How did Trump do in school
"The Trump Files" by David Cay Johnston : "Dealing with him is extremely dangerous"
Mr. Johnston, a few days before the US election you said that Donald Trump had no chance of becoming US President. Now he will take up this office on January 20th. Why were you so wrong?
I have said repeatedly that he is unlikely to win until about four days before election day, when polls showed that more and more working class whites would vote for him, despite Trump's excruciatingly dirty campaign. In addition, it became increasingly obscure how the voters would decide. And then it happened that many Democratic voters who voted for Obama four years ago either did not vote for Clinton or did not even vote.
If you read your book about Donald Trump, "The Making of Donald Trump", in the German translation "The Trump Files", you get the impression that you are watching a kind of horror show - with an immensely dangerous, but sometimes quite ridiculous hero.
Trump is a troublemaker, that's his main job, he likes it. It starts with the fact that he keeps telling me that he beat up his music teacher at school because he didn't understand anything about his subject. This is what it says in his biography "The Art Of Deal". But that's a legend, that's not true. During research, many of his neighbors and former classmates told me that he mainly pounced on the weaker ones. Ultimately, Trump's mental development has stayed at the level of a 13-year-old. For example, how he expresses himself about women. He only judges them by their body measurements. He talked about the chest and cup size of one of his daughters when she wasn't even a year old.
Trump is emotionally underexposed. He only thinks in terms of vengeance, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, nothing else than money, power and fame. And about being the greatest lover of all time. He sees himself as a modern Midas who turns everything he tackles into gold.
When did you first meet Donald Trump?
That was in 1988, in Atlantic City. I interviewed him because he was one of the most prominent personalities in town because of his two casinos. I worked for the "Philadelpha Inquirer" as an investigative reporter. He seemed to me like a kind of P. T. Barnum, like a circus director who allows glimpses into his cabinet of curiosities: a mixture of Zampano and a ridiculous figure. As many people from the casino business told me weeks later, Trump had no idea how to run a casino, let alone the rules of the games.
I couldn't believe it: he runs two casinos and doesn't know the business? When we met again, I asked him four real nonsense questions about the game and the casinos - and he immediately built that nonsense into his answers. I was horrified: this man is an impostor. He's not who he pretends to be. You still have to handle it with extreme care, because it is extremely dangerous to deal with. He tries again and again to compromise the people and to cover them with lawsuits.
Do you too?
Yes, there is a photo that shows him with me and my second son Andrew when we were eating together. With this photo he tried to compromise me. He wrote a card for my son with the photo and the words "You have a great father" and the like to test my independence.
Aren't you also a little fascinated by Donald Trump as a person?
No, not at all. Everything I wrote in the book is in no way personal. When I was with the Los Angeles Times in the early 1980s, I worked a lot with the Los Angeles Police Department reporting on murders. I was not interested in what kind of a murderer he is, what kind of personality he has, but above all that he is a murderer. Same with Trump: he's a total manipulator - and I try to bring to light the things he doesn't tell people, the wrongdoings. I climb into the dark abyss of politics and the economy. How he was protected by the government when he was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1990.
I show that he has worked with criminals and impostors and has ties to the Mafia since the construction of his Trump Tower. It has nothing to do with fascination, I do my job.
His character would only consist of action, of plot, that's how you describe Trump. But is it life-filling to be a troublemaker?
Donald Trump only thinks of getting what he's got on his mind - and the amazing thing is that he keeps getting away with it. Of course, it's hard to find out what someone is really thinking. But you can also make judgments based on your actions. Trump has embellished his biography. For example, he never actually graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, only an undergraduate degree there. Then there is the story of Trump University, there has just been a multi-million dollar settlement with plaintiffs. Or he boasted about affairs he never had, like with the French singer and Sarkozy wife Carla Bruni, I list all of that in my book. He seriously believes that he is genetically superior to others, he and one of his sons once said that.
Which gives rise to bad premonitions about the fascists in Trump.
With him, however, this has no philosophical or ideological background, but is only due to his megalomania.
Isn't there a chance that someone like that could change right now in an office like that of the US President?
I don't think so, my goodness, he's 70 years old, how is anyone supposed to change? I would be the first to congratulate him on this if he were to become a good president. Of course, he is relatively moderate now after winning. I got the impression that he was most surprised by it himself, and so far he has no real responsibility. If he were to act like a naughty child right now, as he did in the election campaign, with his attacks against Latinos, Muslims, women and others, that would be bad. Even he knows that.
But look who he's surrounding himself with now: Steve Bannon, his chief adviser, is a total right winger. Jeff Sessions, a full-blown racist, is slated to become the Senator of Justice. Peter Schweizer, the author of the book "Clinton Cash", a book about the mixture of common good, self-interest and corruption in the Clintons, said yesterday on CNN that there will be the same problems with Trump. Trump's business connections with Russian oligarchs alone raise thousands of questions.
Will Trump become the worst president the US has ever had?
Hard to say. We were in some bad shape. For example, Warren Harding, who was elected in 1920, loved to drink, gamble and admit that he had no idea about governing. We had a racist and Indian hater in office in the 18th century, Andrew Jackson. We had someone as clueless as Trump as president. He didn't know anything about the world, George W. Bush - but he's not a bad person. And we had a paranoid like Richard Nixon. But someone who does business with criminals? No.
Are there any good things about Donald Trump at all?
He built the Trump Tower. (laughs) His name has become a label. Every US household can associate something with the name Trump, that was the case long before the election and the election campaign. Yes, yes, I admire the way he made it from Queens to Manhattan and the USA, how he made himself a brand as a rich child, but as a nobody from Queen. That is an achievement.
But as for his character: is there nothing positive to say about him?
He's not intelligent. He is not diligent. He has no historical understanding. He's incredibly ignorant. He is not self-reflective. He's not kind. He's not warm. For him, people, especially women, are just objects. He's not serious. He has no morals. He didn't devote his life to anything else, I said it, but money, power ... do you want to hear more?
So do we have to fear now? Will there be a disaster with him as President of the United States?
You can't predict that now. America will survive Trump, but not without harm. There are now tons of reports of Mexican, black or Muslim youth in schools being hostile to their classmates, how to ask them to go where they supposedly come from. I also believe that this presidency will have a negative economic impact on a good 90 percent of Americans. Donald Trump only thinks of himself, not of those who voted for him.
David Cay Johnston, 67 is an investigative journalist and has worked for the "Los Angeles Times" and the "New York Times", among others. He is the author of various books, his first, "Temples Of Chance" on the casino industry, was published in 1992. In 2001 he received one for revealing control inequalities Pulitzer Prize. His Trump biography "The Trump Files" published by Ecowin, Salzburg, translated by Regina Berger, Robert Poth and Annemarie Pumpernig (352 p. 24 €.)
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