04/03/2016 Newsnight


A programme dedicated to the US elections. John Sweeney on Trump's business connections, Jon Sopel and what is America's place in the world? With Kirsty Wark.

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What happens in America this year affects us all.


This week has brought the American presidential election


Winners, losers, insults and dropouts.


And it's Donald Trump who's making all the weather.


But is his claim that his wealth makes him Mr Clean a grubby lie?


It's a question John Sweeney has been asking for some time.


You stayed in bed, if I may say so, with Felix Sater


Again, John, maybe you are sick, but when


you have a signed contract, you can't in this country


Emily goes to Trump heartland to find out how his supporters


expect him to change American foreign policy.


We are the best country in the world, that's for sure.


But I think we can't take care of everybody.


We'll be exploring whether not just America but the West as a whole


is turning in on itself - and, if so, how does that impact


And in this week's Artsnight, neurosurgeon Henry Marsh talks


to author Karl Ove Knausgard about his incredibly honest


When you were writing it, my impression is it was almost


an act of sort of suicidal catharsis, so to speak.


Were you aware of the fact it might actually struck a chord


It's the end of a seismic week for the Republicans.


Donald Trump now looks the most likely contender to be the party's


candidate for the next President of the United States.


Among his big boasts - some cruder than others -


is that he is a modern day Midas, worth billions, and that his wealth


means that he can't be bought and sold.


And that puts him above the political fray.


Tonight, Newsnight tells the other side of the story -


the evidence which not only casts doubt on Trump's fabulous wealth


claims but also reveals his history of business relationships


with figures connected to organised crime.


Donald Trump says he's worth $11 billion.


And I am totally self-funding my campaign, so I don't have to take


donors and special interest people and lobbyists.


On how he got so rich, Trump has in the past boasted


The same cannot be said of some of the people he did business with.


Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, New Jersey.


The site of Donald Trump's foray into the casino business.


It ended up in a heap of broken dreams.


Four of his gambling businesses went bust.


Back in 1980, when Trump launched his first casino here,


some of his business partners worked for the mafia.


The picture in New York was no better.


Here lies Fat Tony Salerno, once one of the most feared men


He was the boss of the Genovese crime family, and it just so happens


the man from whom Donald Trump bought his concrete.


Fat Tony and other mobsters had a lock on New York concrete.


While most builders use steel and some concrete,


Trump built the tallest concrete building in New York.


Fat Tony Salerno was fat, and he was the head


It was the most powerful crime family in the city at the time.


And Fat Tony didn't just supply concrete to Donald Trump -


the two men also shared a lawyer, Roy Cohn.


The evidence is that Fat Tony Salerno met


with Donald Trump in Roy Cohn's office, which makes


Not only did I have sources telling me that at the time,


but when you consider that he is building the largest


concrete structure of its time, and the concrete industry


is controlled by Fat Tony Salerno, it makes all the sense in the world.


In the early 90s, Trump was almost a billion dollars in the red.


By 2004, he had recovered and got into reality TV.


In 1991, in this bar, Felix Sater had a row with another


Sater snapped the stem of a margarita glass and stabbed


Out of jail, he took part in a $40 million Stock Market fraud,


boosting shares and then selling them at a profit.


Then Sater made a deal with the FBI, informing of his fellow


Sater's conviction was publicised, but later in return for him


co-operating with the Feds, it was sealed.


Sater and Trump got into business together in the early 2000s,


when Sater was an executive at Bayrock.


This is one of the three developments that Donald


From Trump Soho, the name, you would have thought that Trump


was the money behind this project.


As well as Trump Soho, there were two other


Trump Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and Trump Camelback in Arizona.


When property prices began to slide, the Trump Bayrock projects


Newsnight understands investors lost at least $10 million


I checked out the location in Fort Lauderdale.


It was an absolute great location, and I thought with the Trump


organisation behind it and Mr Trump putting his name on the line,


I thought it would be very successful.


In 2013, I challenged Trump about his relationship with Felix


Why didn't you go to Felix Sater and say you are connected


First of all, we were not the developer there,


Excuse me, but I don't know, you're telling me things


You're telling me about Felix Sater, I know who he is, I know of him


You stayed in bed, if I may say so, with Felix Sater, and he was


Again, John, maybe you're thick, but when you have a signed contract


you can't in this country just break it.


Sometimes we will sign a deal and the partner isn't as good


By the way, John, I hate to do this, but I do have that big


group of people waiting, so I have to go.


Newsnight has obtained one of the key Trump Bayrock contracts,


which has only recently been unsealed by the courts.


And what Trump told me wasn't true.


It is what is known as a bad boy clause.


It states that Bayrock shall do nothing to bring disrepute


to or in any manner impair or damage the Trump brand.


The critical question is before that date, did Trump know


Here is some evidence Trump could have found when they went


Guilty plea was publicly announces all over the world in a press


release put out by the United States attorney's office in New York,


and co-authored by the FBI field office.


The press release went all over the world.


It was published even in the Guardian, I think


it was published in Australia, I am not sure.


It was published in the New York Daily News.


There was issued that same day an indictment


against his co-conspirators and that indictment identified Felix Sater


by name, as one of the co-conspirators.


A third pointer in 2006 that might have alerted Trump to Sater's past


was a lawsuit, alleging that he made a death threat against


Ernie Mendez has bought into Trump Camel back in Arizona,


he found out about Sater's past and then he said he got


The case was later settled, but in the lawsuit, Mendez said


Sater threatened to have a man electrically shock Mr Mendez's


testicles, cut off his legs and leave Mr Mendez dead


Sater's lawyer says this claim was an outright fabrication.


Fred Oberlander has acted for clients suing Bayrock.


You would have to be deaf, dumb and blind in my opinion.


The ability of someone like Donald Trump to know


whom he was doing business and to whom he was selling


the right to use his name, would certainly include


finding the press release in the Congressional record where it


Trump has said he doesn't know about Sater's past


We do as much of a background check as we can on the principles.


This is tape number one of the video tape, the position of


Six months after my interview, he had this to say about Sater.


How many times have you conversed with Mr Sater?


If he were sitting in the room right now, I wouldn't know


Astonishingly, that was three years after Sater had an office


in Trump Tower, a Trump e-mail, and a business card listing him


Felix Sater now sees himself as a reformed character.


My wife says living with me is like reading next


Oberlander and Learner say that Sater didn't reveal his convictions


to the banks, and so the argument goes, the Trump Bayrock deals


His name is still on Trump Soho, which is a Bayrock project,


and he is still drawing projects off of that edifice built on fraud.


He has, in my opinion, an ethical obligation and a minimum


to disassociate himself from Trump Soho, because that


Sater's lawyer told Newsnight his client will not comment on either


Trump or Bayrock, adding that Sater is not now,


So what about Trump's boast that he is 100% clean?


Can anyone who did business with the likes of Fat Tony Salerno


Donald Trump cannot wipe clean his brushes with the mob.


Just last night, the remaining Republican hopefuls clashed in some


of the most bitter exchanges of the campaign so far.


But can Trump still be stopped, or is his nomination


as the Republican presidential candidate now all but inevitable?


Joining me from Washington is the BBC's North America editor,


How damaging have the recent attacks by the Republican establishment


been? The attacks have certainly been full force. They have really


gone for him. Mitt Romney, who was the Republican candidate four years


ago, was calling him a phoney and a fraud and was kind of absolutely


thick tube rooted in his attacks on Donald Trump. There are two big


battles coming up, Ohio and Florida on March the 15th, where it is


winner takes all. If Donald Trump wins that number of delegates, he is


home and dry. It is a last ditch effort by the Republican


establishment to do him down. Having said that, I think it is perfectly


possible that Trump supporters will say, the establishment hate him,


good, I like him even more. I don't think it might do him much damage.


Tell me what you think about the level of debate and some of the


coarseness of it. It has been nothing short of gobsmacking, kind


of eye watering, frankly. Last night, it was another Republican


debate. Last week, Marco Rubio had said, Donald Trump for a guy who is


six foot two is rather small hands, and you know what they say about


people with small towns... You can't trust them. Donald Trump goes on to


the debate stage last night and, in front of a national televised


audience says, he says I've got small hands and a small something


else. I can tell you, I don't have a sprog -- I don't have a problem


there. In other words, he was doing jokes about his penis on national


television. Socratic debate, it wasn't.


Senior Republicans are furiously trying to shut down the Donald Trump


show as the field of candidates narrows.


Republican National Security leaders have united in their condemnation


In an open letter, they write of his swings from isolationism


to military adventurism in the space of a sentence,


and warn his ideas are inconsistent and unmoored in principle.


So what do they make of him in West Virginia -


a state that has historically contributed more to the US military


And where Donald Trump finds the highest level of support


Emily went to the Mountain State to find out.


Just 90 minutes west of Interstate 495, otherwise known


as the Washington Beltway, you find this, West Virginia -


another world, a place where they spit at the very mention


It takes government regulation of its heavy industries almost


personally and their demise has left a hole.


The state of West Virginia is bucking the economic


Across America, we are seeing unemployment levels falling.


But it's also a place where you find a spirited streak of independence.


The abolitionist John Brown rose up here.


The state motto favours the freethinking mountaineer.


You can't help sensing a constant air of self defence.


This West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry lies


at the confluence of some of the fiercest fighting


That legacy of battle lies firmly within the state.


West Virginia historically has made the highest contribution


to the American military of anywhere else in America.


No coincidence perhaps that this is the state


We head here, to Romney, to find out.


Romney is not a name Donald Trump much warms to nowadays


but we want to understand if its people warm to Trump and,


He has promised to make America great again.


In Doodles Bar, I ask Frank, a Vietnam veteran who has made


West Virginia his home, what he makes of it.


It seems we lost a sense of our inner pride, what made us


And it seems everybody just wants a free ride.


Hatchet puts it yet more unflinchingly.


Someone like a Ronald Reagan, even though he was like a movie star


when he got in, but he had balls and he stood up to everybody.


Who is your Ronald Reagan this time round?


Donald Trump thinks he is but I don't think he is.


Many forget they hated Reagan when he started out but,


rightly or wrongly, he's come to be seen as the president who got things


right, prioritised defence spending without overwhelming loss of life.


He kept his wars cold, in other words.


Over a game of pool, I begin to understand the dilemma


They want to see America as unvanquishable, a proud,


resilient nation, but they are in no doubt that war is too costly in both


I think that, really, we are the best country


But I think we can't take care of everybody.


Trump has always made much of his affection for veterans,


but it's hard to know how he'd interact on the world stage -


Would he continue the retrenchment started by Obama or does


making America great again involve military might?


We have three trains of thought in competition.


going back to that traditional American leadership


or a neo-isolationism pulling us back from the world even more,


or kind of lashing out, as Donald Trump articulates it,


where we just go after problems that bother us because we've


The question for America fundamentally is whether Trump


means what he says - whether he believes his wall,


that concrete embodiment of xenophobia, will actually be


built to keep Mexicans out or whether, as Vanity Fair puts it,


his love of saying the outrageous almost now borders


What he would really do as President?


To go and round up 11 million people and deport them would create such


a police presence and such a police state it would be an unimaginable.


I can't believe anyone would actually do it or even


think it was doable, but that's what he


I think we're all at a loss as to what's going to happen.


In last night's TV debate, he struck a note of diplomacy


in dealings with Russia, selling himself as the broker,


Wouldn't it be nice if we could get along with Russia, we could get


along with foreign countries, instead of spending


Warmer words for Putin than for those on the stage with him


Watch where it got properly low-budget.


If they are small, something else must be small.


I guarantee you, there is no problem.


And, when you've finished cringing, consider this.


He's a man insecure enough to big up what commentators


here would call his manhood on American TV.


Perhaps, if his sense of masculinity is that important,


all bets are off when it comes to how he sees America


So what does the popularity of Trump tell us about America's mindset


at the moment - is it a country turning in on itself?


And is this idea of retrenchment a bigger phenomenon?


Europe is becoming increasingly fractious and fractured


amid a deepening row about migration.


And of course there is this summer's EU referendum here.


And all of this happening against the backdrop


of an increasingly bellicose Vladimir Putin and a murderous


Are the ties that hold the West together weakening


To discuss I am joined from Oxford by Professor Timothy Garton Ash,


professor of European Studies, from Yale by Timothy Snyder,


historian of Central and Eastern Europe; and here


in London by Anne Applebaum, the writer and historian.


Good evening, Timothy Snyder, what you to think is the Trumpian view of


world policy? It is hard to say foreign policy requires some sense


of your nation's interests, there has been no line on that, it


requires some sense of what your nation's capabilities are, he has


said little about that. As far as one takes a or shack test, there are


three main thing, the first is antagonising latsen America, destab


hiding Mexico, the second is antagonising the Muslim world,


talking about killing family, deporting people, talking about not


letting refugees in and the third is substituting our long and important


relationship with Europe and European Union for a personal Chummy


relationship with Vladimir Putin of rush. And on those three, why is it,


do you think they strike a chord with some American, especially those


who are not doing very well and see their money go out into foreign


enterprise? It is, from from the point of view of the rest of world


America seem like champion of Golubevlisation, from the point of


view o a lot of the electorate they feel like a victim. There are people


who have an understandable sense be are overextended, they are taking


the pain of globalisation, what Trump offers is a kind of life


coaching, a way of jumping over our own shadow where instead of having a


measured policy, he simply is going to assert that we are great, and


then improvise from there. Anne Applebaum on that point, you have


written a piece in the Washington Post with what might ham in a Trump


presidency, and it is a break down of the west. One of the


possibilities that we now have in front of us and it is not only the


Trump presidency but the EU referendum, the French election next


year, any one of a number of things that could happen, one of the


possibilities is a break down of what we call the west, and what we


call the western alliance, and it is a sort of thing we have relied on


for 60 years, it is always been there, it has created this space of


prosperity and stability. It has allowed people to get on with their


lives and we have stopped caring about it. In order to maintain it,


that requires a, not just an American President, but it requires


European leaders as well, who are willing to invest in the boring and


sometimes repetitive task of making deals, and compromising and


negotiations and none of that seems to work any more in an era when


people want to hear loud exclamations and reality TS


personalities. Professor Timothy Garton Ash how dangerous a moment do


you this I think is? I wish I could be more cheerful than your other two


guests but I think that is right. I think we are in danger also of


seeing the ebeginning of the end of the European Union. One would have


to say that historically, the west as a geopolitical actor was held


together by having a common enemy, Nazi Germany and the axis powers and


the Soviet Union through the Cold War, the problem is that we have


multiple common enemies, Islamic terrorism and home-grown in Europe,


an aggressive Russia under Vladimir Putin and a rising China which is


building artificial islands with rocket launchers in the South China


Seas, one of the things which has happened which is a long-term


change, is that America is focussing increasingly and perhaps rightsly on


a rising China, as its great power rival, -- rightly. That leaves us in


Europe to face up to the challenges of Islamic terrorism and


particularly of Russia, which we are singularly failing to do. No


guarantee, Anne was talking about Nato and so force Ford, but no


guarantee for example that trouble in Europe would bring America in


under a Trump presidency, there is no guarantee he might not do this


deal with this guy Putin that he seems to like and leave us standing.


As far as one can make out, Trump understands international politics


in terms of personal relationships and he has instinctive attractions


to certain figures which would be men of a certain age and political


proclivities o, so that puts him in a camp with people like berl sew


any. Or Putin. That he would care about European interests is hard to


imagine, it is not clear he cares about US interest, one has to have a


sense object what America's place in the world ought to be, aside from


the kind of Mars tips tick cheerleading we have got so far.


Where have the seeds of this come from, do you think The seeds of this


in the US? In the US and Europe. This retrenchment, this upset and


unhappiness within Europe. You have talked about the fact we might be


nearing the end of the European Union, where with the seeds shown? I


am not sure we can describe this as the same phenomenon because in the


case of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society it is the discome -- the


United States it is the stagnant class and a sense of the relative


decline of the United States as a great power hence the motto make


America great again, I think in the case of Europe, people feel


overwhelmed by a multitude of European crises, the eurozone


crisis, the migrant crisis, the refugee crisis, the rise of populist


zen foe nick party, what is clear is that the United States is not going


to ride to our rescue, everyone under, by the way, a President


Hillary Clinton, which is in fact the most likely outcome, because a


candidate Trump makes a President Clinton much more likely. So, Anne,


you talked about the problems in Europe, you look at Hungary, the


rise of right-wing leaders again, particularly in the eastern area of


Europe, victor or back as one, you think where is the common connection


in Europe? It seems to have disappeared so fast, perhaps because


of the refugee crisis, the splits have shown, but it shows there isn't


actually common cause. Well there was a sense until 20082009 there was


a sense that Europe was a kind of island of prosperity and stability


in the world, and that integrating wit... And democracy worked. Yes and


integrating and growing with us was the best way forward. That was so


automatic people didn't think about alternatives. Since the time of the


crash in 2008, the eurozone crash in 2009 people began to question at


that point whether this is right for my country, is it going the right


way. That said I wouldn't say it is an east European problem, I would


say it is a pan-Europe problem it has shown itself in flukes in


particular place, the rise of the right. Right isn't the right word


any more because the National Front has left-wing economics but populist


language and the rise of similar parties in the Netherlands and other


parts of the world, Europe, are the same, so I think it is a growing


problem across the Continent. You wanted in there I wanted to say as


does the governing party in Poland. It is a mistake to see this as just


an east European problem. It is a pan-Europe problem, it also is to be


observed that Vladimir Putin is very keen on Marine Le Pen and reportedly


helped to fund her party, Europe at the moment in its disunity is giving


Putin's Russia many opportunities to divide and rule. I could I just add


this is therefore particularly frivolous moment for Britain to be


contemplating leaving the European Union. That is a prospect that fills


the United States with horror, and Vladimir Putin with delight.


Timothy Snyder, if the 20th century was America's century that would not


necessarily be the case in the 21st, do you think? I think that is still


wide-open. What I would say about the 20th century is this. The common


trend we see in the remarks of colleagues here, is the rise of


national populism, whether it is in Russia, Poland, Hungary, France or


the United States. What national populism has in common is awe.


Leaders can support each other, what they can do is build commence


structure, what the history tells us is there was never a good moment


when nations were alone, so the institutions that hold us together,


whether it is the the European Union, they are more important than


we think. Russia or France or Hungary alone has no place to go. If


we forgot that we should think again about the crucial decades of 20th


centuries. Finally, if there is something to be optimistic about.


What is it? Is there something that can hold us together I think the


ideals of the west and the idealles of democracy are things that people


care about and will fight for. In each of the countries you mentioned


where there is a rise of populism or authoritarianism, there has been a


push back and an argument, so it isn't as if it has disappear it has


been challenged in a more severe way, than we are used to. Thank you


all very much. The front pages, the times Osbourne


abandons assault on pension, threat of a new Tory revolt before a


referendum. That is because the risks of Tory MPs derailing his


leadership hopes. Hopes. The FT is doing the same story. And finally,


again, in the Guardian, Chancellor backs down on pension this is a


story we reported op last night. So these are tomorrow morning's


front-pages. Now for arts night. This week's show is an encounter


between the superstar author Karl Ove Knausgaard,


who mines his personal life for his books, and the neurosurgeon


Henry Marsh, author of the memoir Do No Harm, which details his


life in brain surgery. Both figures are obsessed


with the importance and dangers And we should say this programme


contains some scenes of surgery. Your father was a very


dominating element in your life. Do you think that troubled


relationship with him has been a driving force behind


what you wrote?


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