President Donald Trump has always viewed life through the prism of his next real estate deal, betting he can just bulldoze opponents into giving him what he wants. But Washington doesn’t work that way.
Now, as he battles an impeachment inquiry that sprang from his alleged attempt to bully a foreign leader, those who know Trump say it’s in large measure because he never made the switch from the brash, no-holds-barred New York businessman portrayed in “The Art of the Deal” to the president of a country governed by laws and norms of behavior.
“He’s used to getting what he wants and he’s a tough street guy,” said Billy Procida, a former vice president for the Trump Organization. “He’s been dealing with subcontractors his whole life. You know what it’s like to deal with subcontractors? They’re all terrorists. They all want more money for the job and then you’ve got to fight them and say, ‘OK, quid pro quo, I’m going to give you this, you do that, I’ll give you this, you do that, if you don’t do this, I’m going to do that.’”
The disjuncture between the table-pounding imperatives of New York real estate and the delicacies of international diplomacy helps explain, these people say, why Trump is having trouble understanding why his “perfect” phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, may have crossed a line.
“He does nothing without a quid pro quo,” said a former White House official. “Nothing. Whatever deal has got to be to his advantage.”