Trump’s superpower could be his undoing


His father, Fred Trump, had built a real estate empire in Brooklyn and Queens with much more modest signature touches like an extra closet and a garage under each townhouse. Now Donald Trump was taking that idea to the next level, using a bag of gimmicks (renumbered floors, bigger ballroom) to grab attention and boost profits. People who had been hesitant to pay $20 a night to stay at the Grand Hyatt’s predecessor were happy to shell out multiple times that amount to essentially stay in the same building once it was covered in glass and touted as the newest thing. At Trump Tower, residents paid the highest prices for condos and seemed oblivious that their views were no better than those available in adjacent buildings on floors that were the same height but labeled with numbers at nine digits lower. They wanted to partake in Trump’s eye-catching version of luxury and glamour, and if the dramatic combination of pink marble, mirrors and shiny brass on offer at Trump Tower was perhaps a little over the top, all the better.

The precariousness of Donald Trump’s supposed fortune would result in a series of corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s, but the consequences for Trump himself were relatively mild. He had turned the Trump brand into something that was seen to add such value that the banks to which he owed nearly a billion dollars let him go with what amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist. . It was a tails-I-win-tails-you-lose world, and he was an expert. With the providential debut of the TV show “The Apprentice” in 2004, he regained his reputation as a business genius in living rooms across the country. It was initially an overwhelming ratings success, but in typical hyperbolic fashion, Trump called it the best show on TV for years, even when it didn’t make the top 20. the following decade, he expanded on the political gimmicks and stunts – challenging Obama’s citizenship, accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, promising to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court – that took him to ‘to the White House.

But the lies that had worked to sell condos and attract bank loans worked less well in Washington. Redrawing a weather map with a black Sharpie, pushing unproven cures for Covid victims and pressuring Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to investigate Biden’s son in exchange for weapons that had already been appropriated created problems rather than solutions. A vast federal bureaucracy had replaced the extremely loyal small staff that Trump controlled as a real estate developer, and the same mainstream media that had enabled his rise to stardom were subjecting him to intense scrutiny.

What had been presented as exaggerations, misrepresentations or even jokes – Trump being simply Trump – were exposed as fabrications, and he responded with taunts, vicious accusations and an all-out assault on the truth. Anyone who disagreed with him was a loser; media coverage that questioned his actions was fake news. Disruption, controversy, and grievances were what he sold now, and his selling instincts were even more honed. Indeed, he had undermined the very idea of ​​truth, replacing it with what his senior White House consultant, Kellyanne Conway, famously called “alternative facts.”

In the process, what had once been his superpower, hyperbole, crossed the line from what Trump called “truthfulness” and Stephen Colbert might have described as “truth” to outright lies. Financial statements used for loans and appraisals claimed his 11,000 square foot apartment was 30,000 square feet and was worth $327 million, nearly $100 million more than the most expensive condo sale in the world. New York History; that Mar-a-Lago and other properties could be subdivided and developed into McMansions despite conservation easements; and that cash controlled by a business partner belonged to it. Such actions were not innocent exaggerations; they were violations of the law.

And finally, despite Trump’s well-known avoidance of emails, text messages and paper trails, there was evidence – plenty. Citing more than 65 witnesses, millions of documents and a decade of inaccurate annual financial statements containing more than 200 grossly misleading valuations, Attorney General James filed a civil lawsuit in state court and sent a criminal referral to prosecutors. Manhattan feds and tax evasion. referral to the IRS.

When I was writing my biography of the Trump family, I interviewed a real estate attorney named Eugene Morris who had worked for both Donald Trump and his father. Morris’ first cousin was famed political fixer Roy Cohn, who served as Donald Trump’s lawyer and mentor, and Morris told me the young Trump seemed particularly impressed with Cohn’s ability to avoid jail time despite his charge of tax evasion. No doubt Donald Trump is hoping for the same fate, but he has to be careful what he wishes for. James has filed a civil lawsuit, which cannot send a defendant to jail, but if successful it will demand repayment of the $250 million he allegedly pocketed through fraud and that he and his children be permanently banned from doing business in New York. The Trump Organization would be devastated, but in an O. Henry twist, Trump and his children would truly share what might be considered the equivalent of Cohn’s ultimate fate, being disbarred two months before his death.


Politico

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