Kinetic wars are a blood circus for backwards simpletons, in the 21st Century. The real arsenals are made of intelligence, high-tech and data. And Putin’s KGB surely sits on huge intelligence nukes that can wipe out the elites like yesterday, while sparing the plebs. But that’s not what Putin uses right now in Ukraine. Quite the contrary, the “Russian bots” never been lazier.
The entry level profile of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father can be found here:
We pick up from where we left it there:
“According to Wilkening and Kauffeldt, Maxwell’s interest in sensitive scientific themes “caught the attention of the Soviet secret services,” and he was assigned three top intelligence contacts: Solovyov and Sorokin, as well as Feliks Sviridov, a GRU colonel specializing in American affairs. The boss at V AAP, Ter aserjansk, who dealt extensively with him, expresses surprise that Maxwell published only two of the 73 documents he received as per signed contracts with V AAP. Solovyov insists, on camera, that Maxwell was not a KGB agent, but implies that he may have been an agent of the Israeli Mossad. Along parallel lines, Sorokin provides evidence that Maxwell was a critical liaison between the Soviets and Israelis. “
At the beginning of the 1990s, his mysterious death became a sensation. And that’s just for starters, after all, 68-year-old Lord Robert Maxwell – owner of one of the largest media empires on the planet; a billionaire; friend of Leonid Brezhnev and other politicians around the world; a carouser and debauchee whose impressive size and ferocious personality earned him the nickname “the killer whale” – had died.
On that fateful night of November 4th, 1991, Maxwell’s yacht Lady Ghislaine was not far off from the Canary Islands. The Lord had gone to bed after an early-morning phone call with his wife. And…he disappeared. Only the next day did search and rescue personnel discover his body in the ocean. Doctors ascribed it to a heart attack that caused Maxwell to fall overboard. But soon the doctors’ verdict would be disproven. Judging by the injuries to his body, they determined that someone had dumped him from the deck into the water.
Along with the death of the billionaire, all his money disappeared from his accounts. His great media empire collapsed like a house of cards. And there came rumors that the drowned man had been an agent of four of the world’s intelligence services at the same time!
A Tangled History
The English lord changed names like pairs of gloves. He was neither Robert nor Maxwell, said Genadii Sokolov, a historian on intelligence who worked with the magnate at the end of the 1980s. He was born in 1923 in Czechoslovakia, in the Carpathian village Slatino-Selo, now the Ukrainian village of Solotvino. Abraham Lazby was the ninth child in Mikhail and Anna Hoch’s family. They lived in a small clay cottage with an earthen floor.
When Hitler’s forces occupied Czechoslovakia, the parents registered their son as Jan Ludvik Hoch. From that time, he became a member of an underground organization that was illegally ferrying youth to France. He was arrested and sentenced to death, but the young man escaped. Through Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey, he reached Syrian Aleppo, then French territory. There Jan joined the Foreign Legion.
Soon after, he was sent with his group of legionnaires to France. Here the lad took up a new name, now calling himself Ivan du Maurier. At this time he participated in the French Resistance movement and then the Allied landing at Normandy. Further on fate landed him in Great Britain, and now Ivan became Leslie Johnson. The British recruited the young man into the intelligence service. Leslie was fluent in English; German; French; Czech; Slovak, Hungarian; Romanian; Russian; and Hebrew.
When he received a combat decoration from the hands of Marshal Montgomery, he had changed his name for the fifth and last time – to Robert Maxwell. Our hero finished the war as a captain. It was then that he contacted a representative of Soviet intelligence for the first time.
Work for the KGB and Mossad
It happened in the following manner: After the end of the war in 1945, Maxwell began searching out his relatives. Czechoslovakia at that time was in the Soviet occupation zone, and therefore he sought help from Soviet military authorities in Germany. And so contact was established with emissaries of the USSR’s NKVD. News about the fate of his parents was tragic: they died in Nazi concentration camps. But Soviet intelligence’s relationship with Maxwell got its necessary development.
We’ll note that Maxwell has been christened one of the greatest spies of the Cold War. His record, however, isn’t limited to work for Moscow. The main intelligence service in his life was Israel’s Mossad. Itzhak Shamir himself, the future Prime Minister of Israel, enrolled Jan Ludvik Hoch into the Zionist underground organization Irgun at the beginning of World War II. There he received the agent callsign “Little Czech,” under which he worked his entire life. The French Resistance and British Army became the first phases of the Little Czech’s service in Zionist intelligence, well before the founding of the State of Israel and Mossad.
Further on fate took its own turn, and Maxwell left the British Army in 1947, entering the publishing business. Moreover, after the war Captain Maxwell had been the head of the British Foreign Office’s press bureau in occupied Germany, where he made the needed connections. The capital for his scientific publishing house Pergamon Press made up all of 100 pounds sterling.
Having foreseen its importance in the modern world, the enterprising Maxwell made his bet on scientific information. This sphere became fertile ground for the intelligence services as well. After all, scientists and academics aspired to publish their works in his journals and release books under his label. The Little Czech’s masters could find much of interest there. Maxwell published, for example, the Soviet physicist Lev Landau.
Soon the publishing house became a leader in scientific-technical literature as well history, politics and memoirs. This was also done with an intelligence objective. At once the spy took under his control the publication of the UK Mirror Group’s six newspapers, plus the US publisher Macmillan’s magazines, books and newspapers. These were so-called publications for everyday people.
The Empire Spreads
Over the course of the 1980s, Maxwell’s media empire encompassed 125 countries. He was known as a major publisher in Britain and held second place in the United States. Aside from newspapers, magazines and books, he had a stake in radio stations and television channels (MTV, for example). Competitors called him “Hurricane Bob,” and intelligence services – Captain Bob.
This enormous media empire became a cover for Captain Bob’s espionage mission. It was a secret operation by Mossad, CIA and MI6. The objective – infiltrate a mole into the Kremlin. Captain Bob’s masters organized such a legend for their agent that the USSR’s leadership wouldn’t entertain any doubt as to the billionaire’s loyalty.
But what kind of legend was this?
In August of 1968 Warsaw Pact forces entered Prague. Not even all of the countries in the socialist camp approved, not to mention the West, incensed by the “occupation”… And suddenly a major Western billionaire, a media magnate and British member of parliament publicly announces that he supports the entry of Soviet forces into Czechoslovakia. It’s necessary for the preservation of security in Europe, you see… And it was especially poignant that Maxwell himself was a native of Czechoslovakia.
The announcement was a bombshell.
Leonid Brezhnev immediately invited Maxwell to Moscow. The conversation took place one-on-one in Russian, without interpreters or protocol. Much brought them together: past combat, a love for cars, hunting and drinking. Robert became the General Secretary’s friend, and they met regularly. Western intelligence analysts impatiently awaited reports on their discussions. CIA, MI6 and Mossad achieved their goal: their man had gained entry into the Kremlin’s halls of power.
And so began a line of publications of “dear Leonid Ilyich’s” works throughout the world. Brezhnev gloried in the praises his books received. After Brezhnev’s death, Captain Bob developed contacts with new general secretaries – Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev. And he remained the Kremlin’s most important propagandist of the Soviet system abroad. The Central Committee’s agitprop generously paid for Maxwell’s services from state coffers. It stands to note that Lubyanka correctly thought that Western intelligence services were using Maxwell as a disinformation channel to the Soviet state. But they couldn’t do anything. Maxwell, after all, had reached a level inaccessible to Lubyanka. He was in contact with the elite of the nomenklatura, untouchable even to the Chekists.
Israel and the Coup
By the middle of the 1980s, Moscow had come up against the global challenge posed by the United States. CIA Director Casey developed a new plan for fighting the USSR. A special role was set aside for Maxwell’s empire – to roll out a campaign of support for Gorbachev’s ruinous policy. The very author of Perestroika was satisfied working with Maxwell. The pro-Gorbachev Pravda and Moskovskie Novosti began publication in English in the West. Raisa Gorbacheva’s Our Heritage could be found next to popular glossy magazines. All this was secured by Maxwell. World popular opinion took “Gorby’s” side. But in his home country, the explosive potential of the people’s dissatisfaction was building.
Vladimir Kryuchkov, having gotten to the post of KGB chairman, had his own designs for the spy. He was concerned by Gorbachev’s reforms and the fate of the country, which was coming off the rails. Kryuchkov quickly found a common language with Maxwell, since both spoke Hungarian well.
In the first half of 1991, the chief of the KGB had two secret meetings with the Mossad agent. The subject was Israel’s support… of the coming operation to remove Gorbachev by the Emergency State Committee (GKChP). Kryuchkov was looking for allies in the West in the fight to save the USSR.
Maxwell supported Kryuchkov’s idea. Mutual obligations were set down. The Committee would receive political and moral support from Israel. Maxwell would ensure a campaign of support for the Committee through his publishers throughout the world. In the case of victory, Kryuchkov guaranteed the unimpeded departure of all Jews from the USSR to Israel.
Kryuchkov couldn’t help – the USSR itself had fallen into a pit of debt. London and Washington and already lost interest in Captain Bob – Casey’s plan to collapse the socialist bloc had been realized. Only the Israelis could finance Maxwell for his mediation in a great exodus of Jews from the USSR. It remained to convinced Israel to support the coup…
At the beginning of August 1991, Kryuchkov had a third meeting with the magnate on board his yacht. Maxwell also invited trusted figures from the Mossad’s leadership. Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir, however, didn’t support the Kryuchkov-Maxwell plan: according to his analysts, the Committee’s chances of success weren’t great.
Having learned of Premier Shamir’s refusal, the Little Czech desperately attempted to convince him via telephone to help the USSR and immediately extend credit to his staggering media empire. He even decided to blackmail the premier, threatening him. He had clearly gone too far, thereby placing himself in the crosshairs. Shamir called the chief of Mossad and demanded to get rid of the Little Czech once and for all. What happened after can only be assumed on the basis of media leaks.
It’s claimed that on the night of November 4th, 1991, a group of Mossad assassins on a raft approached Maxwell’s yacht and boarded. After a short battle, they gave the magnate a lethal injection that caused his heart to stop beating. His body was thrown into the water. The British billionaire was buried in Jerusalem. And a month and a half later, the Soviet Union’s number was up.
The British Trail
The British secret service, MI6, stood at the origins of Maxwell’s media empire – Russell Davies writes about this in his book Foreign Body. According to his claims, MI6 “tossed” half a million pounds sterling Maxwell’s way. This was at the very beginning period of the Cold War, when a significant part of Europe still lay in ruins. In response to the “handout,” Maxwell, using his contacts with Soviet authorities, supplied supposedly confidential information to British intelligence, which used it for penetrating the USSR’s secret scientific research institutes.
Then, the author believes, MI6 had burgeoning suspicions regarding Maxwell’s contacts with Soviet and Israeli intelligence, and that he was using the money assigned him to expand his business. For this reason, MI6 didn’t let the billionaire off the hook right up to his death in 1991.
Soon his gigantic financial empire, consisting of both state and private companies, popped like a bubble. At the same time, according to the results of court proceedings on alleged large-scale pension fund fraud in the Robert Maxwell Group, after conferring several weeks, a jury issued a not-guilty verdict for Robert Maxwell’s sons Ian and Kevin, as well as for his former advisor Larry Trachtenberg.
About the Author: KGB Colonel Nikolai Aleksandrovich Shvarev (b. 1934) is a veteran of the KGB First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence). Before entering the KGB he was an officer in the Airborne Forces. He served abroad on several assignments, including as deputy chief of staff for the KGB spetsnaz unit Kaskad in Afghanistan.
 Journalist Gennadii Sokolov correctly notes that the temple in Pergamon (Asia Minor) was named by John in Revelation 2:12 as the “throne of Satan,” which makes Maxwell’s name for his publishing house especially odd.
 Former KGB First Chief Directorate officer Col. Stanislav Lekarev (1935-2010) elaborates on Maxwell’s work in the Soviet Union: “Maxwell cooperated, but he never forgot about his own financial interests. He helped socialist nations found joint enterprises abroad, but not for free. As a result, two million dollars, secretly issued by the Bulgarian government for laundering money from narcotics trafficking, disappeared in Western banks. He insistently proposed bank accounts in Lichtenstein to high-level Soviet Party figures. For assistance in opening such accounts for KGB officers and Communist Party representatives, Maxwell received commissions. In MI5 such information was deemed especially valuable.”
 Lekarev continues: “From the end of the 1980s, with Maxwell’s help, operations to launder CPSU money abroad began. During this period Maxwell was in contact with [KGB] Colonel Vladimir Golovin from ideological counterintelligence [Fifth Chief Directorate]. Soon he died unexpectedly. Colonel Viktor Bredikhin, a former officer of the London Residency from foreign counterintelligence, also worked with Maxwell. And, working in the KGB, he also suddenly died. Another one of Maxwell’s operational contacts was Colonel Vadim Biriukov, who regularly traveled to European countries for meetings with foreign agents. Soon after Maxwell’s death, Biriukov was killed under unclear circumstances in a Moscow parking garage by unknown individuals.”
AND THEN IT GETS EVEN DARKER
Researcher Reports Soviets Created Child-Trafficking Rings in the West for Blackmail
A scholar on Soviet Russia has uncovered claims that former General Secretary Yuri Andropov wanted to subvert the West by creating child trafficking and pedophile networks to blackmail business leaders and politicians.
Details on the program were uncovered by Jeffrey Nyquist in his research on communist regimes and their influence on the West. His main source is the grandson of a former member of the Soviet Central Committee who opposed the program and was possibly killed because of his opposition. Two other sources of his were defectors from the Soviet Union who revealed information on Soviet experiments on pedophilia and sexual perversion.
All three requested to have their identities withheld, as they believe that this abuse continues, and speaking on record would endanger their lives.
The Soviet leaders had begun planning the program in the late 1970s, when Andropov was chairman of the KGB—the Soviet intelligence agency that was set to run the operations. Nyquist noted, however, that the program was controversial even by the standards of the Soviet leaders.
His contact, who is currently living in the West, said his grandfather was part of a faction within the Central Committee that opposed the program; yet the dissenters, including his grandfather, were believed to have been killed for their opposition, and the program was able to move forward.
One of the advantages of a horrible method is that nobody believes that anyone would do such a thing.
— JEFFREY NYQUIST, SCHOLAR ON SOVIET RUSSIA
“This grandfather told his family, ‘Andropov is building networks for child trafficking and pedophilia, and this is a project the KGB has begun internationally, around the world,’” Nyquist said. The purpose of the program was to seduce politicians and business leaders, then control them as agents through blackmail.
The grandfather understood what it meant to oppose Andropov. According to Nyquist, he told his family that Andropov would kill him if the program prevailed, and that if he died, his wife would need to flee with their children to another city; and that if the KGB ever knocked on their door, they would again need to flee, and to “never look back.”
“And, of course, that is what happened. The grandfather died under mysterious circumstances,” Nyquist said. “Whatever the struggle was within the central committee, he lost.” His family fled, as he requested.
Around the same time, two other eyewitness sources of Nyquist’s say the Soviet Union began conducting experiments in its Komsomol camps on how to grow sexual perversions. The camps were for members of the communist Young Pioneers and included children aged 10 to 15. Nyquist interprets these Kosmosol events as connected to the Andropov plan his source told him about.
According to Nyquist, the Soviets were organizing orgies in some of the camps, and “they were trying to locate perverts to recruit them.”
“The idea was that in these Komsomol camps they were looking for people who had psychological problems that caused them to become sexually perverse in different ways,” Nyquist said. “It was like they were studying different perversions and the causes, and how to cultivate that, how to extend it, what kind of things draw people toward blacker perversions.”
The ‘Ultimate Blackmail’
The program the grandfather described was a classic honeytrap—a method of espionage to lure people into compromising sexual encounters for blackmail. This program took it a step further, however, by using children as the bait.
It was a form of “false flag recruitment,” according to Nyquist, where the KGB agents likely did not reveal themselves as agents to their targets. He noted that “if the KGB honeytraps somebody, they don’t know who they’re working for, because the KGB officer may be somebody who speaks English without an accent who merely references themselves as part of an organized crime group.”
Accounts by child victims and police reports reveal shocking claims of sexual abuse, dark occult practices, and the involvement of high-level officials.
After a person has been compromised in the honeytrap, the agents or the front organization can continue offering services to the target in exchange for work, while also maintaining evidence to blackmail the targets if they have qualms about cooperating.
The tactic is still widely used, including by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP was accused in 2015 of using attractive women to seduce spies from the British MI6 intelligence agency and lure them into honeytraps to obtain state secrets. A top-secret MI6 memo obtained by the UK’s Mirror news outlet said Chinese spies were “aggressively” targeting spies and their families.
Honeytraps were also very common under the Soviet Union. Former KGB General Oleg Kalugin explained it once, stating according to Foreign Policy that, “In America, in the West, occasionally you ask your men to stand up for their country. There’s very little difference. In Russia, we just ask our young women to lay down.”
In conventional honeytraps, the target may be controlled either by a lover who is secretly a special agent, or with evidence of an extramarital affair—something that in politics can ruin a career.
With pedophilia, however, the scandal and consequences are much more severe, and the effects of the honeytrap are much more binding.
Nyquist referred to it as “the ultimate blackmail.”
A Wave of Abuse
The timing of the Soviet child trafficking program corresponds with a sudden uptick of pedophile rings uncovered in the West. While it’s likely similar forms of abuse had existed previously, the new scandals aligned closely with what Nyquist’s source warned of.
In the 1980s and into the ‘90s, shocking cases of pedophilia and extreme abuse began to emerge in the United States, Australia, and Europe. Many of the cases involved high-level officials. Some were prosecuted, but many were thrown out due to lack of physical evidence and child testimony not being recognized.
Among the most prominent cases was that of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile accused of holding underage girls as sex slaves on his private Caribbean island. He flew numerous top politicians and business leaders to the island on his private plane, dubbed by news outlets as “The Lolita Express.” According to press reports, the plane has a bed that was used for sex with younggirls. According to the same reports, flight logs from Epstein’s plane show that former President Bill Clinton flew on The Lolita Express 26 times.
Numerous girls alleged they were sexually abused by Epstein, and Epstein was charged by the Palm Beach police department. Yet after a plea deal, he was sentenced in 2008 and served only 13 months in prison for one charge of soliciting prostitution from a 14-year-old girl.
A 2006 court filing, cited by the New York Post, says that a police search of Epstein’s mansion found he wired it with hidden cameras to record his guests engaging in orgies with underage girls, which he could use for blackmail.
Epstein was very well connected. It has been reported that Epstein kept contact numbers of figures including Tony Blair, Naomi Campbell, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Bloomberg, and Richard Branson, but no flight logs have ever surfaced showing any of them ever flew to Epstein’s island. Many of his A-list contacts dropped him after his 2008 conviction.
Often overlooked in Epstein’s case is that the father of his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was deceased media tycoon Robert Maxwell, whom Ghislaine accused of sexually abusing her.
Robert Maxwell may have also been a Soviet spy. According to FBI files released in 2013, Maxwell, who was born in Czechoslovakia and was living in the United Kingdom, was believed to be using his Pergamon Press media empire in the 1950s to provide intelligence to the Soviet Union.
The heavily redacted reports noted that when Maxwell and his business partner Kurt Wallersteiner were running their Anglo-Continental Exchange firm in London in 1953, both had “allegedly been recruited by the Soviet intelligence service for espionage purposes.”
Former FBI agent Marc Ruskin said in a previous interview that two agents from the Belgian national police told him of a child abuse ring in Belgium in the mid-1990s that also allegedly involved government officials.
“They had been working on a case that involved political corruption, and also there was a child pornography aspect to it as well,” he said. “And as their investigation proceeded, they began to develop subjects—targets of the investigation—who were high-level public officials.”
As their investigations grew deeper, however, the agents were called into their supervisor’s office and told to drop the case. Ruskin said, referring to political corruption of law enforcement, that “this was Western Europe—not some undeveloped country with a dictator. If it can happen in Western Europe, it can happen anywhere.”
Satanic Ritual Abuse
What Ruskin reported happened in Belgium, shocking claims of a pedophile ring servicing high-level officials whose investigation was hushed up, has happened elsewhere in the West. Unfortunately, there is no single source tracking reports of pedophile rings, and there is a pattern of mysterious events obstructing their investigation when they are reported.
Starting in 1980, victims of pedophile networks that fit the picture outlined by the Soviets began to step forward in the West, but a new element began to be commonly reported: Satanic practices. Accounts by child victims and police reports reveal shocking claims of sexual abuse, dark occult practices, and the involvement of high-level officials.
This began the so-called Satanic panic, which lasted into the mid-90s. It resulted in prison sentences for only a handful of perpetrators, and also led to multiple claims of government-level conspiracies behind the rings.
Among the most famous cases was the Franklin child prostitution ring case from 1988 to 1990. The case in Omaha, Nebraska, alleged that high-level politicians were involved in a child prostitution ring, where children were flown to private parties of politicians where they were abused. Victims alleged other crimes including cannibalism, human sacrifice, and drug trafficking.
The defendants were eventually found not guilty, but the way the case played out was criticized as a cover-up. The three main witnesses were instead charged with perjury, and many key figures in the case would later turn up dead.
Documented problems with the case were later compiled by former state Sen. John DeCamp in his book, “The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska,” where he states: “Two grand juries, one local and one federal, had a mandate to consider these and other charges of child abuse connected with the Franklin Credit Union. They indicted the victim-witnesses for perjury instead!”
DeCamp also states that evidence in the case “leads into drug-trafficking, money-laundering, pornography, child prostitution, and the kidnapping and sale of children in different parts of the United States, and abroad.”
Award-winning author and filmmaker Tim Tate produced a documentary on the Omaha case, uncovering many similar findings. The Discovery Channel was set to broadcast the documentary “Conspiracy of Silence” in May 1994, yet abruptly canceled before it could air. Tate explains on his website the sensitivity with covering the topic of Satanic ritual abuse, noting that in his experience, “touch it, and—professionally, at least—you die.”
In a case in the United Kingdom, former British Member of Parliament Geoffrey Dickens, who died in 1995, investigated what he said, according to The Washington Post, was a pedophile ring of powerful individuals with “big, big names.”
Barry Dickens, the son of Geoffrey Dickens, told the BBC, “My father thought that the dossier at the time was the most powerful thing that had ever been produced, with the names that were involved and the power that they had.”
His son provided the research to British authorities, but files went missing in 2014 around evidence of break-ins. An additional 114 documents on the alleged pedophile ring also went missing around the same time. The Guardian reported, “The revelation that further relevant documents have disappeared will raise fresh fears of an establishment cover-up.”
Influence and Control
According to Nyquist, when rumors of high-level Satanic-themed pedophile rings again emerged in 2016, his contact whose grandfather detailed the Soviet plot became nervous and afraid.
“I have to tell you he became very frightened, last year,” he said. “I went to breach the subject with him again, and he said ‘absolutely I do not want to talk about this; this scares me too much.’ Because he believed this is such a significant part of the Russian power, these pedophile networks, that if you talk about it you might be dead.”
Nyquist said his sources did not mention the element of Satanic abuse in the alleged Soviet-backed pedophile rings, but he noted that, as someone who has studied communist methods of infiltration and subversion, it doesn’t seem unusual.
“When the communists design an attack, they use such horrible methods; one of the advantages of a horrible method is that nobody believes that anyone would do such a thing,” he said. The elements of forcing victims to commit ritual murder—and killing any who refused to participate—would also work as a control mechanism over anyone involved, since they would all be guilty, he said.
He said the overall system, if true, would have given the Soviets and later post-Soviet participants significant power in establishing networks of influence and control. He noted that even just among business leaders, since they often fund politicians and political causes, by blackmailing them “you’re suddenly getting into the fringes of the political system. You’re able to penetrate the political system.”
“Pedophilia, if you look at it, is an important tool for corrupting, controlling, and manipulating a foreign government, and sabotaging its economy, sabotaging its political process, even sowing confusion,” he said. “This whole thing can be used in all kinds of creative ways to hurt the target country.” Follow Joshua on Twitter: @JoshJPhilipp
Alexander Litvinenko’s accusation that Vladimir Putin was a paedophile may have been one of the motives for the Russian government to order his assassination, a report into the former Russian spy’s death has found.
Sir Robert Owen’s inquiry looked at the former FSB agent’s “highly personal attacks” on the Russian President, which culminated with an article on the Chechenpress website in July 2006, four months before he was poisoned.
Mr Litvinenko’s article, which was published as evidence in the report, started by recounting a meeting between Mr Putin and a boy “aged four or five” in a square near the Kremlin.
Litvinenko widow’s statement
“Putin kneeled, lifted the boy’s T-shirt and kissed his stomach,” Mr Litvinenko wrote.
All I’m saying: keep searching for yourself, no one has the full picture yet.
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! Articles can always be subject of later editing as a way of perfecting them
The information comes from a 1997 New Yorker article, before Trump entered politics and Ghislaine entered her public pimp fame. This was likely the least biased source you can ever find on this topic.
“One morning last week, Donald Trump, who under routine circumstances tolerates publicity no more grudgingly than an infant tolerates a few daily feedings, sat in his office on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, his mood rather subdued. As could be expected, given the fact that his three-and-a-half-year-old marriage to Marla Maples was ending, paparazzi were staking out the exits of Trump Tower, while all weekend helicopters had been hovering over Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach. And what would come of it? “I think the thing I’m worst at is managing the press,” he said. “The thing I’m best at is business and conceiving. The press portrays me as a wild flamethrower. In actuality, I think I’m much different from that. I think I’m totally inaccurately portrayed.”
So, though he’d agreed to a conversation at this decisive moment, it called for wariness, the usual quota of prefatory “off-the-record”s and then some. He wore a navy-blue suit, white shirt, black-onyx-and-gold links, and a crimson print necktie. Every strand of his interesting hair—its gravity-defying ducktails and dry pompadour, its telltale absence of gray—was where he wanted it to be. He was working his way through his daily gallon of Diet Coke and trying out a few diversionary maneuvers. Yes, it was true, the end of a marriage was a sad thing. Meanwhile, was I aware of what a success he’d had with the Nation’s Parade, the Veterans Day celebration he’d been very supportive of back in 1995? Well, here was a little something he wanted to show me, a nice certificate signed by both Joseph Orlando, president, and Harry Feinberg, secretary-treasurer, of the New York chapter of the 4th Armored Division Association, acknowledging Trump’s participation as an associate grand marshal. A million four hundred thousand people had turned out for the celebration, he said, handing me some press clippings. “O.K., I see this story says a half million spectators. But, trust me, I heard a million four.” Here was another clipping, from the Times, just the other day, confirming that rents on Fifth Avenue were the highest in the world. “And who owns more of Fifth Avenue than I do?” Or how about the new building across from the United Nations Secretariat, where he planned a “very luxurious hotel-condominium project, a major project.” Who would finance it? “Any one of twenty-five different groups. They all want to finance it.”
Months earlier, I’d asked Trump whom he customarily confided in during moments of tribulation. “Nobody,” he said. “It’s just not my thing”—a reply that didn’t surprise me a bit. Salesmen, and Trump is nothing if not a brilliant salesman, specialize in simulated intimacy rather than the real thing. His modus operandi had a sharp focus: fly the flag, never budge from the premise that the universe revolves around you, and, above all, stay in character. The Trump tour de force—his evolution from rough-edged rich kid with Brooklyn and Queens political-clubhouse connections to an international name-brand commodity—remains, unmistakably, the most rewarding accomplishment of his ingenious career. The patented Trump palaver, a gaseous blather of “fantastic”s and “amazing”s and “terrific”s and “incredible”s and various synonyms for “biggest,” is an indispensable ingredient of the name brand. In addition to connoting a certain quality of construction, service, and security—perhaps only Trump can explicate the meaningful distinctions between “super luxury” and “super super luxury”—his eponym subliminally suggests that a building belongs to him even after it’s been sold off as condominiums.
Everywhere inside the Trump Organization headquarters, the walls were lined with framed magazine covers, each a shot of Trump or someone who looked an awful lot like him. The profusion of these images—of a man who possessed unusual skills, though not, evidently, a gene for irony—seemed the sum of his appetite for self-reflection. His unique talent—being “Trump” or, as he often referred to himself, “the Trumpster,” looming ubiquitous by reducing himself to a persona—exempted him from introspection.
If the gossips hinted that he’d been cuckolded, they had it all wrong; untying the marital knot was based upon straightforward economics. He had a prenuptial agreement, because “if you’re a person of wealth you have to have one.” In the words of his attorney, Jay Goldberg, the agreement was “as solid as concrete.” It would reportedly pay Marla a million dollars, plus some form of child support and alimony, and the time to do a deal was sooner rather than later. A year from now, she would become entitled to a percentage of his net worth. And, as a source very close to Trump made plain, “If it goes from a fixed amount to what could be a very enormous amount—even a small percentage of two and a half billion dollars or whatever is a lot of money—we’re talking about very huge things. The numbers are much bigger than people understand.”
The long-term matrimonial odds had never been terrifically auspicious. What was Marla Maples, after all, but a tabloid cartoon of the Other Woman, an alliteration you could throw the cliché manual at: a leggy, curvaceous blond-bombshell beauty-pageant-winning actress-model-whatever? After a couple of years of deftly choreographed love spats, Donald and Marla produced a love child, whom they could not resist naming Tiffany. A few months before they went legit, Marla told a television interviewer that the contemplation of marriage tended to induce in Donald the occasional “little freak-out” or visit from the “fear monster.” Her role, she explained, was “to work with him and help him get over that fear monster.” Whenever they travelled, she said, she took along her wedding dress. (“Might as well. You’ve got to be prepared.”) The ceremony, at the Plaza Hotel, right before Christmas, 1993, drew an audience of a thousand but, judging by the heavy turnout of Atlantic City high rollers, one not deemed A-list. The Trump Taj Mahal casino commemorated the occasion by issuing a Donald-and-Marla five-dollar gambling chip.
The last time around, splitting with Ivana, he’d lost the P.R. battle from the git-go. After falling an entire news cycle behind Ivana’s spinmeisters, he never managed to catch up. In one ill-advised eruption, he told Liz Smith that his wife reminded him of his bête noire Leona Helmsley, and the columnist chided, “Shame on you, Donald! How dare you say that about the mother of your children?” His only moment of unadulterated, so to speak, gratification occurred when an acquaintance of Marla’s blabbed about his swordsmanship. The screamer “best sex i’ve ever had”—an instant classic—is widely regarded as the most libel-proof headline ever published by the Post. On the surface, the coincidence of his first marital breakup with the fact that he owed a few billion he couldn’t exactly pay back seemed extraordinarily unpropitious. In retrospect, his timing was excellent. Ivana had hoped to nullify a postnuptial agreement whose provenance could be traced to Donald’s late friend and preceptor the lawyer-fixer and humanitarian Roy Cohn. Though the agreement entitled her to fourteen million dollars plus a forty-six-room house in Connecticut, she and her counsel decided to ask for half of everything Trump owned; extrapolating from Donald’s blustery pronouncements over the years, they pegged her share at two and a half billion. In the end, she was forced to settle for the terms stipulated in the agreement because Donald, at that juncture, conveniently appeared to be broke.Advertisement
Now, of course, according to Trump, things were much different. Business was stronger than ever. And, of course, he wanted to be fair to Marla. Only a million bucks? Hey, a deal was a deal. He meant “fair” in a larger sense: “I think it’s very unfair to Marla, or, for that matter, anyone—while there are many positive things, like life style, which is at the highest level— I think it’s unfair to Marla always to be subjected to somebody who enjoys his business and does it at a very high level and does it on a big scale. There are lots of compensating balances. You live in the Mar-a-Lagos of the world, you live in the best apartment. But, I think you understand, I don’t have very much time. I just don’t have very much time. There’s nothing I can do about what I do other than stopping. And I just don’t want to stop.”
A securities analyst who has studied Trump’s peregrinations for many years believes, “Deep down, he wants to be Madonna.” In other words, to ask how the gods could have permitted Trump’s resurrection is to mistake profound superficiality for profundity, performance art for serious drama. A prime example of superficiality at its most rewarding: the Trump International Hotel & Tower, a fifty-two-story hotel-condominium conversion of the former Gulf & Western Building, on Columbus Circle, which opened last January. The Trump name on the skyscraper belies the fact that his ownership is limited to his penthouse apartment and a stake in the hotel’s restaurant and garage, which he received as part of his development fee. During the grand-opening ceremonies, however, such details seemed not to matter as he gave this assessment: “One of the great buildings anywhere in New York, anywhere in the world.”
The festivities that day included a feng-shui ritual in the lobby, a gesture of respect to the building’s high proportion of Asian buyers, who regard a Trump property as a good place to sink flight capital. An efficient schmoozer, Trump worked the room quickly—a backslap and a wink, a finger on the lapels, no more than a minute with anyone who wasn’t a police commissioner, a district attorney, or a mayoral candidate—and then he was ready to go. His executive assistant, Norma Foerderer, and two other Trump Organization executives were waiting in a car to return to the office. Before it pulled away, he experienced a tug of noblesse oblige. “Hold on, just lemme say hello to these Kinney guys,” he said, jumping out to greet a group of parking attendants. “Good job, fellas. You’re gonna be working here for years to come.” It was a quintessential Trumpian gesture, of the sort that explains his popularity among people who barely dare to dream of living in one of his creations.
Back at the office, a Times reporter, Michael Gordon, was on the line, calling from Moscow. Gordon had just interviewed a Russian artist named Zurab Tsereteli, a man with a sense of grandiosity familiar to Trump. Was it true, Gordon asked, that Tsereteli and Trump had discussed erecting on the Hudson River a statue of Christopher Columbus that was six feet taller than the Statue of Liberty?
“Yes, it’s already been made, from what I understand,” said Trump, who had met Tsereteli a couple of months earlier, in Moscow. “It’s got forty million dollars’ worth of bronze in it, and Zurab would like it to be at my West Side Yards development”—a seventy-five-acre tract called Riverside South—“and we are working toward that end.”
According to Trump, the head had arrived in America, the rest of the body was still in Moscow, and the whole thing was being donated by the Russian government. “The mayor of Moscow has written a letter to Rudy Giuliani stating that they would like to make a gift of this great work by Zurab. It would be my honor if we could work it out with the City of New York. I am absolutely favorably disposed toward it. Zurab is a very unusual guy. This man is major and legit.”
Trump hung up and said to me, “See what I do? All this bullshit. Know what? After shaking five thousand hands, I think I’ll go wash mine.”
Norma Foerderer, however, had some pressing business. A lecture agency in Canada was offering Trump a chance to give three speeches over three consecutive days, for seventy-five thousand dollars a pop. “Plus,” she said, “they provide a private jet, secretarial services, and a weekend at a ski resort.”
How did Trump feel about it?
“My attitude is if somebody’s willing to pay me two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to make a speech, it seems stupid not to show up. You know why I’ll do it? Because I don’t think anyone’s ever been paid that much.”
Would it be fresh material?
“It’ll be fresh to them.”
Next item: Norma had drafted a letter to Mar-a-Lago members, inviting them to a dinner featuring a speech by George Pataki and entertainment by Marvin Hamlisch. “Oh, and speaking of the Governor, I just got a call. They’re shooting a new ‘I Love New York’ video and they’d like Libby Pataki to go up and down our escalator. I said fine.”
A Mar-a-Lago entertainment booker named Jim Grau called about a Carly Simon concert. Trump switched on his speakerphone: “Is she gonna do it?”
“Well, two things have to be done, Donald. No. 1, she’d like to hear from you. And, No. 2, she’d like to turn it in some degree into a benefit for Christopher Reeve.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said Trump. “Is Christopher Reeve gonna come? He can come down on my plane. So what do I have to do, call her?”
“I want to tell you how we got Carly on this because some of your friends are involved.”
“Jim, I don’t give a shit. Who the hell cares?”
“Please, Donald. Remember when you had your yacht up there? You had Rose Styron aboard. And her husband wrote ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ And it’s through her good offices—”
“O.K. Good. So thank ’em and maybe invite ’em.”
“Part of my problem,” Trump said to me, “is that I have to do a lot of things myself. It takes so much time. Julio Iglesias is coming to Mar-a-Lago, but I have to call Julio, I have to have lunch with Julio. I have Pavarotti coming. Pavarotti doesn’t perform for anybody. He’s the highest-paid performer in the world. A million dollars a performance. The hardest guy to get. If I call him, he’ll do it—for a huge amount less. Why? Because they like me, they respect me, I don’t know.”
During Trump’s ascendancy, in the nineteen-eighties, the essence of his performance art—an opera-buffa parody of wealth—accounted for his populist appeal as well as for the opprobrium of those who regard with distaste the spectacle of an unbridled id. Delineating his commercial aesthetic, he once told an interviewer, “I have glitzy casinos because people expect it. . . . Glitz works in Atlantic City. . . . And in my residential buildings I sometimes use flash, which is a level below glitz.” His first monument to himself, Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-sixth Street, which opened its doors in 1984, possessed many genuinely impressive elements—a sixty-eight-story sawtoothed silhouette, a salmon-colored Italian-marble atrium equipped with an eighty-foot waterfall—and became an instant tourist attraction. In Atlantic City, the idea was to slather on as much ornamentation as possible, the goal being (a) to titillate with the fantasy that a Trump-like life was a lifelike life and (b) to distract from the fact that he’d lured you inside to pick your pocket.Advertisement
At times, neither glitz nor flash could disguise financial reality. A story in the Times three months ago contained a reference to his past “brush with bankruptcy,” and Trump, though gratified that the Times gave him play on the front page, took umbrage at that phrase. He “never went bankrupt,” he wrote in a letter to the editor, nor did he “ever, at any time, come close.” Having triumphed over adversity, Trump assumes the prerogative to write history.
In fact, by 1990, he was not only at risk, he was, by any rational standard, hugely in the red. Excessively friendly bankers infected with the promiscuous optimism that made the eighties so memorable and so forgettable had financed Trump’s acquisitive impulses to the tune of three billion seven hundred and fifty million dollars. The personally guaranteed portion—almost a billion—represented the value of Trump’s good will, putative creditworthiness, and capacity for shame. A debt restructuring began in the spring of 1990 and continued for several years. In the process, six hundred or seven hundred or perhaps eight hundred million of his creditors’ dollars vaporized and drifted wherever lost money goes. In America, there is no such thing as a debtors’ prison, nor is there a tidy moral to this story.
Several of Trump’s trophies—the Plaza Hotel and all three Atlantic City casinos—were subjected to “prepackaged bankruptcy,” an efficiency maneuver that is less costly than the full-blown thing. Because the New Jersey Casino Control Act requires “financial stability” for a gaming license, it seems hard to avoid the inference that Trump’s Atlantic City holdings were in serious jeopardy. Nevertheless, “blip” is the alternative “b” word he prefers, as in “So the market, as you know, turns lousy and I have this blip.”
Trump began plotting his comeback before the rest of the world—or, perhaps, even he—fully grasped the direness of his situation. In April of 1990, he announced to the Wall Street Journal a plan to sell certain assets and become the “king of cash,” a stratagem that would supposedly set the stage for a shrewd campaign of bargain hunting. That same month, he drew down the final twenty-five million dollars of an unsecured hundred-million-dollar personal line of credit from Bankers Trust. Within seven weeks, he failed to deliver a forty-three-million-dollar payment due to bondholders of the Trump Castle Casino, and he also missed a thirty-million-dollar interest payment to one of the estimated hundred and fifty banks that were concerned about his well-being. An army of bankruptcy lawyers began camping out in various boardrooms.
Making the blip go away entailed, among other sacrifices, forfeiting management control of the Plaza and handing over the titles to the Trump Shuttle (the old Eastern Airlines Boston-New York-Washington route) and a twin-towered thirty-two-story condominium building near West Palm Beach, Florida. He also said goodbye to his two-hundred-and-eighty-two-foot yacht, the Trump Princess, and to his Boeing 727. Appraisers inventoried the contents of his Trump Tower homestead. Liens were attached to just about everything but his Brioni suits. Perhaps the ultimate indignity was having to agree to a personal spending cap of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month.
It would have been tactically wise, to say nothing of tactful, if, as Trump’s creditors wrote off large chunks of their portfolios, he could have curbed his breathtaking propensity for self-aggrandizement. The bravado diminished somewhat for a couple of years—largely because the press stopped paying attention—but by 1993 he was proclaiming, “This year has been the most successful year I’ve had in business.” Every year since, he’s issued the same news flash. A spate of Trump-comeback articles appeared in 1996, including several timed to coincide with his fiftieth birthday.
Then, last October, Trump came into possession of what a normal person would regard as real money. For a hundred and forty-two million dollars, he sold his half interest in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, on Forty-second Street, to the Pritzker family, of Chicago, his longtime, and long-estranged, partners in the property. Most of the proceeds weren’t his to keep, but he walked away with more than twenty-five million dollars. The chief significance of the Grand Hyatt sale was that it enabled Trump to extinguish the remnants of his once monstrous personally guaranteed debt. When Forbes published its annual list of the four hundred richest Americans, he sneaked on (three hundred and seventy-third position) with an estimated net worth of four hundred and fifty million. Trump, meanwhile, had compiled his own unaudited appraisal, one he was willing to share along with the amusing caveat “I’ve never shown this to a reporter before.” According to his calculations, he was actually worth two and a quarter billion dollars—Forbes had lowballed him by eighty per cent. Still, he had officially rejoined the plutocracy, his first appearance since the blip.
Jay Goldberg, who in addition to handling Trump’s matrimonial legal matters also represented him in the Grand Hyatt deal, told me that, after it closed, his client confessed that the novelty of being unencumbered had him lying awake nights. When I asked Trump about this, he said, “Leverage is an amazing phenomenon. I love leverage. Plus, I’ve never been a huge sleeper.” Trump doesn’t drink or smoke, claims he’s never even had a cup of coffee. He functions, evidently, according to inverse logic and metabolism. What most people would find unpleasantly stimulating—owing vastly more than you should to lenders who, figuratively, at least, can carve you into small pieces—somehow engenders in him a soothing narcotic effect. That, in any event, is the impression Trump seeks to convey, though the point is now moot. Bankers, typically not the most perspicacious species on earth, from time to time get religion, and there aren’t many who will soon be lining up to thrust fresh bazillions at him.
When I met with Trump for the first time, several months ago, he set out to acquaint me with facts that, to his consternation, had remained stubbornly hidden from the public. Several times, he uttered the phrase “off the record, but you can use it.” I understood the implication—I was his tool—but failed to see the purpose. “If you have me saying these things, even though they’re true, I sound like a schmuck,” he explained. How to account, then, for the bombast of the previous two decades? Alair Townsend, a former deputy mayor in the Koch administration, once quipped, “I wouldn’t believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized.” In time, this bon mot became misattributed to Leona Helmsley, who was only too happy to claim authorship. Last fall, after Evander Holyfield upset Mike Tyson in a heavyweight title fight, Trump snookered the News into reporting that he’d collected twenty million bucks by betting a million on the underdog. This prompted the Post to make calls to some Las Vegas bookies, who confirmed—shockingly!—that nobody had been handling that kind of action or laying odds close to 20-1. Trump never blinked, just moved on to the next bright idea.
“I don’t think people know how big my business is,” Trump told me. “Somehow, they know Trump the celebrity. But I’m the biggest developer in New York. And I’m the biggest there is in the casino business. And that’s pretty good to be the biggest in both. So that’s a lot of stuff.” He talked about 40 Wall Street—“truly one of the most beautiful buildings in New York”—a seventy-two-story landmark that he was renovating. He said he owned the new Niketown store, tucked under Trump Tower; there was a deal to convert the Mayfair Hotel, at Sixty-fifth and Park, into “super-super-luxury apartments . . . but that’s like a small one.” He owned the land under the Ritz-Carlton, on Central Park South. (“That’s a little thing. Nobody knows that I own that. In that way, I’m not really understood.”) With CBS, he now owned the Miss U.S.A., Miss Teen U.S.A., and Miss Universe beauty pageants. He pointed to a stack of papers on his desk, closing documents for the Trump International Hotel & Tower. “Look at these contracts. I get these to sign every day. I’ve signed hundreds of these. Here’s a contract for two-point-two million dollars. It’s a building that isn’t even opened yet. It’s eighty-three per cent sold, and nobody even knows it’s there. For each contract, I need to sign twenty-two times, and if you think that’s easy . . . You know, all the buyers want my signature. I had someone else who works for me signing, and at the closings the buyers got angry. I told myself, ‘You know, these people are paying a million eight, a million seven, two million nine, four million one—for those kinds of numbers, I’ll sign the fucking contract.’ I understand. Fuck it. It’s just more work.”Advertisement
As a real-estate impresario, Trump certainly has no peer. His assertion that he is the biggest real-estate developer in New York, however, presumes an elastic definition of that term. Several active developers—among them the Rudins, the Roses, the Milsteins—have added more residential and commercial space to the Manhattan market and have historically held on to what they built. When the outer boroughs figure in the tally—and if Donald isn’t allowed to claim credit for the middle-income high-rise rental projects that generated the fortune amassed by his ninety-one-year-old father, Fred—he slips further in the rankings. But if one’s standard of comparison is simply the number of buildings that bear the developer’s name, Donald dominates the field. Trump’s vaunted art of the deal has given way to the art of “image ownership.” By appearing to exert control over assets that aren’t necessarily his—at least not in ways that his pronouncements suggest—he exercises his real talent: using his name as a form of leverage. “It’s German in derivation,” he has said. “Nobody really knows where it came from. It’s very unusual, but it just is a good name to have.”
In the Trump International Hotel & Tower makeover, his role is, in effect, that of broker-promoter rather than risktaker. In 1993, the General Electric Pension Trust, which took over the building in a foreclosure, hired the Galbreath Company, an international real-estate management firm, to recommend how to salvage its mortgage on a nearly empty skyscraper that had an annoying tendency to sway in the wind. Along came Trump, proposing a three-way joint venture. G.E. would put up all the money—two hundred and seventy-five million dollars—and Trump and Galbreath would provide expertise. The market timing proved remarkably favorable. When Trump totted up the profits and calculated that his share came to more than forty million bucks, self-restraint eluded him, and he took out advertisements announcing “The Most Successful Condominium Tower Ever Built in the United States.”
A minor specimen of his image ownership is his ballyhooed “half interest” in the Empire State Building, which he acquired in 1994. Trump’s initial investment—not a dime—matches his apparent return thus far. His partners, the illegitimate daughter and disreputable son-in-law of an even more disreputable Japanese billionaire named Hideki Yokoi, seem to have paid forty million dollars for the building, though their title, even on a sunny day, is somewhat clouded. Under the terms of leases executed in 1961, the building is operated by a partnership controlled by Peter Malkin and the estate of the late Harry Helmsley. The lessees receive almost ninety million dollars a year from the building’s tenants but are required to pay the lessors (Trump’s partners) only about a million nine hundred thousand. Trump himself doesn’t share in these proceeds, and the leases don’t expire until 2076. Only if he can devise a way to break the leases will his “ownership” acquire any value. His strategy—suing the Malkin-Helmsley group for a hundred million dollars, alleging, among other things, that they’ve violated the leases by allowing the building to become a “rodent infested” commercial slum—has proved fruitless. In February, when an armed madman on the eighty-sixth-floor observation deck killed a sightseer and wounded six others before shooting himself, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Trump, ever vigilant, would exploit the tragedy, and he did not disappoint. “Leona Helmsley should be ashamed of herself,” he told the Post.
One day, when I was in Trump’s office, he took a phone call from an investment banker, an opaque conversation that, after he hung up, I asked him to elucidate.
“Whatever complicates the world more I do,” he said.
“It’s always good to do things nice and complicated so that nobody can figure it out.”
Case in point: The widely held perception is that Trump is the sole visionary and master builder of Riverside South, the mega-development planned for the former Penn Central Yards, on the West Side. Trump began pawing at the property in 1974, obtained a formal option in 1977, allowed it to lapse in 1979, and reëntered the picture in 1984, when Chase Manhattan lent him eighty-four million dollars for land-purchase and development expenses. In the years that followed, he trotted out several elephantine proposals, diverse and invariably overly dense residential and commercial mixtures. “Zoning for me is a life process,” Trump told me. “Zoning is something I have done and ultimately always get because people appreciate what I’m asking for and they know it’s going to be the highest quality.” In fact, the consensus among the West Side neighbors who studied Trump’s designs was that they did not appreciate what he was asking for. An exotically banal hundred-and-fifty-story phallus—“The World’s Tallest Building”—provided the centerpiece of his most vilified scheme.
The oddest passage in this byzantine history began in the late eighties, when an assortment of high-minded civic groups united to oppose Trump, enlisted their own architects, and drafted a greatly scaled-back alternative plan. The civic groups hoped to persuade Chase Manhattan, which held Trump’s mortgage, to help them entice a developer who could wrest the property from their nemesis. To their dismay, and sheepish amazement, they discovered that one developer was willing to pursue their design: Trump. Over time, the so-called “civic alternative” has become, in the public mind, thanks to Trump’s drumbeating, his proposal; he has appropriated conceptual ownership.
Three years ago, a syndicate of Asian investors, led by Henry Cheng, of Hong Kong’s New World Development Company, assumed the task of arranging construction financing. This transaction altered Trump’s involvement to a glorified form of sweat equity; for a fee paid by the investment syndicate, Trump Organization staff people would collaborate with a team from New World, monitoring the construction already under way and working on designs, zoning, and planning for the phases to come. Only when New World has recovered its investment, plus interest, will Trump begin to see any real profit—twenty-five years, at least, after he first cast his covetous eye at the Penn Central rail yards. According to Trump’s unaudited net-worth statement, which identifies Riverside South as “Trump Boulevard,” he “owns 30-50% of the project, depending on performance.” This “ownership,” however, is a potential profit share rather than actual equity. Six hundred million dollars is the value Trump imputes to this highly provisional asset.
Of course, the “comeback” Trump is much the same as the Trump of the eighties; there is no “new” Trump, just as there was never a “new” Nixon. Rather, all along there have been several Trumps: the hyperbole addict who prevaricates for fun and profit; the knowledgeable builder whose associates profess awe at his attention to detail; the narcissist whose self-absorption doesn’t account for his dead-on ability to exploit other people’s weaknesses; the perpetual seventeen-year-old who lives in a zero-sum world of winners and “total losers,” loyal friends and “complete scumbags”; the insatiable publicity hound who courts the press on a daily basis and, when he doesn’t like what he reads, attacks the messengers as “human garbage”; the chairman and largest stockholder of a billion-dollar public corporation who seems unable to resist heralding overly optimistic earnings projections, which then fail to materialize, thereby eroding the value of his investment—in sum, a fellow both slippery and naïve, artfully calculating and recklessly heedless of consequences.Advertisement
Trump’s most caustic detractors in New York real-estate circles disparage him as “a casino operator in New Jersey,” as if to say, “He’s not really even one of us.” Such derision is rooted in resentment that his rescue from oblivion—his strategy for remaining the marketable real-estate commodity “Trump”—hinged upon his ability to pump cash out of Atlantic City. The Trump image is nowhere more concentrated than in Atlantic City, and it is there, of late, that the Trump alchemy—transforming other people’s money into his own wealth—has been most strenuously tested.
To bail himself out with the banks, Trump converted his casinos to public ownership, despite the fact that the constraints inherent in answering to shareholders do not come to him naturally. Inside the Trump Organization, for instance, there is talk of “the Donald factor,” the three to five dollars per share that Wall Street presumably discounts Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts by allowing for his braggadocio and unpredictability. The initial public offering, in June, 1995, raised a hundred and forty million dollars, at fourteen dollars a share. Less than a year later, a secondary offering, at thirty-one dollars per share, brought in an additional three hundred and eighty million dollars. Trump’s personal stake in the company now stands at close to forty per cent. As chairman, Donald had an excellent year in 1996, drawing a million-dollar salary, another million for miscellaneous “services,” and a bonus of five million. As a shareholder, however, he did considerably less well. A year ago, the stock traded at thirty-five dollars; it now sells for around ten.
Notwithstanding Trump’s insistence that things have never been better, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts has to cope with several thorny liabilities, starting with a junk-bond debt load of a billion seven hundred million dollars. In 1996, the company’s losses amounted to three dollars and twenty-seven cents per share—attributable, in part, to extraordinary expenses but also to the fact that the Atlantic City gaming industry has all but stopped growing. And, most glaringly, there was the burden of the Trump Castle, which experienced a ten-per-cent revenue decline, the worst of any casino in Atlantic City.
Last October, the Castle, a heavily leveraged consistent money loser that had been wholly owned by Trump, was bought into Trump Hotels, a transaction that gave him five million eight hundred and thirty-seven thousand shares of stock. Within two weeks—helped along by a reduced earnings estimate from a leading analyst—the stock price, which had been eroding since the spring, began to slide more precipitously, triggering a shareholder lawsuit that accused Trump of self-dealing and a “gross breach of his fiduciary duties.” At which point he began looking for a partner. The deal Trump came up with called for Colony Capital, a sharp real-estate outfit from Los Angeles, to buy fifty-one per cent of the Castle for a price that seemed to vindicate the terms under which he’d unloaded it on the public company. Closer inspection revealed, however, that Colony’s capital injection would give it high-yield preferred, rather than common, stock—in other words, less an investment than a loan. Trump-l’oeil: Instead of trying to persuade the world that he owned something that wasn’t his, he was trying to convey the impression that he would part with an onerous asset that, as a practical matter, he would still be stuck with. In any event, in March the entire deal fell apart. Trump, in character, claimed that he, not Colony, had called it off.
The short-term attempt to solve the Castle’s problems is a four-million-dollar cosmetic overhaul. This so-called “re-theming” will culminate in June, when the casino acquires a new name: Trump Marina. One day this winter, I accompanied Trump when he buzzed into Atlantic City for a re-theming meeting with Nicholas Ribis, the president and chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, and several Castle executives. The discussion ranged from the size of the lettering on the outside of the building to the sparkling gray granite in the lobby to potential future renderings, including a version with an as yet unbuilt hotel tower and a permanently docked yacht to be called Miss Universe. Why the boat? “It’s just an attraction,” Trump said. “You understand, this would be part of a phase-two or phase-three expansion. It’s going to be the largest yacht in the world.”
From the re-theming meeting, we headed for the casino, and along the way Trump received warm salutations. A white-haired woman wearing a pink warmup suit and carrying a bucket of quarters said, “Mr. Trump, I just love you, darling.” He replied, “Thank you. I love you, too,” then turned to me and said, “You see, they’re good people. And I like people. You’ve gotta be nice. They’re like friends.”
The Castle had two thousand two hundred and thirty-nine slot machines, including, in a far corner, thirteen brand-new and slightly terrifying “Wheel of Fortune”-theme contraptions, which were about to be officially unveiled. On hand were representatives of International Game Technology (the machines’ manufacturer), a press entourage worthy of a military briefing in the wake of a Grenada-calibre invasion, and a couple of hundred onlookers—all drawn by the prospect of a personal appearance by Vanna White, the doyenne of “Wheel of Fortune.” Trump’s arrival generated satisfying expressions of awe from the rubberneckers, though not the spontaneous burst of applause that greeted Vanna, who had been conscripted for what was described as “the ceremonial first pull.”
When Trump spoke, he told the gathering, “This is the beginning of a new generation of machine.” Vanna pulled the crank, but the crush of reporters made it impossible to tell what was going on or even what denomination of currency had been sacrificed. The demographics of the crowd suggested that the most efficient machine would be one that permitted direct deposit of a Social Security check. After a delay that featured a digital musical cacophony, the machine spat back a few coins. Trump said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it took a little while. We hope it doesn’t take you as long. And we just want to thank you for being our friends.” And then we were out of there. “This is what we do. What can I tell you?” Trump said, as we made our way through the casino.
Vanna White was scheduled to join us for the helicopter flight back to New York, and later, as we swung over Long Island City, heading for a heliport on the East Side, Trump gave Vanna a little hug and, not for the first time, praised her star turn at the Castle. “For the opening of thirteen slot machines, I’d say we did all right today,” he said, and then they slapped high fives.
In a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump said that the yacht, the glitzy casinos, the gleaming bronze of Trump Tower were all “props for the show,” adding that “the show is ‘Trump’ and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” In 1985, the show moved to Palm Beach. For ten million dollars, Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, a hundred-and-eighteen-room Hispano-Moorish-Venetian castle built in the twenties by Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. Hutton, set on seventeen and a half acres extending from the ocean to Lake Worth. Ever since, his meticulous restoration and literal regilding of the property have been a work in progress. The winter of 1995-96 was Mar-a-Lago’s first full season as a commercial venture, a private club with a twenty-five-thousand-dollar initiation fee (which later rose to fifty thousand and is now quoted at seventy-five thousand). The combination of the Post-Hutton pedigree and Trump’s stewardship offered a paradigm of how an aggressively enterprising devotion to Good Taste inevitably transmutes to Bad Taste—but might nevertheless pay for itself.Advertisement
Only Trump and certain of his minions know who among Mar-a-Lago’s more than three hundred listed members has actually forked over initiation fees and who’s paid how much for the privilege. Across the years, there have been routine leaks by a mysterious unnamed spokesman within the Trump Organization to the effect that this or that member of the British Royal Family was planning to buy a pied-à-terre in Trump Tower. It therefore came as no surprise when, during early recruiting efforts at Mar-a-Lago, Trump announced that the Prince and Princess of Wales, their mutual antipathy notwithstanding, had signed up. Was there any documentation? Well, um, Chuck and Di were honorary members. Among the honorary members who have yet to pass through Mar-a-Lago’s portals are Henry Kissinger and Elizabeth Taylor.
The most direct but not exactly most serene way to travel to Mar-a-Lago, I discovered one weekend not long ago, is aboard Trump’s 727, the same aircraft he gave up during the blip and, after an almost decent interval, bought back. My fellow-passengers included Eric Javits, a lawyer and nephew of the late Senator Jacob Javits, bumming a ride; Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late publishing tycoon and inadequate swimmer Robert Maxwell, also bumming a ride; Matthew Calamari, a telephone-booth-size bodyguard who is the head of security for the entire Trump Organization; and Eric Trump, Donald’s thirteen-year-old son.
The solid-gold fixtures and hardware (sinks, seat-belt clasps, door hinges, screws), well-stocked bar and larder, queen-size bed, and bidet (easily outfitted with a leather-cushioned cover in case of sudden turbulence) implied hedonistic possibilities—the plane often ferried high rollers to Atlantic City—but I witnessed only good clean fun. We hadn’t been airborne long when Trump decided to watch a movie. He’d brought along “Michael,” a recent release, but twenty minutes after popping it into the VCR he got bored and switched to an old favorite, a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called “Bloodsport,” which he pronounced “an incredible, fantastic movie.” By assigning to his son the task of fast-forwarding through all the plot exposition—Trump’s goal being “to get this two-hour movie down to forty-five minutes”—he eliminated any lulls between the nose hammering, kidney tenderizing, and shin whacking. When a beefy bad guy who was about to squish a normal-sized good guy received a crippling blow to the scrotum, I laughed. “Admit it, you’re laughing!” Trump shouted. “You want to write that Donald Trump was loving this ridiculous Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but are you willing to put in there that you were loving it, too?”
A small convoy of limousines greeted us on the runway in Palm Beach, and during the ten-minute drive to Mar-a-Lago Trump waxed enthusiastic about a “spectacular, world-class” golf course he was planning to build on county-owned land directly opposite the airport. Trump, by the way, is a skilled golfer. A source extremely close to him—by which I mean off the record, but I can use it—told me that Claude Harmon, a former winner of the Masters tournament and for thirty-three years the club pro at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York, once described Donald as “the best weekend player” he’d ever seen.
The only formal event on Trump’s agenda had already got under way. Annually, the publisher of Forbes invites eleven corporate potentates to Florida, where they spend a couple of nights aboard the company yacht, the Highlander, and, during the day, adroitly palpate each other’s brains and size up each other’s short games. A supplementary group of capital-gains-tax skeptics had been invited to a Friday-night banquet in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom. Trump arrived between the roast-duck appetizer and the roasted-portabello-mushroom salad and took his seat next to Malcolm S. (Steve) Forbes, Jr., the erstwhile Presidential candidate and the chief executive of Forbes, at a table that also included les grands fromages of Hertz, Merrill Lynch, the C.I.T. Group, and Countrywide Credit Industries. At an adjacent table, Marla Maples Trump, who had just returned from Shreveport, Louisiana, where she was rehearsing her role as co-host of the Miss U.S.A. pageant, discussed global politics and the sleeping habits of three-year-old Tiffany with the corporate chiefs and chief spouses of A.T. & T., Sprint, and Office Depot. During coffee, Donald assured everyone present that they were “very special” to him, that he wanted them to think of Mar-a-Lago as home, and that they were all welcome to drop by the spa the next day for a freebie.
Tony Senecal, a former mayor of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who now doubles as Trump’s butler and Mar-a-Lago’s resident historian, told me, “Some of the restoration work that’s being done here is so subtle it’s almost not Trump-like.” Subtlety, however, is not the dominant motif. Weary from handling Trump’s legal work, Jay Goldberg used to retreat with his wife to Mar-a-Lago for a week each year. Never mind the tapestries, murals, frescoes, winged statuary, life-size portrait of Trump (titled “The Visionary”), bathtub-size flower-filled samovars, vaulted Corinthian colonnade, thirty-four-foot ceilings, blinding chandeliers, marquetry, overstuffed and gold-leaf-stamped everything else, Goldberg told me; what nudged him around the bend was a small piece of fruit.
“We were surrounded by a staff of twenty people,” he said, “including a footman. I didn’t even know what that was. I thought maybe a chiropodist. Anyway, wherever I turned there was always a bowl of fresh fruit. So there I am, in our room, and I decide to step into the bathroom to take a leak. And on the way I grab a kumquat and eat it. Well, by the time I come out of the bathroom the kumquat has been replaced.
As for the Mar-a-Lago spa, aerobic exercise is an activity Trump indulges in “as little as possible,” and he’s therefore chosen not to micromanage its daily affairs. Instead, he brought in a Texas outfit called the Greenhouse Spa, proven specialists in mud wraps, manual lymphatic drainage, reflexology, shiatsu and Hawaiian hot-rock massage, loofah polishes, sea-salt rubs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, peat baths, and Japanese steeping-tub protocol. Evidently, Trump’s philosophy of wellness is rooted in a belief that prolonged exposure to exceptionally attractive young female spa attendants will instill in the male clientele a will to live. Accordingly, he limits his role to a pocket veto of key hiring decisions. While giving me a tour of the main exercise room, where Tony Bennett, who does a couple of gigs at Mar-a-Lago each season and has been designated an “artist-in-residence,” was taking a brisk walk on a treadmill, Trump introduced me to “our resident physician, Dr. Ginger Lea Southall”—a recent chiropractic-college graduate. As Dr. Ginger, out of earshot, manipulated the sore back of a grateful member, I asked Trump where she had done her training. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Baywatch Medical School? Does that sound right? I’ll tell you the truth. Once I saw Dr. Ginger’s photograph, I didn’t really need to look at her résumé or anyone else’s. Are you asking, ‘Did we hire her because she’d trained at Mount Sinai for fifteen years?’ The answer is no. And I’ll tell you why: because by the time she’s spent fifteen years at Mount Sinai, we don’t want to look at her.”Advertisement
My visit happened to coincide with the coldest weather of the winter, and this gave me a convenient excuse, at frequent intervals, to retreat to my thousand-dollar-a-night suite and huddle under the bedcovers in fetal position. Which is where I was around ten-thirty Saturday night, when I got a call from Tony Senecal, summoning me to the ballroom. The furnishings had been altered since the Forbes banquet the previous evening. Now there was just a row of armchairs in the center of the room and a couple of low tables, an arrangement that meant Donald and Marla were getting ready for a late dinner in front of the TV. They’d already been out to a movie with Eric and Tiffany and some friends and bodyguards, and now a theatre-size screen had descended from the ceiling so that they could watch a pay-per-view telecast of a junior-welterweight-championship boxing match between Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Angel Gonzalez.
Marla was eating something green, while Donald had ordered his favorite, meat loaf and mashed potatoes. “We have a chef who makes the greatest meat loaf in the world,” he said. “It’s so great I told him to put it on the menu. So whenever we have it, half the people order it. But then afterward, if you ask them what they ate, they always deny it.”
Trump is not only a boxing fan but an occasional promoter, and big bouts are regularly staged at his hotels in Atlantic City. Whenever he shows up in person, he drops by to wish the fighters luck beforehand and is always accorded a warm welcome, with the exception of a chilly reception not long ago from the idiosyncratic Polish head-butter and rabbit-puncher Andrew Golota. This was just before Golota went out and pounded Riddick Bowe into retirement, only to get himself disqualified for a series of low blows that would’ve been perfectly legal in “Bloodsport.”
“Golota’s a killer,” Trump said admiringly. “A stone-cold killer.”
When I asked Marla how she felt about boxing, she said, “I enjoy it a lot, just as long as nobody gets hurt.”
When a call came a while back from Aleksandr Ivanovich Lebed, the retired general, amateur boxer, and restless pretender to the Presidency of Russia, explaining that he was headed to New York and wanted to arrange a meeting, Trump was pleased but not surprised. The list of superpower leaders and geopolitical strategists with whom Trump has engaged in frank and fruitful exchanges of viewpoints includes Mikhail Gorbachev, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff. (He’s also pals with Sylvester Stallone and Clint Eastwood, men’s men who enjoy international reputations for racking up massive body counts.) In 1987, fresh from his grandest public-relations coup—repairing in three and a half months, under budget and for no fee, the Wollman skating rink, in Central Park, a job that the city of New York had spent six years and twelve million dollars bungling—Trump contemplated how, in a larger sphere, he could advertise himself as a doer and dealmaker. One stunt involved orchestrating an “invitation” from the federal government to examine the Williamsburg Bridge, which was falling apart. Trump had no real interest in the job, but by putting on a hard hat and taking a stroll on the bridge for the cameras he stoked the fantasy that he could rebuild the city’s entire infrastructure. From there it was only a short leap to saving the planet. What if, say, a troublemaker like Muammar Qaddafi got his hands on a nuclear arsenal? Well, Trump declared, he stood ready to work with the leaders of the then Soviet Union to coördinate a formula for coping with Armageddon-minded lunatics.
The clear purpose of Lebed’s trip to America, an unofficial visit that coincided with the second Clinton Inaugural, was to add some reassuring human texture to his image as a plainspoken tough guy. Simultaneously, his domestic political prospects could be enhanced if voters back home got the message that Western capitalists felt comfortable with him. Somewhere in Lebed’s calculations was the understanding that, to the nouveau entrepreneurs of the freebooter’s paradise that is now Russia, Trump looked and smelled like very old money.
Their rendezvous was scheduled for midmorning. Having enlisted as an interpreter Inga Bogutska, a receptionist whose father, by coincidence, was a Russian general, Trump decided to greet his visitor in the lobby. When it turned out that Lebed, en route from an audience with a group of Times editors and reporters, was running late, Trump occupied himself by practicing his golf swing and surveying the female pedestrians in the atrium. Finally, Lebed arrived, a middle-aged but ageless fellow with a weathered, fleshy face and hooded eyes, wearing a gray business suit and an impassive expression. After posing for a Times photographer, they rode an elevator to the twenty-sixth floor, and along the way Trump asked, “So, how is everything in New York?”
“Well, it’s hard to give an assessment, but I think it is brilliant,” Lebed replied. He had a deep, bullfroggy voice, and his entourage of a half-dozen men included an interpreter, who rendered Inga Bogutska superfluous.
“Yes, it’s been doing very well,” Trump agreed. “New York is on a very strong up. And we’ve been reading a lot of great things about this gentleman and his country.”
Inside his office, Trump immediately began sharing with Lebed some of his treasured possessions. “This is a shoe that was given to me by Shaquille O’Neal,” he said. “Basketball. Shaquille O’Neal. Seven feet three inches, I guess. This is his sneaker, the actual sneaker. In fact, he gave this to me after a game.”
“I’ve always said,” Lebed sagely observed, “that after size 45, which I wear, then you start wearing trunks on your feet.”
“That’s true,” said Trump. He moved on to a replica of a Mike Tyson heavyweight-championship belt, followed by an Evander Holyfield glove. “He gave me this on my fiftieth birthday. And then he beat Tyson. I didn’t know who to root for. And then, again, here is Shaquille O’Neal’s shirt. Here, you might want to see this. This was part of an advertisement for Versace, the fashion designer. These are photographs of Madonna on the stairs at Mar-a-Lago, my house in Florida. And this photograph shows something that we just finished and are very proud of. It’s a big hotel called Trump International. And it’s been very successful. So we’ve had a lot of fun.”
Trump introduced Lebed to Howard Lorber, who had accompanied him a few months earlier on his journey to Moscow, where they looked at properties to which the Trump moniker might be appended. “Howard has major investments in Russia,” he told Lebed, but when Lorber itemized various ventures none seemed to ring a bell.
“See, they don’t know you,” Trump told Lorber. “With all that investment, they don’t know you. Trump they know.”
Some “poisonous people” at the Times, Lebed informed Trump, were “spreading some funny rumors that you are going to cram Moscow with casinos.”
Laughing, Trump said, “Is that right?”Advertisement
“I told them that I know you build skyscrapers in New York. High-quality skyscrapers.”
“We are actually looking at something in Moscow right now, and it would be skyscrapers and hotels, not casinos. Only quality stuff. But thank you for defending me. I’ll soon be going again to Moscow. We’re looking at the Moskva Hotel. We’re also looking at the Rossiya. That’s a very big project; I think it’s the largest hotel in the world. And we’re working with the local government, the mayor of Moscow and the mayor’s people. So far, they’ve been very responsive.”
Lebed: “You must be a very confident person. You are building straight into the center.”
Trump: “I always go into the center.”
Lebed: “I hope I’m not offending by saying this, but I think you are a litmus testing paper. You are at the end of the edge. If Trump goes to Moscow, I think America will follow. So I consider these projects of yours to be very important. And I’d like to help you as best I can in putting your projects into life. I want to create a canal or riverbed for capital flow. I want to minimize the risks and get rid of situations where the entrepreneur has to try to hide his head between his shoulders. I told the New York Times I was talking to you because you are a professional—a high-level professional—and if you invest, you invest in real stuff. Serious, high-quality projects. And you deal with serious people. And I deem you to be a very serious person. That’s why I’m meeting you.”
Trump: “Well, that’s very nice. Thank you very much. I have something for you. This is a little token of my respect. I hope you like it. This is a book called ‘The Art of the Deal,’ which a lot of people have read. And if you read this book you’ll know the art of the deal better than I do.”
The conversation turned to Lebed’s lunch arrangements and travel logistics—“It’s very tiring to meet so many people,” he confessed—and the dialogue began to feel stilted, as if Trump’s limitations as a Kremlinologist had exhausted the potential topics. There was, however, one more subject he wanted to cover.
“Now, you were a boxer, right?” he said. “We have a lot of big matches at my hotels. We just had a match between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota, from Poland, who won the fight but was disqualified. He’s actually a great fighter if he can ever get through a match without being disqualified. And, to me, you look tougher than Andrew Golota.”
In response, Lebed pressed an index finger to his nose, or what was left of it, and flattened it against his face.
“You do look seriously tough,” Trump continued. “Were you an Olympic boxer?”
“No, I had a rather modest career.”
“Really? The newspapers said you had a great career.”
“At a certain point, my company leader put the question straight: either you do the sports or you do the military service. And I selected the military.”
“You made the right decision,” Trump agreed, as if putting to rest any notion he might have entertained about promoting a Lebed exhibition bout in Atlantic City.
Norma Foerderer came in with a camera to snap a few shots for the Trump archives and to congratulate the general for his fancy footwork in Chechnya. Phone numbers were exchanged, and Lebed, before departing, offered Trump a benediction: “You leave on the earth a very good trace for centuries. We’re all mortal, but the things you build will stay forever. You’ve already proven wrong the assertion that the higher the attic, the more trash there is.”
When Trump returned from escorting Lebed to the elevator, I asked him his impressions.
“First of all, you wouldn’t want to play nuclear weapons with this fucker,” he said. “Does he look as tough and cold as you’ve ever seen? This is not like your average real-estate guy who’s rough and mean. This guy’s beyond that. You see it in the eyes. This guy is a killer. How about when I asked, ‘Were you a boxer?’ Whoa—that nose is a piece of rubber. But me he liked. When we went out to the elevator, he was grabbing me, holding me, he felt very good. And he liked what I do. You know what? I think I did a good job for the country today.”
The phone rang—Jesse Jackson calling about some office space Trump had promised to help the Rainbow Coalition lease at 40 Wall Street. (“Hello, Jesse. How ya doin’? You were on Rosie’s show? She’s terrific, right? Yeah, I think she is. . . . Okay-y-y, how are you?”) Trump hung up, sat forward, his eyebrows arched, smiling a smile that contained equal measures of surprise and self-satisfaction. “You gotta say, I cover the gamut. Does the kid cover the gamut? Boy, it never ends. I mean, people have no idea. Cool life. You know, it’s sort of a cool life.”
One Saturday this winter, Trump and I had an appointment at Trump Tower. After I’d waited ten minutes, the concierge directed me to the penthouse. When I emerged from the elevator, there Donald stood, wearing a black cashmere topcoat, navy suit, blue-and-white pin-striped shirt, and maroon necktie. “I thought you might like to see my apartment,” he said, and as I squinted against the glare of gilt and mirrors in the entrance corridor he added, “I don’t really do this.” That we both knew this to be a transparent fib—photo spreads of the fifty-three-room triplex and its rooftop park had appeared in several magazines, and it had been featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”—in no way undermined my enjoyment of the visual and aural assault that followed: the twenty-nine-foot-high living room with its erupting fountain and vaulted ceiling decorated with neo-Romantic frescoes; the two-story dining room with its carved ivory frieze (“I admit that the ivory’s kind of a no-no”); the onyx columns with marble capitals that had come from “a castle in Italy”; the chandelier that originally hung in “a castle in Austria”; the African blue-onyx lavatory. As we admired the view of Central Park, to the north, he said, “This is the greatest apartment ever built. There’s never been anything like it. There’s no apartment like this anywhere. It was harder to build this apartment than the rest of the building. A lot of it I did just to see if it could be done. All the very wealthy people who think they know great apartments come here and they say, ‘Donald, forget it. This is the greatest.’ ” Very few touches suggested that real people actually lived there—where was it, exactly, that Trump sat around in his boxers, eating roast-beef sandwiches, channel surfing, and scratching where it itched? Where was it that Marla threw her jogging clothes?—but no matter. “Come here, I’ll show you how life works,” he said, and we turned a couple of corners and wound up in a sitting room that had a Renoir on one wall and a view that extended beyond the Statue of Liberty. “My apartments that face the Park go for twice as much as the apartments that face south. But I consider this view to be more beautiful than that view, especially at night. As a cityscape, it can’t be beat.”Advertisement
We then drove down to 40 Wall Street, where members of a German television crew were waiting for Trump to show them around. (“This will be the finest office building anywhere in New York. Not just downtown—anywhere in New York.”) Along the way, we stopped for a light at Forty-second Street and First Avenue. The driver of a panel truck in the next lane began waving, then rolled down his window and burbled, “I never see you in person!” He was fortyish, wore a blue watch cap, and spoke with a Hispanic inflection. “But I see you a lot on TV.”
“Good,” said Trump. “Thank you. I think.”
“She’s in Louisiana, getting ready to host the Miss U.S.A. pageant. You better watch it. O.K.?”
“O.K., I promise,” said the man in the truck. “Have a nice day, Mr. Trump. And have a profitable day.”
Later, Trump said to me, “You want to know what total recognition is? I’ll tell you how you know you’ve got it. When the Nigerians on the street corners who don’t speak a word of English, who have no clue, who’re selling watches for some guy in New Jersey—when you walk by and those guys say, ‘Trump! Trump!’ That’s total recognition.”
Next, we headed north, to Mount Kisco, in Westchester County—specifically to Seven Springs, a fifty-five-room limestone-and-granite Georgian splendor completed in 1917 by Eugene Meyer, the father of Katharine Graham. If things proceeded according to plan, within a year and a half the house would become the centerpiece of the Trump Mansion at Seven Springs, a golf club where anyone willing to part with two hundred and fifty thousand dollars could tee up. As we approached, Trump made certain I paid attention to the walls lining the driveway. “Look at the quality of this granite. Because I’m like, you know, into quality. Look at the quality of that wall. Hand-carved granite, and the same with the house.” Entering a room where two men were replastering a ceiling, Trump exulted, “We’ve got the pros here! You don’t see too many plasterers anymore. I take a union plasterer from New York and bring him up here. You know why? Because he’s the best.” We canvassed the upper floors and then the basement, where Trump sized up the bowling alley as a potential spa. “This is very much Mar-a-Lago all over again,” he said. “A great building, great land, great location. Then the question is what to do with it.”
From the rear terrace, Trump mapped out some holes of the golf course: an elevated tee above a par three, across a ravine filled with laurel and dogwood; a couple of parallel par fours above the slope that led to a reservoir. Then he turned to me and said, “I bought this whole thing for seven and a half million dollars. People ask, ‘How’d you do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Does that make sense?” Not really, nor did his next utterance: “You know, nobody’s ever seen a granite house before.”
Granite? Nobody? Never? In the history of humankind? Impressive.
A few months ago, Marla Maples Trump, with a straight face, told an interviewer about life with hubby: “He really has the desire to have me be more of the traditional wife. He definitely wants his dinner promptly served at seven. And if he’s home at six-thirty it should be ready by six-thirty.” Oh well, so much for that.
In Trump’s office the other morning, I asked whether, in light of his domestic shuffle, he planned to change his living arrangements. He smiled for the first time that day and said, “Where am I going to live? That might be the most difficult question you’ve asked so far. I want to finish the work on my apartment at Trump International. That should take a few months, maybe two, maybe six. And then I think I’ll live there for maybe six months. Let’s just say, for a period of time. The buildings always work better when I’m living there.”
What about the Trump Tower apartment? Would that sit empty?
“Well, I wouldn’t sell that. And, of course, there’s no one who would ever build an apartment like that. The penthouse at Trump International isn’t nearly as big. It’s maybe seven thousand square feet. But it’s got a living room that is the most spectacular residential room in New York. A twenty-five-foot ceiling. I’m telling you, the best room anywhere. Do you understand?”
I think I did: the only apartment with a better view than the best apartment in the world was the same apartment. Except for the one across the Park, which had the most spectacular living room in the world. No one had ever seen a granite house before. And, most important, every square inch belonged to Trump, who had aspired to and achieved the ultimate luxury, an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul. “Trump”—a fellow with universal recognition but with a suspicion that an interior life was an intolerable inconvenience, a creature everywhere and nowhere, uniquely capable of inhabiting it all at once, all alone. ♦Published by The New Yorker in the print edition of the May 19, 1997, issue.
To be continued? Our work and existence, as media and people, is funded solely by our most generous supporters. But we’re not really covering our costs so far, and we’re in dire needs to upgrade our equipment, especially for video production. Help SILVIEW.media survive and grow, please donate here, anything helps. Thank you!
! Articles can always be subject of later editing as a way of perfecting them
” The world knows only half the story of British media magnate Robert Maxwell’s well-publicized career. He was born poor but thrived on ruthless ambition, devoured his competitors and outsmarted his most formidable peers to build an international empire as a publisher, politician, and industrialist. For the first time, this well-researched book from best-selling author Gordon Thomas and terrorism expert Martin Dillon tells the other, long-secret half of Maxwell’s story. We are shown how Maxwell achieved his topmost objective as a superspy for Israel’s Mossad; sold PROMIS—America’s state-of-the-art surveillance software stolen by Mossad—to the USSR and many other countries; recruited foremost Republican Senator John Tower to acquire for Israel top-secret, cutting-edge U.S. technology being developed at Los Alamos; cultivated his vast KGB connections and strove to involve Israel in a coup to oust Mikhail Gorbachev; and how Maxwell ultimately became Mossad’s target in an elaborately prepared assassination plot. For in November 1991, as his yacht cruised offshore of the Canary Islands, the life of Robert Maxwell ended—officially, by drowning. The facts that the news media did not then report or know, what truths even the autopsies concealed, are now revealed. Eight pages of black-and-white illustrations add to this compelling work.”
Throughout his life, Robert Maxwell was a good friend to Israel, investing heavily in publishing, pharmaceutical and computer firms in the country. He met accusations he was an Israeli spy with furious denials and legal threats. Such speculation was fanned again after his death, when he was accorded almost a state funeral in Israel, attended by the prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, and the president, Chaim Herzog, and buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that Mossad killed him because Israel refused him a loan and he threatened to retaliate.
Maxwell soon became an intimate of Israeli leaders. Official sources said he spoke to Shamir by telephone at least once a week and visited Jerusalem at least once a month, taking the royal suite at the King David Hotel and hobnobbing with politicians as well as his Israeli editors. Although he was friendly with leftist opposition leader Shimon Peres, one official who knew him said Maxwell’s favorite was Ariel Sharon, the flamboyant hard-liner who conceived and directed the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and now oversees construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. One official source, while denying that Maxwell ever had contact with the Mossad or access to sensitive information, said the government did not shrink from asking his help on issues ranging from Soviet immigration to the financing of pet projects. Maxwell reportedly helped arrange the transit of Soviet Jews to Israel through Eastern Europe, where he had extensive contacts and investments. Six months ago, he paid for the transfer to Israel of several dozen Jewish children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Ukraine.
To be continued? Our work and existence, as media and people, is funded solely by our most generous supporters. But we’re not really covering our costs so far, and we’re in dire needs to upgrade our equipment, especially for video production. Help SILVIEW.media survive and grow, please donate here, anything helps. Thank you!