Donald Trump’s biographers have a lot to say about their subject — not much of it nice.
Politico Magazine convened a panel of five Trump biographers to gain greater insight into the reality TV star who is well positioned to be the Republican presidential nominee. Here are five things they revealed about The Donald:
1.) Trump’s Claim That All He Got From His Father Was A $1 million Loan Is “Pure Hokum”
Donald Trump claims he built a multi-billion dollar empire with only a “small” $1 million loan from his father — but several biographers of the Republican front-runner say he is greatly understating his old man’s role in building the Trump Organization.
“But, you know, this debate that Marco Rubio stirred, about whether or not Fred bequeathed $200 million to Donald, I think this is the whole point,” Wayne Barrett, author of “Trump: The Deals and The Downfall,” said. “I don’t believe it’s true, but I think it misses the point, and I think it’s a point that almost all of our books make, is that all of the original deals — Fred had to come in and sign the bank documents. None of them could have been done without Fred’s signature.”
Timothy O’Brien, who Trump unsuccessfully sued for defamation over his 2005 book “Trump Nation,” added that Trump’s first big deal, The Grand Hyatt hotel, “was co-signed” by his father, who himself was an extremely successful real estate entrepreneur.
“I tell the tale about how Fred has to come to the closing in Atlantic City, and he’s against Donald going into Atlantic City,” Barrett said, expanding on O’Brien’s point. “But he goes to the closing, they sit up there and sign all the documents with all the mob guys, you know, to buy all the leaseholds. And Fred and Donald leave and they go down to the limo, and somebody upstairs realizes that Fred missed one document. And they call out the window for Fred to come back, because they’re not going to do a deal with Donald.”
Barrett said he obtained Trump’s tax returns from the time that showed the younger Trump “was worth nothing.”
“I had his tax returns at that time. We got them — probably Tim got them — from the [New Jersey] Division of Gaming Enforcement, and Donald was worth nothing,” he said. “He was worth nothing. Even the $35 million credit line that they started with for Trump Tower was signed by Fred.”
Earlier in the primary season, some of Trump’s Republican rivals claimed Trump was only a business success because he inherited a large fortune from his father. Trump dismissed the charge, claiming he only received “a small” million dollar loan from his old man. But O’Brien says “that’s just pure hokum.”
“His father’s political connections and his financial connections launched him, kept him supported,” he explained. “His father bought $3.5 million worth of chips at Trump Castle [the Atlantic City hotel and casino] when the bonds were coming due, to keep him afloat so he could make a bond payment. He inherited, probably conservatively, over $150 million from Fred, so that’s more than $1 million, just for the record.”
2.) Why Trump Doesn’t Want To Release His Tax Returns
O’Brien said he believes Trump refuses to release his tax returns today not because they are under audit as Trump claims, but because they will show an income far less than he has promoted.
“He didn’t want to give over his tax returns, which we’re seeing now in the election,” O’Brien said, speaking of how his attorneys forced Trump to reveal his tax returns during the defamation case. “And there’s reasons, I think, he doesn’t want to give up his tax returns. It’s because you see what his income actually is in those returns.”
3.) Trump’s Father Fred Wasn’t Always Such A Big Fan Of His Son
Biographer Harry Hurt III claimed to Politico Magazine he once overheard Trump’s father Fred express a desire that his son die in a plane crash.
“I ran into Fred at Coney Island, with his secretary-mistress, one day, and he usually went to a place called Gargiulo’s down in that area,” the author of “The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump” said. “But that was closed that day, and so I was with my researcher and we tailed them over to the original Nathan’s hot dog stand. Donald was flying somewhere at the time, and we overheard Fred wipe some mustard off his lip, like this here, and he said, ‘I hope his plane crashes.’ And I looked at my researcher, and I said, ‘Did you hear what I just heard?’ He said, ‘Yes, I did.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s my man. That’s Fred. The apple don’t fall far from the tree.'”
4.) Trump Faked It Until He Made It
Before Trump actually had a lot of money, he put on a show as if he did, biographer Michael D’Antonio said.
“I often think of him as a producer of his own life, that he imagined this character, started creating it,” D’Antonio, whose book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” came out last year, explained. “So before he was rich, he had the chauffeured car. Before anyone knew who he was, he had to have an armed guard.”
5.) How “The Apprentice” Is Crucial To Trump’s Current Political Success
Without his NBC show “The Apprentice,” some of his biographers are not so sure Trump would be such a political force today.
“There are two things that seem extremely pivotal to me in what’s happened,” Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps,” outlined. “One is the ‘The Apprentice,’ that 10 years of America looking at him as the boss, that that is so, now, imprinted on people’s ideas — that they can’t get around that notion that he is the boss. If you say the word ‘boss,’ you think Trump.”
O’Brien made a similar point, suggesting that “The Apprentice” revived Trump’s image a decade after his financial difficulties tarnished it.
“I think singularly because of ‘The Apprentice,'” he said. “But he was a joke in between 1993 and 2003.”
For his part, Trump has dismissed many of the biographers and their books about him.
“How can a dummy dope like Harry Hurt, who wrote a failed book about me but doesn’t know me or anything about me, be on TV discussing Trump?” Trump tweeted, for instance, about Hurt in 2015.