Donald Trump’s big ripoff comes home to roost
Do you know the story of J. Michael Diehl? He was the proud owner of a music store. Back in 1989 Diehl got a $100,000 contract with Donald Trump to supply the “Trump Taj Mahal” with upright and grand pianos. It was the largest contract he’d ever gotten. He was thrilled. The pianos Diehl supplied the casino were all fine instruments, tuned to perfection.
“I asked my lawyer if I should ask for payment upfront, and he laughed,” Diehl said, “It’s Donald Trump!’ he told me. ‘He’s got lots of money.’”
Then he tried to collect his money. A nightmare ensued. Months went by. Trump executives wouldn’t take Diehl’s phone calls and they’d duck him when he stopped in. Finally he got a letter in the mail. Without apology or negotiation the letter said they’d pay him $70,000 for the pianos, take it or leave it. Diehl couldn’t afford to sue. He was devastated and the loss nearly ruined his business. For years afterward the company staggered and barely stayed afloat.
Diehl said, “Today, when I hear Trump brag about paying small business owners less than he agreed, I get angry. He’s always suggesting that the people who worked for him didn’t do the right job, didn’t complete their work on time, that something was wrong. But I delivered quality pianos, tuned and ready to go. I did everything right. And then Trump cheated me. It’s a callous way to do business.”
I first encountered J. Michael Diehl’s story in an article I read during the 2016 election. It seemed to me then and still seems to me the quintessential Trump story. Trump pretends to be a man of the people when in fact he’s a nasty little grifter, a petty thief, a destroyer of family businesses.
Trump gets away with this kind of thing year upon year and yet, even to this day, people still proclaim him “a brilliant businessman.” Bah! Any deadbeat loser can stiff contractors and steal from small businesses. And because Trump’s reputation is so large, the dozens of cheated little guys he leaves in his arrogant wake are powerless to change it. No one will listen to them.
During the 2016 presidential debate, when asked about failing to pay someone by Hillary Clinton, Trump replied, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work.” The use of the telltale passive voice is a big fat red alarm. It’s the crassness of the careless reply that stuck with me all these years. The shrugged shoulders of callous indifference, the elitist hypocrisy of disdain for the less fortunate. Now you know why they sometimes call him “filthy rich.”
Well now Trump’s ways are finally coming home to roost. Because of Trump’s reputation for nonpayment to municipalities, Trump is running out of places to stage his Nuremberg-style MAGA rallies. It means that Trump is having to search for even smaller, more obscure rally venues for his 2024 campaign. He has to look in places that haven’t heard of his reputation for nonpayment and are willing to accept a promise of payment later. A promise that Trump has absolutely no intention of honouring.
From Warren, Michigan, to Lorain County, Ohio, Trump has left a trail of disgruntled municipal creditors. The problem is many of the people working for the municipalities are afraid to speak up because they live in very red parts of red states where Trump’s reputation is, stupidly, beyond reproach.
But Richard Myers, a Colorado cop and the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, isn’t among them.“When one considers how much money campaigns raise and spend,” Myers said, “it does not seem unreasonable to expect some degree of reimbursement for such demands for service.”
The truly bizarre part to this is that the amounts of money Trump steals is truly paltry. Yet the habit of stiffing people is so deep in the Trump character that he can’t seem to do it any other way. But it explains why after Trump works a town he never returns. Back in the old days such a man would be tarred and feathered and then run out of town on a rail. Today he’s merely not invited back.
So let that be a warning to small venues across America. If you’re going to host a Trump rally, get your money in advance. Or better yet, don’t agree to host it in the first place. America doesn’t need a petty thief running for president because he’s running from the law. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.