ILYA MARRITZ: The White House isn’t big enough to hold the staff that make the executive office run. So, across the way, through an underground tunnel, there’s an office building where a lot of the work happens — like preserving Presidential records.
SOLOMON LARTEY: His thing was, he didn't care what “records” was. He frequently tore up memos or things and threw ‘em in the trash.
MARRITZ: This is Solomon Lartey. A records management analyst under four U.S. Presidents: Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump.
LARTEY: So it took somebody from the, uh, White House staff to tell him, “Look, you can't do that.” Because everything is a Presidential record. And I don't think he understood that in the beginning. I don't know if he understands it now, but that's — that’s what it was.
MARRITZ: The law says every piece of paper that passes the President’s desk must be preserved.
LARTEY: Anything that comes in here — from a lawsuit, like I said — from a kid writing a letter to a picture being sent out to somebody is a Presidential record. Everything.
MARRITZ: From administration to administration, the nature of Lartey’s job changed only a little bit. Until Trump.
That’s when he began to receive manila folders containing fragments of paper, about the size of your thumb. Torn by the hands of the President of the United States.
LARTEY: It was like doing a puzzle, an adult puzzle.
We would use a clear tape. So it could be as perfect as possible. We had to line it up [LAUGHS] and then it send it to the archives.
MARRITZ: In Solomon Lartey’s experience, Trump didn’t shred everything.
LARTEY: Anything that was negative, it was getting torn up. [LAUGHS] Anything negative.
MARRITZ: Like, print-outs? Like, New York Times, Washington Post? What are we talking about?
LARTEY: One was the — wasn’t that the West Palm Beach? One of those.
MARRITZ: Palm Beach Press, maybe? Somebody like that?
LARTEY: Yeah, yeah. Because he was going to Mar-a-Lago at that time.
[TRUMP INC. THEME STARTS TO PLAY GENTLY]
MARRITZ: Lartey’s story first appeared in Politico. The White House did not comment.
When the shredded papers came in, Lartey understood something: this President would be different. Not a little bit. Completely different.
LARTEY: With President Trump, everybody was on pins and needles. You know, you didn't want to say anything or do anything out of line, because it will come back on you.
MARRITZ: When we describe what’s going on, we still use the same old words. We call it the Trump administration, like it’s like any other administration with multiple centers of power, area experts making policies based on goals.
But really, it’s a Presidency of one.
[TRUMP INC. THEME MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: Hello, and welcome to Trump Inc., an open investigation from ProPublica and WNYC into the business of Trump. I’m Ilya Marritz.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN: And I’m Andrea Bernstein. We are back. Starting today, we’ll be bringing you stories every other Wednesday, right through 2020. This week we’ve got two episodes. There’s one coming out tomorrow.
When we started this podcast, we thought we’d be, you know, seeing if Trump was keeping his promise to separate his family business from the Presidency, examining conflicts of interest — which is a big deal.
But it turns out there’s so much more. It’s now clear that Trump is totally open about mixing business and government. Like at the G7 summit in August, where he said next year’s meeting of world leaders should be at his resort.
TRUMP: … with Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings — we call them bungalows! …
BERNSTEIN: As we launch our new season of Trump Inc., we want to make a clear-eyed assessment of the reality of where we are now.
[LILTING MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: The White House today sits in a wildflower meadow of ethical breaches and busted norms. A scandal that crops up Monday morning is crowded out by lunchtime on Wednesday. What happened with Solomon Lartey and the shredded paper is happening in different ways, in many corners of the government.
BERNSTEIN: If it’s surprising, it shouldn’t be. The Trump administration is about as much like other administrations as the Trump Organization is like other businesses.
MARRITZ: The Trump Organization is not a publicly traded company. It doesn’t have an independent board. It seldom had its books examined for independent review. But it goes much further. It doesn’t happen every day that companies pair up on big deals with a white collar criminal. Or team up with international developers with almost no experience developing. Or have a lawyer who calls himself a “fixer.” Most companies don’t promote former bodyguards to be their Chief Operating Officer.
Donald Trump grew up in this company. He inherited the chieftaincy from his father, and never worked anywhere else — until he got to the White House.
[MUSIC CHANGES, BECOMES MORE CONTEMPLATIVE]
BERNSTEIN: If you look at his Presidency as a natural outgrowth of his business, you can see predictable patterns.
To show how this works, we’re going to look at some episodes that might have sidelined previous Presidents.
While many of them saw their terms defined by a single scandal, Trump’s scandals upend the world almost hourly.
Beneath the id and the early morning tweets, there is a pattern — one that mirrors how Trump has run his business.
Taken together, the scandals tell a story. And we’re not even going to talk about the big ones: hush money payments, Trump Tower Moscow, all of the Trump aides and advisors charged with crime and corruption.
MARRITZ: Today, we’re going to look at a handful of incidents. Some you may remember, others you may have never heard of. In the end, they fall into just three buckets.
[MUSIC BECOMES MORE URGENT]
BERNSTEIN: Number one, you might call: “boss-ism.” Trump’s notion of the executive is somewhere close to a king. In Trump Tower, he was used to getting things his way.
TRUMP: Get me a Coke please!
MARRITZ: And as President, he expects the same: policy, spending decisions, hiring and firing, the tail design of Air Force One, the July 4th military parade. All of it is subject to his fancy.
BERNSTEIN: Number two: “rules are for other people.” Trump’s casinos ignored anti-money laundering controls so brazenly, they received what were — at the time — the largest fines in history. Over the decades, the Trump Organization engaged in tax schemes so deceptive, the New York Times called them “outright fraud.”
MARRITZ: And, in office, the same applies. Just one example: Trump dangled pardons to federal employees who might be accused of crimes in order to make progress in getting the wall with Mexico built.
BERNSTEIN: Number three: Trump talked a lot of [BRIEF PAUSE] nonsense. To sell apartments, fake university classes, even outdated video phones. Trump used prevarications, half-truths, lies, misrepresentations, puffery, deception. In The Art of the Deal, Trump called this “truthful hyperbole.”
MARRITZ: In the White House, the same.
So that’s the Trump way: bossism, rule-breaking, nonsense and lies. The scandals erupt when the Trump way collides with the government way.
LARTEY: I thought it was crazy.
MARRITZ: Solomon Lartey saw this firsthand.
LARTEY: To sit there — and, like, I said, they had it set out. We had the clear tape, not the cloudy tape. We didn't have no, “I’m not doing this.” We were told that we had to do it, and that had to be done.
BERNSTEIN: So, today, we present you a series of vignettes. When we tape them together, a picture emerges — of how the world is rearranging itself around Trump.
MARRITZ: Here we go.
[CAMERAS CLICK IN THE BACKGROUND, TRUMP CAN BE HEARD VAGUELY]
Picture it. Trump’s first full cabinet meeting: boom mics hover overhead, cameras click, POTUS front and center.
PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President. And just, uh, the greatest privilege of my life.
MARRITZ: Here is the Trump team, assembled for the very first time. Like any televised cabinet meeting, it’s theater. Today’s script includes lots of elaborate deference.
SESSIONS: It’s been great to be able to serve you in that regard you sent the exact right message and it’s being responded — the response is fabulous around the country.
TRUMP: You’re right, Jeff. Thank you very much. Alex?
ACOSTA: Mr. President, it’s, uh, a privilege to be here, and I’m deeply honored, and I want to thank you for keeping your commitment …
MARRITZ: Trump’s attention sweeps around the room like the hand of a clock, from Vice President Pence to Attorney General Sessions, to Secretary Acosta to Secretary Perdue —
PERDUE: This is a team you’ve assembled working hand in glove for the betterment of America. These are great team members, and we’re on your team.
TRUMP: Thank you.
MARRITZ: — to Secretary Mnuchin.
MNUCHIN: Thank you, Mr. President. It was a great honor traveling with you around the country …
MARRITZ: You have to praise Trump. If you don’t, he may come after you.
ERIC DEZENHALL: To see somebody who runs a company that does tens of billions of dollars of business, you know, essentially hiding under their desk, it was kind of a new phenomenon.
MARRITZ: Eric Dezenhall is a crisis PR consultant in DC. And over the past two and a half years he’s been called on to help executives with a novel kind of crisis — hostile tweets from Trump about some of America’s best-known companies. It’s hard to know what might set him off.
The actor Dylan Baker came to our studios to read some of these tweets. You might know him from The Good Wife or The Americans.
[THE SOUND OF TEXTING ON A SMARTPHONE PLAYS UNDERNEATH THE READING]
BAKER READING TWEET #1: Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future Presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!
BAKER READING TWEET #2: My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom, she is a great person.
BAKER READING TWEET #3: Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!
BAKER READING TWEET #4: We are now looking at cutting all GM subsidies.
BAKER READING TWEET #5: Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!
MARRITZ: These kinds of tweets can play havoc with a company’s share price. Dezenhall says they also rattle companies on the inside, in ways you don’t necessarily see.
So, how the heck to respond? Dezenhall says, “It’s simple. Kiss up.”
DEZENHALL: When Trump initially was tweeting about the cost of certain defense programs, what did the leaders of defense companies do? They went in and basically said, “Wow, boy, I've met with President Trump. He is one tough negotiator. I'm gonna do whatever he says.” Well, the truth is, these deals were locked in years ago. All he really wants is not-a-policy-change. You go in and flatter him. You come out and you say, “Boy, he's a tough negotiator,” and the problem goes away.
[ELECTRIC GUITAR BIT PLAYS]
MARRITZ: It’s not all damage control. There’s also an opportunity here.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere was seeking government approval for a merger with Sprint. He deleted his old tweets that were critical of Trump, booked himself in at Trump’s DC hotel, and then let himself be photographed there. Legere said he liked the place. The merger was approved.
BERNSTEIN: There’s another side of boss-ism. Everyone pays Trump.
Trump manages a lot of properties you know about: Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster, and Doral. He’s also developing new properties overseas, with partners in Uruguay, India, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
HARY TANOESOEDIBJO: I’d like to introduce Mr. Donald Trump Jr. [APPLAUSE] It’s really an honor that we have him here.
BERNSTEIN: In Jakarta in August, Donald Trump Jr. helped cut the ribbon on two Indonesia developments.
In the audience, Indonesian government officials and Trump Jr.’s son, Donald Trump the Third.
TANOESOEDIBJO: Very handsome boy.
BERNSTEIN: That voice is developer Hary Tanoesoedibjo. On Instagram, Hary bragged, “Today, I received the arrival of the eldest son of United States President Donald Trump.”
Hary’s interests are complicated. He has his own political party. At one time he toyed with running for President himself. And separately, last spring, Trump sold Hary a mansion in Los Angeles.
At the ribbon-cutting, Donald Trump Jr. said, “This is just how business works.”
TRUMP JR.: The notion that some people would say that, because of a development somewhere, that my father would even remotely be influenced or change U.S. policy on major issues that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans — and, frankly, people around the world — is totally asinine.
[WHIMSICAL, THEN SERIOUS, GUITAR MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Paying the President directly is a new thing, and many, many people who want things from Trump are reaching for that tool.
CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, tallied up publicly reported political spending at Trump properties. It comes out to almost $6 million. More than 90 members of Congress have been patrons. So have campaigns, and interest groups.
MARRITZ: Under boss-ism, the tools of state become the tools of the leader. They can be deployed to protect and serve his business interests.
[THE SOUND OF D.C.’S STREETS PLAYS]
Let’s zoom in on Pennsylvania Avenue. Five blocks down from the executive mansion is Trump’s DC hotel. And across the street is a building that looks like it was constructed from giant concrete waffles. It’s the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, and it’s falling apart.
General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy briefed Congress in March.
REP. JOYCE: The current status of the FBI headquarters. Good condition? Poor condition? Fair condition?
MURPHY: Sir, to answer your question, last month, an eight-pound block of concrete fell through the ceiling onto an employee’s desk. It took out the overhead lamp, his phone, part of his monitor. If he had been sitting there, he would’ve been seriously injured, if not killed. We now have to wall off parts of the building.
[PRESSING STRING MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: For many years, the GSA has been planning to move thousands of FBI personnel to a new campus in Maryland that’ll be bigger and more secure.
And for many years, the Trumps have been concerned about that. If the FBI moved out, they worried, another hotel could move in. Right across the street from their hotel. In 2013, Trump said he might make a bid for the site himself.
Once in office, Trump was legally barred from buying government property. But, as President, there were other things he could do. Murphy, the GSA director, told her agency’s Inspector General she had two White House meetings about the future of the FBI headquarters. One of them was in the Oval Office, with the President. Around this time, the plan to move to the suburbs was canned. Instead, the FBI will get a new home at the same location.
Then, emails about the FBI headquarters came to light, containing phrases like, “Direction from the White House,” and, “What POTUS directed everyone to do.” Now, there’s a Congressional investigation — which the White House is not cooperating with — and there’s a kind of fog around who decided what.
We sent questions to the White House for this episode. They did not respond. Neither did the General Services Administration.
The FBI says there are a lot of plusses to this new plan. It’s closer to the rest of government. There’s great transportation, the government already owns the land. And it says the costs, compared to moving, “would likely be comparable.”
BERNSTEIN: A final facet of boss-ism — the boss doesn’t pay full price.
Years ago, Trump stiffed the craftsmen who molded the 70 minarets and domes for the Trump Taj Mahal casino, paying only a portion of what they were owed.
BERNSTEIN: Michael Cohen told Congress, when he worked for the Trump Organization, it was his job to get contractors to accept less money. “lt wasn't about making a good deal; it was really lowballing it. He wanted to almost technically get it for free.”
Trump brings this approach to his campaign, too.
MESA RALLY ATTENDEES: [CHANTING] Build that wall!
BERNSTEIN: Trump Inc. Producer Katherine Sullivan looked into one way Trump does this.
KATHERINE SULLIVAN: Trump was in Arizona last fall. Over 6,000 supporters lined up, some arriving at dawn, at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport.
Police patrolled the crowd on horseback and bicycle.
SCOTT BUTLER: My name is Scott Butler. I’m the deputy city manager for the city of Mesa.
SULLIVAN: Scott Butler wasn’t at the rally, but he’s been dealing with the aftermath. He said that this rally wasn’t a normal political event for Mesa. Because it was Trump, the police department had to take extra security measures to handle the crowd and keep protestors and supporters safe. Those measures cost money.
BUTLER: We, the city of Mesa, submitted a request for reimbursement to the Trump 2020 campaign for the amount of $64,467, to reimburse the city for the cost of barricades, additional security, and towing expenses.
TRUMP: [IN MESA, AT THE RALLY] We cherish ICE, and we cherish our law enforcement. [FADES UNDER BUTLER]
BUTLER: We're just hoping that out of respect to the taxpayers that they would have remitted those costs back to the city.
KATHERINE SULLIVAN: So this bill has not been paid?
BUTLER: That's correct. It has not been paid.
SULLIVAN: Were you surprised to not have the money paid back?
BUTLER: [LONG PAUSE] I’m trying to think of the best way to answer that. I think it was our hope that the campaign would understand that.
TRUMP: [IN MESA, AT THE RALLY] Thank you, Arizona! Thank you, thank you.
SULLIVAN: The Center for Public Integrity found at least ten police departments are waiting for the campaign to pay their public safety bills, from El Paso, TX; to Charleston, WV.
The Trump campaign did not respond to our request for comment.
MARRITZ: One bill the Trump campaign has paid — their rented space in Trump Tower.
We’ll be right back.
MARRITZ: We’re back.
BERNSTEIN: We’ve been talking about how Trump’s family business influences the way Trump runs the government.
Because government isn’t a private profit-making vehicle, but a public trust, when Trump’s way of doing things is imposed on the government, scandal erupts. Today, we’re looking at a small selection of scandals.
MARRITZ: Before we go further, I think we need to define the word “scandal.” I found a definition that I like, from about 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was in the middle of his own scandal, over an affair with a White House intern, which he lied about. At that time a British sociologist named John B. Thompson came up with a definition of political scandal. It has five parts.
BERNSTEIN: Okay, let’s hear ‘em.
MARRITZ: So, part one — the behavior violates values, norms, or morals. True for Trump?
MARRITZ: Number two — there is an element of secrecy.
MARRITZ: Number three — public or elite disapproval occurs.
MARRITZ: Number four — there is public condemnation of the behavior.
MARRITZ: And number 5 — there are potential reputation repercussions.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it’s hard to tell, because Trump goes through the cycles of scandal, but it’s hard to see the consequences of any one of them, in part because they are so many. So what is happening is the systems for accountability — like the press, or Congress — simply get overwhelmed.
[SLOW PIANO MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: Truth is, going all the way back to the days when his first divorce was in the tabloids, Trump understood that scandal made life exciting; it made him more attractive. He could sell it.
And in office, it’s the same. With previous Presidents, scandals distracted from their policy agendas. With Trump, they just distract from other scandals.
BERNSTEIN: So the news that military personnel on official missions are staying at Trump’s resort in Scotland eclipsed word that Vice President Pence stayed at Trump’s resort in Doonbeg, all the way across Ireland from where he had his business. That crowded out the news that Trump wanted to hold the G7 at his other golf club in Doral, Florida, which made people forget that he canceled a visit with the Danish prime minister because she wouldn’t sell him Greenland.
MARRITZ: Now for another set of Trump business practices that have been imported into the White House: “rules are for other people.”
An example: the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a supposed charity that used donations to settle lawsuits for Donald Trump the man, and for the Trump Organization — not allowed. It made political contributions — also not allowed. It even took part in 2016 Trump campaign events. All this is in the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit. The Foundation has shut down.
[BASS LINE PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Trump operates the White House with a similar disdain for rules and norms. He hasn’t released his tax returns. He doesn’t release visitor logs. He’s refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas. He’s sued his bank and his accountant to keep them from releasing information. And even in a matter like security clearances, Trump has flouted established procedures.
Ivanka Trump was asked about this by ABC’s Abby Huntsman.
HUNTSMAN: There are a lot of investigations going on, as you know. Democrats launching new ones this week, one of them into the clearance process —
BERNSTEIN: This was early in 2019.
HUNTSMAN: — And there are a lot of people that question whether you were given special treatment by the President overriding other officials. Can you speak to that?
IVANKA: There were anonymous leaks about there being issues. But the President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance. Zero.
HUNTSMAN: What were the problems?
IVANKA: There weren’t any!
BERNSTEIN: There were problems.
A White House whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, testified on the record to a House committee that she had recommended against giving top clearances to 25 people, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
He, too, was asked about whether President Trump was responsible for these clearances by Jonathan Swan on Axios, on HBO.
SWAN: Your wife Ivanka said no. Can you say no?
KUSHNER: Yeah. I have not discussed it with him.
SWAN: You haven’t?
SWAN: You never discussed —
KUSHNER: I have not discussed.
BERNSTEIN: Newbold, the whistleblower, has a form of dwarfism. After she protested giving top clearances to Kushner and to Ivanka Trump, her supervisor placed files she needed to do her work out of reach.
He acknowledged moving the files, but said it wasn’t retaliation.
Newbold filed a discrimination complaint. She turned down our interview requests.
MARRITZ: It turns out one of the people we spoke with for this episode knows her — Solomon Lartey, the records analyst.
LARTEY: Yes. Trish. Yes. Good friend of mine. Beautiful lady — beautiful young lady.
MARRITZ: At home in Maryland, Lartey has been reflecting on the clearances.
One day in 2018, he showed up for work, and was asked to step into a room and speak with someone from HR. Lartey thought it could be about sensitive documents. Instead, he was asked to resign.
He was two years away from retirement, and didn’t have much choice.
LARTEY: They just said my — um, my clearance wasn't renewed. And I'm like, oh — at that time you had Kushner, Ivanka — a lot of people that was on that side. That didn't have a clearance and I had a top secret clearan — I had a top secret clearance for 25 years! And those people couldn’t get a top secret clearance.
MARRITZ: Lartey still doesn’t know why he lost his clearance. The White House is not cooperating with Congress’ investigation into security clearances.
[MUSIC FLOURISH PLAYS]
MARRITZ: Next — “rules are for other people, like the people who serve you drinks.”
The morning sun catches the dew. So the lawns of Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, north of New York City, practically glow. It’s the early twenty-teens. And word just went out that Donald Trump, the owner and the star of The Apprentice, is on his way to the club. Jose Gabriel Juarez is head waiter there.
JUAREZ: So, they have, like, a secret password when he would come into the club: “GG7 is coming, he’s on the way! He’ll be here in an hour! Make sure you guys have a Diet Coke for him.”
MARRITZ: It’s Juarez’ job to prepare that Diet Coke for GG7 — code for Donald Trump.
It takes precision. No one is supposed to touch Trump's straw with their finger. Juarez learned how to cut away the wrapper just so —
JUAREZ: And just touch it with paper and put it into the plastic cup. He’ll pick it up, and I’ll say, “Good morning, Mr. Trump. How are you today?” And he’ll say, “Good, thank you.” And then he walk out and go play golf.
MARRITZ: And, exhale. Trump disappears on the fairway.
Last year, with Trump in the White House, Juarez quit his job. He’s not legal to work in the United States. He got the job using falsified documents. And after all the things President Trump said about Mexicans, and illegal immigrants stealing jobs, he figured it was only a matter of time before he'd be fired.
Juarez says he was forced to work long hours at low pay, precisely because his managers understood his status would keep him from protesting. When the Washington Post first reported on Juarez, the Trump Organization said it, quote, “has extensive policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with all wage and hour laws”
This spring, following the Post’s reporting, the Trump Organization did fire lots of undocumented workers.
Trump Organization did not answer our questions about its employment practices. Juarez is looking for work.
[SOUTHERN-STYLE GUITAR FLOURISH PLAYS]
MARRITZ: We come now to our final scene. Just gonna call this what it is — bullshit.
CARSWELL: What’s your name, again?
“MILLER”: John Miller.
MARRITZ: Back in 1991, a reporter named Sue Carswell got a call from a man claiming to be a spokesman for Donald Trump. He sounded [PAUSE] a lot like Donald Trump. “John Miller” wanted to talk about everything — Donald’s good financial health, his divorce from Ivana, those rumors about Donald dating Madonna.
“MILLER”: Well, she called and wanted to go out with him, that I can tell you. And one of the other people that you’re writing about — by the way, I’m sort of new here.
CARSWELL: What is your position there?
“MILLER”: Well, I’m sort of handling PR because he gets so much of it.
MARRITZ: Carswell plays along. She also seems to know exactly what’s up.
With a wink a nudge, Trump has been making the press, and the public, complicit in his lies since forever. Take the 2007 launch of Trump Vodka.
TRUMP: It’s a smooth vodka, it’s a great-tasting vodka — and I’m very proud of the fact, actually, that I don’t drink, but ...
MARRITZ: You see what he did there?
[TAPE REWINDING SOUND PLAYS]
TRUMP: It’s a great-tasting vodka — and I’m very proud of the fact actually that I don’t drink, but it’s a vodka that people really like, and, as you know, it’s taking off like crazy.
MARRITZ: The only place Trump Vodka took off was Israel, where it was marketed as kosher for Passover. An investigation by The Jerusalem Post found some Trump Vodka was not kosher.
[SOUTHERN-STYLE GUITAR FLOURISH]
BERNSTEIN: And when they joined the Trump Organization, Trump’s children also learned to spin hyperbole and deception.
IVANKA: So, we have many projects that are actively selling. I sold 40 units in Panama last month. In Panama, we sold at a 500% premium. [UNCLEAR] anything the luxury market has ever experienced prior to our entry …
BERNSTEIN: When it comes to the Trump Organization, misrepresentations were [PAUSE] frequent. Now Trump is doing the same as President.
GLENN KESSLER: Since January 20th, 2017, we have been documenting every false or misleading statement made by President Trump.
BERNSTEIN: Glenn Kessler is editor of the Washington Post Fact Checker. He spoke with Trump, Inc. producer Katherine Sullivan in August.
SULLIVAN: And how many are we up to today, as of today?
KESSLER: So, as of August 5th, the number is 12,019.
BERNSTEIN: Kessler says the pace has picked up, dramatically. From about five lies a day, to around 20. From the family separation policy —
TRUMP: President Obama separated the children.
BERNSTEIN: — to voter fraud. Which is extremely rare.
TRUMP: They vote many times, not just twice, not just three times. They vote — it’s like a circle. They come back, they put a new hat on. They come back, they put a new shirt on. And in many cases they don’t even do that.
MARRITZ: He tells defensive lies —
[SEVERAL DIFFERENT CLIPS OF TRUMP PLAY]
TRUMP: I never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller.
TRUMP: No Collusion, no obstruction.
TRUMP: It was a complete and total exoneration.
BERNSTEIN: — and fudges seemingly inconsequential stuff.
TRUMP: My father’s from Germany. Uh, both of my parents are from the E.U.
BERNSTEIN: Fred Trump was born in the Bronx.
TRUMP: My father is German, right? Was German. Born in a — a very wonderful place in Germany. [AUDIO CONTINUES UNDER NARRATION]
BERNSTEIN: It used to be one lie could badly hurt a President. Trump repeats his lies like it’s a dare.
TRUMP: [GIVING DIFFERENT INFORMATION IN RAPID SUCCESSION] US Steel just announced they’re expanding or building 6 new facilities.
They’re opening up 7 other plants.
US Steel is opening up a minimum of 8 plants.
US Steel is building 8 or 9 plants, they’re expanding plants.
BERNSTEIN: Not true.
Glenn Kessler noticed that Trump seems to talk even more bullshit when there’s a friendly audience. The Post tallied up all of the factual claims in two of Trump’s rallies. They found that 70-75% of them were not true. Here Trump is at a Republican dinner.
TRUMP: They want to knock down all buildings in Manhattan and rebuild them without windows. You know about that, right? [AUDIENCE REACTS] Let’s rebuild them. Glass is no good. We don’t want windows.
BERNSTEIN: A lie is the ultimate “because-I-can.”
Every time a liar lies, they make a claim on other peoples’ reality.
When Trump said last year there were Middle Eastern terrorists among the migrant caravan in Mexico, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo offered deceptive statements to support that idea.
PENCE: It’s inconceivable that there are not, um, uh, [PAUSE] people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing towards our border.
BERNSTEIN: They had no evidence.
Recently, we were treated to the spectacle of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, or NOAA, rebuking its own National Weather Service office in Alabama for a tweet that contradicted the President, who erroneously said a tropical storm was heading for Alabama.
Then it emerged that the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had rebuked the scientists at NOAA, which is part of his Department, for contradicting Trump. Then it came out that the orders to do all of this came from the White House itself, from interim Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
[TRUMP INC. CREDITS MUSIC BEGINS]
BERNSTEIN: When we started our line of reporting after Trump became President, we honestly did not know how things were going to work out. It seemed that Trump might actually care about public opinion, and follow some rules. That turned out not to be the case. His family business has become all of our business. Now, all of us live in Trump, Inc.
MARRITZ: Help us report on this. By now you must know that we love tips. So go to TrumpIncPodcast.org to find out how to securely share information, and while you’re there, sign up for our excellent newsletter!
Trump Inc. is back, with a new schedule. Check your podcast feeds every other Wednesday. Rate and review us, tell all your friends.
And, to celebrate our return, we’re sharing one more story with you tomorrow. How a no-name web designer from Texas rocketed to the top echelons of Trump-world —
PARSCALE: It said, “Donald Trump is thinking of running for President. We need a website in two days.” So I wrote back. I said, “Yeah, I'll do it for $1500.”
MARRITZ: The business of being Brad Parscale.
This episode was produced by Katherine Sullivan and Alice Wilder. Meg Cramer is the executive producer of Trump Inc. The editors are Eric Umansky, Nick Varchaver and Robin Fields. The technical director is Bill Moss. Additional engineering from Jared Paul.
Thanks this episode to Anibal Romero, Ryan Ballengee, Mark Zaid, Dylan Baker, Brooke Gladstone, Kim Nowacki, and NPR.
Emily Botein is Vice President for original programming at WNYC. Stephen Engelberg is the Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica. Original music by Hannis Brown.
TRUMP: A lot of people want the job. And we — it’s a great job. It’s great because it’s a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump. And it’s very easy, actually, to work with me. You know why it’s easy? ‘Cause I make all the decisions. And you don’t have to work.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.