‘What Trial?’ Indifference Reigns at Trump Properties as Impeachment Proceeds
(Bloomberg) -- The diamonds were sparkling in New York. A carpenter working at a San Francisco skyscraper shrugged. There were no bar specials at the hotel near the White House, just a menu that includes cocktails called Belle of Congress and Bitter Life.
As the Senate began Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, indifference reigned at properties across the billionaire’s empire on Tuesday. There were moments of disgust and adoration from some tenants, workers and customers, but mostly they seemed not to care -- or even know -- about what was going on inside Congress.
For Trump, once a reality television host with his own catchphrase for firing people, the unprecedented second impeachment is proceeding after accusations that he incited a mob at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn November’s election. But in the midtown Manhattan space he rents out to Tiffany & Co. and at the California tower he co-owns, even on the ice of the Central Park rinks that New York City is taking away from his management, life went on.
“I’m not going to watch -- it’s depressing,” carpenter James Keenan said in the minutes before the trial began. He was sipping an iced tea on the steps of San Francisco’s 555 California St., one of two towers that Trump co-owns with Vornado Realty Trust. The Trump Organization’s 30% stake in the pair is worth an estimated $685 million, its most valuable holding.
Keenan, 49, has done jobs at the 52-story office building off and on since 1989. Now it’s mostly a “ghost town” as the coronavirus pandemic keeps workers at home.
He thought the property was owned by a Japanese billionaire until his company’s truck driver recently told him about Trump. He doesn’t care either way. “I’m a fiscal conservative,” he said before returning to work on the 46th floor. “As long as the economy’s good, I’m good.”
In New York, Mariana Legotska walked onto the ice of Central Park’s Wollman Rink wearing a pink sweater, pink gloves, a pink coat with a furry white hood and a furry black bag. A tourist from Kiev, she had little interest in the drama unfolding in D.C.
“What trial?” she said. “I just want to do this because I want the feeling of skating.”
After the Capitol riot, New York City terminated all contracts with Trump, whose company operates two rinks and the carousel in Central Park, plus the Ferry Point golf course. The Trump Organization has said it will “vigorously” fight the move.
When the trial kicked off around 1 p.m., a trader who was watching his young son learn to skate said he didn’t care that Trump is still managing the rink. A few minutes later, as senators approved the rules, Anne Blatt’s 9-year-old granddaughter asked her what an impeachment is. Blatt, a Trump fan who says she wants to be his customer, was still feeling too weak after getting Covid-19 last year to skate.
As House managers opened their presentation with an intense video that combined Trump’s rhetoric with scenes of the attacking mob, 18-year-old Judi Zeidan said she wouldn’t support anything with Trump’s name on it, and was only skating because her school paid. She was recording the trial to watch later.
At other properties, it was business as usual. It was still morning at the Trump National Golf Club outside of Los Angeles when the trial was getting underway, and the only TV turned on showed golf videos while a patio grill served burgers and hot dogs. Later, two golfers gushed about the course and shrugged off the mob violence, and a foursome on a work retreat said the hearing just stirred up negative energy.
Inside Trump’s hotel in Washington, once a hub for the administration and its fans and lobbyists, the lounge was quiet except for a few guests. Two televisions were tuned to ESPN2 and Fox Sports, and two others showed impeachment coverage from CNN and Fox News.
More than 11 million people tuned in Tuesday afternoon to watch the proceedings on TV. Comcast Corp.’s MSNBC network led with 2.87 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. Fox News was third, behind CNN, at 1.95 million.
Around 2 p.m., Democrats argued that two centuries of precedent and common sense make clear that former officials must be tried by the Senate when impeached. In New York, inside Trump Tower’s Gucci store, a salesman was showing off custom-made chairs that cost thousands of dollars.
Around the corner, at the building’s residential entrance, a doorman in a dark coat with golden buttons said he doesn’t follow the news. There are good presidents and bad presidents, he said, and nothing changes.
As the day went on, Trump’s lawyers argued that the former president’s trial is a politically motivated attempt to remove him as a challenger to Democratic power. After four hours of arguments from House impeachment managers and the defense, the Senate voted to affirm that it’s constitutional to try an official who’s no longer in office.
Before the day ended, investor Michael Kimble, a specialist in high-yield bonds, went on an afternoon shopping trip. He was looking for a pearl necklace at the Tiffany store in Trump’s 57th Street building.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m not going to boycott their store if they say something I don’t agree with.”
Giant digital letters scrolled up Tiffany’s five floors, spelling out a message: “Winner takes all.”
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