The chaotic day-to-day operations of the White House have become an obsession for the media, but former employees say it’s functioning much the same way as any operation led by Donald Trump.
Politico spoke to several former employees of the Trump Organization who said their old boss could be both charming and vengeful, asked for advice but nearly always followed his own instincts, encouraged a stressful and competitive environment, and favored quick wins over long-term goals.
Bruce Nobles described his shock at moving from conventional companies like American, Continental and Pan Am to serve as president of the Trump Shuttle airline, which he described as a “family-type operation” instead of a business with a recognizable chain of command.
“When we worked together, he had three casinos in Atlantic City and he had the shuttle, and all four companies had their own operating systems, and I went to him and said, ‘Why don’t we combine these things?’” Nobles told Politico. “And he said, ‘No. I want those guys competing against each other. I think it will make all of them stronger.’ Any normal businessman I know would have said, ‘Let’s take advantage of the economies of scale here.’ He didn’t think like that.”
Nobles recalled that Trump, who was obsessed with the size of his name on the planes, overpaid for the airline by more than $400 million in borrowed money, and he suggested cutting costs by flying with two pilots instead of three — which Nobles had to tell his boss was illegal.
“All those businesses are gone, of course, because they weren’t as successful as they could have been — and should have been,” Nobles said.
Former employees and biographers say Trump peaked as a manager more than 30 years ago, before he found fame through “The Art of the Deal” and then as a reality TV star.
“He gets an idea in his head and just says, ‘Do it,’” said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization executive vice president in the 1980s and 1990s. “There’s no direction. The idea isn’t built up or fleshed out. He just says, ‘Let’s do this.’ It’s like a stream-of-consciousness thing with him.”
One longtime former employee recalled a meeting during the early 1990s, when Trump Organization was barely staying afloat with family money and a chief financial officer installed by Trump’s debt lenders.
“I remember one day we were trying to save the company,” the former inner-circle employee said, “and he walks into a meeting and says, ‘Let’s buy the New Jersey Nets.’”
Some of his former employees speak with obvious affection for Trump, even as they described him as a difficult boss, but they wished he would focus his attention instead of becoming distracted by media criticism and bureaucratic dissent.
“I don’t think he’s ever going to evolve on managerial style,” one former employee told Politico. “On policy and strategy, he may change, but he’s never going to evolve in how he does things and runs things. Because that’s what got him to the Oval Office.”