Preet Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a post he held for about eight years. In March 2017, AG Sessions ordered Bharara and forty-five other U.S. Attorneys appointed during the Obama era to resign. Bharara would not comply, so Trump canned him.
About a month later Bharara joined the faculty of the New York University School of Law, and soon after that launched a podcast called Stay Tuned with Preet. A promotional video showed up on Facebook last summer, which is how I heard about it, and after listening to just one episode I became a fan.
That’s the background to why I’m writing this post. Last December Bharara interviewed Tina Brown, the writer and former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The Daily Beast, among others. Like most Stay Tuned segments, I found it interesting and informative. But Brown’s comments on Trump were especially riveting.
During her tenure at Vanity Fair, the magazine published a profile on Trump called “After the Gold Rush.” Ostensibly about the breakup of Trump’s first marriage, it also went into his background, and rise as a real estate magnate.
The 1990 article was written by Marie Brenner, but Brown (right) shared some of her own experiences with Stay Tuned listeners. At first, she said, she had liked Trump. She thought of him as a rascal, but fresh – “all those kind of slightly friendly words that imply that somebody is an enjoyable con man, right? But then, as the years go by, he gets less and less enjoyable. And by the end ... I see him as a fraud, a malignant fraud.”
What changed? Bharara asked. Does anything in particular stand out?
“I think it might have been the moment with Marie Brenner, who’s reporting on him for our magazine, saw Hitler’s speeches on his desk,” Brown replied. Brenner included that in the article, “and [Trump] was so outraged that he then poured a drink down her dress at an event.”
I hadn’t seen this article before, but found it with the help of Google. Vanity Fair published it on September 1, 1990. It’s quite a read; you should check it out.
Among many other things, Marie Brenner quotes one of Trump’s lawyers: “Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory ... If you say something again and again, people will believe you.” Brenner asked Trump about that and he was furious. He told her if he could identify the lawyer, “I’d fire his ass.”
And those Hitler speeches? Brown told Preet Bharara that Brenner saw them on Trump’s desk. Actually, Brenner wrote that Trump sometimes “reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed.” She asked Trump about that, too. He said it wasn’t My New Order, but a copy of Mein Kampf, given to him by a friend – “And he’s a Jew.”
Brenner tracked the friend down. He confirmed the gift but said it was indeed the book of speeches, “not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”
Trump, Brenner noted, “is no reader or history buff. Perhaps his possession of Hitler’s speeches merely indicates an interest in Hitler’s genius at propaganda. The Führer often described his defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa as great victories.”
Near the end of this 1990 article, and quite apart from the matter of Hitler, Brenner wrote that as the years went by, “Trump became more than a vulgarian ... [he] appeared to believe that his money gave him a freedom to set the rules. No one stopped him. His exaggerations and baloney were reported, and people laughed ... [everyone] allowed Trump to exist in a universe where all reality had vanished.”