02-19-2017  10:40 pm      •     
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, October 13, 2015. Ohio. There’s nothing like a presidential campaign to shine a bright light into the nooks, crannies and back alleys of a candidate’s life. And there’s nothing like Donald Trump in the annals of U.S. politics. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's nothing like a presidential campaign to shine a bright light into the nooks, crannies and back alleys of a candidate's life. And there's nothing like Donald Trump in the annals of U.S. politics.

Some of what's been revealed about Trump's predatory personal interactions, business dealings, legal tactics and management style would come as no surprise to those who've made a career out of following the billionaire's rise to prominence. But ordinary Americans who began the 2016 campaign with a passing impression of Trump as the outspoken mogul of "Apprentice" fame now have far more information to draw upon as Election Day nears.

Despite his image as the businessman with the golden touch, Trump's track record in business isn't as magical as he would have people think. Yes, he is rich. Yes, he has had his share of success. But he's also kept company with any number of questionable business associates, had quite a share of projects go bust, left a string of contractors in the lurch, exaggerated his wealth and bragged of using his star power to impose himself sexually on women.

Another thing people discovered about Trump this year is all the things they still don't know. He hasn't released his tax returns, records of charitable giving, detailed medical records, immigration files for his wife and more. That penchant for secrecy is coupled with an aggressive strategy to muzzle business and campaign employees by requiring them to sign nondisclosure agreements.

A look at some of what's been learned about Trump during the campaign:

Tax Turmoil

Trump is the first presidential nominee in four decades to refuse to release his tax returns. The secrecy has spawned speculation that Trump doesn't pay federal income taxes, isn't as wealthy as he claims or is hiding something else about his business entanglements. The intrigue deepened when The New York Times reported that Trump lost so much in one year that he could have avoided federal income taxes for as many as 18 years. Trump subsequently admitted that he had paid no federal income taxes for many years.

TV Turmoil

From the outside, NBC's "The Apprentice" was an instant hit that helped turn Trump into a household name, even if its ratings did slip over time. Insiders told AP that Trump repeatedly demeaned female crew and contestants over the years, rating women by the size of their breasts and talking about which ones he'd like to have sex with. None of that made it into the show, of course. But the revelations added to persistent questions about Trump's behavior toward women.

 

Beyond Banter

Days after "The Apprentice" revelations, The Washington Post came out with a 2005 video in which Trump is captured bragging about kissing women at will, groping their genitals and trying to have sex with them. Trump dismissed the explosive video as nothing more than locker-room banter and said he'd never done the things he talked about in the video. But it caused a number of top GOP officials to call for Trump to step down from the ticket and prompted a number of women, outraged by his denials, to step forward to say they had been targets of his lechery.

Charitable Giving

Trump claims he's given millions to charity. But there's a big question mark about that. An AP investigation found that the overwhelming majority of recent gifts distributed by the Trump Foundation had been made with other people's money, not contributions from the candidate. And it turns out Trump has used his foundation's money to pay legal settlements for his for-profit businesses, The Washington Post reported. The New York attorney general's office this month ordered Trump's foundation to stop fundraising immediately in the state, saying it isn't registered to do so.

 

Shady Characters

For all Trump's talk about seeking out the best people, his business associates over the years have included a significant number of questionable characters . He partnered with the son of an Azerbaijani government minister suspected by U.S. diplomats of laundering money for Iran's military. He named a Mafia-linked government informant as a senior adviser and supported a convicted cocaine dealer in a letter to a federal judge. He hired a convicted felon to be the superintendent of Trump Tower.

On two development deals, he partnered with convicted criminals, one convicted in a Mafia-linked stock fraud scheme. More recently, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned after AP reported that he had helped a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party secretly route at least $2.2 million to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, doing so in a way that effectively obscured the party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.

Casino Woes

Trump's six corporate bankruptcies after his big gamble on three Atlantic City casinos were no secret when he began his campaign, but the circumstances have come into sharper focus over the past year. Trump continues to blame his casinos' troubles on an economic downturn that walloped the whole industry. But in fact, two of his casinos' bankruptcies occurred in years when overall Atlantic City gambling revenue was rising.

 

Unpaid Bills

Multiple reports over the past year have documented Trump's refusal to pay various contractors who worked for him. USA Today found at least 60 lawsuits, as well as hundreds of liens, judgments and other government filings that document people who accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them. The Wall Street Journal, likewise, documented hardball tactics that shortchanged Trump's suppliers. During the bankruptcy of the Taj Mahal Casino in the early 1990s, some contractors who'd helped Trump build the property went under because Trump's company didn't pay what it owed them — millions of dollars in some cases. Trump refused to pay in full 253 contractors who had helped build the Taj. Trump's bankers gave him a $450,000 monthly allowance while his debts were renegotiated.

 

Head Start

Trump perpetuates a self-made-man persona, stressing that he started out with a "small" $1 million loan from his father that he later repaid. He doesn't mention that he also received loan guarantees, bailouts and a drawdown from his future inheritance. Reporter Tim O'Brien noted in a 2005 book that Trump drew $10 million from his future inheritance during hard times, and inherited a share of his father's real estate holdings, which were worth hundreds of millions when they were eventually sold off.

 

Branding

In recent years, Trump has been known more for licensing use of his name than for building things. Not all those branding deals have been seamless. Condo buyers at failed Trump-named properties in Fort Lauderdale, Florida , Tampa, Florida , and Baja, Mexico , have claimed in lawsuits that the billionaire misled them into believing he was more involved in the projects than just lending his name. Trump won the Fort Lauderdale case and settled those in Baja and Tampa.

 

Trump University

Trump faces class-action lawsuits in California and New York alleging that his Trump University, which offered real estate seminars and classes around the country, pressed students to pay up to $35,000 for mentorships and failed at its promise to teach success in the business. While marketing materials said that Trump had "handpicked" employees for the operation, in court testimony he acknowledged that he couldn't recall names of his employees. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump University in 2013 alleging it had committed fraud and fleeced 5,000 people out of millions of dollars.

 

Legal Tactics

Trump caused a firestorm when he complained in February that Gonzalo Curiel, the judge handling the California Trump University class-action lawsuit, couldn't be fair, citing the judge's Mexican heritage. Trump also tried to get a judge pulled off a New York case in 2011, and he called the judge on a 2009 case biased.

 

Models-Immigration

Cracking down on illegal immigration has been a huge part of Trump's campaign pitch, but his own modeling agency has come under scrutiny for its use of foreign models who came to the U.S. on tourist visas that did not allow them to work in the country. Mother Jones reported that Trump Model Management profited from work by models who didn't have work visas.

 

Business Debt

Trump's substantial real estate holdings also represent a substantial pile of debt. The New York Times reported that while Trump promotes himself as beholden to no one, his companies have at least $650 million in debt. It also reported that much of his wealth is tied up in passive partnerships that owe an additional $2 billion to various lenders.

 

What Trump Said

BuzzFeed listened to dozens of Trump appearances on "The Howard Stern Show" from the late 1990s through the 2000s. Its headline pretty well summed up the results: "Donald Trump said a lot of gross things about women on 'Howard Stern.'"

 

Made In America?

For all of Trump's emphasis on keeping jobs in the U.S., it turns out Trump's private companies and the clothing line run by his daughter Ivanka routinely sell clothes and other products made in China and other Asian countries.

 

Zip It

The say-anything candidate has a thing against loose lips. In both his businesses and his presidential campaign, Trump requires nearly everyone to sign legally binding nondisclosure agreements that keep them from releasing any confidential or disparaging information about Trump, his family or his companies. He's not afraid to sue those he thinks violate the confidentiality agreements.

 

Lawsuits Galore 

When Trump isn't happy with his business partners or patrons, he's not afraid to sue. On the flip side, his businesses have attracted an outsized share of lawsuits over the years. A USA Today investigation found that Trump and his businesses have been involved in thousands of suits over the past 30 years. Nearly half the suits were related to his casinos, and most of those involved suits against gamblers who failed to pay their debts. In the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton highlighted a discrimination case from 1973, when the Justice Department sued Trump and his father for refusing to rent apartments at one of their developments to blacks. Trump said the suit was settled without an admission of guilt. The government said in the settlement that Trump and his father had "failed and neglected" to comply with the Fair Housing Act.

 

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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