August 9, 2016

David Cay Johnston continues speaking truth to Trump


David-Cay-JohnstonListen, we agree that it’s strange, but the fact remains that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues unabated.

For as long as that’s true, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and longtime Trump follower David Cay Johnston will be there to offer the real story of Trump’s rise, meticulously researched and offered sans agenda, as it’s presented in his new book The Making of Donald Trump.

Over the past few days, he’s continued to make the rounds, bringing his genial expertise to bear in conversations with reporters and commenters across the political spectrum. This weekend, he appeared on the podcast This is Hell! to speak with Chuck Mertz:

Here’s what you have to understand: Donald believes in his own mind—and I’ve known Donald for more than twenty-eight years, I’ve had many conversations with him, he’s had my home phone number for years—Donald in his own mind believes that he’s the most wonderful person there is, the person we should all look up to. And you and I and everyone else, we don’t exist as human beings. I mean, just listen to the way he talks about people. In my book, I extensively quote him, where you see that other human beings aren’t people. He doesn’t have empathy for other people. They are just characters. And either you worship Donald and glory in his greatness or he has a word for you: loser.

Donald doesn’t want to do the work of being president. He doesn’t have a real agenda. He doesn’t know how to carry things out. And the proof of that is: although he just endorsed, under a lot of pressure, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Donald can’t do anything as president without legislation. No piece of legislation moves without the approval of the Speaker. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows you’re not going to antagonize the speaker and expect to get anywhere. But Donald doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t understand the duties and limitations on the president. He doesn’t understand the powers the president does and doesn’t have. He doesn’t understand anything.

And this was true in the casino business when I was covering Atlantic City. I wrote my first book twenty-four years ago, and it was about the casino business, and a lot of it was about Donald Trump and how he had no idea what he was doing. His casinos were the worst-run in town and they were among the first to go out of business. And there are still casinos in Atlantic City that are doing very well because they were well-managed by competent businesspeople.

Wow. You can listen to the entire discussion here.

Meanwhile, writing for, journalist Kathy Kiely notes:

For all his denunciations of Trump, Johnston’s journalistic career has made him uniquely qualified to understand the Republican presidential nominee’s appeal. “I started documenting the growing inequality in America when I started working for The New York Times,” he said. “Government rules take from the many and give to the already rich few.” The people who are being inexorably pushed out of the middle class are on the edge of despair, not least because their plight is so invisible, he argued. “They get almost nothing written about them.”

The quote is pulled from a story Kiely wrote about Johnston’s recent appearance at the National Press Club to talk about Trump, of whom, he alleged, the media’s coverage has been “extremely poor.” He went on to offer some context on Trump’s candidacy, beginning a full two generations ago:

In 1927, Fred Trump was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan meeting in Queens — something his son has tried furiously to deny, but, said Johnston: “I have the clips.” Later, as Johnston details in his book, the elder Trump, in trouble once before with the feds for allegedly bilking a federal housing program for returning GIs, was ordered by the federal authorities to stop discriminating against African-Americans who were trying to rent apartments he owned. The settlement came only after Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to get the allegations of racial bias thrown out by the courts — a lawsuit in which he was represented by Roy Cohn, former longtime aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), the disgraced Communist witch-hunt perpetrator.

Johnston sees Trump’s association with Cohn — who, he said, “taught Donald how to hurt people” — as part of a disturbing pattern. “We have never had a major party candidate for president with the kind of relationships Donald Trump has,” Johnston said. While some past presidents have had unsavory friends and business associations, Johnston continued, “They were not the mob. They were not drug traffickers.”

The piece is excellent, and can be read in its entirety here.

And just last night, Johnston appeared with former Labor Secretary and erstwhile Bernie Sanders surrogate Robert Reich on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, to discuss Trump’s major address on economic policy from earlier in the day. The showed billed it as a conversation between “two heavyweight analysts,” and that’s a pretty fair assessment. Reich called Trump’s new proposed tax plan “a walk-back from sheer lunacy.” Meanwhile Johnston, visibly amused at the embers of lunacy still glowing in the candidate’s proposal, called attention to the plan’s unlimited childcare deductions, which mean, in his words, that “if you’re rich enough to have three nannies for your kids when you fly them around in your private jet—you get a tax break!” The conversation also touched on the estate tax, the carried interest loophole, and the echoes of P. T. Barnum audible in the current election.

What are you waiting for?