Tony Schwartz, who as the co-author of “The Art of the Deal” helped Donald Trump cement his reputation as a man of economic acumen and moxie, said in an interview Tuesday that a New York Times report documenting the financial assistance Trump received from his father obliterated for good the idea that Trump is a self-made man.
Schwartz, an outspoken Trump critic, made the remarks on MSNBC in the hours after the publication of the New York Times investigation, which found that the future president “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents,” in addition to receiving at least $413 million from his father’s real estate business.
Trump has routinely spun the by-the-bootstraps story that he turned a $1 million loan into a multibillion-dollar empire, as the Times notes.
Schwartz, who has expressed regret for helping to write “The Art of the Deal” — memorably telling the New Yorker in 2016 that he felt like he had “put lipstick on a pig” by helping Trump sell an idealized image of himself — said that he had long believed that issues concerning tax fraud and money laundering could end up being a significant legal threat for Trump. Still, he said he was shocked by the breadth of information revealed by the Times report.
“It goes far beyond even what I thought had happened,” Schwartz said. “It’s like the cover has been ripped off this man. Whatever myth there was, as you said earlier, that he was a self-made man, or that he was even a legitimate businessman, is gone forever.”
Trump declined to comment for the story, the Times reported, but a Trump lawyer blasted the New York Times report.
Charles J. Harder, the Trump lawyer, called the allegations of fraud and tax evasion “100 percent false, and highly defamatory.”
"The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate,” Harder said, according to the Times.
Schwartz has long tried to offer interpretations of Trump’s mind, and on Tuesday he said that he guessed that the Times’s report would enrage Trump more than “virtually anything that ever happened to him.”
“This is a man who invented himself. That’s his claim to fame,” Schwartz said. “He literally invented it from whole cloth. There’s nothing about him that is real. Now we really see that. And it’s extraordinary.”
The Times report was based on interviews and more than 100,000 pages of documents acquired by the Times that describe “the inner workings and immense profitability” of Fred Trump’s real estate business, as well as tens of thousands of pages of confidential records.
“What emerges from this body of evidence is a financial biography of the 45th president fundamentally at odds with the story Mr. Trump has sold in his books, his TV shows and his political life,” the report says.
The Times said it found that Fred and his wife, Mary Trump, gave more than $1 billion in wealth to their children but paid only $52.2 million — 5 percent — tax instead of the $550 million potentially required under the tax rate for gifts and inheritance.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the newspaper’s story a “misleading attack.”
“Many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions,” she said, complaining that “the New York Times can rarely find anything positive about the President and his tremendous record of success to report.”