Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A tale of many Trumps: book reveals the showman, womaniser and slick operator

Dan Roberts in Washington and Lauren Gambino in New York 

Donald Trump’s shifting political and business loyalties are laid bare in a new book that challenges his credentials as a conviction politician in often lurid detail.
Despite a recent campaign focus on letting “Trump be Trump”, the 431-page biography instead charts the career of many Trumps: the showman, the womaniser, and a business partner who quickly ditches failing schemes.
The book, the first of several expected on Trump, was compiled by a team of two dozen Washington Post journalists, led by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, during a three-month period earlier this year, in which they had some 20 hours of interviews with him.

Challenged with evidence that he had changed party affiliation seven times between 1999 and 2012, the Republican candidate defended his political flip-flopping as a necessary expediency. “I think it had to do more with practicality, because if you’re going to run for office, you would have had to make friends,” he told the authors.

He declined to say whether he had voted for Hillary Clinton, for whom he once hosted a packed penthouse fundraiser and donated campaign contributions six times over a decade. “I felt it was an obligation to get along, including with the Clintons,” he once said, according to the book titled Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power.

But the team of reporters also reveal new accounts of business reversals, including interviews with some of the victims of a collapsed Florida property scheme who sued after discovering that he had little responsibility for it other than receiving income for the use of his name. 

Instead, reports the Washington Post book, one of the project’s actual developers had pleaded guilty in a separate Wall Street fraud case involving mafia crime families. Trump insists he “barely knew” the man.

 Trump also confirms a notorious incident in which unwelcome tenants in one of his skyscrapers were encouraged to leave by being told they would have to walk 60 flights to get to work because the elevators had mysteriously shut down. 
Yet much of the detail of Trump’s business dealings – from a mortgage venture described as a “boiler room” to a vitamin sales scheme said to share similarities with pyramid schemes – may please supporters with depictions of a man who invariably ends up “winning”. A controversial clothing line, made mainly in low-wage factories offshore, is said to have netted Trump $1m with no money down.

The self-proclaimed teetotaler, who doesn’t like shaking hands for fear of germs, also emerges as a consummate master of media manipulation.
NBC executive Jim Dowd is quoted saying Trump believed the Apprentice TV show provided him with the opportunity to run for the White House. “He told me ‘I’ve got the real estate and hotel and golf niche. I’ve got the name recognition, but I don’t have the love and respect of middle America.’ Now he did. That was the bridge to the [2016 campaign].”

The book details Trump’s parasitic, and at turns downright bizarre, relationship with the press. Trump even granted a reporter an in-person interview at the hospital on the day his daughter Tiffany was born. In another instance, it appears Trump, pretending to be a spokesman for himself, leaked details of his first divorce from Ivana to People magazine. 

Early in his career, he employed a “carrot and stick” approach with reporters to both garner attention and pre-empt negative press. When Trump learned a journalist from the Village Voice was interested in digging into his business dealings, he called the reporter, Jack Newfield, and later referred to him as a friend. At one point he offered to help get Newfield an apartment in a more affluent neighborhood. But Trump also warned him, “I’ve broken more than one writer.” 

“For decades, Trump’s daily morning routine included a review of everything written or said about him in the previous 24 hours. The clippings were usually culled by Norma Foerderer – for two decades Trump’s ever-present chief assistant – who also handed her boss a spiral notebook containing media requests, most of which he would handle himself,” according to the book. “As his celebrity grew, the daily pile of Trump related news coverage swelled; still, he diligently tried to review everything written or said about him.” 

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Trump routinely made headlines for his splashy persona and high-stakes investments. The book notes that he was adored by working-class New Yorkers, especially ones from the outer boroughs who appreciated his Queens accent, and by immigrants, who saw him as the epitome of the American dream, excessive but successful.  

Reporters became accustomed to speaking to Trump directly. On occasion, the book said, it appeared he would masquerade as a spokesman for the organization under the name “John Miller” or “John Barron”. He even used “The Baron” as a codename when leaving messages for Marla Maples while he was still married to Ivana Trump. Barron is also the name of his youngest son with his current wife, Melania Trump. Incidentally, when he first met Melania, he allegedly asked for her phone number even though he was on a date with another woman at the time.

The book also describes how Trump was devastated by the deaths of his casino executives, Stephen Hyde, Mark Grossinger Etess, and Jonathan Benanav in 1989. The four attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York that ran longer than expected. Having missed their flight home, the men boarded another helicopter back to Atlantic City. A scrape on the rotor blades caused the helicopter to split apart in mid-air.
Trump learned of the crash first, and called the three families to inform them, according to the book. In an interview with the Post, Trump compared that experience to when the military informs “soldiers’ families when they’re gone”. Later Trump would claim that he was supposed to be on the helicopter and changed his mind at the last minute. “It was, like, a fifty-fifty deal,” he told CNN, though this account has been disputed

The book describes how Trump adopted the ethos of Roy Cohn, a fearsome New York lawyer and former consigliere to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who represented the builder for 13 years: “All press is good press”. Cohn, who died of Aids in 1986, weeks after being disbarred, is credited with inviting Trump into New York’s influential social and political circles that proved useful as he grew his business in the city. 

Trump later explained his philosophy to Elizabeth Jarosz, a second-season contestant who later became a brand strategy consultant. “All publicity is good publicity … When people get tired of you is when you do more publicity, because that’s when you become an icon,” she recalled.

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