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,…


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