Saturday, January 02, 2021

How Trump thinks he negotiates, versus how he actually does

 In the 1980s, Trump was concerned about nuclear proliferation and thought that he could do a better job negotiating a nuclear deal with the Soviets. In a 1984 Washington Post interview (which I believe you can see excerpts from in the film "Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn" about his mentor, Roy Cohn), he said:

"Some people have an ability to negotiate," he says. "It's an art you're basically born with. You either have it or you don't."

He would know what to ask the Russians for, he says. But he would rather not tip his hand publicly. "In the event anything happens with respect to me, I wouldn't want to make my opinions public," he says. "I'd rather keep those thoughts to myself or save them for whoever else is chosen . . .

"It's something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past."

He could learn about missiles, quickly, he says.

"It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles . . . I think I know most of it anyway. You're talking about just getting updated on a situation . . . You know who really wants me to do this? Roy . . . I'd do it in a second."

Trump actually lobbied the George H. W. Bush administration to be the negotiator for arms talks, but the chief negotiator position went to Richard Burt, then U.S. Ambassador to West Germany, who later met Trump, and Trump explained what he would have done had he been the negotiator

He explained that he would have welcomed—very warmly—the Soviet delegation. He would have made sure the country’s envoys were comfortable—very comfortable—at the table.

Then, Trump told Burt, he would have stood up, shouted “Fuck you!,” and left the room.

This seems quite likely -- and then he would have either given in to whatever the Soviets asked for, or failed to get a deal at all, which is what has happened again and again during his time as president. Where Trump gets deals it seems to be in spite of his own negotiations, rather than because of them.

When Trump gave in and signed the second COVID-19 stimulus bill which he had been refusing to sign and which was at risk of a pocket veto, one person who correctly predicted four days earlier that Trump would sign the bill was tax lawyer David Miller, who was someone who was actually on the other side of the table in a Trump negotiation over the Trump Organization's deal to purchase the General Motors building in 1998.  Miller recounted the story in a thread on Twitter correctly predicting that Trump would sign the bill:

In 1998, I was the tax lawyer representing Conseco in a joint venture with the Trump Organization to buy the General Motors Building. 2/23 
Conseco put up 99.9% of the capital, Trump put up 0.1% of the capital, and Lehman Brothers loaned the rest. 3/23 
The joint venture agreement was very straightforward. Income and deductions were based on capital contributions. Everything was agreed quickly by the lawyers. 4/23 
However, on the day before signing, we were told that Mr. Trump would be arriving at 10pm at our offices to negotiate the deal (which had already been negotiated). 5/23 
He arrives with an entourage. A podium had been set up for him at the front of a long table in a conference room. 6/23 
He asks for some minor corporate changes. But then he demands that he get all of the depreciation deductions. 7/23 
Having negotiated, he put on his coat and left. 8/23 
All of the lawyers look at each other. The general counsel of Conseco said, “We put up 99.9% of the money; we get 99.9% of the depreciation deductions.” Trump’s lawyers say, “Don’t worry, he’ll sign.” I go home to sleep. 9/23 
The next morning my corporate partner and Trump’s corporate lawyer take the joint venture agreement to Trump Tower for Trump’s signature. I’m in my office. 10/23 
The phone rings. It’s my corporate partner. “Mr. Trump wants to speak to you.” 11/23 
“Yes, Mr. Trump,” I say. 12/23 
“Were you there last night?” he asks. 13/23 
“Yes, Mr. Trump, I was.” 14/23 
“Did you hear me last night?” he asks. 15/23 
“Yes, Mr. Trump, I did.” I reply. 16/23 
“So, does this agreement give me the depreciation deductions?” he asks. 17/23 
“No, Mr. Trump, it does not.” 18/23 
He’s angry now. “You were there last night, you heard me, and this agreement does not give me the depreciation deductions? Why not?!” 19/23 
I know that the agreement could have been structured for Trump to get depreciation deductions (if he was willing to provide a “bottom guarantee”). But it wasn’t, so I answer truthfully: “Mr. Trump, the law does not permit you to get depreciation deductions.” 20/23 
He’s furious now. “The law does not permit me to get depreciation deductions?!” 21/23 
“That’s right, Mr. Trump.” 22/23 

He slams down the phone and signs the agreement. 23/23 

Richard Burt's team successfully negotiated the START I Treaty, signed in 1991. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Open Skies treaty for nuclear arms verification, and has so far declined the Russian offer to extend the New Start treaty, and has failed to negotiate a new nuclear arms treaty of any kind.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Books read in 2020

Not much blogging going on here still, but here's my annual list of books read for 2020.
  • Nicholson Baker, Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act
  • John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir
  • Ben Buchanan, The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics
  • Susannah Cahalan, The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness
  • Michael Cohen, Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump
  • Myke Cole, Legion versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World
  • Libby Copeland, The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are
  • Barton Gellman, Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the Surveillance State
  • Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2012)
  • James W. Johnson, Arizona Politicians: The Noble and the Notorious (2002)
  • Gene Kim, The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data
  • Maria Konnikova, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win
  • Talia Lavin, Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy
  • Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America
  • Ben Macintyre, The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War (2018)
  • Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (2017)
  • H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace, with Henry R. Schlesinger, Spy Sites of New York City: A Guide to the Region's Secret History (2020)
  • Jefferson Morley, Morley v. CIA: My Unfinished JFK Investigation
  • Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich & Powerful Hide Their Money
  • Thomas RidActive Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare
  • Brad Smith and Carol Anne Browne, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age
  • Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man
  • Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton with Henry R. Schesinger, Spy Sites of Washington, DC: A Guide to the Capital Region's Secret History (2017)
  • Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
    Top for 2020: Copeland, Macintyre, Cahalan, Smith and Browne, Buchanan, Obermayer and Obermaier, Gellman, Rid.

    I started the following books I expect to finish in 2021 (yes, I also said that about LeFeber and Wilson last year--I'm well in to LaFeber's book and thought I might finish before the end of the year, but had only read Wilson's intro so it's barely started):

    William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
    Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (2nd edition)
    Peter H. Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe's History

    I've also pre-ordered and am looking forward to reading:

    Nicole Perlroth, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapon Arms Race (due to be published on February 9)

    (Previously: 201920182017201620152014201320122011201020092008200720062005.)