As President Trump continues his harassment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an attempt to force him to resign from the Department of Justice, it may be instructive to examine how Trump handled tenants who he to force out of rent controlled apartments.
It is quite reasonable to hold the view that Trump could have written the definitive book on The Art of Harassment.
From a March CNN report:
There's an episode in Donald Trump's past that shows just how far this billionaire businessman will go to get his way.
It began in 1981. Trump bought a 14-story building on prime real estate facing New York City's Central Park.
His plan was to tear down the building and replace it with luxury condos. But first he needed a small band of rent-stabilized tenants out of there.
To succeed, Trump played rough, according to lawsuits filed by the tenants. Renters said he cut heat and hot water, and he imposed tough building rules. Trump even proposed sheltering homeless people in the building.
It went on for five years as Trump
fought tenants, real estate lawyers, New York state regulators and city officials.
CNNMoney reviewed 2,895 court documents -- most of them now only available on microfiche at New York state courts -- that detail a fight that's now largely forgotten.
By 1981, Trump was already the epitome of American business bravado. At 35 years old, he had cut historic multi-million dollar land deals, saved a blighted midtown Manhattan subway hub, and was in the process of erecting the black-framed glass behemoth of Trump Tower.
The next move in his real life game of Monopoly came in July 1981, when he bought a hotel and its neighbor, a rent-stabilized building at 100 Central Park South.
Two months later, he applied for a demolition permit to blow it up. Trump fired the building manager and replaced him with Citadel Management. In his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump himself said he chose a company that "specialized in relocating tenants."
Just a few months later, on New Year's Eve, several tenants received identical "lease violation" warning letters. The previous building owner had given renters permission to knock down walls and renovate their apartment units. But Trump was reversing that exception, and renters had only 12 days to rebuild the walls -- or face eviction.
The renters hired a real estate lawyer known in New York City for being particularly aggressive. They sued Trump and his company, Park South Associates. CNNMoney identified at least two instances in which New York state judges stepped in to put Trump's lease violation notices on hold.
In their 1982 lawsuits, the tenants said Trump had cut off their hot water and heat during New York's freezing winters and stopped all building repairs. One claimed he allowed "a rodent infestation of the premises." Another said he imposed burdensome new rules in an attempt to force them out.
For example, Trump's new building manager claimed there was a burglary in the building. Dentists with apartment offices were ordered to send patients to the garbage-filled service elevator, according to building management documents and a dentist's lawsuit that tried to fight it.
Dr. Michael Richman refused to comply with the new rule, complaining in court documents that Trump "mounted a campaign of harassment."
"Mr. Trump is willing to resort to any device or tactic to drive out the tenants from the building," he said.
Trump's lawyers fought back, questioning whether the dentist's office even qualified for rent control.
Back then, many of the building's tenants were retirees or older professionals and have since died. All that remains of their tale is detailed in sworn affidavits and court testimony.
One time, Trump sued a tenant for not paying rent -- even though the guy, Anderson Clipper, actually did. New York City Judge Jay Stuart Dankberg eventually blasted Trump for the "spurious and unnecessary" lawsuit, according to The New York Times. The judge dismissed the lawsuit, said Trump was trying to "harass" Clipper, and forced the developer to refund 5% of Clipper's rent.
"To most landlords happiness is having tenants who pay the rent each month without prodding or litigation," Dankberg wrote. "However, [Trump] is apparently searching for double happiness."
Clipper died this past October. His 72-year-old estranged wife, Nancy Clipper, didn't live with him at the Trump-controlled apartment building. But she remembers all he endured with Trump as his landlord: the lawsuits and the refusal to fix things.
"It was really a horrible experience," she recently told CNNMoney. "He was insensitive, rude, and just a generally nasty man. I would never have considered him presidential."..
The building's superintendent, Anthony Ramirez, swore in court that Trump's building managers gave him explicit instructions.
"They didn't want any repairs done. No cleaning. No accepting of packages," Ramirez said, according to transcripts of a court hearing.
As a result, Scaasi's luxurious apartment was plagued by water leaks -- one that put at peril his art collection, which included a 1926 Picasso painting and works of art by Claude Monet and others.
A 10-month water pipe leak in Apartment 14B got so nasty that two brothers who grew up in there saw brown-and-white mushrooms sprouting from their bedroom carpet, according to court documents and recent CNNMoney interviews.
"It felt like we were under attack," one of the brothers, now 57 and living north of the city, told CNNMoney recently. "Trump did his best not to repair anything."
Then it got really dirty.
Trump put out newspaper advertisements in 1982 and 1983 offering to shelter homeless people in the apartment building. The move was seen by tenants as a ruthless attempt to drive them out.
Trump denied that, telling The New York Times: "Some people think I'm just doing a number on the people in the building. That's not true. I just want to help with the homeless problem. It'll take two or three years to get everybody out, and in the meantime I'll have more and more vacant apartments for the indigent."
He even offered to pay for nurses and medical supplies to treat the homeless.
But a top city official, Human Resources Administration deputy administrator Robert Trobe, told the Times that Trump's offer did "not seem appropriate."
There was alleged spying too. Trump's building manager told Ramirez, the superintendent, to monitor "the personal habits of the tenants" and "keep a list on the tenants' activities," according to his repeated sworn testimony in several transcripts.
"Sir, I have too many things on my conscience at this late stage in life, and I don't need anymore headaches. I'm here to do my job and to do repairs to the building," Ramirez recalled telling a building management representative.
"What are you, Born Again Christian?" the manager replied.-RW