I used to resent one of my co-workers who habitually came in late, left early, even helped themselves to other people’s work. There seemed to be no consequences for them, ever. “They’re getting away with murder!” I would sputter in frustration. I understood this to be just a figure of speech; I never really believed things could escalate to actual mayhem.
I thought of this colleague when, in 2016, Donald Trump boasted on tape that he could shoot someone on Fifth Ave and not lose voters. “Figure of speech!” I thought at the time. But then came the next seven years, and the endless cascade of lies and double dealing from the 45th President. And yet Trump seemed to be correct in his belief that accountability was for suckers.
Until perhaps, at long last, now.
Of the multiple indictments and trials in which the Former Guy is involved at the moment, it appears that his New York fraud trial is, to him, the most upsetting. But that’s understandable given the outcome may be the toppling of his entire house of (Trump brand) cards, from his net worth to his ability to do business in the Big Apple. There’s a no-nonsense judge, and no jury. There’s already been a fraud conviction; this is just the financial reckoning.
And now, three of his children have been called to testify. Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka had been tasked with the running of the Trump Organization during their father’s presidency, and now their actions are being questioned. This week, the two brothers had their turns on the witness stand; their sister is up next week. It’s been a rare opportunity to hear from Trump’s offspring, and to date, they have behaved predictably. They are truly chips off the old orange block, hastening to blame everyone but themselves for the shady accounting gymnastics that helped create and sustain the family fortune.
During the past few days, we’ve learned that Don Jr barely knows anything at all about the world of numbers, despite his Wharton education. What’s more, he’s flippant about this ignorance, even patronizingly explaining that he merely signed off on the information provided (and even created) by his accountants. Who really reads what they sign, anyway? No time for the details, not while there’s endangered big game to be hunted! As long as the courtroom sketch artist made him look sexy, Don would see his testimony as a rousing success.
Eric, eternally the next one up, continued the narrative, shrugging off his own many signatures on papers falsely inflating the company’s value. What a surprise to learn that he was actually on the construction sites pouring concrete most of the time. Naturally, his skill as Eric the Builder was far more necessary than his duty as Responsible Executive. After all, without cement, there would be no towering high-rises adorned, tastefully, with the word TRUMP.
We have to wait a few days for Ivanka’s testimony, but it’s likely she will be a) more articulate and b) a bit more forthcoming, than the boys. She generally seems to be slightly more aware of the implications of her words. Still, she’ll be navigating a minefield, as she will undoubtedly be questioned about what she knew, and what she did with that knowledge.
Donald Trump has been a conspicuous no-show in the courtroom this week. I get it. I always found it incredibly stressful sitting in the school auditorium when my children had solos in band concerts. Those were the moments when their musical training would or would not pay off; there was nothing I could do to affect the outcome at that point. I imagine Donald Trump felt the same. It’s really tough watching your kids perform!
But so far, the younger Trumps have proven that they have learnt the most important lessons from their father: deflect, feign ignorance, and Pin the Blame on the Lackeys. It remains to be seen whether Daddy’s Princess will see the family patriarch in the courtoom. And if he does show up, how will he receive her testimony? There has been much talk about Trump Senior’s vision of one-way loyalty, and his penchant for turning on...well, nearly everyone at some point. He’s been reported as shocked and appalled by the continuing stream of co-defendants flipping all over the place. Will his pride and joy throw him under the proverbial bus to save herself? For that, too, would be following in her father’s footsteps.
When someone who has evaded responsibility for decades is called to account, it can be very satisfying to watch. In this case, though, it’s also tragic. These are all damaged people, and while it’s only right that they surrender their ill-gotten gains, the whole saga is a real shame. It would be so ironic if Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka’s statements under oath were a key part of Trump’s un-doing – yet that’s exactly what may happen.
If you believe in karma, you trust that no one gets away with murder forever. Justice will be served, eventually. And we may be witnessing a dynasty’s downfall in real time. Might this sad story serve to deter others who would build an empire on lies?
I’m not counting on it.