Among the many ironies, some would say falsities, inherent in President Trump’s image of a successful real estate tycoon is that management and dealmaking have never been his strong suits.
Trump University, casinos, vodka, steaks, a new football league . . . the list of failures is long. And it was his financial debacles of the 1990s that some would say brought him into the circle of suspicious money men, foreign banks and Russian oligarchs to bail him out. His “deal” was declaring bankruptcy, leaving creditors and employees hanging, and having to be put on a monthly allowance by banks.
In the 1990’s, according to The Moscow Project, “Trump found himself $3.4 billion in debt, $832.5 million for which he was personally liable. The Trump Shuttle, Trump Plaza Hotel, Trump Regency Hotel, and Trump Castle Casino lose a combined total of over $165 million. Trump defaults on Trump Shuttle debt, and turns it over to creditors.” Subsequently, U.S. banks cut him off, citing “the Donald risk.”
The Post reported in November, 2016:
While he has denied having investments in Russia, the experience in Sunny Isles and other Trump-branded communities shows how Russians have invested in him.
In addition to the towers of “Little Moscow,” Russian investors have been a valuable source of capital for Trump buildings in nearby Hollywood, Fla., and in a large complex in Panama City, Panama.
Trump does not own these buildings, but, like many Trump projects around the world, he licensed the use of his name and took a percentage of the profits from the initial sales of units. Real estate agents say there have been fewer Russian investors in Florida condos since U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russia took effect in 2014. They predict that the market will improve if Trump wins and reconsiders the sanctions.
In other words, failure in “dealmaking” and mismanagement of businesses left him searching for money in unusual places.
More from The Moscow Project:
“Though Trump has recently taken to vehemently denying any financial relationship with members of the Russian government, or with Russians in general, he and his namesake company reportedly have long histories of both pursuing deals in the country and accepting investments from Russian oligarchs.
According to the New Republic, Russian organized-crime syndicates have been investing in U.S. real estate, including Trump Organization properties, to launder money for decades, although there is yet no evidence that Trump himself was aware of his clientele’s potentially compromising connections.”
Why Deutsche Bank would lend Trump money is an open question. While Trump watchers point to the bank’s “$630 million in penalties on [Jan. 31, 2017] over a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme that involved its Moscow, New York and London branches,” there is as yet no established connection between the two.
Rather than his dealmaking prowess, Trump’s career was saved, one could argue, by foreign money. (His “The Art of the Deal” book should include a chapter on “How to get Russians to give you money when U.S. banks won’t.”) What success he had in bargaining — chiseling contractors, stiffing lawyers — tended to be where he had all the leverage while the other side had none. That makes him a first-class bully, not a brilliant dealmaker. (If the dossier and other sources are to be believed, his current operations such as golf courses aren’t making money. They were bad deals, I suppose.)
In other words, the false promise of business acumen — as Trump critics pointed out in the campaign — did not suggest he’d do any better than professional politicians in striking deals. And in fact, his willful ignorance about policy (at least he presumably knew something about real estate when he was in that industry) has shown him to be a whole lot worse than recent presidents. He’s best at selling himself and whatever he’s hawking (vodka, casinos, steaks) with empty rhetoric (the same he uses to describe legislative bills he does not understand — “fabulous” or “some say the greatest”). But that does not translate into policy compromises or political trade-offs.
Weak on substance, his aides boss him around; Republicans have learned that his word is meaningless. Whatever complex issues absorb Congress this year — defense spending, immigration, healthcare, infrastructure — better be managed without much White House input. The more involved he is, the less likely there will be a deal. The great disrupter can create chaos and controversy, but the harder task of negotiating policy compromises eludes him.
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