Donald Trump is a bad businessman.
There’s no arguing that he’s not—if he’d taken the money his father gave him and dumped it all in totally average mutual funds, he’d be better off today than he is after a lifetime of half-baked dealings that’ve bankrupted himself and others and shorted taxpayers.
In order to survive his terrible deals, reporters who’ve looked at Trump’s dealings after the 2016 election have found that he’s relied on graft and shady partnerships. In a new podcast with Slate, The New Yorker‘s Adam Davidson breaks down what he’s learned from spending the last year looking at Trump’ business dealings around the world. Davidson says other reporters who’ve done the same have found it “increasingly shocking just how flagrant the Trump Organization was” in dealing with the “shadiest—frankly, in cases, purely evil—people” whose business schemes involved making money “in wildly illegal and corrupt ways.”
“I do think most Americans, including Trump’s hardcore supporters, have a general sense that this is a guy who isn’t going to be a stickler for the rules, and has probably done some sort of technically illegal things or shady things,” Davidson said. “But I don’t think the full lawless and also kind of pathetic and lame nature of the Trump business has entered the national narrative in the way I think it should.”
Davidson’s research has shown him just how much white collar crime goes unpunished in this country. There are only a handful of cases a year, he says, and often those are corporations turning over low-level employees to avoid larger sanctions. But Trump’s dealings haven’t been ordinary by these standards.
“The Trump Organization took risks, did work with partners that very few Americans would ever consider working with,” he says. “So I don’t want to give the impression that he’s just run-of-the-mill, he’s just like everybody else, because that’s something I hear a lot, and that always drives me crazy. He’s not.”
Which brings us to Cohen. Cohen was a dealmaker who scouted shady deals for the president, Davidson says, and he therefore knows a lot.
“Once we got to Michael Cohen and the raid and information that they’ve been monitoring his email and, presumably, his phone traffic for months, that told me that there is no post-crisis phase of the Trump presidency,” he says. “We now have two investigations. And this new one—the one that involves Cohen—is going to get a lot closer to the core of who Trump is… it takes a long time for national narratives to shift and change. But they do eventually shift and change. I think this one will shift to a very different understanding of who this Donald Trump guy is.”
You can listen to the podcast here.
You can watch Davidson talk about Trump’s worst-ever deal on Morning Joe below.