Who is really Donald Trump? Interview to David Cay Johnston
«Donald Trump is at the heart of the corrupt system». So says David Cay Johnston, one of the most preeminent American journalists.
- Saturday, 23 December 2017
For many years reporter of «The New York Times», winner of Pulitzer Prize in 2001, Cay Johnston – whose next book, It's Even Worse Than You Think, will come out on January 2018 – tells in The Making of Donald Trump backstories and hidden truths punctuating rise of the man who would become the 45th president of the United States of America.
Cay Johnston, President Donald Trump doesn't show great tolerance for a certain journalism. Could you tell us about your personal experience in this regard?
«Donald expects that whatever he says will be treated as Gospel. He creates his own reality. His entire life he has planted stories with “news” organizations, especially tabloid newspapers and tabloid television, where facts don’t get in the way of a good story. The few reporters like me who check the facts and also report important and relevant facts he wishes did not exist get calls, often with Trump in a rage and often when he has not read an article but only the headline. He has also been known to show up with aggressive lawyers to meet senior editors and threaten lawsuits, but except for once -- against author Timothy L. O’Brien -- he never sues journalists. Trump lost the O’Brien case».
What are main strategies used by Trump to create, handle and sell his own public image?
«Trump makes wild claims with no basis in fact and repeats them so people assume they are true, such as when he claimed to be worth billions in 1990 but could not pay his bills. Trump also speaks in slogans, often self-contradictory ones as I show in The Making of Donald Trump. When facts are clear he says things to muddy the facts – he will admit, then deny, then claim he never said what video or audio shows he clearly did say as well as be for and against a position».
Could Trump's vindictive indole and his intolerance for critics – that you described in your book – be the cause of various cabinet reshuffle (The New York Times confirmed the rumors about a possible future dismissal of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson)?
«Donald uses people. When he has gotten what he wants or encounters anything short of absolute fealty he gets rid of people. He is mercurial”.
After the partial green light of the Supreme Court to Muslim Ban, Trump announces the movement of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In your opinion, which consequences could these decisions have for relations with Muslim world?
«First, Trump’s claim to be a great negotiator is exposed as a lie by this. Trump got nothing in return for his naked statement that he would move the US embassy, which he has not done and is not likely to actually take place. A smart negotiator would have traded this important symbolic move for something. Second, Trump is trying to provoke incidents that he can use to justify more power for himself and perhaos to use nuclear weapons, which he promised during the campaign he would do and which after he took office the White House said every single campaign promise – without exception – would be fulfilled. Donald is a bigot and he finds it stirs up his base (which is shrinking) to promote anti-Islamic bigotry».
Ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's indictment is a new element of Russiagate, involving part of Trump's administration and family (son-in-law Jared Kushner in particular). According to you, how profound is Russia's sphere of influence and how much could it coust to President Trump?
«Donald has been in deep with Russian mobsters, Russian oligarchs and corrupt elements of the old Soviet empire since at least 1982. He is highly vulnerable on his financial dealings and for taking help from the Kremlin during the campaign”.
To North Korea's last missile test respond joint military exercises US-South Korea. Where could this escalation in provocation lead us?
«Donald has Tweeted, casually, about killing all 25 million people in North Korea, an act that would make America a pariah state if he did it. He won’t because the US military will not let him. But he is trying hard to provoke a war and, perhaps, to use tactical (not strategic) nuclear weapons».
What do you think about current deterioration of relations between U.S. and U.K.?
Who is John Bar(r)on? And John Miller? What were Trump's fake identities for?
Donald planted news stories that he could attribute to these imaginary executives working for him. The problem is that Donald is not smart enough to pull it off and he got caught. He also confessed on audio tape to it, but then denied he did. As I said, Donald creates his own reality – whatever he last said is what he regards as reality.
On the campaign trail Donald Trump said he was fighting against a corrupt system. What do you think about legality and institutional opportunity of support for Trump's candidacy from Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott, who had actually forced the so-called Trump University to leave Texas? And about turnaround of Attorney General of Florida Pam Bondi, who at first considered the possibility of taking part to New York Attouney's investigations about Trump University's possible fraudulent activities?
«Americal laws on white collar crime, including confidence games, are weak. Trump is just one of many con artists who make a lot of money stealing from others and getting away with it. Abbott and Bondi are prime examples of law enforcement officials who apply two standards of justice, one for their friends and another for those who prosecution will win them votes».
What could you say about relationship between Donald Trump and Roy Cohn and the racial thing? How Cohn has facilitated Trump's rise?
«Donald has said Cohn, a notorious lawyer infamous for his unethical and criminal conduct, was like a second father and his most influential mentor. Cohn was also a bigot who derided people or color and homsexuals even though he was gay and died of AIDS (denying to the end that he was gay)».
Trump says that in business debt restructuring is a standard tactic. What could you say about six bankruptcies faced by Trump? What would've happened if State of New Jersey, in the early 1990s, didn't save him?
«The six bankruptcies of the only company with publicly traded stock that Trump ever ran were not standard business tactics. Trump’s casino firm lost money in every one of its 13 years of existence and stiffed small business vendors and others while Trump pocketed at least $82 million.
Had New Jersey casino regulators followed the law they would have revoked Trump’s license, appointed a trustee to sell the casinos and had the trustee run the casinos in the interim. Later Trump might well have come back because he is resilient. But at least he would have been held accountable – which whenever has been despite two trials for income tax fraud that he list; his admitted sales tax cheating, and many many many other acts of misconduct, some of them criminal».