Apprentice in Wonderland explores ascent of Donald Trump through his iconic reality show

A new book explores the ascent of Donald Trump, not through his political career but through his time on the iconic reality TV show "The Apprentice".

"Apprentice in Wonderland" author Ramin Setoodeh joined "The Final 5" host Jim Lokay as he recounted his extensive six-interview experience with Trump post-presidency, during which they even relived moments of "The Apprentice" together. Diverging from traditional Trump literature, Setoodeh's work shines a light on a side of Trump that revels in the glitz of showbiz and the allure of Hollywood.

Reflecting on Trump's consistent engagement with media, Setoodeh opened up about early career days at Newsweek and direct access to Trump, who was always keen to chat with journalists. Despite Trump's "fake news" rhetoric, Setoodeh observed no change in his fondness for media attention or storytelling — a trait that persisted through his political rise. But his penchant for adversary has also been a part of his journey into the political realm.

"He's driven by feuds. He talked a great deal about various celebrities who no longer liked him. He's very fixated on, for example, Debra Messing from 'Will and Grace' because she was negative toward him on Twitter, and it's something that really occupied his thoughts post-presidency," said Setoodeh, who wrote the bestselling behind-the-scenes look at "The View" called "Ladies Who Punch," and now serves as editor-in-chief to Variety.

"You'd think most people leaving the white house would have other things to talk about or would think about their legacy. But Donald Trump wanted to talk about Omarosa, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, not liking him, how Katie Couric used to like him and doesn't like him."

There's also the T-Swift factor.

"I actually brought Taylor Swift up because I wondered what Donald Trump thought of Taylor Swift. And he mentioned in a succession of sentences that he found her very beautiful. Then asked whether or not she really was liberal because he couldn't believe a country star would be liberal, and then I had to explain to the former president that Taylor Swift is no longer a country star."

Among the more startling revelations were questions surrounding Trump's memory, underscoring a disconcerting forgetfulness in recognizing Setoodeh between their meetings. These observations, Setoodeh suggests, might be vital for voters to consider ahead of the next election cycle.

"Things were foggy. He would get confused by the chronology of events. And one thing that was very jarring was between our first and second meeting, which were only a few months apart, we had a long conversation one afternoon....he told one of his aides it was a great interview. He wants all interviews to be like that. And then when I returned to his office, he had no memory of talking to me."

Setoodeh also mentions his conversation with Trump about the late comedian Joan Rivers, who won the 2009 season of "Celebrity Apprentice."

"One of the things he told me was that Joan Rivers voted for him, but Joan Rivers died in 2014. So there was no way in which even with early voting, Joan Rivers could have voted for him, but that's another example of him just not really getting the chronology of things right."

In response, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement: "President Trump was aware of who this individual was throughout this interview process, but this 'writer' is a nobody and insignificant so of course he never made an impression."

"Apprentice in Wonderland" author Ramin Setoodeh