I finished reading David Cay Johnston’s book, “The Making of Donald Trump”, the day before the Republican nominee was to burst into Akron with another yarn about making America great. Johnston is a legendary investigative reporter who has adorned his credentials with a number of journalism awards, including a Pulitzer. So this volume, published in July, should be treated with respect and not as a paste-up pot-boiler that arrives in time for another election. You may know him from his guest TV appearances..
The book has doubtless been churning around in Johnston’s bearded head for decades. And the character that evolved is that of a privileged billionaire without a trace of allegiance to anyone but himself. Even some of his reputed charities were shown to be fakes. The experts have defined him as a clinical narcissist whose insane rise from the gullies of a broken Republican Party is scaring hell out of the GOP’s befuddled managers. You might now sense how the Roman Senate reacted to Mad Emperor Caligula’s naming his horse to the august body.
Johnston’s profile is drawn from years of personal experience and research and from published media reports of Trump’s slick manipulation of various victims leading to his wealth. As a developer (like his father who gave him $1 million) and casino owner, he hob-knobbed with the Gambino mob in New York City; fashioned a playboy image for himself as a married man while skipping around with other tony women; stiffed investors and workers at will under false pretenses; promoted a fake university, and toyed with the feckless media as a prankster by calling reporters with self-serving information while identifying himself with the pseudonyms of “John Miller” or “John Baron “. He also set up a strong relationship with Roy Cohn, the lawyer of McCarthy hearings fame and influential mob consigliere who deftly got Trump out of one legal jam after another. You can’t make these things up. With his singular mission to amass enormous wealth (which he frequently lied about) and golden imagery, Trump had no use for ethical of moral boundaries.
Johnston recites the many times that Trump was sued but escaped conviction, or even the loss of a gambling license for his casinos, with unrecorded payoffs – or not – to the litigant. His history cascaded with episodes involving well-layered lies, intimidation, odd retreats by gaming officials and, well, for a guy like Trump, whatever it took to gain an advantage. Often when he or his minions were confronted with damaging accusations, they would follow his familiar dodge that they didn’t remember. Nor did he, despite the fact that he boasted of having the best memory in the world.
For example,when he chose to build Trump Tower on the shuttered Fifth Avenue site of the Bonwit Teller department store, the Metropolitan Museum of Art expressed strong interest in the bas relief deco facade and fancy grillwork.
No problems it was told. Trump hired a window washing outfit with illegal immigrant laborers without, as Johnston wrote, hard hats and face masks in a swirl of asbestos as they slammed sledge hammers into the limestone structure. The crew was known as the Polish Brigade that “worked off the books” and slept on the concrete floors in mid-winter. Cheap labor pleased him. (After nearly two decades of litigation in which the underpaid workers sued to recover wages, the court issued a sealed agreement. All the while, Trump said he didn’t know a thing about the abysmal working conditions.
When their work was completed there was no sign of the valuable heavy grillwork. Asked about its disappearance, Trump’s guy said he didn’t remember.
Trump University was a sleazy fiction for a big payoff to Trump, who said of the fake school: “We teach success….We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific…These are people that are handpicked by me.”
Johnston added ,”None of these statements were true.” (The academics were merely commissioned sales people operating out of a shabby office on Wall Street, Trump ignored an order by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission to stop using “University” in its title. The”school” ran into all sorts of legal problems but not before Trump had enjoyed a another big payday from enrollees.
And when the word got around that the Trump Organization was going to build luxury apartments on the west coast near San Diego , he took in millions in advance leases for a project that never happened. Trump had perfected his expedient of having wealthy investors who wanted a piece of the action before the apartments facing the ocean were so quickly claimed. He lured high rollers with his magical name. But when the project failed. Trump explained that he was not in the construction business and therefore could not be held liable for simply leasing his name to the project.
Johnston even examines Trump’s claimed love of the Bible.
“Trump; says he does not see any reason to seek divine forgiveness because he has done nothing wrong in his entire life, an oft-made observation so at odds with most basic teachings of Jesus that I’m at a loss to explain any religious leader embracing him.” Johnston writes, . noting that Trump “denigrated Communion by lightly defending his faith with “i drink my little wine, eat my little cracker—“
That may explain his long reach to an Evangelical governor, Indiana’s what’s-his-name for his running mate. To understand even a little about this bizarre man you must play his silly games.
Try to keep this in mind when you read the day-after headlines for a Trump rally. Better yet, read the book.
It wouldn’t hurt if Ohio’s Repubican senator, Rob Portman, who has endorsed Trump, read it, too.