Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth

David Barstow, Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth. The New York Times, 16 July 2016. “…[A] survey of Mr. Trump’s four decades of wheeling and dealing…reveals an…operatic record of dissembling and deception, some of it unabashedly confirmed by Mr. Trump himself, who nearly 30 years ago first extolled the business advantages of “truthful hyperbole.” Indeed, based on the mountain of court records churned out over the span of Mr. Trump’s career, it is hard to find a project he touched that did not produce allegations of broken promises, blatant lies or outright fraud.”

There was the time Donald J. Trump told Larry King that he had been paid more than $1 million to give a speech about his business acumen when in fact he was paid $400,000. Or the time he sought a bank loan claiming a net worth of $3.5 billion in 2004, four times as much as what the bank found when it checked his math. Or the time he boasted that membership to Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., cost $300,000 when the actual initiation fee was $200,000. Or the time he bragged on CNBC about his new Trump International Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas, claiming, “We have 1,282 units, and they sold out in less than a week.” As Mr. Trump knew, more than 300 units had not been sold….

Taken as a whole,…an examination of Mr. Trump’s business career reveals persistent patterns in the way Mr. Trump bends or breaks the truth — patterns that may already feel familiar to those watching his campaign.

First and foremost is Mr. Trump’s tendency toward the self-aggrandizing fib — as if it were not impressive enough to be paid $400,000 for a speech. What also emerges is a nearly reflexive habit of telling his target audience precisely what he thinks it wants to hear — such as promising Trump University students they will learn all his real estate secrets from his “handpicked” instructors. And finally, there is the pattern already deeply familiar to his political opponents — making spurious claims against adversaries under Mr. Trump’s oft-stated theory that the best defense is a scorched-earth offense.

Equally striking is his Houdiniesque ability to wiggle away from all but the most skilled and determined efforts to corner him in an apparent lie. In interviews, lawyers who have tangled with Mr. Trump in court cases are sometimes reduced to sputtering, astonished rage, calling him “borderline pathological” and “the Michelangelo of deception” as they attempt to describe the ease with which Mr. Trump weaves his own versions of reality.

“He’s a bully, and bullies aren’t known for their veracity,” said Richard C. Seltzer, a retired senior partner at the law firm Kaye Scholer who confronted Mr. Trump in three real estate lawsuits….

The taxonomy of Mr. Trump’s business deceptions has been the subject of legal and journalistic scrutiny for decades. A Fortune magazine article from 2000 memorably described Mr. Trump’s “astonishing ability to prevaricate” this way: “But when Trump says he owns 10 percent of the Plaza Hotel, understand that what he actually means is that he has the right to 10 percent of the profit if it’s ever sold. When he says he’s building a ‘90-story building’ next to the U.N., he means a 72-story building that has extra-high ceilings. And when he says his casino company is the ‘largest employer in the state of New Jersey,’ he actually means to say it is the eighth largest.”

The casino magnate Steve Wynn, a sometimes friend and sometimes foe of Mr. Trump’s, took up the subject of Mr. Trump’s honesty in an interview with New York magazine. “His statements to people like you, whether they concern us and our projects or our motivations or his own reality or his own future or his own present you have seen over the years have no relation to truth or fact,” Mr. Wynn said….

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Trump owed millions of dollars to Ms. [Barbara] Corcoran for helping him secure financing for a development. But when New York magazine published a cover story about the troubled project — “Trump’s Near-Death Experience” — Mr. Trump sued Ms. Corcoran, accusing her and her associates of sharing damaging information with the magazine and thus violating a confidentiality agreement. He refused to pay her the millions he owed, claiming her breach had gravely damaged his business.

At trial, Mr. Trump was unable to produce a single document showing harm to his business. But his certitude never wavered, even after Ms. Corcoran’s lawyer, Mr. Seltzer, confronted him with article after article in which Mr. Trump himself had discussed with reporters much of the same “confidential” information he accused Ms. Corcoran’s team of divulging.

“There is something very belligerent about the way he presents facts, as if he thinks nobody will have the balls to stand up to him,” Mr. Seltzer said in an interview. (In dismissing Mr. Trump’s suit against Ms. Corcoran, the judge said the only damages he could identify were to Mr. Trump’s “bruised ego.”)…

…[A]fter Mr. Trump decided to demolish a department store to make way for his Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Trump’s demolition contractor hired about 200 unauthorized Polish laborers, paying them as little as $4 an hour to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The case ended up in federal court after some workers were shortchanged even these wages.

Mr. Trump protested that he knew nothing about the use of unauthorized workers — even though workers testified that they saw him visiting the site and some witnesses said that Mr. Trump and the executive he assigned to oversee the demolition were well aware of what was going on. In 1991, a federal judge, Charles E. Stewart Jr., ruled that despite Mr. Trump’s denials, there was “strong evidence” that he and his subordinates and his contractor had conspired to hire the Polish workers and deprive them of employment benefits. He awarded them $325,415 in damages.

…[I]n case after case, Mr. Trump has displayed a special talent for turning what should be cold hard facts into semantic mush. Perhaps the most famous example of this skill came when Mr. Trump was asked under oath a seemingly straightforward question: Had he ever lied about his net worth? Mr. Trump responded, “My net worth fluctuates and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.”