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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Crooked Don

by digby

Clinton made a big speech today about Trump's Atlantic City adventures (which I wrote about for Salon a while back.) Her campaign put out this fact check which I thought was pretty impressive:
Donald Trump says he’s qualified to be president because of his business record.

TRUMP: I’ve been a world-class businessman...That’s the thinking that our country needs

Three weeks ago, he said, and I quote, “I’m going to do for the country what I did for my business.”

TRUMP: I'm going to do for the country what I did for my business.
Maybe he hoped we wouldn’t check. Because what he did for his businesses – and his workers – is nothing to brag about. In fact, it’s shameful. And every single voter in America needs to know about it – so we don’t let him do to our country what he did to his business.

New York Times: How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions

AP: ‘Little guy' contractors still angry at Trump Taj bankruptcy

Chris Wallace: In that case alone lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than 1,100 people were laid off.

We’re standing in front of the old Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel. Donald Trump once predicted, “It will be the biggest hit yet.”

TRUMP: It will be the biggest hit yet
Now it’s abandoned. You can just make out the word TRUMP where it used to be written in big flashy lights. He got the letters taken down a few years ago.

New York Times:

CBS News: Rusty stains on the former Trump Plaza...still spelled out his name after neon letters were taken down

Not far from here is the old Trump Marina Hotel Casino. A few years ago, it was sold at a huge loss.

New York Times: The long-failing Trump Marina Hotel Casino was sold at a major loss five years ago and is now known as the Golden Nugget.
Just down the boardwalk is the Trump Taj Mahal. Donald once called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

New York Times: Mr. Trump bills his new casino, his third, as ''the eighth wonder of the world."

It filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Washington Post: In 2009, Trump Entertainment Resorts, formed in the aftermath of the Trump empire’s bankruptcies, itself declared bankruptcy after missing a $53 million bond interest payment.

CBS News: The Taj Mahal is being taken over by fellow billionaire Carl Icahn from bankruptcy court, and Trump's 10 percent ownership stake has become all but worthless.

Things got so bad, the new management canceled workers’ health insurance and pensions.

Associated Press: The casino enraged its unionized workers during its most recent spin through bankruptcy court in October 2014 when it got a judge to allow it to cancel health and pension benefits.

Now those workers are on strike.

Associated Press: Union goes on strike against Trump Taj Mahal casino

Isn’t Donald Trump supposed to be some kind of amazing businessman? What in the world happened here? His excuse for all this failure is that Atlantic City just went downhill. It’s not his fault. Don’t believe it. His businesses were failing long before the rest of the town was struggling.

New York Times: Though [Trump] now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing.
In fact, other businesses here did worse because Donald Trump acted so irresponsibly.

Newsweek: Small vendors who grappled with delayed or lower payments as a business practice then became the unsecured creditors in the bankruptcies.

He calls himself the “King of Debt,”

TRUMP: I am the king of debt.

and he earned that title right here in A.C.

Washington Post: Trump’s bad bet: How too much debt drove his biggest casino aground

His bad decisions hurt the whole city.

CNN: But the bankruptcies have hurt Atlantic City, a city that is now blighted with empty hulking buildings, unemployment substantially higher than the national average, and a high violent crime rate.

He intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies – hundreds of millions of dollars. He borrowed at high interest rates – even after promising regulators that he wouldn’t.

Washington Post: Trump’s bad bet: How too much debt drove his biggest casino aground

Washington Post: Because of his reputation as a dealmaker, [Trump] said, bankers were lining up to lend him money at prime rates. That meant he could avoid the risky, high-interest loans known as junk bonds....the prime-rate loans never materialized. Determined to move forward, [Trump] turned to the very junk bonds he had derided in the hearing.

What came next? He defaulted on those loans. Didn’t pay them back.

Washington Post: The Taj defaulted on interest payments to bondholders as his finances went into a tailspin.

And in the end, he bankrupted his companies – not once, not twice, but four times.

PolitiFact: Clinton was right that Trump bankrupted companies four times
Here’s what he said about one of those bankruptcies: “I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine. What the hell did I care?”

TRUMP: I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine. What the hell did I care?

And here’s an important thing about how Donald Trump operates. He doesn’t default and go bankrupt as a last resort. He does it over and over again on purpose – even though he knows he’ll leave others empty-handed while he keeps the plane, the helicopter, the penthouse.

Washington Post: Today, Trump lives in a luxury apartment on one of the top floors of Trump Tower. He also owns the Tower. He still gets around by limousine and helicopter, protected by personal bodyguards, and has millions of dollars at his disposal.

TRUMP: I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I'm in business. I did a very good job.

He convinced other people that his Atlantic City properties were a great investment, so they would put in their own hard-earned money. But he always rigged it so he got paid, no matter how his companies performed.

New York Times: But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.
When this casino collapsed because of how badly he mismanaged it, hundreds of people lost their jobs.

Chris Wallace: In that case alone lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than 1,100 people were laid off.
Shareholders were wiped out.

Forbes: In the case of his casinos, Trump has screwed his shareholders three consecutive times by wiping out their investment.

Lenders lost money.

New York Times: His casino companies made four trips to bankruptcy court, each time persuading bondholders to accept less money rather than be wiped out.

Contractors – many of them small businesses – took heavy losses. Many went bust.

New York Times: Triad Building Specialties nearly collapsed when Mr. Trump took the Taj into bankruptcy.

USA Today: Construction bill that went unpaid by Trump began the demise of Edward J. Friel Company.

But Donald Trump walked away with millions.

New York Times: How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions

Here’s what he says about the whole experience: “Atlantic City was a very good cash cow for me for a long time.”

TRUMP: Atlantic City was a very good cash cow for me for a long time. “The money I took out of there was incredible.”

The money he took out of here.

TRUMP: Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me...The money I took out of there was incredible.

That says everything you need to know about how Donald Trump does business. It’s not about what he can build. It’s about how much he can take. He did it again just this morning. He went on Twitter and said, “I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and left.” He got rich and got out, and he thinks that’s something to be proud of.

TRUMP: I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and left 7 years ago, great timing (as all know).

And he didn’t just take advantage of investors. He took advantage of working people.

USA Today: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills
Donald Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past 30 years. That’s one every three days, give or take. Today’s Wednesday, so he’s due for another one.

USA Today: Trump's 3,500 lawsuits unprecedented for a presidential nominee

You may know about Vera Coking, the widow whose house on Columbia Place Donald tried to seize through eminent domain and turn into a parking lot for limousines.

Vox: Donald Trump really did try to take an elderly widow's house for a limousine parking lot

New York Times: Vera Coking, a widow who lives in one of the two houses on the block slated for condemnation, is also fighting to stay until she gets what she believes the property is worth....Ms. Coking was offered $251,000 for her three-story rooming house, which would become a limousine staging area.

NJ.com: Trump reportedly made Coking a similar $1 million offer with the hopes of expanding the land around the Plaza to include a park, a parking lot, and a waiting area for limousines. Coking refused again. That's when the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority stepped in, filing a lawsuit using eminent domain to condemn Coking's property and offer her $251,000 for it.

He lost that fight.

Washington Post: The time Donald Trump’s empire took on a stubborn widow — and lost

NY Daily News: She Kicks Sand in Trump's Face Sneers At The Donald's Bucks

But there were thousands more. And many of those lawsuits were filed by ordinary Americans who did work for Donald Trump and never got paid. Painters, waiters, plumbers – people who needed the money, and didn’t get it – not because he couldn’t pay them, but because he wouldn’t pay them.

USA Today: At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters.

Hundreds of liens have been filed against him by contractors, going back decades. They all tell the same story: I worked for him, I did my job, he wouldn’t pay me what he owed me. One person after another after another.

USA Today: Trump [offered] as little as 30 cents on the dollar to some of the contractors

Associated Press: 'Little guy' contractors still angry at Trump Taj bankruptcy

We just heard from Marty Rosenberg. His company was called Atlantic Plate Glass. They were hired to do a big job for the Trump Taj Mahal. They worked really hard on it. But at some point, Donald Trump just… stopped paying. In the end, he owed them nearly half a million dollars. Marty’s business barely survived.

USA Today: Marty Rosenberg, vice president of Atlantic Plate Glass Co. ...was owed about $1.5 million for work at the Taj Mahal.

Marty Rosenberg: We got to the end of the job, and I think he owed APG about $1.5 million...I was waiting for my check, and it didn’t come.

Washington Times: Atlantic Plate Glass lost about $450,000 in the settlement, said Mr. Rosenberg, adding that his personal finances took a hit because of his minority stockholder stake in the firm, and that the company struggled but overcame the loss. Others fared worse, he said, including smaller businesses that didn’t survive.
He did the same thing to a kitchen equipment company…

Reuters: First [Trump] asked to pay the contractors 30 cents on the dollar, according to Charles Sperry, the president of Baring Industries, which had a multi-million dollar contract to provide kitchen equipment like stoves, walk-in freezers and countertops. ... They eventually received 90 percent of what they were owed. Sperry said it was just enough to cover expenses and pay workers, but not enough to realize a profit for Baring's work. 
a cabinet-maker…

USA Today: The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder. Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.
and a music store owner.

Philadelphia Inquirer: "When it came time to pay for the pianos, we weren't getting paid," said Michael Diehl, 88, owner of Freehold Music Co., which sold Trump eight Yamaha grand pianos for about $100,000. ... Diehl did better than most: 70 cents on the dollar, an offer that came with a warning of much less if it came to bankruptcy.

Newsweek: J. Michael Diehl, who owns Freehold Music Center, sold Trump eight Yamaha grand pianos for around $100,000. “He put out a bid for pianos about a year before the Taj opened. I won the bid. I delivered the pianos, and I waited and I waited to get paid. And finally I heard from them that I had three choices: to accept 70 percent of the bid or to wait until the casino could afford to pay the bill in full. Or I could force them into bankruptcy with everybody else and maybe get 10 cents on the dollar. I took the 70 percent, and I lost 30 percent.”

NBC News: Diehl, 88, told NBC News that even though he held up his end of the contract, he felt he had no choice but to take the discounted payment and lose $30,000 — or about a third of his yearly income.
He owed 3.9 million dollars to a company that supplied marble for his properties. That business had to shut down, and eventually, the owner had to file for personal bankruptcy. Donald Trump might not think going bankrupt is a big deal – but it’s devastating if you’re someone who plays by the rules.

Associated Press: One of the hardest hit was John Millar, a marble supplier who was owed $3.9 million. ... Millar eventually had to lay off workers, shut down his business Avalon Commercial, close many of his retail stores and borrow from friends to make ends meet... In 1996, he filed for personal bankruptcy.
What he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he’ll do if he wins this November. Step one: give a huge tax cut to millionaires like himself.

The Briefing: The Trump Tax Plan – By the Billionaire, For the Billionaires

Washington Post: No matter how we slice it, we do not see how Trump can justify his claim that his tax plan would cost him “a fortune.” On the contrary, it appears it would significantly reduce his taxes — and the taxes of his heirs.
Step two: add trillions to the national debt.

Tax Policy Center: Trump's plan "would add $11.2 trillion to the national debt by 2026 and $34.1 trillion by 2036"
Step three: he suggested we could default on our national debt – just like he defaulted on his business debt.

TRUMP: I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal. And if the economy was good it was good so therefore you can’t lose. It's like, you know, you make a deal before you go into a poker game, and your odds are so much better.
The people he’s trying to convince to vote for him now are the same people he’s been exploiting for years: working people, trying to support their families.

Slate: The People Donald Trump Allegedly Ripped Off Through Trump University Look a Lot Like Trump Voters

Those promises he’s making at his rallies? They’re the same promises he made to his customers at Trump University. Now they’re suing him for fraud.

CNN: Donald Trump still battling lawsuits from defunct Trump University

Fortune: How Bad Are the Charges Against Trump University? Really Bad

The New Yorker: Trump University: It’s Worse Than You Think

The Daily Beast: Maddings, an ex-marine now 32, who told The Daily Beast that he racked up around $45,000 in credit card debt to buy Trump University seminars and products. ... "It was a con. I’m 25-years-old, barely making $3,000 a month and they told me to increase my credit limit. I just maxed out three credit cards and I’m supposed to be able to qualify for loans to buy real estate? Those stupid principles have led me to borrow $700,000 of other people’s money and lose it all. I’m still paying off some of that debt to this day."

They’re the same promises he made about another scheme called Trump Institute.

Tampa Bay Times: The events promised "Donald Trump's 'secret recipe' for success — a combination of the right knowledge and the right mind set to create unlimited riches....In the four years Trump Institute operated out of Boca Raton, complaints to the state streamed in from customers across the country who felt underwhelmed, trapped or simply ripped off.

The New York Times reports that the lessons it sold for thousands of dollars apiece were plagiarized.

New York Times: Trump Institute Offered Get-Rich Schemes With Plagiarized Lessons

They’re the same promises he made to his customers at Trump Condos in Baja California.

Los Angeles Times: Trump's failed Baja condo resort left buyers feeling betrayed and angry

You should hear these people’s stories. They handed over their savings.

Los Angeles Times: Simms, then an aerospace purchasing agent living in Canoga Park, said she used her life savings to pay a deposit of just over $50,000 for unit No. 602, a one-bedroom overlooking the Pacific.

Then their calls stopped getting answered. The condos were never built, and they never got their money back.

Los Angeles Times: Sapol and her husband, who own an embroidery and screen printing franchise, knew something was wrong when Trump Baja’s sales force stopped responding to their phone calls and emails. “We just started getting a pit in our stomach,” she said at their shop in an Encinitas strip mall.

The Newark Star-Ledger says he – quote – “excels at ripping people off.”

Star-Ledger: There is still a lingering misperception that Donald Trump is some kind of business wizard, but it's actually easy to identify one of his key strategies for success: He excels at ripping people off.
They wrote, “As a result of his narcissistic, destructive risk-taking with other people’s money, his casinos posted huge losses while others thrived.”

Star-Ledger: As a result of his narcissistic, destructive risk-taking with other people's money, his casinos posted huge losses while others thrived. The losers were the investors, the creditors and subcontractors who didn't get paid — people like Beth Rosser's father, who ultimately earned only 30 cents on the dollar for the work of his building company.

And remember what he promised: “I’m going to do for the country what I did for my business.”

TRUMP: I'm going to do for the country what I did for my business.

He says he’s for the working men and women of America. But Trump furniture is made in Turkey – he could have made it in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Trump Home Press Release: The entire production process, from the moment the raw wood is cut until the product is finished or upholstered, occurs in Dorya’s Izmir, Turkey.
Trump suits are made in Mexico, instead of Ashland, Pennsylvania.

WALLACE: Your Trump Collection clothing line, some of it is made in Mexico –
TRUMP: It's true.
WALLACE: -- and China.
TRUMP: That's true.

Trump lamps are made in China, not Altoona. If he wants to make America great again, maybe he should start by actually making things in America again.

Trump Home Herringbone Table Lamp: Origin: China

That’s not all. Donald Trump stood on a debate stage and said Americans’ wages are too high.

The Week: Donald Trump kicks off GOP debate by saying American wages are 'too high'

TRUMP: Our wages are too high

He wants to get rid of the federal minimum wage.

The Guardian: Trump calls for end to federal minimum wage as views shift

PolitiFact: When Trump was asked if he would have a federal floor with states going higher if they wish,Trump said, “No.”His campaign said, let’s sell off America’s assets.

Trump senior campaign advisor Barry Bennett: The United States government owns more real estate than anybody else, more land than anybody else, more energy than anybody else. We can get rid of government buildings we're not using, we can extract the energy from government lands, we can do all kinds of things to extract value from the assets that we hold.

The bad ideas just keep coming.

The Atlantic: Donald Trump's Economic Plans Would Destroy the U.S. Economy

And he wants to wipe out the tough rules we put on big banks after the last crisis. He’d rig the economy for Wall Street all over again.

TRUMP: Dodd-Frank has made it impossible for bankers to function...[My plan] will be close to dismantling of Dodd-Frank.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Of course he’d be for protecting a system where the rich and powerful stick it to the little guy. He got rich playing by those rules. He wants to keep it that way.

Slate: With Trump University, Donald Trump allegedly participated in an old, persistent scam: ripping off poor souls who want to get rich quick.

He says he’s a businessman, and this is what businessmen do.

TRUMP: Every major business leader, has used the - I never went bank bankrupt, by the way, as you know, everybody knows. But - hundreds of companies, hundreds of deals, I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I'm in business. I did a very good job.
Well, as CNN has pointed out, no major company has filed Chapter 11 more often in the last 30 years than Trump’s casinos. So no – this is not normal behavior.

CNN: No major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump's casino empire in the last 30 years

Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States. We can’t let him roll the dice with our children’s futures.

New York Times: How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions
But she's the crooked one ....

I'm basically posting this for future reference. With the eager help of the media, many of whom are suggesting today that Clinton's emails are even worse than this bill of indictment, Trump might just pull it off in November so it's important to have this stuff on record before he decides to shut down anyone who is critical of him in the press as he promises to do.