The words “Trump” and “master plan” have no business in the same sentence. There is no master plan. There’s probably no plan at all. This is Trump we’re talking about.
Yes, he’s throwing up an amazing amount of smoke. But as always with Trump, there’s no reason to believe a word of it.
Mostly I think he’s in a panic. He has to assume there’s a world of hurt coming for him the minute he leaves the White House.
And he will leave. I don’t buy any of the grandiose and megalomaniacal ambitions people attribute to him. He won’t be bodily removed. He won’t start his own cable channel. He won’t be running for president in 2024. He won’t be a Republican kingmaker.
Yes, I could be wrong, so let’s not call this prediction — more like speculation. But I think he’s too old, too lazy, and too politically inept to sustain any of this beyond January 20.
More to the point, he’ll have his hands full fending off criminal and civil charges that could well consume the rest of his life.
So he needs money. Lots and lots of money. He has multiple prosecutions waiting for him, both criminal and civil, which will require the attention of extremely high-priced lawyers. Most won’t want to work for him on any terms. None will work for him without getting their fees up front. His reputation for stiffing law firms is legendary.
And that’s just about the New York cases. If the feds come after him — and there’s no shortage of federal crimes — that would triple or quadruple his legal bills. He’ll probably try to pardon himself, which will need to work itself out, but for now New York will be the path of least resistance. I don’t doubt people are coming for him. Neither does he.
On top of that, he has at least $400 million in loans coming due. Deutsche Bank, his principal enabler and laundry service, isn’t letting him off the hook this time. Vornado just backed out of a major deal with him. He’s trying to sell Trump International Hotel in Washington, but nobody seems interested — once he’s out of office, that stay-to-play scam won’t work anymore.
A word about commercial real estate at this level — especially in New York. The guys on the other end of these supposed deals are the real sharks of the real estate world — the guys Trump wishes he could be. And there is no doubt they will smell his blood in the water.
Because anything with the Trump name on it — whether it’s an office tower, hotel, golf course, or resort — will see its market value plummet the minute he leaves office. All these properties have already taken a hit from the metastasizing toxicity of the Trump brand.
So he’ll be desperate to raise cash, which means he’ll be desperate to sell. Which means the sharks will circle. These guys know Trump for the lightweight loser he’s always been, going back four decades. They’ll know those properties will be radioactive for years, and they’ll lowball him to death. He’ll be lucky to get fifty cents on the dollar. If he can sell at all.
With these twin catastrophes, legal and financial, looming in just two months, it should come as no surprise that he’s doing what he always does. He’s working a con. Or several cons.
The most obvious one is his lame but dangerous refusal to concede the election. This is all about his leadership PAC, which brings in money from his idiot base. He bombs them with texts and emails multiple times a day. He gets them all riled up about the election being stolen. He convinces them that Democrats will soon drop from the sky and eat their children. He scares them into donating to his “Election Defense Fund.”
Of course, it’s all a bait-and-switch. There is no defense fund, and the money just goes to Trump-controlled political committees.
Somehow, that PAC money will make its way into his pocket, whether it’s directly in cash, or by hosting PAC activities at those fabulous Trump properties, which is indistinguishable from money laundering.
So the longer he can string along the rubes, the more money he can grift. If he concedes, that all goes away.
But it’s the monkeying around in foreign affairs that’s harder to figure. And scarier. He’s been musing about bombing Iran. He talks about pulling all troops out of Afghanistan. He’s purged the top levels of the defense department and intelligence community. He’s frantically replacing people who are merely reprehensible with people truly vile. WTF?
There’s certainly an element of psychotic petulance to this — the perverse need to leave as big a mess as he can for the Biden administration to clean up. But that’s not transactional enough for Trump. He needs to get something out of it. He needs a quo for every quid.
The fear is that he’ll send Jared over to Bibi and offer to bomb Iran to dust for a $500 million deposit in the Caymans. Or that he’ll sell Putin our agents in the Kremlin, guaranteeing their death. Or that he’s getting a hefty finder’s fee under the table from that arms sale to UAE.
With friends like Putin, MBS, Erdogan, and Bolsonaro, the opportunities to trade a few hundred thousand lives for some ready cash may prove irresistible.
The next two months might well be Trump’s last gasp of relevance, so you know he wants to make the most of it while he can. The question is how much of an asshole does he want to be? How much damage can be done from pure petulance? What deals will he make? What secrets will he sell? What crimes are already in progress? And to what extent will Republican senators and executive branch flunkies continue to abet him?
There is still plenty of room for pessimism.