Justice Delayed, but Not Denied
Make the Graybar Hotel great again
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2016 — Thomas Adcock
Should current opinion polling hold steady clear to Election Day, five weeks hence, the loathsome Donald J. Trump will fail in his bid for presidency of the United States; the bullyboy misogynist will suffer ironic defeat at the hands of a girl—Hillary Clinton. And if the fair and righteous impulse to kick a creep when he’s down, the lying bigot, schlockmeister, and narcissistic hotel/casino operator should face adjudication of one or more alleged crimes.
Call such pleasant turnabout the November Surprise.
Ambitious toilers in the juridical vineyards of America are prepared to haul Mr. Trump before the bar at the right post-election time; some are government prosecutors, others private counsel for civil plaintiffs. All yearn for professional renown, public gratitude, and surely the attendant financial benefits; all are champing at the bit to meet a deservedly deflated big-shot in a court of law. There, they can wipe the perma-smirk from his orange face and see him off to prison; or, to employ a euphemism appropriate for the cheesy hotelier, off to the Graybar Hotel.
And to employ a campaign slogan: The courtroom thrashing of Donald Trump would truly “make America great again.”
Mr. Trump is loutish and absolutist. His speaking style is a babble of bombast and bellicosity worthy of every pejorative invented about New Yorkers, of which he is one: a Gothamite braggart who lives amongst a tasteless penthouse glut of marble and gilt atop the eponymous Trump Tower, a fifty-eight storey blemish on Manhattan’s elegant Fifth Avenue.
This faux billionaire—grandson of Kallstadt émigré Friedrich Drumpf (1869-1918), a prosperous pimp during the gold rush days in the Yukon Territory of Canada—claims to be a financial genius and powerhouse player in the American business world. He poses as a man to be envied and feared by corporate comrades and competitors, an amalgam that would seem supportive of a White House quest by one of their own fraternity, uncouth as he is.
And yet, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis published the weekend before a September 26 televised debate with Mrs. Clinton uniformly seen as a disaster for Mr. Trump, not a single titan among New York’s Fortune 100 companies has invested in his campaign. Despite being longstanding stalwarts of the corporate-controlled Republican Party, grandees of American capitalism generally favor Mrs. Clinton, candidate of the Democratic Party. The Journal’s Andrew Ross Sorkin characterized this partisan retreat as “eye-opening.”
“Many of the most successful business people in the country refuse to support him—or do business with him either…mostly over his [racist] rhetoric,” Mr. Sorkin wrote. “[V]irtually no big U.S. banking institution has done new business with Mr. Trump in years, in part because of his history of bankruptcies.”
When the mighty are poised to fall, the end is customarily swift. In his novel “Manhattan Transfer,” the late John Dos Passos is instructive on this point:
„Do you know how long God took to destroy the Tower of Babel, folks? Seven minutes. Do you know how long the Lord God took to destroy Babylon and Nineveh? Seven minutes. There’s more wickedness in one block of New York City than there was in a square mile of Nineveh, and how long do you think the Lord God of Sabboath will take to destroy New York…? Seven seconds. Seven Seconds.“
Lawyers, many of whom fancy themselves godlike, will assuredly dispatch Donald Trump—with alacrity. As a particularly ferocious species of the profession, trial lawyers will accomplish for social decency what the Republican hoi polloi and hierarchy have refused to do. Their litigation will denude Mr. Trump, revealing him as an ignoramus and a cheap hustler who will not—or cannot—pay his debts.
The whole world is watching.
Since announcing his presidential candidacy in June of 2015, the national newspaper USA Today counts some thirty fresh lawsuits that name Donald Trump as a fraudster or deadbeat, or his web of enterprises the same. In the fraud category, the hottest issues have to do with a get-rich-quick scheme known as Trump University and the so-called Trump Foundation as an alleged money-laundering and tax avoidance mechanism. These new cases are pending in the courts as I write, as are another fifty older civil cases that remain unresolved—most of the latter filed by contractors stiffed by Mr. Trump, some of whom have lost their businesses as a consequence of working with him.
Highly litigious himself, Mr. Trump gives as good as he gets. In the past three decades, according to USA Today, he or his companies have been littigants in 3,500 state and federal actions—including some 1,900 as the complainant party. Matters of dispute range over “everything from his golf courses to his tax bills to Trump University,” according to the newspaper, as well as “casino patrons…million-dollar real estate suits [and] personal defamation.”
Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, told USA Today that such lawsuit frequency was “the cost of doing business,” and characteristic of similarly-situated corporations. “I think we have far less litigation [than] companies of our size,” Mr. Garten was quoted as saying.
But USA Today compared the Trump Organization to five like-sized entities, and concluded: “Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others—combined.”
Separate from the 3,500 lawsuits, Trump properties have declared bankruptcy six times since 1991—beginning with the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, involving $3 billion (€2.67 billion) in corporate debt and $900 million (€802.3 million) in personal liabilities. In 2009, Trump Entertainment Resorts defaulted on a $53.1 million (€47.3 million) bond interest payment. In between these calendar markers, Mr. Trump bankrupted three casinos in Atlantic City along with Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel.
The man is touchy on the subject of bankruptcy. In an interview this summer with David Muir of ABC Television News, Mr. Trump defended his habit: “What I’ve done is, I’ve used—brilliantly!—the laws of the country,” he boasted. “[I]f you look at people like myself that (sic) are at the highest levels of business—many of them have done it, many times.”
But as Mrs. Clinton correctly noted in the aforementioned presidential debate (first of a scheduled three), “There are a lot of great business people who haven’t taken bankruptcy once.”
Soon after next month’s presidential election come three legal matters of especially devastating potential. The whole world will await an upending of the aphorism “Justice delayed is justice denied.” We all long for its replacement: Justice delayed—but not denied.
- Hours after The Donald was formally nominated for the presidency at the Republican national convention in July, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel found two lawsuits alleging racketeering and consumer fraud against Trump University to be meritorious. Accordingly, he certified standing and set a November 28 trial date for both matters in San Diego. The plaintiff class of former California students accuse the “university” of duping them into tuition as much as $35,000 (€31,150) in return for falsely proffered “secrets” of the real estate business by way of classes taught by “handpicked instructors.“
Mr. Trump has lambasted Judge Curiel for advancing the lawsuits, reasoning that the jurist’s ethnic heritage compelled his retaliation for the Republican candidate’s claim that Mexican émigrés to the U.S. are murderers and rapists—a claim for which the candidate has not apologized.
Meanwhile, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched his own lawsuit against the now defunct Trump University, which he alleges as a “fraud from beginning to end” that put $5 million (€ ) in The Donald’s corporate pocket. Mr. Schneiderman expects that a trial will be held in New York before the year’s end.
Legal counsel for Mr. Trump described promises held out to prospective university enrollees as standard “sales puffery” that does not constitute fraud or violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970.
- The U.S. Justice Department is monitoring a series of reports by David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post newspaper, in which probable violations of federal charities law were committed by the Trump Foundation—specifically, the crime of “self-dealing” in which $285,000 (€253,650) of funds donated for charitable purpose were used instead to pay Mr. Trump’s personal legal bills, as well as a life-size oil portrait of himself.
Likewise, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the Post report that Mr. Trump, in an alleged attempt to avoid tax liability, directed that approximately $2.3 million (€2.05 million) owed to him be paid to his tax-exempt foundation. Boris Epshteyn, a Trump spokesman, dismissed the Post findings as “pure speculation and worthless conjecture.”
- Thomas Francis Meagher, a longtime federal litigator, is redrafting a complaint of rape in the matter of Jane Doe v. Donald J. Trump and Jeffrey E. Epstein (SDNY 1:16-CV-04642), initially filed on June 20 in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court. The assumed-name plaintiff alleges that Mr. Trump and his friend Mr. Epstein—a registered sex offender due to criminal conduct with underage girls—allege that Mr. Trump raped her in the mid-1990s, when she was 13 years old. The suit is accompanied by an assumed-name affidavit from Maria Doe, a female employee of Mr. Epstein’s. Plaintiff counsel told the court that he would present yet another affidavit of witness in his new filing.According to court papers, Jane Doe was not only raped but “forced to manually stimulate defendant Trump with the use of her hand upon defendant Trump’s erect penis until he reached sexual orgasm” and that she was later “forced to engage in an unnatural lesbian sex act with her fellow minor…Maria Doe, age 12, for the sexual enjoyment of defendant Trump.”
Trump lawyers dismiss the Doe suit as “utterly false,” “disgusting,” and “politically motivated.” Additionally, they vow to seek court sanctions for malicious litigation against Mr. Meagher should he proceed as stated.
Ivana Trump (left) and Jill Harth
The Doe matter may or may not reach a jury trial, as plaintiff requests. At this point, news of its existence has yet to break in the protective world of American corporate media. But there is a strong chance of widespread notice thanks to the post-election court of public opinion, sure to be stern.
So, too, are memories of 1990s-era rape accusations against Mr. Trump likely to be refreshed—two more besides the Doe suit—as payback for what the soon-to-flop presidential candidate threatens to do by way of humiliating Mrs. Clinton during their next debate encounter, October 9. At that time, Mr. Trump suggests he will remind voters of her husband Bill’s sexual peccadilloes, including an incident that led to the former president’s impeachment (though not conviction): his being fellated by former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, tagged “Oral Office” by the tabloid press.
Mrs. Clinton can hardly be expected to respond to that—herself. Off-stage surrogates, however, stand ready to whisper the following:
- In court papers submitted during divorce proceedings in 1990, The Donald’s former spouse, Ivana, described under oath how her husband tore out her hair with his fists and raped her. The purported reason? The mister was allegedly angered over his botched scalp reduction surgery by a plastic surgeon recommended by his missus. Today, the ex-Mrs. Trump has no money worries.
- In 1994, business associate Jill Harth filed a $125,000 (€111,400) suit against Mr. Trump, accusing him of multiple rape attempts, culminating one night at the Trump mansion in south Florida where he “forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained [Ms. Harth] from leaving, against [her] will and despite her protests.” The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Recently, Ms. Harth was asked for comment on the decades old case. She stood by her story.
Once upon a recent time, legendary rich and powerful men in the public eye were impervious to accusations of sexual misconduct by comely women, or teenage girls. Donald Trump’s own campaign debate coach and media advisor, Roger Ailes, may have thought himself supremely safe from lawyers who traffic in the tawdry. The comedian Bill Cosby, popularly known as “America’s dad,” surely believed himself untouchable as well.
Lately, however, women and girls and their lawyers are not so easily ignored.
Mr. Ailes, the 76-year-old creator of Fox Television News and a former advisor to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, was ousted from Fox in July of this year in the wake of a harassment suit against him lodged by on-air personality Gretchen Carlson. A one-time Miss America contestant, Ms. Carlson said in her complaint that after rebuffing Mr. Ailes’ request for sex, he “retaliated” by “ostracizing, marginalizing, and shunning her after making it clear that…‘problems’ would not have existed, and could be solved, if she had a sexual relationship with him.”
At first, the Fox head office declared, “This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.” Soon thereafter, the suit was settled out of court—with $120 million (€106.8 million) awarded to Ms. Carlson.
Next year on the fifth of June, the 79-year-old Mr. Cosby is to appear in a Pennsylvania state court on three state charges of “felony aggravated indecent assault” related to a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, a protégé. Ms. Constand alleges that she went to the Cosby home in suburban Philadelphia for a career consultation, only to be drugged with wine and pills that left her incapacitated and unable to fend off Mr. Cosby’s urges. The defendant denies the charges, along with those of some fifty other protégés who swear they were similarly drugged and raped by the wealthy comedian and fine art collector between the years 1964 and 2002. Thirteen of those women, whose complaints fall outside the statute of limitations for bringing suit, are on deck to testify in support of Ms. Constand.
As I write, it is the shank of a lovely Saturday night here in the nation’s capital. Earlier today, Donald Trump enticed an army of print and broadcast journalists to the lobby of his new Trump International Hotel, a renovated hostelry within Washington’s Old Post Office—just down Pennsylvania Avenue from a gleaming house built by wage-free slave labor, a work condition The Donald seems to admire. He had tricked the media into attending what turned out to be, essentially, a commercial for the hotel’s grand opening.
Reporters were led to believe that Mr. Trump would finally cease his racist insinuations, from 2009 forward to a few weeks ago, that America’s first African American occupant of the White House was born in Kenya and therefore a fraudulent president; they were led to believe he might even apologize. Instead, he bragged about the glitzy renovations (including a beauty spa under the operation of his daughter, Ivanka) and did away with expectations in a single sentence, sans apology: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States—period.”
An enormous, gaudy gold Trump logo is been affixed to the carved stone entry arch of the 1899 Romanesque building, now ostensibly owned by Mr. Trump. At a time when Washington socialites would ordinarily be dashing in and out of such venues, the Trump International was “eerily empty,” as Elizabeth Williamson of the New York Times would likewise describe the hotel dining room two weeks later.
“Seventeen people were eating in a space that seats a hundred and twenty,” she wrote about what she saw on a Tuesday at the height of the lunch hour. “You could book a room for next weekend for less than $400. A week [earlier], the minimum rate was twice that.”
The fall of the Tower of Babel is underway.
Back in New York, the unemployed Mr. Ailes is busy helping the man with the golden logo formulate his brave new post-election dream: Trump Television, a network of news and entertainment for the multitudes of yahoos, homophobes, anti-Semites, flat-earthers, white supremacists, and misogynists who will remain forever in thrall of The Donald. If their strangely coiffed messiah goes to prison for his crimes, so be it; jail cells are famous for incubating leaders who inspire, for better or for worse.
Besides, imagine the monster TV ratings—for his very own network, no less! Imagine Donald Trump in cuffs and manacles on the perp walk! Imagine The Donald imagining the personal attention!
Imagine how pathetic narcissism can be.
Imagine how self-absorption to the point of amorality can choke off so much of the right stuff required for achieving a big goal—the presidency, say.
Mark Twain, the 19th century author with a keenly satirical eye for American foibles, wrote the following back in 1887: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.” To be sure, The Donald embodies the first two of these qualities, as evidenced by his book “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire.” In it, he wrote: “I’ve learned to trust my instincts and not to over-think things. The day I realized it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience.”
The proud billionaire also lays claim to Success. But really, is he any more shielded from legal vengeance and the conventions of decency than are his friends Ailes and Cosby?
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag
Additional Photo credits
John Dos Passos—alchetron.com
Scales of Justice—ask.metafilter.com
Donald Trump (stimulated)—eagnews.org