[Rucker and Leonnig] are meticulous journalists, and this taut and terrifying book is among the most closely observed accounts of Donald J. Trump’s shambolic tenure in office to date ... reads like a horror story, an almost comic immorality tale. It’s as if the president, as patient zero, had bitten an aide and slowly, bite by bite, an entire nation had lost its wits and its compass ... The result of Rucker and Leonnig’s hard work is a book that runs low to the ground; it only rarely pauses for sweeping, drone-level vistas and injections of historical perspective. This is not Garry Wills or Joan Didion. They do break news, some large and some small ... Rucker and Leonnig are adept at scene-setting, at subtly thickening the historical record.
As befitting Pulitzer winners for investigative reporting, [Rucker and Leonnig's] book is richly sourced and highly readable. It sheds new light on how the 45th president tests the boundaries of the office while trying the patience and dignity of those who work for or with him. It is not just another Trump tell-all or third-party confessional. It is unsettling, not salacious.
Older readers may recoil from much of this assessment — not only because the behavior described is repellent, but also because its depiction in such relentlessly damning detail is disturbing. People naturally ask: How much of this can be true? ... relies on a mélange of on-the-record and off-the-record insiders with varying degrees of proximity to the president...At times, this mixed methodology presents real problems ... Without questioning the legitimacy of these quotations, can we rely upon them the same way we would trust direct attributions? ... To the authors' credit, the on-the-record elements are compelling on their own ... Those who followed these events in real time may feel as if they are being dragged back through nightmares they would rather forget. At the same time, for those who have not been as focused on the daily and weekly ups and downs, this catalog may come with the force of revelation. For that reason alone, it is highly valuable ... Still, you don't have to be a Trump loyalist to feel the authors have chosen only the incidents and eruptions that cast Trump in the most unfavorable light, a style reminiscent of the muckraking journalists of a century ago. Those who wish to see Trump's offenses balanced against his tax-and-regulation cuts or hear encomiums to his transformation of the federal judiciary will need to look elsewhere.