Through its first five years, six months, and 21.5 days, Donald Trump’s political career was an object lesson in the amorality of the universe.
From the moment he descended the escalator for his 2015 campaign launch to the morning he mounted the stage for his last presidential rally, Trump got away with figurative murder on a near daily basis. The alleged sex criminal derided Mexican Americans as a pack of rapists and drug dealers (with a few good people sprinkled in between), then shot to the top of the primary polls. The draft dodger disparaged a prisoner of war — for being a prisoner of war — and became the Republican front-runner. He called Ted Cruz’s wife ugly, and his father a crypto-Kennedy assassin, then collected the Texas senator’s endorsement. He was caught boasting on tape about how much he loves nonconsensually grabbing women by their genitalia — one month before Election Day — then won the presidency on the strength of his support among “family values” voters. He fired the director of the FBI — and said on national television that he did so to impede an investigation into his campaign’s possible complicity in Russian election interference — and proceeded to tell reporters on record, over and over again, that he believed the job of the attorney general was to shield the president from all criminal liability, then ran for reelection as the “law and order” candidate.
He was caught trying to coerce a foreign government into creating legal problems for his domestic opposition by withholding congressionally approved aid, and nevertheless remained favored to secure a second term in the aftermath of his impeachment. In January and February 2020, he told the public over and over that the novel coronavirus was “under control” and “going to disappear.” When it did not, he proceeded to (1) advise Americans that they might be able to cure a COVID infection by injecting bleach into their lungs, and (2) admit that he wanted to limit the availability of COVID-19 testing because that would increase the number of confirmed cases, which would be bad for him politically — and suffered no drop in public approval. In what looked for a minute like poetic justice, he caught the very virus his misleadership had helped spread, then sprung back to good health after a few days of rest.
Trump did, of course, ultimately lose reelection (although he came within inches of winning a second term while losing the two-way popular vote by 4 percent). But the mogul didn’t especially like the gig anyway. And as of last Wednesday, he was poised to return to private life with an 88 million–person Twitter following ripe for monetization, a stranglehold on the affections of the GOP base, and thus, the power to (at the very least) play kingmaker in 2024.
Then the president incited literal murder.
The events of the past week have not given Trump “what he deserves.” The man remains rich, free, and, for seven more days, the leader of the world’s most powerful state. But — in a development so contrary to the last half-decade of collective experience as to feel metaphysically disorienting — the billionaire has now suffered actual consequences for his misdeeds.
In fact, the Trump presidency’s denouement has recast all its preceding as the nihilistic rising action of a heavy-handed morality play: By refusing to accept defeat, and placing the pursuit of victory above all else, a greedy old man lost what he loved most.
Donald Trump was an excellent tweeter before he was an execrable president. The reality star’s inveterate bitchiness, irrepressible id, insatiable appetite for media gossip, creative punctuation, and mind-boggling characterological deformities made him a natural-born poster. Whether extending his best wishes to “the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th,” or providing Robert Pattinson with unsolicited love advice, or hounding Mac Miller for licensing fees the rapper did not owe him, Trump took the medium of micro-blogging to new, exceedingly weird heights. And condensing his consciousness into 140-character dollops often seemed like the mogul’s true passion. Even after he became the most powerful government official on earth, Trump often tweeted as though he were less president than pundit. By some accounts, Trump’s presidential run was itself initially a bid for media attention, not state power.
Now, in clinging hopelessly to the latter, Trump has gone from being “Twitter’s most followed man” to its least.
If there are things in this world that Donald Trump covets more than a megaphone, they are excuses to spend all day at his golf course, status within the world of New York real estate, and increasing his personal wealth.
On Sunday, the Professional Golfers’ Association of America announced that, in light of the recent insurrection, it would no longer be holding its 2022 championship at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The president did not take the news well.
As a scion of an outer-borough real-estate empire, Trump long sought the acceptance and admiration of his Manhattanite analogues. When that proved beyond his reach, he settled for plastering his name across as many of the island’s surfaces as possible.
Alas, on Wednesday, New York City announced that it will seek to terminate the Trump Organization’s contracts to operate such iconic Manhattan institutions as the Central Park Carousel and the Wollman and Lasker ice-skating rinks, as well as the mogul’s eponymous golf course at Ferry Point in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, the president’s broader wealth-accumulating prospects have entered bad decline. The Trump Organization was never an especially profitable business. And the mogul’s controversial presidency, and the COVID-19 pandemic, had already taken a toll on its bottom line before last Wednesday. But the family firm’s financial outlook has grown vastly worse in the days since. As the Washington Post reports:
TrumpStore.com had been hosted by the e-commerce website Shopify — until last week. “Shopify does not tolerate actions that incite violence,” the company said. As of Tuesday evening, the site was still down.
Then Trump lost the real estate broker working to sell his D.C. hotel … In Britain, Trump’s hopes of landing another major golf tournament — the British Open — were dashed, as the organizers said they would not use Trump’s Turnberry club in Scotland for “the foreseeable future.”
This week, Trump lost his accounts at New York’s Signature Bank, which gave back the money and put out a statement telling him to resign … Also Tuesday, Professional Bank — a Florida entity that lent Trump’s company $11.2 million in 2018 to buy the president’s sister’s home near Mar-a-Lago — said it would no longer do business with Trump.
As Trump loses access to credit and licensing contracts, he’s also running out of time to pay back his debts: Within the next few years, more than $400 million worth of loans will come due.
Earlier in life, this would have posed little problem for the billionaire: He would simply force his creditors to help him refinance his obligations on generous terms or else suffer the loss of their sunk costs. But now he isn’t just an unreliable borrower; he’s a public-relations nightmare. Thus, even Deutsche Bank, long Trump’s lender of last resort, has reportedly determined that it will cease to do business with him.
“Most financial institutions and investors avoided doing business with him before he ran for president, and the situation now has only gotten worse,” Kathryn Wylde, the leader of the Partnership for New York City, told the Washington Post this week. “If he remains a visible player, no one will want to be associated with him in any kind of public way, because he is going to symbolize the destabilization of the American political system.”
It’s entirely possible that “ol Donny Trump” will wriggle his way out of this jam yet. The man is a master of monetizing notoriety, and he’s never had more infamy to merchandise than he does now. But his near silence over the past week points in a grimmer direction. Trump can no longer tweet, yet he can still call into Fox News, or walk up to a podium and make his voice heard any minute he pleases. Instead, he has chosen to largely spurn the limelight. It’s hard to imagine a clearer sign that Mr. Trump is not feeling like himself.
Regardless, even if, one year from now, the plutocrat is in the black (and not in prison), the story of Trump’s presidency will end with a bad man suffering for his sins. He will leave the White House twice impeached, socially ostracized, financially embattled, and wholly incapable of tweeting through it.