A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America

Carol Leonnig ’87 and Philip Rucker

An account of the Trump presidency hits the bestseller lists.

In its first week, this account of the first three years of the Trump presidency hit the top of the bestseller lists of The New York Times and USA Today.

Written by two Washington Post veterans— reporter Carol Leonnig ’87 and White House bureau chief Philip Rucker—A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America focuses on specific incidents of conflict with senior advisors, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Amid the unpredictability of the current administration, Leonnig and Rucker set out to detect the patterns in the behavior of Trump and his associates. As Leonnig told NPR, “We both wanted to just hit the pause button and say, ‘How do we make sense of this administration and this unprecedented presidency, for ourselves and for readers?’”

As Leonnig and Rucker write in the author’s note that opens the book, “In this book, we aimed to provide the closest version of the truth that we could determine based on rigorous reporting. We carefully reconstructed scenes to reveal President Trump unfiltered, showing him in action rather than telling readers what to think of him.”

The narrative they tell drew on deep reporting that relied on insider accounts that were, when possible, corroborated by multiple sources, documents, and private video recordings. Among the interview subjects were some of the most senior members of the Trump administration and other firsthand witnesses. Although many go unnamed, many spoke on the record, among them, Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon and former transition chief (and former New Jersey governor) Chris Christie. Trump himself, after initially agreeing to an interview, ended up declining to sit down with Rucker.


“Richly sourced and highly readable. … It is not just another Trump tell-all or third-party confessional. It is unsettling, not salacious.” —Lloyd Green, The Guardian 

“Their new, collaborative account … walks readers step by step through the first 30 months or so of a presidency like no other. … It creates a moment of intermission in the Trump saga and a chance to consider how the landscape has already been altered by this president.” —Ron Elving, NPR

A Very Stable Genius is superbly reported and written with clarity, but it is not an easy read. ... Rucker and Leonnig try to be scrupulously fair; they don’t rant; they don’t make judgments or pull back to give a more historic perspective.” —Joe Klein, The Washington Post