tv After Words Andrea Bernstein American Oligarchs CSPAN February 9, 2020 12:00pm-1:02pm EST
we need to change some of these inconsistencies. >> to watch the rest of this program, visit booktv.org and search for ed stack or the title of his book, how we play the game using the box at the top of the page. >> next on booktv "after words", journalist andrea bernstein chronicles the trump and questioners families rise to prominence. "after words" is a weekly program interviewing top fiction authors about their latest work. all "after words" programs are also available as podcasts.
still of this world of new york real estate and wheeling and dealing and political donations. i felt almost a sense of obligation. i have to cover trump and his business in the white house because i understand this world. i understand the patterns. lo and behold, the stories are very similar to ones i might have been covering 20 years in new york it's just that the stage is a much larger and the consequences are so much more serious now. >> it's incredibly detailed. i encourage people that are trump supporters or not to read it and read it carefully. it's very well done. one of the early parts of the book is this very detailed explanation of jared kushner's ancestors, some of whom are
slaughtered by the nazis in poland. some of the escaped poland and germany and make it to america. you contrast that with them administration's immigration policy today. how do you think jared kushner squares those two things. >> i think jared kushner's origin story is a fascinating story. he does talk about the grandson of holocaust survivors. he talks about it as a story of american success. that his grandparents fled the nazis, survived. made it to america. came from nothing and built a business. all of that is true. but what is not so apparent is the choices his grandparents made it to get to this country.
i want to be clear, it's an incredible story of bravery and tenacity and escape. his grandmother was part of a small group of survivors of several nazi massacres. who dug a tunnel out from a not to ghetto and escaped. and made it to the forests where they made it through a brutal polish winter. they were jews. their town was part of the soviet union. it was soviet union and then occupied by the nazis. now it's part of belarus. but they wanted to get out. they boarded a train to budapest saying they were greek because they thought it would be easier to get out.
once they got to budapest, they walked and took the train and snuck across borders until they got to a refugee camp in italy. and they got stuck there for three and half years. even after the holocaust, stay with us immigration laws were very anti-semitic and there was a quota for jews. this is by the account of the kushner family themselves. jared kushner's grandfather took on his wife's maiden name. he renamed himself joseph kushner and presented himself as the son of his father-in-law because he understood it would be easier for immigration purposes. and they did get the visas and made it to new york. they did what they had to do so that they could build a family and build a business. and achieve great success. ultimately, down the line, see their grandson in one of the mostpowerful positions on earth . the end of the story as
everyone knows, their grandson jared kushner works in a white house that is very restrictive when it comes to immigration policies. and in fact is drastically reducing not only immigration but the number of refugees that are admitted into the u.s. >> truly an amazing story of perseverance by his family. and amazing storytelling on your part. i think people have met jared or have read about him, no faith is an important part of who he is. always, ivanka converted to become his wife to marry him. that occurs throughout the book where you can see how close he is with his family and how much they care about and think about their ancestry. how do you think his face informs his work at the white house today? >> i think it's really complicated thread. the reason i think it's
complicated is because there's a couple of narrative lines that run through the book. one has to do with rules and rule breaking. obviously, the kushner family broke rules to get here. they broke rules to achieve success in your business and they are - - jared kushner is continuing to break norms in his white house position. obviously, he is a very religious person but i think it's exploring that tension that makes the book interesting reading. i tried hard not to present any of these people in a mono dimension away. to present all the aspects of their characters, including their religious faith and the response to it. >> one question on this that continues to sort of eat at me a little bit. he's now part of an administration that has a strict immigration policy that many american support and others obviously oppose.at
the same time, he so proud of his immigrant ancestors. do you think jared kushner fully supports believes in the administration's immigration policy? or do you think he puts up with it so he can work on other things or advance other issues that are more important to him? >> every time jared kushner is asked about this, he unequivocally supports his father-in-law. jared kushner comes from a family where loyalty and family ties are prized above everything.and he married into such a family. i have never heard him criticize his father-in-law in the least. whenever he's asked, he supports them 100 percent. the question of family was - -
a lot of democrats in new york assumes or felt that jared kushner and ivanka trump were one of them, is how they saw it. how they believed in their causes and candidates. there were quite a few that told me that when jared kushner and ivanka trump went to the white house, they felt they would have a back channel. that they would be able to prevail upon them to shape the president's policies. there's a lot of levels of betrayal in my book. brother against brother and brother against sister. there's also the story of the petrella of new york and the people that thought they were part of jared kushner's world. but were surprised when they got to the white house but were rebuffed over and over again. >> it's interesting to hear about jared and ivanka's
listenership with rupert murdoch how they go on vacation together. what do you think they have learned from mr. murdock? >> it's an interesting thing because jared kushner when he was about 25-26 years old, for a weekly newspaper called the new york observer. people who worked there at the time understood his politics of being left centrist. many of them told me over the years, common on a monday morning and he would say, well, ivanka and i were with rupert. or rupert and wendy when they were married and spoke about their weekend trips. first it was a social thing and then jared kushner began espousing more conservative ideas. and his newspaper on his editorial page did too.
people thought more and more that the publication served a particular agenda. >> one of the things the book does best is it really details every aspect of president trump's real estate career in incredible detail. this is a detailed account of how he made his money. you can see many steps along the way in which mr. trump committed or nearly committed some kind of fraud or left business partners out to dry. in many cases made money anyway. a certain portion of his moneymaking is relying on government programs which might surprise some people given his political positions.
would you share a couple of examples of times where the president used government programs to advance his business? >> sure. the studio where i am sitting right now is across the street from the grand hyatt hotel which used to be known as the commodore hotel. this was the deal that made donald trump a real estate mogul. his father had been a successful real estate developer but it was mostly brooklyn and queens in the outer boroughs of the open donald was much more interested in manhattan.fred trump thought manhattan was too risky.but donald trump had his eyes on this particular piece of property next to grand central terminal. but he wanted a tax break that a tax giveaway from the government. he wanted to - - his political connections. that were sort of bequeathed from his father.
he and then later donald gave a lot of money and they went to the fundraising dinners and hired - - when donald trump wanted to purchase the commodore hotel, he had a meeting with the property owner and he said, we can get a meeting with the mayor. he got a meeting with the mayor the next day. the mayor said anything they want, with his arms around fred and donald trump. they get. what donald trump was able to get was the first tax break for commercial real estate, for a hotel in the history of new york city. it had never been done before. there have been breaks for affordable housing but this was a commercial project. the biggest tax break in the history of new york. when he got it, he sort of rules both sides.
he told the bank he had state approval. he told the state get bank approval. when he did not. in fact, he filed a document with the state without the signature of the bank. but no one apparently noticed it was unsigned by the bank when they approved the deal. and then, he boasted about all of this in the art of the deal. that was how donald trump became a manhattan real estate developer birth. the tower was put together in a similar way and many of his projects that all have this similar outline of him working his political connections. and being unabashed about not telling the truth when it served as business interests.
which was a pattern that all of us to cover this now, still see today. >> i think he was viewed as a bad boy of real estate. even on the apprentice, he's cutting through red tape and firing people and willing to take bigrisks . people have read his books learned about lessons he learned in atlantic city and the casino business. he obviously also runs afoul of the law a number of times. where he has been fined or had to pay settlements to people. trump university is an example of that. of all his history that you know so well now, can you talk about something he got away with that change his career in a meaningful way?
>> so many examples. - - and the grand jury was impaneled. trump was under investigation for possibly hiring a lawyer, buying off a lawyer essentially that works for the other side. when he was under investigation, trumps lawyer at the time said why don't you have one of the fbi agent at your father's house. so he met with them at his father's office. with his wife and their toddler son donna junior. there were no charges. this was part of a pattern i document for years where the fbi starts to look at something donald trump does, and he charms the agent. takes them in his helicopter. takes him to the 21 club. and they come away impressed and dazzled. and do not ultimately
investigate him. this happens in deal after deal after deal. when he escapes scrutiny. i think the most recent example was a story we wrote that about his adult children. ivanka trump and don junior. >> i'm glad you mentioned that. that is an example of where ivanka takes a prominent role on a project and they appear that ivanka and don junior became close - - came close to being in criminal trouble and i'd love to hear more about it. >> yes. trumps family the best donald senior, donald junior and ivanka were sued by condo buyers in the soho hotel. they said the trump family had lied and vastly overstated how many units were sold.
so the reason this is important is i think anybody who buys real estate understands, if you buy real estate in an apartment building or on the street, they will say it's more valuable if all the people live next door rather than them being empty. the trumps were sued for saying they were 60 percent full when they were in fact not even 50 percent full. the manhattan district attorney investigates. and he investigates. it moves through the office there is an email trail in which trumps adult children are seen discussing this misrepresentation and their clear knowledge of it. people went seen the emails told me that there was no doubt they had knowledge. which is what it takes to build
a criminal case. but the trumps first hired a very powerful, well-connected and high-powered team of white-collar lawyers to make it go away. and they didn't make it go away. the dat and kept proceeding with the case. - - have been a major donor. one of the largest donors to a manhattan district attorney. met with the district attorney. three months later, over the objections of the prosecutors in his office, the district attorney closed the case. don junior, don senior, ivanka trump were never prosecuted for felony fraud in manhattan. but this was fairly close to when donald trump was getting ready to run for president. people we spoke to, people close to the trumps thought this would have been a very bad situation to run for president. i think it's one of the cases
where there has been, the trump family has come closest to criminal charges. it was an investigation that was in full flower. >> there's a lot of civil lawsuits, etc. it's very recent and close to criminal charges. >> i think it explains a lot of what we are seeing now with the impeachment situation. and with the other congressional investigations and with the current investigation by the manhattan da into trumps practices. where the president as a private businessman was extremely adept at sending off criminal investigation. he might turn fbi agents. he might threaten people. he might higher well-connected lawyers. he might as he did, for many years, support the favorite charity of the manhattan district attorney. all kinds of ways he could get
himself into good grace with law enforcement in new york and new jersey. he befriended a u.s. attorney named chris christie when he had gambling interests going. he made sure he understood who his friends were and they understood who he was. and he was able to make it work for him. he was never charged in any criminal case. it is interesting to have that background sort of in the rearview mirror as we go into this impeachment situation where he is being called to account and there is a public reckoning. and where in some ways, even though he's president, he's not able to make things go away as he once did. i think we can see now where this trial is going. one of the things, interesting dynamic haven't written about and reporting all these decades and the ways donald trump avoided law enforcement. to actually be confronted with it first with the mueller report and the house
impeachment inquiry i think it's a revealing insight into how he must feel when investigators are literally at his doorstep. >> he probably feels like he's been through something similar before. which is an amazing thing to say. and got out of it. >> over and over again. >> the book is filled with close calls. doesn't look like impeachment will not come out of the white house either. >> in fact, it will embolden him. each time he escapes the jaws of the law, he becomes bolder the next time. we thought it was the mueller reported he testified and after his testament was widely thought to be a dead, the next day president trump called the president of ukraine and asked us to do us a favor though. that is a pattern you see with
donald trump all throughout his career. >> sort of the last 10-15 years of president trump's career, he's come out of atlantic city. that's behind him but he still not being lent to buy any banks and no banks will give him loans to expand his empire. then he sort of manages through a number of different relationships to get very large loans from deutsche bank. this part of his career also, there are snippets to where donald trump jr. or eric talked about doing business with russians. russian purchases of trump real estate. all of this at the but mainly, we are through the mueller report now. some liberals especially are hoping there is some unknown russian money or vladimir putin is behind his estate empire in some way. what do you think the odds are that there is still some business connection between
vladimir putin, russia and the trumps. >> i think we just don't know. as you know, we don't have the president's tax returns. congress tried to get information about deutsche bank and they filed a subpoena and said we are investigating money laundering. we need to understand what happened in these practices. and trump sued the bank to prevent the bank from releasing information even though the bank was willing to turn over those documents that case is now going to the supreme court and will be heard in march before the supreme court. so we will learn perhaps if donald trump or deutsche bank will ever have to turn over the information. so the answer is, we just don't have the documents don't have the data. as you well know, this is one of the fundamental frustrations about covering the business of trump. here's a president with vast international interest and
networks. and we don't know who his investors are or to whom he owes money or who his partners are, because the u.s. system, the system of disclosure is not set up to demand that information. there's a first level of disclosure but it doesn't tell you who people are. >> sure. >> i feel like it's unsure. one of the things i really spent a lot of time thinking about. i covered corruption and money in politics for decades in new york. and, one of the things i did not realize was the flow of international former soviet union money into new york real estate. so much money began coming in really in the early part of the century. began flowing into real estate around the country.
and really propping it up. this is coming at the period where the trumps cannot get any u.s. banks to support them. which is astounding. when you think about the president has trouble doing business with banks because they were so burnt by him. so when he got his loans, he was in a situation where, that's where he was looking to. he was looking to deutsche bank, south korea, the former soviet union, anybody that could put money in his properties that wasn't going through the scrutiny of the u.s. banking system. it does appear the trump family was able to harness that through a lot of really good investigative reporting. some of your own and other journalists. we have a clearer picture of
that but i still feel like we are only seen billy eight tiny crack of light in the door and not really the full light of day of what we would need to see to understand what these relationships are. >> ivanka trump of course along with jared is a white house advisor. you go through her career also. what do you think her role was at the president's company when they were in the private sector? >> so, i think there's a couple roles that ivanka had. she was really in charge of the hospitality business, the hotels. which by the way, prior to the presidency generally got higher rankings than the other pieces of business that trump did. a lot of new yorkers have said to me, when she was starting
out. she did go to the trump organization right from college, but almost. they said when she was starting out that trump put her on the phone. they wouldn't really understand why this was happening but it happened to journalist, bank officials. it was something his father had done for him which really put him forward, right into the limelight at an early age. so she becomes somebody who sort of reflects back positively on him. because she is smart and she understands business. and she doesn't seem to have this sort of outer borough kind of - - that donald trump has. in a way, she becomes the person to make everything acceptable in the family business. along the way, as i document in
my book. there were a number of lawsuits about this but she seems to dipped into the trump family practices, particularly, misrepresentation, pretty wholeheartedly. >> i think that's a good example. the demand republic work that you detail - - sorry, panama. >> there's a lawsuit in baja, california where she had basically send a letter around that turned up in the court papers to buyers. this was a property, a development that had started right before the great recession. but one of the things the buyers were particularly upset about is that ivanka trump kept saying to buyers, this property is not subject to market forces. and people lost their entire investment that nothing was ever built. finally, it was brought to a lawsuit. the trumps settled the lawsuit.
but in settling the lawsuit, ivanka trump defended the family's actions by saying, i'm sorry. we were victims too. the trump organization as a business has never been stronger she listed a number of places where the trumps had businesses that were the opposite of strong. even in apologizing for a situation of telling lies to investors, she says more untruths in the course of that. ... i trace in my book is that how this is a family business pratt he went from fred donald j. trump and then to his adult children who participate in the family business, both out of the white house and in the white house. >> host: what do you think
donald trump will do when he leaves the white house, whether it's a year from now or five years from now? he spent a lifetime in real estate, and four to eight years in politics plus the campaign. >> guest: well, he has moved to florida. >> host: changed his residence to florida. >> guest: no longer has residency here in new york. i think it's very hard to predict the future. certainly there are a lot -- one thing that was really interesting to me in the course of the book is so many people in the new york real estate world, big important people, the first thing they wanted me to understand that was they wanted me to know -- this is their words -- donald trump is not one of us. so they felt he wasn't sort of part of the new york civic real estate society. but they also thought his practices were so far off the scale. i want to be clear. new york real estate is a shady business. >> sure. >> guest: but donald trump is in
a category by himself, and that is what people wanted me to understand in a real estate industry in new york; that he is an outlier in his business practices, as was his father, an outlier in his business practices. "the new york times" said they committed outright fraud. this is not something you hear every day but a real estate family in new york. >> host: right. what about ivanka and jarred? they have been living in washington new for three or four years, and have been working in the white house and politics and both have family companies back in new york and in new jersey. i guess both in new york now. what do you think their aspirations are in the future? >> guest: all we know is what they say. ivanka trump said her focus is on washington right now. obviously jared kushner is extremely involved with a broad national international portfolio and he is the white house person who is sort of overseeing the campaign. it's really important to just
sort of pause for a moment on jared kushner. think but the people he has outrafted. jim kelly, province priebus, steve ban bannon. jeff sessions. on and on. jared kushner, not even 40 years old, is one of the most powerful people on earth. so, it's hard to know what they would want to do next. only they said their focus is on washington and washington business. ivanka truck speak about the economy and women and family and speaks in a way that someone wanting to have a future political career would speak. having said that i don't know what that means. i tried very hard to get interviews with ivanka trump, and with jared kushner for the book and they didn't interview. so i couldn't ask that question
myself. if i ever had the opportunity i we about interested to know how they see their futures. >> host: i wonder if you knew either of them from before the got into politics. >> guest: from before they got into politics, sort of glancingly. so they were parts of worlds i covered, and they -- i mean i actually had work at the new york observer. >> host: right. >> guest: for jared kushner to work for the new york observer there was a gap between when i left and he came. there were and other many, many people that we know in common, and in the course of covering -- i covered new york government and politics and they were sort of on the edges of that. would come across them then. but really, when i began to pay much closer attention to jared kushner and ivanka trump was during the 2016 campaign exhibits was right around this time of year, and i was in council bluffs, iowa, the day before the first contest of
2016, and donald trump was speaking in an event in council bluff wives jerry falwell jr. and introduces his daughter evan ask and his son-in-law, jared kushner and i was really surprised to see jared kushner on the national stage with his father-in-law because he had been kind of a more or less behind the scenes person and also was a newspaper publisher. so he wasn't necessarily someone to get on stage with a presidential candidate. and that is the point at which i really began to be interested in the role that jared kushner and ivanka trump were playing in donald trump's campaign and his white house. >> host: again, mr. trump may be in office for another year, another five years. when he does leave office, what is the likelihood he could be charged with crimes related to his business and his conduct in the private sector? >> guest: you know, it's -- i i've been covering the court
cases that have been addressing this issue. one is trump v vans in which true. sued the manhattan district attorney claiming he cannot be investigated while he is president for any business practices that might have been afoul of the law and the strict attorney says one of the big problem is is there's a statute of limitation. some crimes were commit 2011, or perhaps committed 2011, 2010, and as the clock can run out on them. so it's entirely possible that for some of these things the clock runs out if president trump is re-elected, almost certainly the clock will run out on many of these things. however, that case is going to the supreme supreme court and is possible the supreme court will decide that in fact i president cannot be investigate which is a sort of startling conclusion i think in some ways even more significant than the impeachment inquiry, which is a political trial, because this means that
no law enforcement agent or agency anywhere in the country could even investigate a sitting president so long as that person is in office, and that would fundamentally change our understanding of the roles of the check and balances in our government system. that's one reason why i called my book "american oligarchs" because the conclusion -- i'm a very fact-based reporter, and i want to understand stuff based on documents and enter screws what there is, and an inescapable conclusion for me is that our government is becoming more and more influenced by the very wealthy, including the trumps and their associates, and that they are being able to control more of the systems some are called less to account, and these court case are sort of a final or a very significant stepping stone on that.
if we -- if the the supreme court rules the president cannot be investigated for anything, we do have a situation where a president is given permission to act in an oligarchic way. one judge even said a president cannot be king. president is not king. so it's on the mind of the judiciary but it's unsettled. it will really affect the future of our democracy and whether it remains something recognizable and something like what we see now, or whether we have a situation where there is no accountability. one thing that is very interesting to me that came up in the impeachment hearings as a subplot is that the us diplomats were talk houston one of the goals of u.s. foreign si, bipartisan goals, was to set up a system of government in ukraine where government
officials could be held to account. when people cannot be held to account, it leads to corruption and that was bipartisan policy. while worry bipartisan group of professionals says ukraine indianas to have more accountability, our president is arguing he has to have less. >> host: obviously those -- if we have rulings on presidential mother and whether a president can be investigated or charged with crimes that would apply to presidents in the future of either party who would be granted greater powers. >> guest: exactly. one thing i ask myself is because -- we know obviously president trump has at this point appoint two supreme court justices and we understand, for example, that brett kavanaugh from his record is a great believer in presidential power arranges is neil gorsuch and we know that from the fact they even took the cases -- they took these cases about consequences for the president despite the
fact that the circuit courts, the d.c. circuit and the second circuit court of appeals were unambiguous as were the federal judges. no way should the president be able to act with impunity and the supreme court can do the cases even though -- they are going to be considering this, whether you can call a president to account. so, i think that it's something that has been a little bit lost in the impeachment trial but it's going to be very significant decision as we move forward. >> host: you write -- you book does an excellent job of explaining the chronology of trump's life think policy cases and court indicates that made wealthy americans much welt 'er today and much more powerful today, and i know you make some comparisons of between now and the guildded age when there was a previous generation's worth of magnates who had incredible
power over the economy and politics. do you think we are in a new sort of gilded age and do you think that if that's true, will we have more sort of business titans who become president or senators, et cetera? >> guest: well, what happened in a guildded age was that wealth grew very rapidly, and there was no national system of taxation then, and there was a very antidemocratic system of laws. so wealthy monopolists and there's a famous cartoon of row tend political figures, oil, cotton cartels, i walking into the senate gallery. the fat cats. and the people's interests is barred and that was symbolic of the gilded age. people with great wealth could walk right into the hall of government and get what they wanted, and there was a pushback. president teddy roosevelt came in, there were president franklin roosevelt was a big
advocate of tack racing. there will rules to make senate elections and other elects more democratic, women got the right to vote. all kinds of things that happened to spread democracy and reduce wealth inequality, and what has happened in the last 50 years of our history is the opposite. so, since reagan became elected and 1991 and began cutting taxes, our taxes have become much, much lower, and at the same time it's become easier and easier and easier for money to get into elections, and one thing i did in the course of reporting my book was go back and watch president obama's state of the union speech after he -- after the citizens united case. this is the case in which it was essentially decided that there could be basically an unlimited flow of corporate money into elections. and president obama said this is going to open the floodgates to foreign influence in elections.
and that really caught me short because i hadn't realize it that was a discussion then. when you make so it easy for dark money to come into campaigns -- i used to -- campaign contributions used to be so low and weren't all these fancy evasive mechanisms but each of these successive court decisions has made it harder and harder for people like you and me to track what is going on. you can spend a whole year trying to figure out who one limited liability company is that gave to some political action group to try to figure out who is giving to elections, and bob mueller found that ukrainians had illegally tried to purchase tickets to trump's inaugural. so there's an indictment in new york of two southerns of rudy giuliani for funneling important money into elections and it's happening as a result of court decisions that have made it easier and easier and also happening when donald trump is
in the white house, who has spent his entire career trying no get around campaign finance laws, with the understanding from his perspective that his money buys him power, and he has said as much. the 2015 campaign, he said i give to them, when i call them two years later, three years later, they are there for me. >> host: obviously president trump ran a campaign based on being a businessman, and you as much as anyone have detailed all of the sort of falsities he has about is own wealth, his success. grossed over crisis. he has committed and settlements he has had to make but sid he bring about a tremendous economic growth in america and the he economy has been really strong the entire time he has been president in terms of unemployment, the song market and other metrics. how much credit should the president get nor state of. the economy right now. >> guest: i think that when the
economy is goes well, always possess for the president but i don't think -- i think the important indicator in terms of broad historical terms or what economists say is to look at wealth inequality. so you can have some people doing very, very well, but if you have a situation where you have vast inequality, then you have such strain on the economic system it's not sustainable. so, i think it's a hard question to answer. i mean, you have look at president trump's business practices. i have. a lot lot of juniorists have. bringing the practices into the white house doesn't mean what people thought it meant when they ewreck limbed. people thought if you bring a businessman into the you you resident goal efficient management. instead we have seen conflicts of interests, lies, misrepresentations, financial shenanigans. you'll see a situation where as you'll know, so many people feel they have to go stay in his
hotel, the attorney general booked a ballroom there for a party, foreign leaders show up there, because they understand that trump is a transactional president and will look favorably on them if they pay money to them. so, that is the business that the president has brought to the white house. not a sense of sort of efficient management, getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which has been the sort of more -- that was kind of the mitt romney argument. i'll bring efficiency to the white house. what trump has brought is something else entirely. >> host: right. i think in both of the systems that america has created to help entrepreneurs and businesses create wealth you outline very well and the various rule breaking that trump has -- the rules he has broken during his career. he and jared kushner donald trump both borne into wealthy
families, certain talents and bren rules. how much of their power, success and wealth should we attribute to their own talents and efforts and how much should we attribute to the fact that it's very easy to be -- become wealthy if your start wealthy. >> guest: well, one thing i really want to talk about in my book was this very issue of the intergenerational transfer of wealth and the trump family -- the successive generations of the trump family and kushner family have benefited from legal and in the case of the trump family, quasi-legal schemes to avoid paying taxes. what that mean ises the next generation just becomes richer and richer and richer and there's a snowballing effect. there's an economic study that was done of what happens to the very rich and it begins in 1981 which was the 'er that jared kushner and ivanka trump were born, and the study was done in 2014 and looks like the right hand half of the letter u.
so, the line of the chart shoots upward, and that is how what is happening with the rich and the very wealthy and people like the trump and the kushner families, just getting wealthier and wealthier very fast, and it's impossible to answer the question that you asked because the amount of money transferred one generation to the next, with increasingly unfettered able flow, makes it -- it is so floods out the data points you couldn't even answer that. the end of the story or is that the tax cuts and job acts of to 17 which cut taxes even more, and we know that "the new york times" just did a recent analysis where they said that not only was the -- were hundreds of billions of dollars lost from that tax bill in government revenue but the deficit this year, 2020, is
going to cross a trillion dollars. so, we see a situation in which the wealthy are able to hold on to more of their wealth, and the government is getting much, much, much less in revenues as a result of these broad historical trends of less and less taxation, more influence of money and politics, and then capped off by the tax cuts and job act of 2017. >> host: one of the most -- one-my favorite scenes and the most swim at that time is when you're in court and michael cohen is -- he was president trump's personal lawyer. he was his fixer during his career with president trump where he would solve problems, then people if he needed to. pay people off. paid off stormy daniels and -- to make sure the story did not become public and he is in prison right now, and you are in
court with a family member, near a family member, i can't remember if it was his wife or sister -- >> guest: his tower. >> host: and she's crying in front of you and you had sympathy for michael cohen even though he obviously has committed federal crimes and campaign fraud. how do you feel but michael cohen? >> guest: so, i think that we were speaking easterlyyear about with regards to the kushner family. it's very easy, especially in these partisan times to just dry to see people as paper cutout dolls and i wanted to present real human characters that have failings and good points and bad points and flaws. me and my colleague at the trump inc. podcast did some very hard hitting reporting on michael cohen before he was indicted or
raided. were out in the field the day at that time mike michael cohen's office and home were raised by the fbi. and i covered the trajectory of his court cases, and what became interesting to me over the course of those court cases, and also all the testimony that he gave, the public testimony he gave, the closed door testimony he gave, is he talked about a situation which was very familiar know as someone who has spoken to a lot of people who work for the trump organization, where he went to work for donald trump trump and it felt so thrilling thrilling and fighting and anything could happen and then donald trump asked him to cross the line and he said okay. and once you cross he line donald trump would ask him to crazy another line, even more farther off the edge, and then michael cohen would do that, too, and then do so it many times he couldn't go back and that is a situation that a number of people that i have reported on and spoke to over the years faced.
they were enthralled with donald trump and then crazied lines for him, and then they were stuck. not being ever able to say no. and what happened with michael cohen is that finally, obviously, he did plead guilty, he did give some information to prosecutors about his former boss, and donald trump turned on him. stopped paying for his lawyers, called michael cohen a rat, and michael cohen went into the courtroom and said, i did this crime but i did this crime to help the political campaign of someone else. and what he said, and i'm paraphrasing now, what why isn't that person also being called to account? and he gets up in court on the day in december and he starts to say to the judge, i'm sorry, and his daughter, who is sitting just feet from me in the courthouse starts to sob, and i look over at her, she is nothing that much older than my own
daughter and i hand her a packet of tissues and she sort of looks at it and she wipes her eyes and michael cohen can hear her crying and he starts to sob practically. >> host: a very sad scene, whatever your politics are, very sad scene. >> guest: he says i do not want to be the villain in his history. and i think it's something that we see over and over and over again witch people that have been very close to donald trump, that would do anything for donald trump, michael cohen said he would take a bullet for donald trump, but that when they veer from that path or even before they veer from that path, donald trump for one reason or another rejects them, and lets them face the consequences and it's something we have seen over and over again in donald trump's career. >> host: i think we have five or so minutes to go couple more question is want to get. to one of them. is you and i both spend a lot 0 of time reporting on conflicts of interest and con e concerns about conflicts of interest between president trump residents company and his
administration, the government, which he and his family said they would keep very separate when he as elected and now travels to his properties all thank you time, various problems with if hotel, et cetera, three court cases. but the president donates his presidential salary, and it's still remains unclear to me sometimes whether the president is actually making more money because he is president or making less money while he is president. what do you think about that? >> guest: so, i agree with you. think it's a mystery and it's an uncomfortable mystery. i would like to know if the president is personally profiting from the presidency. but what i think is clear to all of us is that the president has brought in a certain way of being, where he feels like it is perfectly fine for him to use government resources for his business, and where seemingly it's perfectly fine for his
associates so use government resources for their businesses, and in some ways as we sort of unravel the roots of this ukraine scandal, that's where that starts, too with people's business interests, desire to make money, intersecting with a sort of off the books government in all kind murky ways and it is clear that trump has whole sale brought that approach to the white house and has permeated the government. so, i think it's a question about him shaping our entire style of government in a way that helps him expand his power, and that is certainly happening even if his personal bottom line may not be affected. it's his power that he has been able to enhance using these techniqueses in the white house and that is the ball we need to be able to keep our eye on. >> host: sure. as a new yorker i have a question for you. when the trumps -- when donald trump is not the president anymore, whenever that is, do
you think that if the trump family and kushner family return to new york that they will be welcomed back in some way? obviously their friends are wealthy, well to do people like themselves. could they come back to new york and go right back to the private sector and be -- go back to their life before or have to live in red state america, live in florida or somewhere else like that? >> guest: well, they did change their residency to florida so there's that. i think it -- it's -- this is what is clear. it's clear that donald trump gets a lot of criticism in new york and in new york society for his policies and for his sort of chaotic style of presidency, and that is very loud he's also in the state broadly among the entire population of the state, is not that popular president, even though obviously he is
popular in parts of the country. covered political campaigns, i covered sex national political campaigns and when you cover a political campaign all that anybody wants you to say in your coverage is who is going to win, and every story is sort of a way to kind of answer that question, but hedging your bets. and after the election of 2016, i got out of the prediction business because i realized, we didn't understand the forces at play. so many things were happening in elects we didn't know. and i feel that it is very hard to predict political futures, so i am going to take a pass on answering that question. >> that's all right. i'm interested in -- you said earlier today that you felt like you had an obligation to write these become and we're living in an incredibleie polarized time in america politically and a president who is relentlessly
telling people not to brief what the press writes about him and says on the radio, et cetera. do you ever -- you wrote -- touched on this at the end of the book but i'm interested in you saying more but why you decided it was worth it to write this. seems like so many of americans have decided what they think about donald trump already and whether they like him or do not like him, it's sometimes feels like new information is not -- doesn't really affect anything sometimes, just go into the egg their and then he tries to destroy it and if he likes it, he promotes its. do you think there's a chance your book and reporting about the president could have some difference in the election or going forward? >> guest: well, my book -- i mean, i hope that my book is read not just now but next year and ten years from now, because i don't mean to just tell the story of multigenerational story
but about the two financiallies and also tell a story but america and howl we get to this point, and really try to lay that out in all its ups and downs and complexities. people need to understand this country and understand how it works, understand where we came from. there's a lot of fine material out there that looks at what is happening, for example, specifically in the white house right now and that's not this book. this book is to explain and trace the trajectory of american democracy, and i hope that it's something that people can read and think about and discuss and debate for years, no matter what their political parties are. it is not meant to be an aggregation of facts that people can sort of put into their political machines. it's meant to tell a story about us and our times. and i have enough faith in our
country -- otherwise i would just sort of lie down and not do anything -- i believe there are people that want that and want to understand what is going on and that the documenting itself and the saying, we're going tell wow what is happening, we're going to say the truth, despite the fact that people are claiming there is no truth, we still believe in that. we still believe in journalism, still believe in evidence, and we're going to continue this practice, and in upholding that standard, i believe, we are really doing something very, very important in the democracy. the press is the only profession listed in the constitution so i feel a particular obligation to do the right thing by our country. >> host: again, i avoid a lot of political books. i think a lot of books about president trump in particular have been sort of overwrought and glide over the facts and your book is full of them. so thank you so much for writing it and for the conversation. >> guest: thank you. it's really great to have a chance to talk to you in this
way and keep up the great work yourself. >> host: same to you. ... programs from last week's winter festival in california. first an author discussion on u.s. foreign policy followed by a look at the relationship between the executive branch and the media featuring abc chief local analyst dan abrams and los angeles times executive editor norman goldstein. former second lady lynn cheney and former presidential advisor karl rove reflect on the george w. bush administration. that all starts now.
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