ever skipping a beat.

Use Roy Cohns Strategy:

1. Never settle, never surrender.
2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately.
3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.

  • When questioned about conspiracies use “I can tell you this", "people say, "they say”, "many people say" construction
  • Use truthful hyperbole to show bravado, tell half truths, and play to peoples fantasies
  • When attacked, assign derogatory labels to your adversaries
  • When attacked, play the victim and lie whenever necessary
  • When attacked for your mistakes, shift the blame to others and/or re-frame the narrative
  • When creating deception, be impulsive to throw others off course
  • When your ego needs a boost, ask for adoration and give yourself adoration, claim credit for others accomplishments
  • When punishing others, be revengeful, either fire them or demote them.
  • When questioned about those you know, fake amnesia, if necessary
  • When questioned by the press, if you don't like the question, interrupt them before they finish the question and then insult them and call them the fake news.


Trump has called himself a stable genius. In some respects, I think he is right. He may be a stable genius when it comes to manipulating people and issues. He may also may be a stable genius when it comes to protecting himself. Have you ever noticed that he never defends himself? But he will always attack his adversaries in one form or another.

Scroll to Continue

Where his playbook is lacking is in having rules for real leadership. The rules he lives by are for deal making and coercing others into doing what he wants them to do or say. He has no rules for real management. Real management includes the following:

  • If you don't support your people, they are not going to support you
  • If there is change, let your people participate in the change
  • Have compassion and empathy for your people
  • Don't surround yourself with Yes men
  • Don't coerce people into group thinking
  • Be objective in decision making
  • Be organized in both planning and communications.


  • The Atlantic
  • The Guardian
  • Vanity Fair
  • Roy Cohn and Trump
  • Excerpts from Trump's Art of The Deal
  • My observations and research

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mike Russo


Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on June 08, 2021:

Yep, I think he even believes his own lies.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 08, 2021:

peoplepower, yes, it still applies. Cohn law 3, has a powerful hold on Trump's mindset. Otherwise, he would throw in the towel to Old Joe Biden.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on June 08, 2021:

Miebakagh: Good to hear from you again. Stay well.


Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on June 08, 2021:

Thanks for dropping by. I wrote this sometime ago, but I think it still applies.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 06, 2021:

That's a pity.

James C Moore from Joliet, IL on June 06, 2021:

Cohn strategy number 3, never surrender or admit defeat, would explain his delusion that he would be reinstated. Enlightening read.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 20, 2020:

Nor are his enablers, Mike. :P

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 20, 2020:

Miebakagh: I think you are right. Trump is not teachable.

Sharlee on May 20, 2020:

It was clear that I Blamed Obama for not handling H1N1 properly it took him 6 months to declare it a national emergency. By then it was winding down. He took no steps to stop the spread. Again the CDC did little either or the WHO.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 20, 2020:

Shar, I thought you blamed Obama for the virus he had to deal with during his two terms? Now you don't seem to say the same about Trump's inactions re this crisis.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 20, 2020:

The reality is that Trump seems to know all. Why go to learn what? A real leader is teachable. The Cohn doctrine has inflate his ego.

Sharlee on May 20, 2020:

Randy, we have departments in our government that we financed to do specific jobs, be responsible for what they are hired to do, and paid to do. It was the CDC's responsibility to keep the National Stockpile. When I worked, I was hired to care for patients, it was the physician's job to write orders for me to follow in regards to their care. What meds to give them, what diet they should have while in the hospital, limitations on bedrest, you name it. It was my job not Doc's job to see any nursing orders were fulfilled. If I did not do my job, it was not the Doc that would be blamed, it would be me that did not do my job. My husband was in charge of making sure an auto plant's parts were kept supplied to insure the plant ran smoothly daily, and no lines would be closed due to lack of parts. All the stock chasers reported to him, but it was his responsibility to make sure all the sullies were being ordered and delivered. So, who do you think they would have blamed if a line had to be closed down in a mile-long auto plant, and union men would be paid, but not working. Who do you think fault it would be? That would be him, not the CEO of Chrysler.

When the CDC does not do their job, just who is to blame, However, is president?

Do you really think it realistic to think the president has his eye on every one of the 2 million people that work for our Government? This seems very unrealistic to me. I think I have given you my truth as to why I could not in any respect blame Bush, Obama, or Trump for the shelves being empty ibn the National Stockpile. It has nothing to do with me not wanting to blame Trump, our Government pays an agency to keep those stockpiles, and it makes me angry they did not do their job, and we have some diverting blame to the president. In my book, he worked very fast to get supplies and restock the National stockpile.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 20, 2020:

Jo, thanks for stopping by. One can only hope, but I don't think Trump is trainable. He is too set in his ways.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on May 20, 2020:

Well done, Mike. Makes you wonder if he'd had another mentor and loftier goals would he have been a real leader.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 20, 2020:

Once again Shar, why didn't Trump refill the supplies in his 3 and a half years as POTUS? You cannot blame anyone for this but Trump, but I realize you don't want to.

And Yes, I would have blamed Obama if it were the same sort of crisis facing us.

Sharlee on May 20, 2020:

Randy. As I said the CDC is responsible to keep the National Stockpile current and well supplied. I ask again would you have Blamed Obama for the depleted stockpiles if this pandemic occurred on his time? The CDC did not do their job in my view, no one should be blamed for the depleted stockpiles but them. Not Obama, not Trump. They had an important job, a very important part of their responsibilities. I am sure they are more than pleased they as of yet have not been pointed out for dropping the ball, as the WHO has been pointed out. Both organizations failed in my book. Again, have a look at the WHO timeline. The facts ae present for anyone that wants to read that timeline. It.s sad to see the media attacking Trump for calling the WHO when most of the blame for this pandemic is their fault. This confirms my view that the media is very misleading, and can lead many to whatever conclusion they hope to push.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 19, 2020:

I want to read Trump's playbook, Shar, not Kalye's display of it. Does it say anything about why the essentials were not resupplied during Trump's 3 1/2 years in office?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Randy, Here is a link to presser where the books were displayed.

Look at about 14

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Randy, I have not looked for it, the two binders were pasted to the press to have a look at it. I would think it might show up at some point or on the Government site. It might be there already. I don't think the press cared about it. Nothing negative equals no coverage.

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Mike, sorry I did not realize you were speaking about something Mitch said. I looked at your link, and it well appears he said Obama left no playbook. My comment on the playbook was answering a question Randy aked.--- "He also ignored the Pandemic Playbook left by the Obama administration just for such an emergency. Why was that?"

Just pointing out why Trump did not use Obama's playbook. His administration created their own. Can't say why Mitch said what he did.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 19, 2020:

Any link to the Trump plan, Shar?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

I will believe my own eyes. Kayle presented the playbooks to the press corps at White House press conference she also had a copy of the Obama administrations to compare. alongside Obamas. press on TV.

She introduces the book at about 14

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 19, 2020:

Correct Mike, and Mitch finally admitted he was wrong.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Sharlee: Who are you going to believe, Trump's press secretary or politicfact?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Mike. same problem. I am going to find it on another site I am interested in what wrote. If I find a copy I will pass it on.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Val: If Trump gets elected for the next term, my wife and I are talking about moving to Canada. We may become!

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Sharlee: I tried reading the five page letter, but it is barely legible. I did read the last paragraph on the last page. It states that the WHO has 30 days to break off relations with China. If they don't do it, Trump will cut off funding to the WHO.

Sharlee, what do you think this threat buys Trump?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Randy. What was reported last week on the Obama Playbook is that it was a few pages and was not sufficient? Trump WH in Aug 2018 created their own Playbook.

"In 2018, the Trump administration issued our Pandemic Crisis Action Plan, one of the binders that I just handed to Lyndee. Further, from August 13th to the 16th, the Trump administration conducted the Crimson Contagion 2019 Functional Exercise. This was a pandemic stimulation [simulation] to test the nation’s ability to respond to a large-scale outbreak."

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Randy The truth is,“Trump never fired Fired” any security officials handling pandemics a few left their positions left and were not replaced by the Trump administration.

As for funding, there’s no question that the Trump administration proposed some CDC budget categories. But was convinced not to and that funding was actually even increased in bills that Trump ultimately signed.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 19, 2020:

So why did Trump cut back on the CDC's staff and funding, Shar? He was interested enough in the CDC to "streamline" it, but not enough to see they had the funding and supplies needed for a future pandemic. He also ignored the Pandemic Playbook left by the Obama administration just for such an emergency. Why was that?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Randy, there is lots of blame to go around. Have a look at the WHO timeline, the CDC has removed their timeline last I looked. I pointed out many problems the CDC could be blamed for on several threads. And yes ultimately that National Stockpile perhaps should have been assessed byTrump when he came into office. But, the fact is it is the CDC that is responsible manages and operates the stockpile. So, yes, our Government failed at keeping that stockpile. As I said there is enough blame to go around. I would guess you feel Trump should have had an eye on the CDC to make sure they did their job. I guess you can blame him for not being aware that the CDC doing their job. But is it fair to put all the blame on him for those stockpiles? Would have you blamed Obama if this tragedy happened to come along on his time. The stockpiles were inherited from the Obama administration. So, should we also blame him? I say no, we perhaps should blame the organization of whose job it was to keep those stockpiles, the CDC. I realize you dislike this president, and I can respect your opinion. But, in regard to how he has handled this crisis, maybe you might take another long look at where to point your finger.

In my view, he is doing his best to solve problems that no other president has had to solve in a very long time.

ValKaras on May 19, 2020:

Mike -- I don't claim to know anything about Trump's political agenda, and the following comment is strictly about him as he is presenting himself on all videos.

His vocabulary is the one of a teenager. His sentences are short, and he tends to paraphrase or repeat the previous sentence. He loves using superlatives, as if for a convincing effect. And, I am truly amazed that his followers make nothing of his lying and contradicting himself -- so much.

As for his behavior, his facial expression is almost a tattoo of a stern, defensive air, as if constantly ready for others' attacks. That guy smiles only when he wants to look victorious. I don't remember a single leader of any state anywhere in the world who resorted to insults like he does, when he feels cornered.

I said it elsewhere and I will repeat it -- I have nothing against the dude, actually more power to him if he can take the whole nation for a ride, that's a big success. But I must also say that he doesn't impress me as a "human powerhouse" -- he is too nervous, and it's only his position of a president that allows him to turn that nervousness into a surrogate of a personal power. I never trusted competence of nervous people.

So much from me. And yes, to all those who adore him -- go ahead, it's your choice, no one can tell you whom to like or not. I am merely using the same right to express my own opinion.

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Mike, Yes COVCID19 causes your immune system to go into overload and produce Cytokines which are small proteins released by many different cells in the body, including those of the immune system where they act to coordinate the body’s response against infection and trigger inflammation. to help the immune system respond to diseases.

A Cytokines storm is where the immune system is overloaded with Cytokines and causes severe inflammation. This is where a physician might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to combat severe inflammation. Hydroxychloroquine has been used to due to it showing anti-inflammatory properties. it has a good reputation for its effects on various forms of arthritis. In my opinion, I would take it in an early stage of COVID to make an attempt to keep inflammation from worsening. I think in the late stages it would do little. There are other medications being used on COVID, although I would not call all of them safe, but necessary.

In regard to WHO. I heard a report today that Trump sent WHO a letter. I have not read it as of yet. I feel the US should continue to stay part of the WHO organization. In my view, yes they made mistakes as did the CDC, as did our Government. I feel no one saw this mess coming, and yes, we have learned many things.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Randy: That's all true. He will never ever admit he is wrong or take the blame for anything that he has done as wrong. Even Mitch McConnell admits that Obama left him a Pandemic Playbook. He will shift the blame and re-frame the narrative to take the focus off of himself.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Sharlee: As an RN, I'm sure you know that the corona virus causes your immune system to go into overload and start producing cytokine storms which can be fatal. Unless Trump's drug can reduce the cytokine storms, then I don't think it can do its job. That is what I'm reading. The drug is used to treat malaria and RA, but we don't know the risk/benefit in a long term, large scale public setting. I don't know if 3,000 people is enough.

I read the doctor's memo and it just gives Trump the permission to take it if he wants to.

Calling the CDC and the WHO to the carpet is one thing. Cutting off funding is another. We may be cutting off our nose, despite our face. Trump likes to isolate this country, but this is a pandemic and we need all the help we can get from other countries operating as a world wide team, the way I see it.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 19, 2020:

Trump is doing everything he can to blame others for his own delayed actions re the virus. Nothing new there in his actions. Nothing is ever his fault, even when he ignored the pandemic playbook and failed to restock the needed medical supplies 3 and a half years after he took office. What was he waiting for, Shar?

Sharlee on May 19, 2020:

Being an RN that has given Hydroxychloriquine for many years to all ages from small children to elderly for arthritis, lupus, and many other inflammatory diseases, I can say if taken as prescribed by one's physician it is safe and effective. In Michigan, one of our large metro hospitals is doing a 3.000 case study on COVID Pt.and the drug. Not sure if the President is or is not taking it or not. He claims he is.

In regard to WHO, one only needs to read their timeline in regard to COVID19 and see Trump is correct in his assumption that they handled crisis poorly. The timeline tells all. Yesterday he claimed he was not freezing funds but cutting the amount to what China was paying. Cutting the amount from 400 million to 40 million. I feel he should also point a finger at the CDC. They were also very lacking in handling the crisis in the first weeks. In this case, I am with Trump, the mistakes these two organizations made were inexcusable. One should consider these two health organizations were the eyes and ears of the world, and they deserve to be called to the carpet.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

5/19/2020 Trump says he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for two weeks. However, there is no proof that he is actually taking it. His doctor's memo only states he agreed for him to take it. It's just like Trump to fake it, because he knows it has detrimental side effects.

Trump is blaming the WHO for being partial to China about the virus. Now he is threatening to freeze funding to the WHO unless they clean up their act. Another strategy right out of his playbook for shifting his blame to others.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 19, 2020:

Miebakagh: Thank you. You enjoy your day as well.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 19, 2020:

Mike. I agreed. And thanks. Enjoy your day.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 18, 2020:

Miebakagh: I would not count Trump out. He has a very large following of people.


Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 18, 2020:

Sharlee: Thanks for your position on that.

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 18, 2020:

Randy: Thanks for dropping by and the link

Mike Russo (author) from Placentia California on May 18, 2020:

Sharlee: I'm not so sure about your last sentence.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 18, 2020:

Peoplepower, I agreed with you that Trump started the "fake news" term on Fox News. What a jolly good fellow "real" Donald Trump is. The number of persons he may influence? Will count, come November.

Sharlee on May 17, 2020:

Hi Randy. Remember to report, and how poorly Fox handled it. causing Seth Rich's family mush grief. And I think it was a disgrace. I was pleased to see Seth's family win their lawsuit against FOX. It is very clear CNN handled their retractions very quickly. I respect mistakes that are made when reporting the News, but some much worse than others. The Seth Rich report was a real mar on FOX News.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 17, 2020:

Hey Sharlee, this article discuss one such episode and the way both CNN and Fox handled it.

Sharlee on May 17, 2020: