Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston last week became the latest of Donald Trump’s biographers to denounce him and his presidential campaign.
“He’s a con man,” Johnston told a National Press Club audience Aug. 4 in describing his new book The Making of Donald Trump.
Worse, said Johnston (shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo during his talk), Trump is the product of unusually corrupt or otherwise disturbing relationships. These include Trump's KKK-supporting father, the ruthless late superlawyer Roy Cohn, plus powerful leaders in the Gambino and Genovese Mafia families, as well as oligarchs surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If people want to elect Donald Trump after they read my book, then they should vote for him, but they should know who they are voting for,” said Johnston, who said he met Trump 28 years ago. “They are voting for a man that doesn’t know anything about anything, who bluffs his way through everything, who has one skill and that is how to make deals that bring cash to him to support the lifestyle that creates the appearance of being a billionaire, and who has no regard for his fellow man.”
Johnston thus joins The Art of the Deal ghostwriter Tony Schwartz in bashing Trump in harsh terms. Schwartz has been saying in recent weeks that the 1987 book that made Trump famous should have been entitled The Sociopath because Trump is too greedy and deranged to merit the presidency.
Schwartz, told the New Yorker in an exclusive interview with Jane Mayer published July 18 that the thought of a Trump presidency is “terrifying.”
“I genuinely believe," Schwartz said, "that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” Conservative MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough separately added a similar concern, as reported Aug. 2 by the Huffington Post in, Joe Scarborough: Donald Trump Repeatedly Asked Why We Couldn’t Use Nukes.
Such serious attacks are rare in a presidential campaign by writers of stature, long study and access to a candidate.
Three recent anti-Hillary Clinton books were listed in the top 10 of the Washington Post's Aug. 7 regional best-seller list. They were by former uniformed Secret Service agent Gary Byrne, conservative pundits Dinesh D'Souza, and Dick Morris and the latter's wife Eileen McGann.
But each has been attacked as partisan or otherwise biased. For example, a Politico article in June headlined, Secret Service veterans denounce anti-Clinton tell-all book, reported "The author of a new tell-all book about Hillary Clinton could never have seen any of what he claims — he was too low-ranking — say several high-level members of Secret Service presidential details, including the president of the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service."
By contrast, Johnston and Schwartz are major New York Times and otherwise credentialed reporters with rare access to Trump that began for each of them nearly 30 years ago.
Johnston, whose book is already a best-seller after publication Aug. 2, says he believes his book draws on the largest collection of Trump-related documents anywhere in the hands of the press thanks to the generous cooperation of other Trump biographers, such as Wayne Barrett.
Schwartz is speaking out for the first time against Trump after the two made millions of dollars from the 1987 Art of the Deal book. Trump's lawyers immediately filed a demand for return of the money July 20 after Schwartz's interviews but Schwartz says his main priority must to be warn the public against Trump, not fear litigation.
Beyond these two, Trump faces similar attacks from his wealthy business colleagues and retired government executives that dwarf what even the opponent he calls “crooked Hillary” has ever had to face.
Billionaire businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won his first two mayoral terms as a Republican and last as an independent, endorsed Clinton at the Democratic National Convention with the comment that the nation needs a "sane and competent" president, not a "demagogue." Bloomberg, ranked this summer as the world's eighth richest person, was one of a number of business, military, intelligence, and Republican thought leaders to denounce Trump in recent days.
Other Critics Gang Up
Two especially rough hits came from media controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose outlets normally lead the cheering for Republicans. Murdoch's Wall Street Journal published a column by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. Her The Week They Decided Donald Trump Was Crazy summed up fears by Republican elites that Trump was acted so deranged that he would hurt candidates for lesser federal offices.
Murdoch's New York Post separately published on successive days front page stories featuring frontal nude pictures shot in the modeling days of Trump's wife, Melania Trump (shown in her Twitter photo).
Those stories compounded the embarrassment of Melania Trump's featured convention speech that drew from passages plagiarized from Michelle Obama, and doubtless has contributed to her recent absence from the campaign trail.
Trump often takes the political stage by himself these days as other party leaders distance themselves unless they are running for safe seats. Trump's typical campaign event is a rally attracting large number of enthusiastic supporters. A standing of 40 percent in national polls can produce overflow crowds for a showman, but not necessarily a majority in November.
The casual viewer of cable or other news might not discern the full impact of these setbacks for Trump. Standard news formats require that outlets provide the appearance of equal treatment, which cynics might call “false equivalence.”
Thus, the typical cable news show on CNN tends to feature roughly equivalent numbers of Trump and Clinton supporters, although Fox News heavily weights commentary against Clinton.
But these days, pro-Trump pundits on CNN such as his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski must somehow confront not simply their on-air pro-Clinton peers but a real world in which billionaires like Warren Buffet, Meg Whitman, and Mark Cuban, some with strongly Republican backgrounds, are attacking their candidate on business grounds.
So are career general John Allen, former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, and former CIA Director and Deputy Director Mark Morell. Each of the latter are not simply representatives of their specialties, but emissaries of the nation’s top power structure. That's because CIA and other intelligence officials tend to have strong ties via the "revolving door" to Wall Street and the defense sectors. Trump's campaign rhetoric has in many ways opposed such "elites," as he calls them, and so for current purposes even such officials might not be considered neutral, especially by strong Trump backers.
For such reasons, we focus on details of the two writers featured at the outset of this column, Johnston and Schwartz, in their assessments of Trump.
They make today’s column an apt launch of our new series: "Campaigns Decoded" that will address other under-reported, confusing or especially important aspects of the campaign, including those involving Clinton, whose disastrous war-mongering and other flaws we'll examine separately soon.
David Johnston On 'The Making of Donald Trump'
David Cay Johnston, 67, began his newspaper career at age 19 at the San Jose Mercury News. In 1988, he met Trump shortly after he became Atlantic City bureau chief for Philadelphia Inquirer. Johnston's first book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business (1992), reported that Trump's casino business exemplified how the gambling business was expanding its capacity to hurt the public. The's first two words were "Donald Trump" and the book throughout used what it described as Trump's "largely illusory" wealth as congruent with the mirage-like dream that gambling could foster wealth or otherwise healthy communities.
Johnston became tax reporter for the New York Times from 1995 to 2008. He won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting "for his penetrating and enterprising reporting that exposed loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code, which was instrumental in bringing about reforms."
Last year, he served as president of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), which had been founded to investigate the 1976 mob murder of Arizona reporter Don Bolles and continue his legacy of aggressive reporting. Johnston, author of six books, is now a columnist for the Daily Beast, and teaches law and business at Syracuse University in New York. He is working who is working on a comprehensive revision of the tax code to make it fairer for the public.
"Johnston’s journalistic career has made him uniquely qualified to understand the Republican presidential nominee’s appeal," opined the veteran journalist Kathy Kiely in covering Johnston's Press Club lecture last week for Moyers & Co.
“I started documenting the growing inequality in America when I started working for The New York Times,” Johnston said at his Press Club lecture. “Government rules take from the many and give to the already rich few.” The people who are being inexorably pushed out of the middle class are on the edge of despair, not least because their plight is so invisible, he argued. “They get almost nothing written about them.”
Johnston described Trump as a greedy ignoramus who knows little about business and who routinely gouges the public. The reporter said Trump is nowhere near so wealthy as he claims.
"You may well be worth more than Donald Trump," the reporter began one of his front-page stories in 1990 for the Philadelphia Inquirer about Trump, who was bragging at the time about being worth some $3 billion. Johnston, then as know, cited his in-depth study of available financial documents to report that Trump at the time was authoritatively reported by a bankers' study to have nearly $300 million more in debt than in assets, foreshadowing his four bankruptcies (arguably six).
Johnston said also that he saw first-hand in Atlantic City that Trump knew little about casinos, foreshadowing his multiple bankruptcies.
“I have probably the largest Trump document collection in the world,” said Johnston. He says that that Trump has been involved in some 3,500 court cases that have produced a trove of revealing documents that most reporters are too busy to review. But to a trained eye, he says, “in all likelihood, Donald has paid no federal income taxes for years.”
The most disturbing thing about Trump and his presidential candidacy, Johnston argued, is the candidate's “philosophy of revenge” instilled by his attorney and mentor, the late Roy Cohn, former counsel to U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) during the 1950s anti-Communist crusades of the early 1950s. Trump and Cohn are shown in the file photo.
Cohn, Johnston said, “taught Donald how to hurt people.”
“His personal motto is ‘get revenge,’” Johnston said of Trump, saying his two major driving forces are greed and revenge.
One of his book chapters reports that that Trump fired a staffer whose ethics prevented her from completing an assignment. Trump’s own book, Think Big, quoted him as bragging: “She ended up losing her home. Her husband, who was only in it for the money, walked out on her and I was glad. I can’t stomach disloyalty…and now I go out of my way to make her life miserable.” Johnston urges his audience to imagine what the future would be like if a man used presidential powers to exact revenge in such ways.
Furthermore, Johnston said, Trump has many disreputable business associates. “We have never had a major party candidate for president with the kind of relationships Donald Trump has,” Johnston said. Although some presidents like Warren Harding have had corrupt business colleagues, “They were not the mob. They were not drug traffickers.”
Johnston said his study of available documents leads him to believe Trump has good reason to withhold his tax returns. By contrast, all other modern presidential candidates including Clinton have released their recent returns.
During the primary campaign, Trump claimed he had unique qualifications for the presidency because, he said on an congressionally mandated report, he possesses $10 billion in assets and thus is not beholden to donors and does not seek their money.
But Johnston sees no reason to believe on available information that Trump has even one billion in assets. The biographer shows in his book that Trump has devised covert and innovative ways to make money personally from his campaigning, and he notes that Trump is now seeking campaign contributions from small fry and the wealthy alike.
Bottom line? Trump's core business, in Johnston's view, is pretending to be so wealthy that others will be duped into admiring him and funding his schemes. That's Atlantic City casino glitz and Trump University, in other words, except this time it's aimed at angry white voters seeking to improve their lot after years of economic hardship.
Too harsh? Let's see.
Tony Schwartz On Trump
Tony Schwartz, 64, is a journalist, professional speaker and the author of six books, credited with co-authoring Trump: The Art of the Deal. He began his writing career in 1975, with stints at the New York Post, Newsweek, the New York Times, New York Magazine and Esquire.
Schwartz won for himself favorable terms for a ghostwriter: Writing credit on the book cover, as well as a 50-50 split of the publisher's $500,000 advance and ongoing royalties totaling millions of dollars. In 2003, he founded a consultancy, the Energy Project, and has written a total of six books, most recently, Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, Ph.D.
On July 18 just as the Republican National Convention was beginning in Cleveland, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer published a blockbuster interview headlined Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All. The subtitle was: "The Art of the Deal made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth — and regrets it."
“I put lipstick on a pig,” Schwartz said, adding that he now feels “deep remorse.”
The article is worth reading in its entirety and is poised to become a landmark in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Schwartz described his astonishment at seeing Trump launch his campaign in 2015 by repeatedly citing The Art of the Deal as a major qualification for the presidency. Then Schwartz fired off a Tweet saying he should be president on that basis since he had written the book, as from what he recalls as a few edits by Trump. But Schwartz kept silent after the Tweet because of concern that any protest about Trump would be misinterpreted, and that the Trump campaign would falter.
But in June, he decided to work with the New Yorker's Mayer to set the record straight. Her article portrayed the book collaboration background this way:
Starting in late 1985, Schwartz spent eighteen months with Trump — camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate. During that period, Schwartz felt, he had got to know him better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family.
Until Schwartz posted the tweet, though, he had not spoken publicly about Trump for decades. It had never been his ambition to be a ghostwriter, and he had been glad to move on.
But, as he watched a replay of the new candidate holding forth for forty-five minutes, he noticed something strange: over the decades, Trump appeared to have convinced himself that he had written the book. Schwartz recalls thinking, “If he could lie about that on Day One — when it was so easily refuted — he is likely to lie about anything.”
It seemed improbable that Trump’s campaign would succeed, so Schwartz told himself that he needn’t worry much. But, as Trump denounced Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” near the end of the speech, Schwartz felt anxious. He had spent hundreds of hours observing Trump firsthand, and felt that he had an unusually deep understanding of what he regarded as Trump’s beguiling strengths and disqualifying weaknesses.
Many Americans, however, saw Trump as a charmingly brash entrepreneur with an unfailing knack for business — a mythical image that Schwartz had helped create.
Schwartz went on to give several TV and cable interviews on his views. In one, he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's “Good Morning America” show that the book probably contained falsehoods because of Trump's tendency to lie.
Trump's legal team promptly sent Schwartz a letter demanding return of all income from the book, as reported by Mayer in the New Yorker July 20 in Donald Trump Threatens the Ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal." Trump's attorney also ordered Schwartz to issue “a written statement retracting your defamatory statements,” and to offer written assurances that he will not “generate or disseminate” any further “baseless accusations” about Trump.
On Thursday, reached by e-mail on an airplane, Schwartz said that he would continue to speak out against Trump, and that he would make no retractions or apologies. “The fact that Trump would take time out of convention week to worry about a critic is evidence to me not only of how thin-skinned he is, but also of how misplaced his priorities are,” Schwartz wrote.
He added, “It is axiomatic that when Trump feels attacked, he will strike back. That’s precisely what’s so frightening about his becoming president.”
What Difference Does It Make?
The judgments of these two biographers Johnston and Schwartz hold rare importance. The news media keep us distracted with sycophants like former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who like other pro-Trump cable commentators apparently works under orders always to call his former boss "Mr." Trump, but not for other figures in the news. We know for certain also that Lewandowski works at CNN under constant threat of litigation from "Mr." Trump, as the New Yorker Magazine and others have reported in such columns as The Trouble with Corey Lewandowski on CNN.
But the former operative is merely an extreme example of a more pervasive problem: Political propaganda techniques designed for low information voters, many of whom have legitimate economic and other grievances against government and media elites. Trump, shown in a Gage Skidmore photo from a Conservative Political Action Committee convention last year, is emulating the facial sneers of the 1930s Fascist leaders like Mussolini to augment his leadership.
With voter anger and cynicism rampant, current elected leaders carry relatively little weight in their criticisms of Trump, who memorably promised his followers on acceptance of the nomination "I alone" can lead the nation.
His was an emotional appeal in the tradition of the 1930s fascist leaders to quash criticism. But it keeps coming. President Obama said Trump is "unfit" for office. The only two living former GOP presidents, George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, avoided the Republican National Convention. So did GOP Gov. John Kasich, a Trump opponent who controls the Republican political machinery of his party's must-win state in November's presidential race.
As this week began, a group of 50 former national security officials, all of whom have served in Republican administrations from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, announced their letter calling Donald Trump unqualified to be president, as reported by the Washington Post in 50 Former GOP national security officials: Trump would be ‘most reckless’ U.S. president in history.
Their voices and actions are important, of course, especially in behind-the-scenes activity with society's power players. More visible to the public, however, we can each see for ourselves from the work and words of Tony Schwartz and David Johnston about how the Trump fantasy began and how it could end.
"Tony created Trump," New York Magazine's former editor and publisher Edward Kosner told Jane Mayer of his 1980s staffer. "He’s Dr. Frankenstein.”
Biographer David Cay Johnston
Daily Beast, Art of the Steal: This is How Trump Lost $916M and Avoided Tax, David Cay Johnston, Oct. 3, 2016. This is how Donald Trump’s accountants and lawyers most likely used the tax code to avoid paying income tax for almost two decades. The big New York Times scoop that Donald Trump used $916 million of tax losses to enjoy many income tax-free years raised a question the newspaper didn’t try to answer: How did Trump do it?
Trump, the only major-party presidential nominee in four decades to keep all his tax returns secret, insists “there’s nothing to learn from them.” Yet in one day I figured out how Trump’s advisers almost certainly arranged the massive tax losses, skipped out on a massive income-tax bill, and then fashioned a loophole with more valuable tax benefits than the already liberal tax breaks Congress gives big real-estate owners while sticking others with the bill. Trump dumped the real costs of all this on investors who saw gold in his brand name, but who lost everything even as he was paid tens of millions of tax-free dollars.
National Press Club, NYT author reveals decades-long knowledge of Donald Trump in new book, Heather Forsgren Weaver, Aug. 7, 2016. The new book The Making of Donald Trump is filled with “basically everything that Donald Trump does not want you to know,” author David Cay Johnston told a National Press Club Book Rap Aug. 4.
In the book, Johnston goes back in time to examineTrump’s rise to power, including his family background, his litigation history and his ties to organized crime. Trump called Johnston at home on April 27 to respond to an email inquiry, Johnston said, noting the candidate has had his home phone number for several of the 28 years he has known him.
“It was the kind of phone call that I am used to getting from Donald,” Johnston said. “It was … gathering information … bluster, romance … menace … click.” Johnston believes that there has never been a major-party candidate for president with “relationships like Trump.”
During the question-and-answer session, where no pro-Trump questions were asked, Johnston refused to discuss the Republican candidate’s private life. He said he is more interested in policy, noting he knew about Marla Maples –- Trump’s former mistress and second wife –- nine months before it became public knowledge. As for the other major-party candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Johnston said he has never met her but he has written two articles about her. “She was livid about them,” he said.
Moyers & Co., The Making of Donald Trump, As Told by a Journalistic Nemesis, Kathy Kiely, Aug. 5, 2016. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston isn’t happy with the way the press has been handling Donald Trump.
“The coverage has been extremely poor in my opinion,” Johnston, who at 67 clearly still enjoys making trouble, pronounced at no less a lions’ den than the National Press Club on Thursday night in Washington. So Johnston, as he is wont to do when he sees something going wrong, decided to tackle the problem himself.
His just-released book,The Making of Donald Trump, is a 288-page compendium of “basically everything Donald Trump wants to make sure you do not know,” said Johnston, who has been following the real estate mogul for decades.
The main reason he has “been extremely critical of my colleagues,” in the media Johnston said, is they’ve been too buttoned-down and professional. “They’re covering him as though he is a serious person,” Johnston said of the Republican presidential nominee. Though Johnston believes there has been some good coverage of Trump, he faulted it for being too highbrow, “not written in tabloid style.”
Daily Beast, Meet Freidrich — Pimp, Profiteer and Patriarch of the Trump Line, David Cay Johnston, Aug. 2, 2016. Pulitzer-winner and finance expert David Cay Johnston is author of the book published today "The Making of Donald Trump." Exploiting the poor, draft-dodging and busty blondes turn out to be family traditions. The Trump family’s deep roots in Germany stretch back to the war-ravaged seventeenth century, when the family name was Drumpf. In 1648, they simplified the name to one that would prove to be a powerful brand for their latter-day descendants.
Looking back from the twenty-first century, it turns out to have been an interesting choice. Donald no doubt enjoys the bridge player’s definition of trump: a winning play by a card that outranks all others.
But other definitions include “a thing of small value, a trifle” and “to deceive or cheat” as well as “to blow or sound a trumpet.” As a verb, trump means “to devise in an unscrupulous way” and “to forge, fabricate or invent,” as in “trumped-up” charges.
Daily Beast, Donald Trump’s Big Lie About the Law That ‘Threatens’ Christians, David Cay Johnston, July 27, 2016. The self-identified Presbyterian calls those who embrace the best known teachings of Jesus “schmucks.” Fact-checking Donald Trump has become a small industry this election cycle. How Trump deceives people of faith with falsehoods deserves especially close scrutiny.
In his speech accepting the Republican nomination, Trump promised to repeal “an amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, [that] threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.”
No such law exists.
Daily Beast, Trump and Kids Named in $250M Tax Scam, David Cay Johnston, July 14, 2016. The lawsuit, unsealed Thursday, describes the scheme as simple, telling the judge ‘there need be no fear of complexity, for there is none.’ Four Donald Trump-licensed real-estate developments are at the center of a huge income tax evasion scheme, according to allegations in a lawsuit unsealed Thursday afternoon by a judge in Manhattan.
The presumptive Republican nominee is not personally accused. He is described as a “material witness” in the evasion of taxes on as much as $250 million in income.
According to the court papers, that includes $100 million in profits and $65 million in real-estate transfer taxes from a Manhattan high rise project bearing his familiar name. However, his status may change, according to the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, Richard Lerner and Frederick M. Oberlander, citing Trump’s testimony about Felix Sater, a convicted stock swindler at the center of the alleged scheme.
Trump received tens of millions of dollars in fees and partnership interests in one of the four projects, the Trump Soho New York, a luxury high rise in lower Manhattan. His son Donald Junior and his daughter Ivanka also were paid in fees and partnership interests, the lawyers said, and are also material witnesses in the case.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Bankers Say Trump May Be Worth Less Than Zero, David Johnston, Aug. 16, 1990. You may well be worth more than Donald Trump. The developer who claimed that his deal-making prowess had boosted his fortune from mere millions to more than $3 billion may owe more than his empire is worth. Trump's bankers say his debts could outweigh by $295 million the value of his hotels, casinos, office towers, condo projects, airline and other properties, according to a report commissioned by Trump and made public yesterday.
The respected accounting firm Trump hired recently to help him rework his loans and save his cash-starved business empire arrived at the estimate of a $295 million negative net worth by first adding up estimates from Trump's bankers on how much he could raise by selling his assets. Then the accountants subtracted the $3.2 billion Trump owes banks and the bondholders who helped finance his casinos. The bankers, who have loaned Trump $1.9 billion, offered various estimates on sales prices. But even with their most optimistic estimates of his assets, the banks figure Trump is worth no more than $282 million.
Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz
New Yorker, Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All, Jane Mayer, July 18 (print edited dated July 25), 2016. The Art of the Deal made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth — and regrets it. “I put lipstick on a pig,” Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter, says. He feels “deep remorse.”
Last June, as dusk fell outside Tony Schwartz’s sprawling house, on a leafy back road in Riverdale, New York, he pulled out his laptop and caught up with the day’s big news: Donald J. Trump had declared his candidacy for President. As Schwartz watched a video of the speech, he began to feel personally implicated.
Trump, facing a crowd that had gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, laid out his qualifications, saying, “We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal. ” If that was so, Schwartz thought, then he, not Trump, should be running.
In the subsequent months, as Trump defied predictions by establishing himself as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Schwartz’s desire to set the record straight grew. He had long since left journalism to launch the Energy Project, a consulting firm that promises to improve employees’ productivity by helping them boost their “physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual” morale. It was a successful company, with clients such as Facebook, and Schwartz’s colleagues urged him to avoid the political fray.
But the prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology — Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.
Schwartz thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering Art of the Deal, his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself.
If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”
ABC News, Tony Schwartz, Co-Author of Donald Trump's 'The Art of the Deal,' Says Trump Presidency Would Be 'Terrifying,' Morgan Winsor, July 18, 2016. Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s co-author on The Art of the Deal, admitted that he regrets writing the 1987 book and that he finds the thought of a Trump presidency “terrifying.”
So why did Schwartz keep his silence for so long? “We had a successful experience together. I never in a million years thought he would run for president. Had I thought that 30 years ago, I wouldn’t have written the book,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” today.
“But for 29 years, I didn’t think he would, and it didn’t seem like it was important to speak out. I now feel it’s my civic duty.”
He added, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
CBS News,Ghostwriter: Trump’s Book ‘Isn’t Worth Paper It’s Printed On,’ Staff report, Aug. 4, 2016. Tony Schwartz, who helped write Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal, has come out against the Republican presidential nominee before. In a lengthy piece for the New Yorker last month, Schwartz (shown via his @tonyschwartz Twitter feed) is quoted saying things such as “I put lipstick on a pig” and “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.
New Yorker, Donald Trump Threatens the Ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal,” Jane Mayer, July 20, 2016. When Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 memoir, The Art of the Deal, decided to tell the public about his concerns that Trump isn’t fit to serve as President, his main worry was that Trump, who is famously litigious, would threaten to take legal action against him. Schwartz’s premonition has proved correct.
On Monday, July 18th, the day that this magazine published my interview with Schwartz, and hours after Schwartz appeared on “Good Morning America” to voice his concerns about Trump’s “impulsive and self-centered” character, Jason D. Greenblatt, the general counsel and vice-president of the Trump Organization, issued a threatening cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz.
“I fully expected him to attack me, because that is what he does, so I can’t say I am surprised,” Schwartz noted. “But I’m much more worried about his becoming president than I am about anything he might try to do to me.”
Other Voices (Reverse Chronological Order)
Washington Post, Sen. Susan Collins says she will not vote for Trump, joining growing list of Republicans, Sean Sullivan, Aug. 8, 2016. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist Republican, announced Monday that she will not vote for Donald Trump, joining a growing list of GOP officials who have come out against the mogul for president. Collins writes in a Washington Post op-ed published online Monday night that three incidents led her to conclude that the GOP nominee lacks essential qualifications to be president: his mocking of a disabled reporter, his intense criticism of a U.S.-born federal judge who is Mexican American and, most recently, his attacks against the Muslim American parents of an Army captain who was killed in Iraq.
“My conclusion about Mr. Trump’s unsuitability for office is based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics,” Collins writes. "Instead, he opts to mock the vulnerable and inflame prejudices by attacking ethnic and religious minorities.”
The Maine senator does not say in the op-ed who she plans to vote for in November. Collins becomes the latest in a small but growing group of Republican senators who have said they will not vote for Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has vocally opposed the mogul for months. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina told CNN in May that he did not intend vote for Trump or Clinton.
Washington Post, Former GOP national security officials: Trump would be ‘most reckless’ U.S. president in history, Carol Morello, Aug. 8, 2016. A group of 50 former national security officials, all of whom have served in Republican administrations from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, have signed a letter calling Donald Trump unqualified to be president.
The signatories state flatly that none intend to vote for Trump in November. But they say they understand the frustrations of many Americans. No former secretaries of state signed the letter. But it was signed by Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge, former secretaries of homeland security; Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency; John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence and deputy secretary of state; Robert Zoellick, who also was a deputy secretary of state (and former head of the World Bank from 2007 to 2012 shown in a 2008 photo); and William H. Taft IV, a former deputy secretary of defense and ambassador to NATO.
The letter said Trump “lacks the temperament to be President,” and gave a scathing assessment of his ability to take advice, discipline himself, control his emotions and reflect before acting.
Washington Post, In endorsing Clinton, ex-CIA chief says Putin made Trump his ‘unwitting agent,’ Abby Phillip, Aug. 5, 2016. Former CIA director Michael Morell endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and blasted GOP rival Donald Trump, accusing him of becoming an unwitting agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an op-ed on Friday.
Morell (shown in a photo by the Justice Integrity Project during a lecture last year) wrote that while he is neither a registered Democrat nor a Republican and has never made his preference for president public, he chose to publicly declare his support for Clinton in this election. Morell served as deputy director of the CIA and acting director of the CIA under President Obama. He served as a senior officer at the agency during the George W. Bush administration.
New York Times, I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton, Michael J. Morell, Aug. 5, 2016. During a 33-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I served presidents of both parties — three Republicans and three Democrats. I was at President George W. Bush’s side when we were attacked on Sept. 11; as deputy director of the agency, I was with President Obama when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties. As a government official, I have always been silent about my preference for president.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated. In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.
Wall Street Journal, The Week They Decided Donald Trump Was Crazy, Peggy Noonan, Aug. 4, 2016. Peggy Noonan, a former special assistant to President Reagan shown below, is a prominent conservative author and columnist, including for the Wall Street Journal. He inflicts one wound after another on his campaign. I think this week marked a certain coming to terms with where the election is going. Politics is about trends and tendencies. The trends for Donald Trump are not good, and he tends not to change.
All the damage done to him this week was self-inflicted. By the middle of the week the Republican National Committee was reported to be frustrated, party leaders alarmed, donors enraged. There was talk of an “intervention.”
Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake.
Huffington Post, Joe Scarborough: Donald Trump Repeatedly Asked Why We Couldn’t Use Nukes, Igor Bobick, Aug. 2, 2016. If this is true, it’s truly shocking. Donald Trump repeatedly asked an unnamed foreign policy expert why the U.S. couldn’t use its nuclear weapons stockpile during a national security briefing earlier this year, MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough said Wednesday.
Scarborough told the anecdote amid an interview with former CIA director Michael Hayden, who said he could not see himself voting for the “inconsistent” and “dangerous” GOP nominee. Asked if he was aware of anyone among his peers who was advising Trump, Hayden said “no one.”
“I’ll have to be very careful here,” Scarborough said. “Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, if we have them, why can’t we use them? That’s one of the reasons he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him. Three times, in an hour briefing, why can’t we use nuclear weapons.”
Tax Wall Street Party, Just Plain Crazy, Webster G. Tarpley, Aug. 3, 2016. Is Trump Approaching A Nervous Breakdown? President Obama restated his view that Donald Trump is unfit for the office of the presidency. Obama also challenged the leaders of the Republican Party to repudiate their nominee instead of limiting themselves to denouncing Trump’s erratic statements from day-to-day. Of course, if Obama demands something, the Republicans are sure to want to disobey. So maybe this intervention by Obama may be designed to make it harder for the Republicans to dump the fascist billionaire, thus increasing the long-term damage to the moribund GOP.
Washington Post, Republican Meg Whitman endorses Clinton, calls Trump ‘authoritarian,’ Fred Barbash, Aug. 2, 2016. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise praised Hillary Clinton for her “stable and aspirational leadership” and said she will try to raise funds for her campaign. Meg Whitman, the Silicon Valley executive and prolific Republican fundraiser (shown in a 2013 Forbes Magazine cover story), endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday night.
In a Facebook post, she said Donald Trump’s “unsteady hand would endanger our prosperity and national security. His authoritarian character could threaten much more.”
Whitman’s views on Trump are no surprise. The unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of California in 2010 compared him to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini at a June meeting in Utah of Republican donors and executives and helped bankroll an anti-Trump super PAC in the spring. She is close to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the sponsor of that meeting, where she also reportedly indicated that she would probably be supporting Clinton. Whitman lost California’s 2010 gubernatorial race to Democrat Jerry Brown, despite spending $140 million of her own money on the race.
Washington Post, Mark Cuban now thinks Donald Trump is ‘crazy,’ Staff report, Aug. 3, 2016. The Mavericks owner/reality TV star does a full 180.
New York Times, Mr. Trump and Spineless Republicans, Editorial Board, Aug. 2, 2016. Just when it seems that Donald Trump could not display more ignorance and bad judgment or less of a moral compass, he comes up with another ignominy or two. This weekend he denigrated the parents of a fallen American military hero and suggested that if elected he might recognize Russia’s claims to Ukraine and end sanctions.
Mr. Trump’s divisive views helped him capture the Republican presidential nomination. And even as he creates a political whirlwind with each utterance, leading members of his own party haven’t the spine to rescind their support. Sure, some have come out with strong criticisms, but none have gone far enough. Repudiation of his candidacy is the only principled response.
CNBC, Obama says Trump 'unfit' to serve, slams GOP for endorsing him, Christine Wang, Aug. 2, 2016. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called out prominent Republicans for continuing to endorse Donald Trump in his bid for the White House. "I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said so last week and he keeps on proving it," Obama said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House.
Obama (shown in a White House photo from a May 19 event) said Trump is "woefully under-prepared" to be president. "He doesn't appear to have basic knowledge on critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia," Obama said. Obama said this opinion of Trump is shared by prominent Republicans.
"I think what's been interesting is the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans including the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader and prominent Republicans like John McCain," he said. "The question I think that they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?"
At some point, Republicans should realize that Trump has gone too far and that the things he says indicates he "doesn't have the judgment, the temperament the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world," Obama said.
While Obama said he has disagreed with former Republican presidents on policy issues, he "didn't have a doubt that they could function as president." Obama explained that had he lost to Mitt Romney or McCain, he certainly "would have been disappointed," but that he would have conceded and had the confidence that they would "abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency."
Yahoo News, ‘Is Donald Trump plain crazy?’ Big-name writers now questioning GOP nominee’s sanity, Dylan Stableford, Aug. 2, 2016. Is Donald Trump insane? That’s the question being asked in recent days by prominent columnists, both liberal and conservative, about the Republican presidential nominee.
“During the primary season, as Donald Trump’s bizarre outbursts helped him crush the competition, I thought he was being crazy like a fox,” Eugene Robinson wrote in an op-ed (“Is Donald Trump just plain crazy?”) published Tuesday in the Washington Post.
“One wonders if Republican leaders have begun to realize that they may have hitched their fate and the fate of their party to a man with a disordered personality,” Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a separate Washington Post editorial on Monday. “We can leave it to the professionals to determine exactly what to call it. Suffice to say that Donald Trump’s response to the assorted speakers at the Democratic National Convention has not been rational.”
Stockman's Corner, Donald Trump’s Candidacy — The Good And The Bad Of It, David Stockman, July 29, 2016. David Stockman was White House director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Reagan's first term. I am in the throes of finishing a book on the upheaval represented by the Trump candidacy and movement. It is an exploration of how 30 years of Bubble Finance policies at the Fed, feckless interventions abroad and mushrooming Big government and debt at home have brought America to its current ruinous condition.
It also delves into the good and bad of the Trump campaign and platform and outlines a more consistent way forward based on free markets, fiscal rectitude, sound money, constitutional liberty, non-intervention abroad, minimalist government at home and decentralized political rule.
I will post excerpts from the book that crystalize its key themes and which also relate to the on-going gong show in the presidential campaigns and in the financial and economic arenas. The seventh of these is included below....
New York Times, Dismayed by Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg Will Endorse Hillary Clinton, Alexander Burns, July 24, 2016. Michael R. Bloomberg, who bypassed his own run for the presidency this election cycle, will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime-time address at the Democratic convention and make the case for Mrs. Clinton as the best choice for moderate voters in 2016, an adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said.
The news is an unexpected move from Mr. Bloomberg (shown in a file photo), who has not been a member of the Democratic Party since 2000; was elected the mayor of New York City as a Republican; and later became an independent. But it reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s increasing dismay about the rise of Donald J. Trump and a determination to see that the Republican nominee is defeated.
Mrs. Clinton is seeking to reach out to middle-of-the-road swing voters and even moderate Republicans uneasy about Mr. Trump. Polls show that significant numbers of Republicans remain wary of Mr. Trump, and question his fitness for the presidency. Mr. Bloomberg will vouch for Mrs. Clinton “from the perspective of a business leader and an independent,” said Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Mr. Bloomberg.
“As the nation’s leading independent and a pragmatic business leader, Mike has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Wolfson said. “This week in Philadelphia he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton.” Mr. Bloomberg, who has been sharply critical of Mr. Trump’s views on immigration and the economy, may fortify Mrs. Clinton’s appeal to the political center.
Politico, Former CIA chief Hayden: Trump will have to bring own bucket to waterboard, Nick Gass, June 30, 2016. When it comes to Donald Trump's repeated calls for waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation, Michael Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, has been clear: The military would likely ignore his orders. But the retired four-star general who served as CIA director under both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama said Thursday that if Trump wants to waterboard suspected terrorists, he will have to bring his own bucket.
In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Hayden (shown in an official photo) criticized Trump's language following terrorist attacks by the Islamic State that “in essence” represented a “tactical success for our enemy” but that Trump “elevated ... to this realm where they can claim strategic success.”
When co-anchor Norah O'Donnell referred to Hayden’s past comment that the next president or next CIA director would have to bring his own bucket to interrogate in such a situation, Hayden affirmed that Trump would have to do as much if he wanted to bring back the tactic.
“Yeah. Look, this is one of those instances coming out of the [National Security Council] meeting, you’d say, look, we are kind of changing the game plan. We got the attorney general to agree to an interpretation of the one law that does make it illegal, and we want you guys to go do this,” Hayden explained.
“At that point, the director is going to have to man up and simply say, for the protection of my officers, I'm afraid, Mr. President, I cannot direct that.”
Catching Our Attention on Related Media Issues
New Yorker, The Trouble with Corey Lewandowski on CNN, Margaret Talbot, Aug. 6, 2016. This week, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, offered an upbeat assessment of one of the network’s newest additions, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, whom Zucker hired as an on-air political commentator in June. The trouble with Lewandowski is not that he came out of a campaign or that he is clearly partisan.
Lewandowski, though, is a special case. Lewandowski’s signal quality is a kind of unsmiling, nonironic loyalty that admits of no countermanding or even complicating detail; he’s like the ultimate faithful retainer, still fixedly serving his master as the mansion crumbles around him — Erich von Stroheim in “Sunset Boulevard.” He refers to Trump as “Mr. Trump” and speaks reverently about “the family,” meaning Trump’s family. When that interview with Burnett turned to how he felt about having been fired, Lewandowski said, “I’d go back and do it exactly the same way, only better. And if I did something to disappoint the family and I didn’t accomplish what they needed, then they do what they need to do, because the campaign is bigger than Corey Lewandowski.”
Birtherism was the crucible and the template for Trump’s Presidential campaign. It foreshadowed so many of its hallmarks: dog-whistle racism, the brazen spreading of thoroughly disproven allegations, the just sayin’ tone in which Trump smears people. Advancing birtherism in the guise of political analysis is a firing offense. But then there have been so many already.
Earlier this summer, Politico reported that the publisher HarperCollins was backing away from a $1.2 million offer to Lewandowski to write a book about his time on the campaign, “Let Trump Be Trump.” According to Politico, the publisher had decided that Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement would prevent him from producing anything valuable enough. Too bad CNN didn’t reach a similar conclusion.
New Yorker, Why Donald Trump Can’t Stop Talking About the Pallets of Cash, Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Aug. 5, 2016. The speech that Donald Trump gave on Wednesday in Daytona Beach, Florida, was not his most menacing or self-destructive, but, like many of his recent public addresses, it was confusing.
Trump’s most obvious problem is that he speaks for so long, usually about an hour. For months, he filled the time with boasts and grievances, the boasts having mostly to do with his success in the polls. But now there is less to boast about; the polls look uniformly bad for him. In Daytona Beach, Trump gave them about a minute and moved on. “Trump used to spend 50% of message on polls,” the Republican consultant Michael Shannon pointed out on Twitter. “Now he has to fill that space. And it’s with things like Khans, fire marshals and babies.”
Those aren’t his only subjects, of course. It was telling that the video he imagined originated in a Fox News report. Cable news is Trump’s content-generation system; its controversies fill his podium hours. But, when the running cable-news controversy is about Trump himself, it has a way of trapping the candidate. Of course he chose to argue with Khizr Khan. What else would he talk about? In a way, that is the question for the ninety-five days until the election. In the long arc of the campaign, that is not so many days. But it is an awful lot of minutes to fill.
Washington Post, Trump unveils a new economic team full of wealthy advisers, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 5, 2016. Donald Trump announced a new team of ultra-rich financiers and businessmen as his core economic advisers, bringing high-profile names to his inner circle but also possibly stepping on his populist claims to save the middle class. The team of 13 men reflects a wide range of people from the higher echelons of American finance, including hedge fund managers and real estate investors.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday announced a new team of ultra-rich financiers and businessmen as his core economic advisers, a move that brings high-profile names to his inner circle but also may step on his populist claims to save America's middle class.
The list includes strikingly few academic policy experts, usually the bread-and-butter of campaign policy teams. Instead, the advisory team of 13 men — and no women — reflects a wide range of people from the higher echelons of American finance, including hedge fund managers and real estate investors. The median net worth of Trump's official economic advisers appears to be at least several hundred million dollars.
Huffington Post, Donald Trump’s Economic Team Is 38 Percent Steves, 60 Percent Free Trade Proponents, Zach Carter, Aug. 5, 2016. The team is heavy on Wall Street donors who back the very policies Trump has denounced.
Donald Trump announced a 13-member economic advisory team on Friday and the list is … well, it’s a lot of rich guys, five of whom are named Steve. And for the most part, it’s a team of major Republican donors ― the very “establishment” that Trump so often rails against on the campaign trail and who back the policies Trump blames for destroying the country.