Are there some facts about Donald Trump that most people are unaware of?
Stephen Lee, Historian, martial artist, asset management
Updated Dec 21
This is really a loaded question. Donald Trump ran for office based on the widely held belief among his supporters that he was a self-made billionaire entrepreneur and international real estate tycoon. They see him as a brilliant strategist and expert negotiator, with an acute understanding of the problems that working class Americans face in the 21st century, and who has the common sense solutions to those problems.
All of that is a lie.
Donald Trump inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from his father, but before that his own real estate endeavors largely ended in failure, or required significant bailouts from his father. Most of his businesses — at least the legitimate ones — failed, while other so-called “businesses” — like Trump University — were simply cons. If he ever achieved “billionaire” status he did so by borrowing, buying assets, and borrowing some more against his assets. When it became clear that he overpaid, his assets were worth far less than his liabilities. So in the late 1980s, when Trump claimed to be worth $3 billion, the New York Times — his great hometown nemesis — reported that he owed $3.3 billion.
That’s right, the “billionaire” Donald Trump actually had a negative net worth at that time of $300 million.
As to the image of Trump, business tycoon, that is easily undermined by the fact that no American bank has lent to Trump since his bankruptcies in the mid 1990s. If he were such a great businessman, they would be lining up to throw money at him. That they will not even return his phone calls should speak volumes.
And yes, these are facts. And apparently, quite a large number of Americans do not believe them.
How is Trump wealthy now, you ask? Doesn’t he own hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate?
No, he does not. You see all those buildings with the name “Trump” plastered all over them? He doesn’t own most of them. His company manages them, and part of the deal to develop them was to affix his name, giving the illusion of great wealth and real estate prowess. That is why it is so easy for the real owners to strip his name from these buildings, which is happening ever more frequently these days.*
In the New York City real estate community, he is now, and has always been, considered a joke.
Those deals were financed with other people’s money. Which people? You know the answer to that already. Russian oligarchs. For many years they were the only people who would go near Trump, and their relations with him go back literally over decades. Indeed, several oligarchs or their agents actually owned property in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue (yes, Trump does own that one, we think; everything he “owns” is through shell corporations, so there is no transparency into the financials of the Trump Organization). That’s why it is so amazing that so many of Trump’s supporters do not believe that he has substantial exposure to these people — he is literally their landlord.
The second source of funds to create the myth of great business tycoon comes from The Apprentice. Apparently quite a few clueless Americans saw that “reality TV” show and thought it actually reflected, you know, reality. But to paraphrase the old joke, Trump was not a business or real estate tycoon when Mark Burnett approached him about the show, but he did get to play one on TV. Yet as been made clear now, what everyone saw on that show was merely an illusion, created by clever editing. The producers didn’t find an international business empire when they found the Trump Organization. They found a run down small family business. They created the illusion of Trump living high and jet setting around the world, always stepping in and out of helicopters and private airplanes. They cut away from the shoddiness of everything surrounding Trump at that time. Trump couldn’t even follow the scripts, and often spontaneously deviated from the agreed upon ending of each episode, doing so on a whim. That was then edited to prevent him from looking like a moron.**
Apparently it worked.
We can go on and on, but hopefully you get it by now. Trump is a colossal failure as a president. He has no grasp of policy on any level — foreign, defense, trade, monetary, fiscal, environmental, commercial, etc. He won election largely because of the propaganda efforts of his Russian “friends,” whether he actively conspired with them or not. But they are not really his friends. They are his masters, because they controlled the purse strings behind the financing of the deals they partnered with him on, and given the nature of these peoples’ businesses, those deals have always been largely suspect in New York as being more than simply “real estate” development projects. That Trump is a money launderer and tax cheat is also widely assumed, especially as his own lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified under oath to participating in those activities.
Are these “facts”? Well, the New York Times published a 14,000 word article detailing decades of tax fraud by the Trump family. Trumpworld yawned, and certainly Bill Barr’s Justice Department turned a blind eye, but you will notice that no one has come up with any information to refute the charges. Same with Michael Cohen’s charges. Trump’s supporters in Congress merely attack the character of the man, because apparently they cannot refute what he claims. But there is certainly evidence to support them.***
So the “facts” about Donald Trump that certainly many, if not “most”, Americans are not aware of, or choose to ignore, is that the public image of Trump is a myth, created and carefully nurtured by Trump over decades to demonstrate to the world that he was something that he always wanted to be, and sees himself as, but which he is not. He is not the strong, powerful, respected leader of the Free World that his supporters perceive, or desperately want to believe in; in fact, as should be clear by now every time he steps onto the world stage, he is a laughingstock. He will not return coal and steel to prominence in the United States, because he cannot; the world has moved past these industries, and there is no point in the United States wasting resources to revive them. He will not give his voters great, affordable healthcare; he will not eliminate the budget deficit; he will not build his stupid wall. He will say he is doing all those things, but he will do none of them — although he will exacerbate many of the problems associated with many of them.
Nor will he go down in history as the president “who accomplished more in his first two years” than any other president (except maybe FDR? I think that’s what he blurted out once). He will go down in history as the worst president in the history of the republic, a man who largely owed his election to the intervention of a hostile foreign power, which he then repaid consistently throughout his ignoble term by reorienting American policy away from our traditional allies to benefit the Kremlin. He will go down in history as a president who threw people off the health insurance rolls, who governed largely and incompetently based on preconceived notions that were not grounded in reality, but which were largely influenced by racism and bigotry, and which left the country dirtier, less healthy, and more polluted than it has been in decades. And he will be known as a president who was himself so corrupt that he not only used his time in office to enrich himself and his family, but surrounded himself with equally corrupt and incompetent minions.
Those are the facts about Donald Trump that many, many people in the United States — too many people — refuse to acknowledge, even though they are clear for anyone with eyes to see.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum.