The last 24 hours have been awesome. President Obama lauded Hillary Clinton and mapped plans to campaign with her, Bernie Sanders said he’ll meet soon with Clinton “to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump,” Joe Biden assailed Trump’s sliming of the Trump University judge, and Elizabeth Warren endorsed Clinton and delivered a speech that slit Trump from ear to ear, mocking his apparent belief that he has “a God-given right to steal people’s money and get away with it.”
But best of all, American journalism did itself proud with two new stories that expose Trump as a guy who doesn’t pay his bills. Trump’s free ride has ended.
Granted, the cable networks may well continue to hang on his every word, aiming its cameras on the empty podium in breathless anticipation of his arrival, gaping at his every utterance the same way motorists gawp at car wrecks, but the last few weeks have marked a turning point. The long-overdue vetting has commenced. He’s being held accountable for who he is, and his sputtering insults (“the political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met”) don’t mean squat.
The Washington Post outed him for trying to scam the veterans, reporters pushed him hard at a subsequent press conference, CNN’s Jake Tapper pinned him down on the Trump U judge, reporters have been digging into the released Trump U documents, a story out of Texas revealed that the state attorney general, a Republican, dropped a Trump U investigation and shortly thereafter got $35,000 from Trump…and now, we have this:
At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings…document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast….Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage.
That’s just a fraction of what USA Today has freshly unearthed. At Trump’s Atlantic City casino alone, “at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers, and plumbing.” That deadbeat bill came to $69.5 million. And when subcontractors sue to get their money, Trump’s powerhouse lawyers tie them up in court for years. According to USA Today, the aggrieved small businesses “just give up the fight or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether,” like the Philadelphia cabinet-maker whose woes are detailed in the story (and on NBC News).
And yesterday, just hours after that story was posted online, we got another one:
A review of court filings from jurisdictions in 33 states, along with interviews with business people, real-estate executives and others, shows a pattern over Mr. Trump’s 40-year career of his sometimes refusing to pay what some business owners said Trump companies owed them….Mr. Trump’s withholding of payments stood out as particularly aggressive in the industry and in the broader business world, said some vendors who had trouble getting paid….
Jack O’Donnell, president of Mr. Trump’s Plaza casino in Atlantic City in the late 1980s, said, “Part of how he did business as a philosophy was to negotiate the best price he could. And then when it came time to pay the bills, Mr. Trump would say that ‘I’m going to pay you 75 percent of what we agreed to.'” Executives at the casino paid vendors fully despite Trump’s directives, (O’ Donnell) said, and “it used to infuriate him.”
That’s from a report in The Wall Street Journal. Since the story is behind a paywall, I’ll give you a couple more nuggets. Trump’s hotel in Vegas asked a drapery factory to do additional work beyond its original contract, then refused to pay for the additional work. The drapery guy finally settled for $380,000 less than what he was owed, because, he said, Trump’s lawyers “were going to drag it on (in court) for many, many years,” and, as a small businessman, he couldn’t afford the legal fees.
And when The Journal confronted Trump with all its deadbeat evidence, Trump replied, “I pay thousands of bills on time,” and said that suggesting otherwise is “disgusting.”
We’re in a new phase of the campaign. The Republican primaries are done; Trump is no longer cocooned in the bubble. Now he’s getting vetted by the press – too late for Republicans to stop him, but plenty of time for the rest of us. And what we’ve learned, in those two news stories, is that Trump University was just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. This is about character and hypocrisy. He paints himself as a champ of the little guy (on Tuesday he said, “we’re going to protect your job”), but he has spent decades screwing the little guy, short-changing and stiffing the small businessman who needs every contractually promised dime.
Once upon a time, the supposedly Great and Powerful Oz thundered, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” We know how that went.