‘Breaking News: The Trump Library to be built on an undisclosed site somewhere in the basement of Mar-a-Lago will feature a SCIF-like facility containing a fully functional chest of drawers and burn pit – complete with a banner outside that reads “Enter at your own risk.” Those entering will be asked to empty their wallets before going through a coin-operated body scanner to verify their party affiliation and email address.
The monetization of Mar-a-Lago is all that’s left in the Trump Organization’s deft plan to turn the famed Palm Beach landmark into a MAGA-themed amusement park complete with clowns and a daily re-enactment of the insurrection. Trump’s PAC feverishly responds to requests for donations from Maga’s list of donors and confused true believers who view Trump as an idol. In return, Trump sees them as his personal casino junkies who respond to his demands for more money with an addictive attraction to the orange-haired one-armed bandit:
“I need every red-blooded American patriot to step up during this time. Please rush to donate IMMEDIATELY to publicly oppose this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.
“These are dark times for our nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, has been raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.”
— Save America Joint Fundraising Committee request by e-mail
The appeal above raised over $1.7 million in less than a week.
The stored boxes of highly sensitive documents that were lawfully seized by the FBI on August 8 are just manifestations of the myriad crimes and devious schemes employed by Trump during his lifetime. He didn’t learn to be a crook and a crook after his inauguration, he was imbued with his DNA by mentors like his apparently anti-Semitic and racist father and Roy Cohn, surrogate father and attorney for the Rosenbergs during the McCarthy era. Cohn was the disgraced and disgraced New York “fixer” whose clients included the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Aristotle Onassis, and mob bosses, John Gotti and Tony Salerno, among others.
Needless to say, another of his clients, Donald Trump, learned to navigate the turmoil of New York politics and real estate development on his knees. On Cohn’s role in the trial that led to the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, fellow Trump defense attorney Allan Dershowitz reportedly said the couple were “guilty… but trapped.” Dershowitz opened up about the Cohn-Trump relationship in a 2018 First line interview:
“Well, I think they have something in common. Neither of them are particularly ideological; they’re pragmatic. Roy Cohn didn’t really have an ideology, even an anti-communist ideology. “He was someone who rewarded loyalty and punished disloyalty to him. I think there’s a lack of ideology in many ways about President Trump. They want to win…”
But Cohn’s student earned his graduate degree in the one subject they both excelled at: scamming. A quick Wikipedia review of Cohn’s career reveals:
“Throughout Cohn’s career there have been charges of theft, obstruction, extortion, tax evasion, bribery, blackmail, fraud, perjury and witness tampering. Cohn was known for his active social life, charitable donations, and combative and loyal personality.His combative personality was often evident in the threatening letters he sent to those who dared sue his clients.
These are traits that Trump has adapted for use in his business throughout his career and that he had adopted whole cloth when he ventured into politics.
Those who ask, “Why would Trump bring home top secret and sensitive documents?” just imagine the value of those secrets to enemies, or the price a world leader might pay to conceal an unflattering personal treat. For an active narcissist, just having secrets locked away in the basement may be enough. After all, Trump told an aide he would take the boxes with him because they belonged to him. But the mere potential of kompromat, the power to extort an adversary; and the ability to fundraise or control others by simply suggesting a deeply buried dark secret may be enough to hold them hostage to Trump’s thoughtless whim.
Yes, Mar-a-Lagoland basement of horrors need some skeletons and nuclear threats. One could imagine the sense of power Donald would feel possessing secrets that rise to the level of national concern. Had he planned to use them as protection against indictment and possible incarceration? Were they a fundraising ploy to fund the last years of a Trump dynasty? Had the materials previously been used in programs to facilitate Poutinesque punishments or to curry favor with the Saudi royal family? All the foregoing?
The answer is that while we’ll never know, it’s a fool who doesn’t realize that Trump viewed boxes containing national secrets as lucrative, salable assets. For a man whose life has spun out of control, who has few secrets to uncover, holding other people’s secrets could be an act of revenge, a measure of control. The treasure he wanted to hoard in the basement has, since their seizure, become a treasure for litigants. Somehow, the circumstances surrounding the stolen boxes filled with secrets may have finally exposed Trump’s fatal flaw. Like many groupies and doormats who gave way to his excesses, he dared to go too far and he got caught.
Mar-a-Lago is a whimsical place filled with all kinds of fun, all kinds of adult indulgences, haunted and otherwise. The only thing it lacks is a “Fun House”, and that was by design. Donald Trump, in a staggering lack of wisdom and restraint, never learned the lesson life taught his mentors, greed and happiness are rarely partners.
stranger than fiction
Of all the historical parallels with a “Trump-like figure” (never thought those two words could exist together either) in history or literature, the former president reminds me the most volpone, the Sly Fox. The play is about greedy men and their efforts to get rich. It opens with the main character, Volpone, supposedly on his deathbed, promising to place old men in his will in return for the same from them. The older and more vulnerable dupes are aptly given bird names – a vulture, a raven and a crow – for Volpone’s plan to work, they must be just as greedy as he is. Yet their fortune is the target of his greed. At the end, all of the characters’ sins are punished as the court strips Volpone of his money and sentences him to life in prison. His final humiliation is compounded by the knowledge that he has been betrayed by his servant. Could Trump, spurred on by his own greed, also be defeated by a former loyalist turned snitch?
Jonson would warn the ex-president to look within for blame. All damage is self-inflicted and therefore predictable:
“What a rare punishment
is greed for itself!
–-Volponeby Ben Jonson, Act I, sc, iv
Trump is about to be overtaken by his own arrogance and duplicity. Famous for overestimating his intelligence with little evidence, he discovers that true geniuses are generally more modest. Although I don’t expect 45 to read a Jacobean classic, he would do well to read the CliffsNotes version. The FBI’s seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago reads like the conceits that led to the dismantling of Volpone’s schemes. In the end, as he is sentenced by the court, his last words are dripping with self-pity and a gnawing realization:
“It’s called the mortification of a fox.
While we might entertain hope that Trump would have a similar epiphany, his shamelessness precludes it. Let us pray that his final act will not be followed up.