We still don’t know why so many members of Trump’s inner circle talked extensively to Russians and then lied about it. Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen lied about Trump’s efforts to build Trump Tower Moscow perhaps because a presidential candidate isn’t supposed to be cravenly pitching business abroad while running for president at home. But one thing is certain. The Trump Tower Moscow deal was a huge and singular focus for Donald Trump. It reportedly could have brought him hundreds of millions of dollars in profit if he ever got it off the ground–and if he could do it without the Russians siphoning off all of his value through bribery, graft, extortion, and the like.
Have you been to Manhattan lately? In the past few years, dozens of new luxury hi-rise condos have been built from the financial district to the west village to Hell’s kitchen. And most recently, half a dozen “hyper-tall” condo buildings have shot up along or near 57th street overlooking central park. The latest condo will be the tallest residential tower in the United States, rising a hundred feet higher than the antenna of the Empire State building.
Yet Trump has had nothing to do with any of these buildings. He hasn’t built a luxury building in Manhattan in a long time. He’s licensed his name to properties, but little else. WHY? Isn’t he a real estate genius with the biggest and best buildings in the best locations?
The answer is simple. Trump was never a great builder, and in recent decades nobody would lend him the money to build anything significant. He wasn’t worth the risk.
Enter the Russians. Wealthy oligarchs would consider partnering with him to build a tower in Moscow. Why? Perhaps so they could launder dirty money through the project. Trump finally gets a new building and they get a conduit to turn dirty rubles into clean dollars.
No wonder he was so focused and eager to strike a deal with the Russians. He never thought he would win the presidency, which was merely a great way to get publicity and promote his brand and maybe get the Moscow deal sewn up.
So it’s natural and imperative to ask if Trump’s deference to Putin/Russia has to do with his long-term desire to do business there. Who cares if Russia is attacking our Democracy and helping to poison our cultural discourse? Trump can go from fake billionaire to real billionaire if all goes right!
Those of us who came up with Trump in Manhattan in the ’80s and ’90s have always known that he was a liar, a cheat and sleazeball. He was never considered a real builder by the old-money real estate crowd. If he were such a genius negotiator, why has the condo craze in Manhattan left him in the dust? In a word, incompetence. He’s not that good at business. He’s only good at fooling people more foolish than Trump. And I’m willing to bet that he’s not as rich as he boasts.
One way or another, we will learn a lot more about the Trump’s finances and the Moscow deal in the future. Until then, keep resisting…