Donald Trump’s businesses failed; a lot. He bankrupted hotels, casinos, an airline and—even an entire football league. And when they failed Trump needed someone to bail him out. And up until the late 1990s that person was his dad.

Yet despite Trump’s businesses failures, he came to personify the image of American wealth and success in the 1980s. It was an era of a roaring stock market and Wall Street extravagance and no one seemed to embody the fabulously wealthy lifestyle more than Donald Trump. He cultivated that image and became a celebrity.

In this episode of The Asset, host Max Bergmann, the director of The Moscow Project, an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, shows that when Trump wrote The Art of the Deal, when he was on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, when he was being listed in Forbes as one of the wealthiest people in the world, it was all a fraud. It was an act. As everything was falling apart around him, Trump proved a master at keeping up appearances – at living a double life. He convinced the public, the media, and banks that he was a great businessman when in fact, he was bankrupt.

During this period Trump also rubbed shoulders with mobsters and even got on the radar of the KGB – even going to Moscow at the invitation of the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States.

As the 1990s became the 2000s, Donald Trump’s dad was no longer around to bail him out. But traditional banks would not lend to him, coining the term “the Donald Risk.” Yet Trump was able to build project after project by turning to a new class of uber-wealthy buyers and investors from Russia and the former Soviet Union. The question would soon become: who was cultivating whom?


The Asset tells the full story of Trump and Russia. Each week, we will examine the colorful characters and dirty deals that populate the story of how Russia helped the son of a shady real estate mogul became President of the United States.


Left Photo: Getty Images/Jamie Squire. Right Photo: Getty Images/Mikhail Svetlov.