It’s hilarious to me that Trump thinks people don’t just already assume he was a garbage student. What if the transcripts leak out and his image as a genius is sullied?
I mean, really. The guy supports tariffs, for cripes sake.
This story is classic Trump, though, in how it marries intimidation with a sense of petty absurdity that drains most (but not all) of the menace out of it. Michael Cohen, who admitted to Congress last week that he had threatened Trump’s alma maters about not releasing his records, is the living, breathing embodiment of that vibe, a cross between “The Godfather” and “Ruthless People.”
Remember in 2011 when Trump was goofing on Obama to try to build a political brand, needling him about not just his birth certificate but his old unreleased college transcripts, wondering if maybe O’s grades sucked and he was afraid we’d all find out? Either Trump himself or his “associates” realized at some point that that line of attack was apt to send Democrats looking for his own transcripts to see what sort of intellectual the New York Military Academy had hatched. Suddenly the school’s administrators were blitzed with requests from trustees and well-heeled alumni to take precautions to safeguard them, according to WaPo. But not just any precautions; they wanted the school to hand the records over to them.
The superintendent of the private school “came to me in a panic because he had been accosted by prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump’s friends” and who wanted to keep his records secret, recalled Evan Jones, the headmaster at the time. “He said, ‘You need to go grab that record and deliver it to me because I need to deliver it to them.’ ”…
“I was given directives, part of which I could follow but part of which I could not, and that was handing them over to the trustees,” he said. “I moved them elsewhere on campus where they could not be released. It’s the only time I ever moved an alumnus’s records.”…
“I don’t know if we should be doing this,” Jones recalled telling his boss. “He told me that several wealthy alumni, including a close friend of Mr. Trump, were putting a lot of pressure on the administration to put the record in their custody for safekeeping.”
“It was the only time in my education career that I ever heard of someone’s record being removed,” said Jones to WaPo, but he’s not the only one who confirmed the story. His superintendent at the time told the paper that the demand for the transcripts to be handed over to the trustees was “highly unusual.” A third person (named in the story) who was working with the school on fundraising in 2011 said “the decision was made by the superintendent to remove those records and secure them so no one on the staff could get to them.”
The punchline is that if there’s any politician in America who could turn bad grades into a political asset, it is/was Trump. “Sure, I got C’s,” he could have said. “So do a lot of people who go on to be very successful. Just because a kid doesn’t make the honor roll doesn’t mean he can’t be a star in what he’s good at.” Remember, in 2016 it was white voters without a college degree who made the difference for him all over the midwest. Americans would be perfectly receptive to the idea that you can’t measure a person by their report card.
But no, Trump being Trump, vanity won out and everyone had to scramble to hide the evidence that Obama could have used to make fun of him. Is there any doubt that if he were a straight-A student there’d be PDF versions of the transcripts available for download from the White House website? There’s this problem too:
Good students don't threaten schools not to release grades, good negotiators vs. foes don't destroy transl notes, honest taxpayers don't hide their returns, patriotic Americans don't have scores of mtgs w/Russians and lie about them
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) March 5, 2019
It’s not like he flunked out. Middling or even poor grades could be easily spun away as lack of effort or, as I said, merely the result of a mismatch between scholarly work and his particular aptitudes. The secrecy creates suspicion where probably none is warranted.
Reading the WaPo piece gave me a sense of deja vu. We’ve heard about Trump’s cronies demanding that institutions hand over his personal records before, haven’t we? Last year Trump’s personal doctor in Manhattan claimed that Trump “bodyguard” Keith Schiller had showed up at his office in February 2017, after Trump had been inaugurated and while Schiller was working in the White House, and demanded Trump’s medical records. He provided no HIPAA release before carting them off; the doctor, Harold Bornstein, claimed he felt intimidated (“raped, frightened and sad,” in his own memorable words). How many times in Trump’s life has some goon showed up at a school or office or bank or whatever and insisted on taking custody of official documentation related to him? Maybe someone should ask Michael Cohen tomorrow, when he’s back on the Hill for more testimony.
Exit question: Has anyone in the White House ever demanded of the IRS that they hand over the official copies of Trump’s tax returns? Those are the documents Democrats are most interested in and which Trump seems most anxious about, as they hold much greater potential for embarrassment (or potential criminal liability) than old school transcripts do. Someone should ask Steve Mnuchin if the subject’s ever been broached with him.