New details of how an American president and an Australian billionaire bonded over their mutual self-interest help to document the transactional ethos of the Trump presidency, and show how Mr. Trump melded his White House with his personal business in a way that, according to prosecutors, had ramifications for national security.
Mr. Pratt was hardly the only favor seeker circling Mar-a-Lago, which became the fulcrum of the president’s two overlapping worlds, and a marketplace of sorts where favors, secrets and opportunities to lobby the president over clubhouse burgers were treated as currency. But Mr. Pratt, who rode in Mr. Trump’s motorcade and attended a White House state dinner, played the game better than most.
Mr. Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, had almost no relationship with Mr. Pratt before the 2016 election. But after, Mr. Pratt used his money and flattery to get on Mr. Trump’s radar: He lavished praise on him in public appearances, bought newspaper ads that hyped Mr. Trump as a job creator and became a member of Mar-a-Lago.
The president took notice. When Mr. Pratt opened a new factory in Ohio that promised hundreds of new jobs, Mr. Trump toured the plant alongside the Australian prime minister.
Mr. Pratt, in turn, gained priceless publicity and proximity to the power of the presidency, providing him entree into an administration whose policies lowered his taxes and benefited his business.
Behind closed doors, however, Mr. Pratt described Mr. Trump’s business practices as being “like the mafia,” according to covert recordings obtained by “60 Minutes Australia” and shared with The Times.
The private comments, captured while Mr. Trump was still president, provide a rare glimpse into how a businessman on the other side of Mr. Trump’s transactions actually viewed the New York real estate developer’s tactics — with a mix of blunt acknowledgment and admiration for someone so willing to test the boundaries of the presidency. [Continue reading…]