Stumbling to the Presidency
Welcome to another edition of the asset. I am not Max Berg minutes. You could probably tell my name is Peter Auburn and I am one of the producers this on this podcast and while we have another great episode coming your way next week which is all about how Russian intelligence services actually go through the process of cultivating an asset. We wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit and share some of the work that we've been doing behind the scenes you see our podcast company district productive along with the great work from the folks of the Moscow project and protect the investigation have been working on this show for months. We've been taping interviews with experts and various fields to help tell the story of how a foreign adversaries corrupted or electoral process and influence the elections two thousand sixteen. We've gotten so many good interviews and we wish we could play them all for you but we've been pulling some of the best quotes from them to use throughout the series. What are the interviews have used that hit on a wide range of topics was with Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien he's the author of the book trump nation and he knows more about Donald Trump's career than almost anyone else in fact because of a libel case brought against him by trump? He is one a few people who've actually seen the mythical donald trump tax returns Max had such a great interview with them that we thought we take one week break from new episodes to bring you this interview in its entirety. We think it has a lot of great information that will help you better understand the world of Donald Trump. Thank you so much for listening and we will be back with the brand new episode next week. I'm here with <hes> Tim O'Brien an award winning journalist the author of trump nation the art of being Donald which is the definitive biography of Donald Trump. Tim is also the executive editor and columnist with <hes> Bloomberg opinion. Tim thanks so much for being here. It's great to be here Max thank you so I wanted to talk a little bit about why you wrote that book trump nation more than a decade ago and what what is it about Donald Trump that you find such an interesting topic to to write about <hes> even even before he became president well. I have a long strange history with trump you know he's episodically come in and out of my life as a journalist going back to nineteen ninety one. I guess <hes> actually Ash Nineteen Ninety. I was at Columbia University Wayne Bear where it Kinda legendary urban investigative report in New York I had just written a bestseller called city for sale and he got a contract for his next big book which was a biography of trump and so he I was at Columbia University at the time is doing a joint degree in journalism awesome and an M._B._A.. And he came to speak and he's looking for research assistant so I jumped at the chance to sort of be mentor untutored investigative reporting by Wayne so we dug into everything on trump at that point you know his birth to the nineteen early nineteen nineties his casino business is real estate businesses political life in New York his family history etc Wayne's book came out in ninety two right as trump was going into the the crater financially and there was not a lot of interest in that book and kind of disappeared. I was then at the Wall Street Journal a little bit later and I did a book about gambling a social history of gambling in America and a chapter. That book was about Atlantic City so I interviewed Donald Donald for about two hours office for the Atlantic City chapter that book that was the first time I had ever sat down with them so that I was at the New York Times and I was a feature writer for the Sunday Business Section in the early two thousand and that was right when the apprentice was starting to boom again and yet his business life was as always ben he had too much debt he couldn't run his businesses properly and his casino company was about to go into the crater again in a bankruptcy. So there was interesting dichotomy <hes> between trump the man who by the end of the nineteen ninety s was this sort of punchline about the excesses of the nineteen eighties and a curiosity who sort for the period on Howard Stern shows you know and made the occasional odd talk show appearance but he wasn't this sort of dominant kind of cultural force like he had been in the nineteen eighties and early nineteen ninety s and then the apprentice completely completely revivify hide him and recast him as sort of the entrepreneurial guru to the masses and an anybody who doesn't understand the kind of traction the apprentice gave him in the American imagination misunderstands the power television misunderstands or doesn't appreciate how many people are hungry to kind of achieve the American dream in this country and how trump sort of to his own advantage. You know manipulated the interests in goals of tens of millions of people who were fans of that show and I think that that's really what gave him. The base of the White House is on later. I think there's a direct line between the apprentice and his twenty <hes> sixteen presidential race campaign so at that time when the apprentice was booming I got offered some books on trump and they were sort of straightforward biographies which I was interested in doing but I also wanted to place him in the culture and and he's had remarkable longevity in a lot of different areas of American Life Reality Television Casino gambling politics politics real estate and and and his sort of hung in there for a long time and he's got this sort of reptilian ability to survive and I wanted to just come and look at that for what it was and then see what to me me he embodied about American life and that's what resulted in trump nation. I was at the New York Times at the time <hes> that was published in two thousand and <hes> five and in early two thousand in sixty sued me for libel <hes> for <hes> five billion dollars which was larger than my advance for the book and also approximately the the difference between what he was saying his his network was the time which was around six billion and what my sources were telling me which was anywhere from about you know one hundred fifty to two hundred and fifty million dollars. I was very well sourced by the way on this I had extremely only good sources and interestingly enough. He sued me for three pages of what is about two hundred sixty page book and it was three pages that sort of looked at this cat and mouse game trump has played for decades with the media around how much money he has and he's routinely inflated in an absurd ways and by doing so kept himself front and center in media conversations about the richest Americans even although he wasn't ever in the top ten and probably not even the top thirty it also gave them a calling card to banks when you went looking for loans this idea that he had billions and billions of dollars worth of assets allowed him entree to bags that might not otherwise have done business with them so it served as needs in these twofold ways and I was interested in both of those dynamics and so few pages of the book traced how he had lied inflated exaggerated his Business Prowess and and and particularly on those pages has wealth doing back to the you know late nineteen seventies early nineteen eighties and he sued me saying that the fact that I printed an alternative figure for how much money he had a damaged damaged his reputation and so we went to court and what was really interesting about that I think is at one point we were in his apartment towards the end of my reporting and <hes> we were gonNA drive out to Bedminster he wanted show me as golf course but we in Manhattan in in his triplex he wanted to change the news cough close so he did and I was sitting living room where he had this gigantic wagon wheel sized coffee table. It was literally a wagon wheel but it was not a wagon wheel and he staged coach ever built. It was the wagon wheel that was maybe on a stagecoach uses a prop Godzilla movie it was giant and in the middle of this was gorgeous gigantic Mohammed Ali picture book so I'm opening the Ali Book Up and Donald Comes back out from his bedroom so you like boxing and and I said well I admire Ali but I'm not a fan of boxing and he said you know when you're doing with the book you and I should go down to Atlantic city. We should see some fights together and I said Donald at this point. We've walked now into the elevator his private elevator and we're going down and I said I don't know that you're GONNA WANNA go to boxing matches with after this book comes out and he's sort of pauses any looks at me and he said Oh you're you're really GonNa just roast Mir and I said I'm not going to roast you but they're going to be parked you like and then he sort of pause and he said well. I don't really care I just see you anyway and and I said well if you wanted to sue me. Why did you participate with a book to begin with and he said I'll give you three reasons? He said the first this one is I really like you which I don't think that was true <hes> but I was at the New York Times and I think he was always been enamored of the Times then he said number two is I considered a challenge. I wanted to see if I could convince you to see the real trump the third thing. He said that was the most interesting was he said I really don't care what you're right because I haven't ability to go above the media I basically my own printing press. I can go to page six at the New York Post. I can call up today show and say Tim O'Brien a wack job. He's a lunatic. Don't believe what he writes so I really don't care what any of you people right and when you think about that so that's two thousand five pre reface book pre twitter pre twenty four seven social media and he already had this very visceral understanding of how he occupied a unique space in the media that allowed him if he didn't like doc was written or broadcast about him to go around the media and punch back and indeed. That's what he ended up doing. The book came out <hes>. He sued me you know he sued me in in in in southern New Jersey. I think he chose was that corks. He thought he could fix the judges he would have been better off suing me in New York because New Jersey has the strongest shield laws for journalists who need to protect their sources like I did and I think the goal of his suit was to get my sources. He wanted to know who had given me these numbers numbers considered low ball numbers but also because he sued my was a you know a financial and political reporter because he sued me on <hes> for financial reasons claiming ident- financial damage that opened him up in discovery every two Alah how nick turnover lot information he didn't think through in advance like his tax returns and his bank records in his business records we litigated from two thousand in and <hes> sixty two thousand nine it sounds longer than it was because he didn't comply with discovery requested. It slowed things down during the course of that we deposed him for two days to eight hour sessions. At the end of of a two thousand seven he lost two nine. He appealed it. It went up to New Jersey Supreme Court and he lost it on appeal in two thousand eleven. It was tossed out he tried to get the depositions in the case sealed uh-huh and my attorney time a woman in Mary Jo White attached his deposition to some of the motion papers in the litigation towards the end which made the deposition public and his lawyers went nuts and she argued that at the deposition was so devastating in which it was and it showed that my book was on completely solid ground which it was and therefore was part of our motion as messed the jaggery judge agreed and that became public document the Wall Street Journal did a big cover story about the deposition in around I guess two thousand eleven and I thought that was the last time my name and Donald Trump's would appear together in print anywhere forever and ever and then in two thousand fifteen. I'm sitting at Bloomberg where I'd become the executive editor of the number two to David Shipley on the company's commentary platform and trump rolls down the the the brass escalator in the lobby of trump tower. You're in the summer of two thousand fifteen and so I have now been covering him again since then on a very close basis probably right probably right you know two to three times a week about him now and I'm on my contract with let me see so. I do a lot of <hes> M._S._N._B._C. appearances to talk about trump too. I just wanted to go back to the one of the things that he said to you in the elevator saying that he he has his own media. Do you think his of capability in ability to to understand the press and understand messaging has helped give him sort of a sense of impunity that he can sort of you know have these at least in a business sense. These failed A._O._l.. Deals yet somehow our merge looking you know still looking like the great American business icon. I don't think his sense of impunity comes from his relationship to media or is understanding. How media via works I think his sense of impunity comes from two other sources one is that he has been insulated his whole life from the consequences of his mistakes? I you know through his childhood into his college years by his family's wealth then in his adult years by celebrity and now by the presidency itself and each of these things has wrapped this cocoon around him where he can make these epic epic mistakes aches and not suffer the consequences of him and therefore he's never had to be very reflective or think about how he could grow or where he might go wrong. All the things the rest of us do we evolve as people in the World Donald Trump AB- has never gone through that process Liz Smith is this late great New York Daily News Gossip columnist once said to me a lizard from Texas and she said she knew the trump's very well and she said to me you know honey. The only thing you need to know about Donald Trump is that he's a seven-year-old grown old and that is so profoundly true. I don't think there's a lot of things that occupy his mind. I think he thinks a lot about <hes> money. Food sacks sports and revenge after you're done with those topics there's not a lot knocking around in Donald's Noggin and but he is a student of celebrity and. That's where it comes back to the media. I think <hes> you know he told me once that when when the apprentice took off he went over to Lorne Michaels to ask him whether it was better to be a movie star or be a T._v.. Star because you really want to understand the difference within between the two and he told me that that Lauren Michael Said Oh totally better be T._v.. Star and trump said why and he said because once a week every week in front of thirty million people with a movie movie comes out it's in the theaters a few weeks and then it's gone and a light went off and trump's head and that was in the first time he had sort of inquired into this. You know we were on his his plane. Once screening I it was either sunset inside boulevard or pulp fiction or Asia Claude van Damme <hes> martial arts movie. That's the range of of his sin ass tastes and <hes> he leaned over at one point when whispering into my ear Clint Eastwood is the greatest celebrity ever left and I've always thought that Donald grimace you know that sort of squint eyed tight lipped thing he does when he stands up is totally ripped off from high plains drifter and I think he started practicing that look in the nineteen seventies and some unfortunate Mir that had to bear the weight of all of his practicing in front of that and then he told Milania to do it because at one point when they were dating they would appear on red carpets together and they would both through the high plains drifter scowl but I bring that up beyond I think the focus on celebrities that he's he's aware of charisma and he's aware of of media power and I think that brings it back to your original question about does he think he can roll past all this stuff because of his relationship media and I would take a step further. I think he can roll past it all because he believes he's a star and he believes he constantly. I believe he's The star of his own show and he is directing it. He is writing the script on the go and he stage-managing everyone around him and his main goal is to win over who's ever in front of regardless of of their political persuasion their gender the race he will say anything he believes he needs to say to gain their affection and and his core he's a performance artist. You can't really understand the Donald Trump phenomenon without interesting that is cast performing you know before he went to work for his father. After he graduated from Wharton he considered going to film school at U._S._C. and he was very captivated created with the Classic Hollywood Movie Producers Like Daryl Zanuck and he wanted to be one of those guys and I think Fred said if you go to L._A.. And go into movies I'm going to cut you off and you won't get another dime. I think the second is dead said no money for you. He we stayed home and went into real estate but he brought this sense of a Karnik Carnival less sessile B._D._o.. Mill over the top approach to all these projects he worked on and it's so funny because he did it even when they were these penny ante projects that he was starting out on you know in the seventies and then it Kinda came together for him on trump tower in the mid eighties and and you know the opening of trumped out tower is really a a symbolic moment from the Reagan era and from <hes> The New York coming back from the depths of the nineteen seventies recessions and rising crime and people fleeing the city coming back again as a sort of mega cosmopolitan global draw however global draw that decided to build its future and its fortunes on the on the on the shoulders of elites like trump and in trump tower was <hes> was a building that was selling condominiums in theory to elites he also ended up selling units to mobsters but <hes> you know he was he's running around telling the press that Prince Charles and lady he di we're interested in a unit and I think Sophia Loren was interested in unit and the US pulling that stuff out of his year you know that was sort of him. Breaking out from his father shadow right and I absolutely or or sort of moving from outer boroughs into Manhattan was wondering if you consider it maybe unpack kind of the origins of the trump real estate empire sort of begins with his father and trump then sort of part of it and then tries to break out of it right yeah I mean I think <hes> Fred trump. <hes> wasn't authentically self made man he began building <hes> and working on projects in Queens and Brooklyn at such young age that his mother <hes> still had to cosign a lot of the documents that he needed needed to do business he landed a top <hes> the boom in federally subsidized housing he used large large federal grants to build middle income housing largely targeted at veterans returning from from World War Two he bilked the government he got in trouble for bilking the government both <hes> the federal government and the state government in New York <hes> and and he basically run out of both of those public housing programs uh-huh and essentially never really built a lot after the mid nineteen sixties or so but he made you know he made hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars at the time and enough that you know his children grow up with trust funds in any tried to bring them all into the business but <hes> Fred trump was a tough character he had a bad temper he was extremely driven heated not really Brooke <hes> descent <hes> <hes> and and he could be very very hard people his eldest son Freddie ended up dying in alcoholic in in in Florida wanted no part of the the family business but donald the next youngest boy thrived on it and he and Fred really forged an incredible bond that didn't exist with any of the other children and he really learned his father's knee but it's father's knee was on avenue Z in Coney Island Brooklyn in a in a in a sort for the whole in the wall real estate office that was not glamorous and and and certainly wasn't sexy Fred didn't really care about the trappings of the luxurious office but Donald I think cared about it from the moment home it he sprang from the womb and I think he's he looked across the river at Manhattan as Oz and he knew that in New York real estate it was the Big New York families who built skyscrapers skyscrapers in New York who considered glamorous real estate developers. It wasn't the guy's making middle income housing in Brooklyn Queens so I think he was thinking about you know getting Outta Queens in Manhattan Manhattan almost as quickly as you know as as his father would allow him to start spending the company money on projects and that wound up being a bunch of things associated with the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad in the nineteen seventies a big swath of land on the west side of Manhattan and then <hes> an old hotel near Grand Central Station called the Commodore and the Commodore Hotel was taken over by the Pritzker family of Chicago. They needed a partner to help them get it. Through all the zoning variances they wanted to get so they could turn that into a glassy glamorous <hes> hotel for business travelers and so they brought Donald on Donald had no money zone to put into that deal Fred had to cosign his loans with the banks Fred had to watch over every element of that transaction donald could not have done without Fred but when the grand hi it opened in the mid seventies the family <hes> Fred had deep connections to the democratic machine in Brooklyn Queens Ed Koch <hes> the mayor later on but <hes> a the beam who was mayor of New York prior to watch was close to the family and Fred was able to turn out politicians <hes> and sort of the local powerbrokers at at the opening of that event and Donald turned out the press he went and drummed up you know the local reporters and gossip columnist to come and and help celebrate the opening the Grand Hyatt but the Grand Hyatt really wasn't his project. It was a partnership and of course anytime there's a partnership at any point in Donald Trump's career it gets blown up like a hand grenade you know within seconds of the partnership being forged because he wants everything for himself and he probably would have done very well to learn at the pritzker sneeze they were immensely successful successful family developers with very well regarded with with with a lot of real money but he ended up in sort of fights with them from the very beginning they ultimately bought him out when he when he hit the skids in the early nineties but I think the Grand Hyatt put him on the map in Manhattan as a young developer that people should pay attention to and that's when he started thinking about a epic Grand Tower that would have his family's name on it not someone else's name on it in a prime location that would be considered symbolic of the New Era New York and so he lands on what would ultimately become trump tower and you know he was very dextrous in how he got that deal put together he had there was an a a bond wit teller store next door to tiffany's on on Fifth Avenue in the upper fifties and it was a complex transaction because you needed to get the leasehold undergone what teller you need to be able to demolish the bond with teller building you I needed to get air rights above tiffany's etc etc and he pulled all that together and he got a great partner on it got a major insurance company to help them finance it and the building design was for trump extremely extremely subtle and it was seeing I think by a lot of architecture credits at the time as not a home run but not an insult the fifth avenue either and he comes out of that moment it really in the early nineteen eighties with everything in front of him he had family money he had a successful project he had banks eager to do business with him and in very short order he blew all that up because he's in numerous he's undisciplined he's unsophisticated and he's not self aware but he was fortunate enough to have some of the biggest banks in the country willingly throw huge snowballs walls of cash at him because he was fred trump's son and because he was saying he had assets that were worth billions and billions of dollars in Forbes back that up when they stuck him on the Forbes four hundred list all the time this sort of launches him and then we just sort of see him start just spending money and buying up if things from <hes> U._S._F._l.. Football team to an airline so what happened he becomes sort of famous iconic and then he's just start blowing his is money. He'd never had access to the kind of cash that the banks put it his feet and it was an era in which deals were being celebrated. This was Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky and the film Wall Street and New York as is hungry power center where guys in pinstripes suits and suspenders reading deals done and that appeal to him and I think he wanted to play at a level he wasn't equipped to play at which meant he had to be able to add for starters he had to be a good manager meaning. He couldn't just talk about a deal and and stir up attention around it and then walk away from it he actually had to manage projects. He had to manage his Casino Company and he had to install L. A.. Good team there when he he paid so much money for the Plaza Hotel he would have had to take really radical steps for the hotel degenerate enough cash for him to carry the debt he had on the hotel and that equation was no different than his casino company's he he spent so much money acquiring the casino companies and for example building the Taj those companies had to throw off a lot of cash on a day-to-day basis just to pay the debt down and this isn't complex. This is not a complex business transaction. This is like anyone who has a credit card and they go out and they put too much money on it each month and the income they're bringing in doesn't allow them to play the credit card down the only difference Brunette what Donald Trump was doing was he was doing it with more more than three billion dollars of which nine hundred million he personally guaranteed and didn't have and so you had this string of acquisitions the Plaza Hotel the eastern shuttle the U._S._F._l.. Casinos in Atlantic City so on and so on and none of which he really knuckled down and learn how to manage well trump Baden airline you know the eastern airline and then he suddenly running it did he and he did really have a background. That's right right. He had never run an airline. Before the eastern shuttle had gone into bankruptcy. He bought it out of bankruptcy. Everyone on the other side of that transaction was rubbing their hands together because they had a mark in in Donald he overpaid he then wanted to make it a very glamorous high end a shuttle along the eastern seaboard that included gold plated sinks and luxurious seating all of which added to both the way to the plane which made it less aerodynamic and also <hes> increase fuel costs made it harder to get the planes off the ground but he hadn't thought through any of those things you know he wanted very plush carpeting carpeting in the aisles but that made it hard for the flight attendants to roll trolleys up and down the aisles all the stuff was he was focused entirely on the airline representing him as a mogul as as opposed to the airline being a well run and profitable entity that could compete with other low cost carriers that were operating on the East Coast and it didn't take very long before that thing went into bankruptcy. It's similar story with the football team as well. I meant that quickly went went bust as well yeah I mean I think the interesting thing about the U._s._F._l.. Is had he been patient and waited it out. He might have been able to do something the the the original franchise owners in. U._S._F._L. wanted to create a league that did not go head to head with the N._F._l.. Because the N._F._l.. was such a Juggernaut so they did not want to play games in the fall to begin with and they did not want to pay humongous salaries two stars they wanted to have spring league and they wanted to bring in really strong players but not players that they would go broke trying to hire and and they got started off in an okay way and when when trump join the league and bought the New Jersey generals I think the other owners thought it was good for them because if bought a big burst of publicity and attention to the league and that was great for everyone. I'll now remind you of our rule about Donald Trump partnerships is there like hand grenades and he very quickly decided that he didn't like the U._S._F._L.'s game plan of having gains in the spring and and keeping the payrolls roles low so he began to force and Cajole and try to convince other teams in the League to have a fall schedule and go head to head with the N._F._l.. And then he started pursuing starts like Herschel Walker in Doug Flutie whom he gave big contracts to and it didn't work out they couldn't compete with the N._F._l.. And so in this desperate pardon the Pun hail. Mary pass trump decided he would sue the N._F._l.. N._F._l. for antitrust and he thought he was going to win that case in the media he lost it horribly. The final judgment was the N._F._l.. was forced to give the U._S._F._l.. One dollar and and by the time that judgment was reaching the courts the U._S._F._l.. was already out of commission and what's The casino so you know Donald Trump sees Atlantic city you know he's he's supposed to be a New York real estate developer Robert but what what was the attraction of Atlantic City when in in how did that how did the casino investments sort of pan out casinos were legalized in Atlantic City nineteen seventy six and at the time there wasn't a huge amount of interest <hes> mum companies to to take it seriously and opened the doors there one company did resorts international and from the moment they opened their doors. It was a cash register it through off tons and tons of money and it drew the attention of other legacy casino operators from Vegas. The holiday inns company Hera's etc etc vail sorted poking around in Atlantic City trump at one point took a drive down there there and decided that he wanted in any began assembling a parcel of land in Atlantic city that he could build a casino on his original partners were completely mobbed up he his first partners when he went to Atlantic City. He was a <hes> ah Bagman for the scarf. Oh crime family named Kenny Shapiro. I think you're announced it should pyro but most people pronounce it Shapiro and he was a stone cold mobster and then a labor her racketeer essentially from New York Name Dani Sullivan <hes> Dani Sullivan at work with trump on the on the Grand Hyatt and he was one of these guys who worked both as a law enforcement informant and head re ties hi to the mob so Shapiro Sullivan and trump do a transaction together and <hes> assembled parcel Atlantic city the F._b._i.. Later takes a look at this and they tell him that he has to buy his partners out out and get them out of that deal. If he wants to be able to continue operating in Atlantic City he forges a partnership his first casino with with the holiday inns company again that should have been something that he just just walked into they they put up the money he got a percentage of the equity plus up a piece of the profit on that transaction but what ended up happening. Let's remind ourselves with Donald Trump partnership rule. He blew the partnership up all he had to do is sit back almost harvest the money but he wanted credit for the casinos success. He didn't like that Holiday Inn had its name on the on the property you wanted it have his name so he made life basically hell for them and drove them out and renamed it trump plaza later on Barron Hilton got into licensing trouble another casino in Atlantic Annex City and amazingly the local casino regulators said the Barron Hilton couldn't get a license because he had a long standing relationship with a mobbed up lawyer learning Sydney quarterback but they never balked at the organized crime ties the Donald had when I went to Atlantic city or the INS and outs he he had sort of endure a New York like every developer did with organized crime figures there the difference being there were a lot of New York developers who sort of held their noses and dealt with mobbed up unions or contractors because they had to trump's would have rebelled in it so so basically early being sort of in the world of development trump had to kind of rub elbows with folks with mob ties with unions with mob ties the story about him in buying all this mobbed up concrete was that kind of run run-of-the-mill or was that something that was sort of unusual for a developer it was running the mill for any developer in New York in the eighties to encounter mobbed up unions or mobbed up contractors. I actually did a lot reporting for in Wayne's book about the concrete issue on trump tower. You know that was a building that was I think built about eighty percent of it was reinforced concrete at a time when every other skyscraper in the city was moving away from concrete and into you know other sorts of superstructures that did not rely on concrete concrete was expensive and it had other hurdles present for people who wanted to use use it as a building material and all of the concrete suppliers in New York were heavily mobbed up trump never had a labor strike on the trump tower site and he was able to get concrete in Crete at a relatively affordable price that other builders couldn't get it for and there's always been this question about wow how did how did that work out for him. How did he how did he make that happen? One of the original tenants in his building was a guy named John Cody who was a a mobbed up labor racketeering was very influential in the construction trades. There'd always been this question among reporters to whether or not trump's relationship with people like him is what enabled him to build trump tower in the way that he did. I think he's also enamored of mobsters. I think he thinks that the way mobsters role and the way mobsters talk and the way they speak about out one another and the way they speak about their enemies and their friends is very appealing. Damn he has got a very <hes> street level thuggish bullying approach to how the world works and his father always taught him that the world's or predatory place and that it's it's it's binary. There's only one winner and you have to be out there. Slugging it away so you can be the winner and I think he saw mobsters as emblematic of that and it didn't bother him mobsters Brooklyn Law and it didn't bother him that that they gouged people and that they murdered people in traffic and drugs I think he I just thought mobsters were to be admired. You know he told me once about watching John Gotti testify and was in the context of <hes> me asking if you've ever broken down on crying and he said no you know he's he doesn't think he's ever cried in his life and he thinks it's effeminate to cry and his example the way you should be he said was John Ngati sitting in court while he was being prosecuted as that of the Gambino crime family because prison was rolling towards him and he was going to be separated permanently from his family and he just stat out there in court with a stone cold face never cried and Donald thought the John Gotti was a bad ass and you can see this now in the presidency <hes> when Donald Trump takes nice to twitter and starts talking about whether or not my cocoons GonNa flip and whether or not Paul Manafort is really loyal and what is loyalty and when he has these these implied threats that he's going to unleash havoc in the streets if he doesn't get his way all of that comes out of his experience in New York rubbing shoulders with and admiring mobsters and so I kinda WanNa talk about the period of the nineteen nineties where where you know trump sorta falls on his face where the House of cards Kinda collapses all these companies start to the airlines the football team everything starts the collapse the casinos are bankruptcy and the one tax return that we've seen seen from from I ninety five showing him nearly a billion dollars in debt. What was that ninety period like for Donald Trump and how was he able to serve recover and get back on his feet? Well it was a near ear death experience for him. Financially he came very close <hes> to going bankrupt but for Fred trump and donald trump siblings agreeing to extend him thirty million dollar loan from the families estate he he would have missed some debt payments that would have thrown him into a personal bankruptcy and and that would have been the end of Donald Trump that was in the early nineteen ninety his sister Marion trump berry with Mary to to Fella named John Berry and John Berry was the one person in the family other than Fred Trump who donald listen to and John Barry was also well regarded by all the other children and Fred like John Odd Berry so John Berry ultimately became the the broker whenever the family had to find solutions to personal or financial problems so when Donald needed money the family essentially held a little conclave in trump tower. I believe was around nineteen ninety-one and he's got payments through that he can't make and none of his siblings want to give the money her none of them trust him enough and you have to remember to that during this period he was also trying to scheme to get control of his father's estate. Fred was on a steady decline into Alzheimer's and Donald was being very makia valiant about trying to get basically become the executor of Fred's estate so he could direct more money to himself. That's another long crazy tail but the children appropriately a high degree of suspicion of him his brother Robert had worked with them in Atlantic City and and trump treated horribly Robert didn't trust him his sisters have very low level of trust and none of them wanted to give him money but John made did happen and John made a decision that it would be bad for all of them if Donald ended up in the gutter so they essentially loan him thirty million dollars and made him post collateral enroll against that money and his collateral was his share of his inheritance from his father's estate and then they they got the cash to him the person that we see now in the White House never would have never would have evolved solved into that person he would have just been another guy who got nuked by being greedy in the in the in the one thousand nine hundred and early nineteen ninety s he survived for three reasons. I reason which is always ubiquitous force in his life. It's reds money. He was able to dip into his father's wallet and his father in the family bailed him out from his own financial mistakes. The second thing he did was he came to this realization that he had so much stuff. The banks didn't want to own and that they needed to sell that they actually weren't gonNA force him into bankruptcy because they needed in there to help them sell it. <hes> and the first sort of light bulb that went off in his head was when they were trying to get rid of a a yacht he owned the a small New England Bank. <hes> had a lien against and in the bank said you know you owe us. A big payment here in trump didn't have the money to pay them and he said look. I'm just GonNa give you the keys you can have the yacht and they said No. We don't want the what kind of a deal can we work out so we can manage this together and boom. He realized wow I can do that on the Plaza Hotel I can do that on all the other real estate I have no one actually wants to nuke me because they need me so that insight was a second reason he survived the third reason he survived is because of who he is <hes> he has a reptilian ability to continually move ooh forward without evolving but with just keeping his head down and letting things roll off of his scales he doesn't really absorb disappointment in a way that is defeatist. He believes in his own myths about who he is. He has a deeply racial aerien sense of himself as a superman and that's allowed him. You know to to survive three marriages. His business setbacks a being treated as a pin Yada in the national media and just keep moving forward so he also has you know that survival instinct and I wanNA talk a little bit about about the trump organization itself because you looked into that in considerable depth and I think it's I think to those of us that haven't you know it's it's kind of confusing. How is this a big corporation is big entity or there are a lot of people working there? How is it sort of structured in in and also sort of a second part to that is how is it evolved right so posts this sort of collapse of donald trump going into debt and then sort of reviving? Having himself over the last decade decade and half you mentioned the apprentice early on pretty started doing all these international all these deals abroad and Toronto Azerbaijan in Georgia and Panama you know how is he sort of evolved as a as a businessman over the over this time in house the trump organization involved okay well so the first one is the trump organization is a mom and pop shop that essentially licenses Donald Trump's name an image on anything they they can sell whether it's a mattress men's underwear stakes water ties shirts you name it if he can get a sack full of cash have his name put on something he we'll do it. You know he comes out of of this. You know into this financial wilderness in the early nineteen ninety s or banks would not lend money to him. People didn't want to deals with him. He got a couple of small boutique deals on that. We're pretty good deals in the late nineties but he wasn't a big force and and then the apprentice comes along and he was making good money from that show it wasn't you know New York real estate mogul money but he's making good money from the show but he also discovered covered that that people wanted to partner with him because they saw the host of the apprentice is a good brand for them to latch onto and that's when he starts pursuing all of these sketchy partnerships primarily abroad but also in the United States you know he launched the trump Soho hotel with a partners with organized crime ties famously feel acceder Felix by the way surface in my litigation with trump. That's how Felix I became kind of publicly down. We deposed him in that litigation and as as an aside. We asked trump during his deposition. Are you aware Felix Sater's background. You know organized crime. He said No. I wasn't aware you know this is two thousand seven so we certainly made him aware that during his deposition Vietnam been aware of it before but later on when he was deposed I think in two thousand nine and possibly again in two thousand eleven in other cases where they asked if you feel excited you know he said I wouldn't know Felix Iffy you know walked into this room which which is a flat-out lie feel very well so because he can't get back money of of of scale in the nineties and going two thousand he needs to partner with people who are willing to put cash on the table and and essentially he he turns himself into a human shingle and sells himself and the trump name for a fee and for equity and some of these projects and and that explains the deals in Brazil an Indonesian Azerbaijan Genre and <hes> India the trump Soho in New York the efforts to get stuff done in Toronto an interesting getting things done in Moscow etc etc.. There's not a lot of money for him in any of those things at the most on some of them. It's maybe two million dollars a year which by most people standards is is a nice lucrative chunk of change but for someone who's been positioning himself as a billionaire real estate developer. It's CHUMP chump change. He becomes fascinated with golf courses during this period and actually builds a great golf course in Bedminster New Jersey he opens it up to non elites. It was hard for for average folks to get into some of the other legacy Agassi Golf Clubs in New Jersey Horse country. He opens up a great club with a great course he finances it in a smart way. It's very popular. The membership sell out very quickly and then he thinks he's got the MIDAS his touch and he begins buying golf courses Willy Nilly and he said a very mixed track record since then on the golf course front but that's sort of a labor of love for the most part he bought turnberry a legendary course in Scotland Aland on the west coast of Scotland and developed another course on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen at a time when I was curious about how we financed those and I still think that that's hanging out there as initially I think the trump so hotel in and some of his golf club purchases are something that I would imagine congressional investigators might WanNa take a look at if they're curious about how he financed those things where the money came from mm-hmm and whose partners were I the one one question I have for you is when I look at the two thousand eight two thousand nine period where it's the the great recession real estate crash but there's no dad to bail them out <hes> does he need to be bailed out who bails him out Deutsche Bank so so the biggest thing hanging over his head the only thing he had personally guaranteed when things are going to the dumper then was <hes> <hes> the trump international <hes> tower in Chicago and that building was financed with some hedge fund money some of Donald own money a big loan from Deutsche Bank Donald took out and he ended up you know he personally guaranteed some of the financing and that building which I always found amazing given his near death experience from the early nineties when he said he tells me in the mid to thousands and I will never do that again because it scared the hell out of me and then Bam the second he gets an opportunity to build a big high-profile project in Chicago. He personally guarantees it. It's a measure of how undisciplined this guy with the only big commercial bank that continued to do business donald trump after the mid nineteen ninety s was deutchebanks and Deutsche Bank and a lot of ways was a rogue bank. It continually got into trouble for things like money. LAUNDERING INTEREST RATE RIGGING <hes> questionable transactions nations moving funds out of Moscow into Europe <hes> money laundering allegations in the U._S. on and on and on and on and their commercial lending arm had Donald Trump's the client and they had alone on the Chicago building in the mid you know to thousands right when the when the great recession started to kick in and when it happened Donald Sued Deutsche Bank and told them that they were responsible for the great recession because they were a big bank that traded mortgage-backed securities and therefore because they had helped 'cause the cataclysm he was claiming force measure and arguing that he didn't have to pay them back any other loans. Now it's amazing to me is then settled out a court trump feedback some portion when he was able to but Deutsche Bank kept doing business with him. You know any other bank where one of their primary clients sues them makes up this crazy story about why they're not paying them back and then they go to court to iron it out and then they continue to do business raises a lot of questions about why I I think Congress could usefully explore why that relationship continued his loans were in the Commercial Bank at Georgia and they moved it over into the private bank after the litigation because the commercial bankers didn't WanNA deal them so rather than simply like cut the rope and cut at this guy loose they just move to another part of the bank so Deutscher felt some reason that it was valuable to them to keep him on board as a client in. I don't know I've not seen in a reporting that gives me a satisfactory has for that in and that's also what sort of make some of the some of the deals that involve a ton of cash such as you know buying golf course in in Scotland <hes> and you know the the Moscow projects the Moscow tower that was apparently according to the court records was going to <hes> get him more than three hundred million dollars in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That's a fake number. That's Felix Sater's number. That's what Felix said they would get feel because they we give Putin a condo another thing for fifty million or whatever that was totally Felix pulling crap out of his ear <hes> trump I don't think trump would have gotten hundreds of millions of that project because because to get that he would have had to put hundreds of millions into it at least tens of millions and <hes> and he hasn't been putting that kind of money into any real estate projects other than the turnberry golf course <hes> so <hes> you know his partners in Moscow would have been driving that deal stuck his name on the on the project and he would have gotten a feet in the millions of dollars which interest him. That's not to say they'll that's not attractive to him but the idea that I think I think I think congress and investigators only throw around. He stood to gain hundreds of millions of dollars off that project need to check themselves because the only person who's been saying that it's Alexander and I guess if he was going to be getting hundreds of millions of dollars in there then there's something obviously incredibly suspicious about that yeah and I just think Felix is a is a B._S.. Artists in a marketer in I think he was throwing those numbers around and <hes> you know to push the project but I don't think that you know bringing the number down hundreds of millions to millions to me doesn't change the core problem with it which is that trump was actually considering a project in Moscow OSCO while campaigning to be president and he had a financial interest in Moscow and you can't divorce that from where he was in terms of making policy decisions and involving Russia whether that was economic sanctions that the Obama Administration had imposed or revisions in U._S.. Policy towards Ukraine that the Obama Administration had also imposed after Vladimir Putin San Russian troops oops into Crimea and I think we still don't know what kind of course training took place around that I think when everyone saw trump and Putin together and Helsinki and and the president of the United States was willing linked to disparage publicly his own law enforcement and intelligence officers in the service of showing that it could be buddy buddy with Vladimir Putin you would have to have many many screws loose not to wonder what is motivation relation for doing that was whether or not he was compromising policy in order to Pat Wallet in in his previous interactions with people that had mob ties potentially you know when he started doing all this business abroad the people interested in his in sort of buying his name you know others Adam Davidson is sort of written about the the project in in Baku in Azerbaijan with Iranian revolutionary hard money potentially going in there trump Panama aw with <hes> with potentially cartel money Brazil Brazil where he had you know troubled pension partner in trump Toronto with with Russian mobsters you know interacting with with figures connected to the Kremlin or or or with the Russian government or with Russian mob ties would not have been something that would have given trump any sort of second or third thoughts right right because you know if you have bag of cash and you know the switchboard number of the trump organization prior to twenty fifteen you could walk in there and do a deal with Donald trump any reporter could call up the trump organization and get him on the phone like three seconds. He has never worked hard aired by the way he he rolls into the Office on eleven in the morning. He likes to get out by like two or three to play golf. He's impatient. He doesn't read he doesn't process information that you know this notion that he's a night. All who works hard is is a farce. He's a night owl who's eating cheeseburgers and watching sports and he never did due diligence which is part of that same problem is people would come in to transact with him and if there was enough money on the table and he didn't have to work hard to get it that was gold him and if he didn't have to go into debt to make it work because that was part of the religion he got coming out of the early nineties. You know he said to me. In the early nineties his father's one of his father's pieces of ice. Tim was never personally guarantee anything and that he had ignored that advice and gone ahead and personally guaranteed nine million dollars came back to haunt him. I think after that you know he really just wanted to do deals that didn't involve him having to go into debt and where he could see cash upfront in. That's really the common denominator in all of those deals trump university bear stearns broker walks into trump towers had got this idea. We can use your name name for an online university quote unquote where we're going to tell people your real estate secrets it will charge them a lot of money to get tutorials with you. I think trump's response to that was how tell me the smallest amount of work. I need to do to make that happen. Tell me how much money I get and what's my equity going to be and I don't think that's the conversation that's any different from the conversations he had with the guys from Baku or the guys in Brazil are the guys in Indonesia and he really really didn't doesn't care about his reputation being sullied by associating himself with rough trade during our deposition with him in December of two thousand seven then was bragging us during the deposition about how he had Russian investors floating in and out of his office every day and that you'd have to be a nut not to invest in Russia because it was the hottest market at the time he said and that <hes> he'd like to partner with Russians if he could and Felix Sater's was bringing Russians into his office for meetings and he owned up to all of that and he just doesn't care you know about the the regulatory the self regulatory things normal human beings do a concern about the reputation of concern about that doing harm to other people a concern about being so grasping greedy that destroys raise relationships or your own dreams. He just is Mr. Id that's essentially who he is great. Tim Thank you so much. This is a really rich conversation always happy to help Max <music>. If you're a politics junkie you need to be listening to the election ride home podcast.