The Buck Never Stops at Donald Trump

Leo W. Gerard USW President Emeriti

Way back in January, Donald Trump got himself a ton of prime publicity on the backs of veterans. He organized a benefit that he said was for them. But really he did it because he didn’t feel like debating other GOP presidential candidates that night.

At the event, he boasted that he’d raised $6 million, including $1 million that would come from his own pocket. Not too shabby, as he would say. But when reporters asked him later where the money went, including whether Donald had, indeed, donated $1 million, he told them he didn’t have to account for the funds.

This is the way Donald Trump rolls. He takes no responsibility for his actions. He refuses to be held to account. He collects donations for veterans but won't disclose the money trail. He’s so delinquent on paying his taxes, dozens of municipalities must sue him to get what’s owed. He urges supporters to beat protesters at his rallies, then denies inciting violence. Donald Trump believes he should always be praised and never held liable, no matter what he does.

And that includes pledging cash to veterans and not actually paying it. It’s great to conduct a fundraiser and promise money. It’s much better to actually fork over the donations to the veterans groups so they can help returning servicemen and women.

At the fundraiser in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 28, Trump announced to the crowd, “We just cracked $6 million! Right? $6 million.” That included his gift. He told the gathering, “I don’t want to be called a politician. All talk, no action – I refuse to be called a politician. Donald Trump gave $1 million. Okay?” That made it sound like he’d already written the check. 

But he hadn’t. 

In May, Trump told a Washington Post reporter asking for an accounting of the money, “Why should I give you records? I don’t have to give you records.”

That was followed by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski lying about it, telling the Washington Post that Trump had ponied up his share.

“The money is fully spent. Mr. Trump’s money is fully spent,” Lewandowski told the Post on May 21. Though, Lewandowski added, only $4.5 million, not the promised $6 million, was raised.

Ok, fine. But where did all that money go, the Post wanted to know. Lewandowski said that was nobody’s business.

“He’s not going to share that information,” the campaign manager said.

So if Trump is president, maybe he’ll say, “I don’t have to give you records,” or “I am not going to share that information,” about how he spent tax dollars or how he deployed troops or how he failed to force Mexico to pay for that “big, beautiful wall.”

Unable to find veterans groups that received the money, the Post took to Twitter to seek them out. The question, basically, was: Did any veteran, anywhere get a dime from that fundraiser that Donald used to envelop himself in all that big, beautiful publicity?

Twitter-azzi Trump took that goad. That very evening, four months after the fundraiser, he called a veterans group that had given him an award and promised them his $1 million. The Trump check is dated the next day, May 24, when he held a press conference to attack reporters who had tried to hold the candidate accountable for distributing to veterans the money he promised them.

Trump contradicted his own campaign manager who said $4.5 million was raised, contending it was $5.6 million. And he contended that he never promised $6 million.

“I didn’t say six,” he asserted, despite video evidence in which he clearly says $6 million.

The presumptive Republican nominee for president doesn’t think he’s responsible to stand behind his words even when he says them to millions of people on national television.

Not only does Trump refuse to be answerable, he jumps to blame others when things go wrong. That was the conclusion USA Today came to after reviewing the 3,500 legal actions he filed or that were filed against him over the past three decades, an unprecedented number for a presidential candidate.

“While he is quick to take credit for anything associated with his name, he is just as quick to distance himself from failures and to place responsibility on others,” the paper wrote after analyzing the lawsuits.

In the mountain of litigation are suits that demonstrate Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for even the most basic of civic duties ­– paying taxes. 

Trump is a tax shirker. To build his Trump towers and casinos, he uses public highways and bridges and municipal inspectors and licensing agencies that other citizens pay for with their tax dollars, but he doesn’t pay until sued by local governments in courts – also paid for with the tax dollars of the non-delinquent.

New York placed liens on Trump properties for unpaid taxes at least 36 times. Local governments across the country where Trump owns golf courses and casinos wrangled with Trump over his property taxes, including one case where he spent $45 million to upgrade a 140-acre golf course and 75,000-square-foot clubhouse, then claimed the property was worth only $1.4 million for tax purposes. In addition, his companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes.

Trump wants to run the government but doesn’t feel he’s accountable for paying the taxes necessary to run the government or, for example, to cover the cost of federal benefits for those veterans he claims he loves so much.

He’s just never responsible. Just like he claims he’s never liable for the violence that keeps breaking out at his rallies. It happened again in San Jose last week.

When protesters began appearing his speeches, he said things like this on Feb. 1: “Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, okay, just knock the hell, I promise you I will pay your legal fees.”

Then he denied that inflamed violence. Nope. Not him. He didn’t do it. 

He’s the opposite of the man who was the first Republican president. That was Abraham Lincoln. When confronted with adversity, President Lincoln took responsibility.  Lincoln often shouldered blame when others were at fault. The Edwin Stanton incident is a good example.

After Gen. George B. McClellan’s failure in 1862 to use his greater force to take Richmond, Va., then the Southern capital, the press and public blamed the devastating loss on War Secretary Stanton. Many demanded Stanton’s dismissal. It would have been easy for Lincoln to throw Stanton under the bus and replace him.

Instead, Lincoln gave a speech saying that as commander in chief, he was responsible for the defeat. Lincoln said he was answerable for all union losses, no one else.

By contrast, when the union army would win a battle, Lincoln was the first award credit to the troops and the general.

It’s a measure of the man. In good times, Lincoln generously gave others recognition. In bad, he said the buck stopped at his desk.

In all times, Trump says he is really, really great, greater than anyone else, and the buck never, ever stops at his big, beautiful desk. 

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger