Trump trial illustrates conduct most unbecoming

By Harlan Ullman
Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Pool Photo by Craig Ruttle/UPI
Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Tuesday. Pool Photo by Craig Ruttle/UPI | License Photo

May 16 (UPI) -- The New York trial of former President Donald Trump is, at best, a national embarrassment. But whether you are pro or against Trump, for acquittal or conviction or see the court case as a travesty, one conclusion is inescapable. Donald Trump's conduct is and has been most unbecoming for his entire career.

Trump denies having had a sexual affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels. He cannot deny however, having been systematically promiscuous for decades. During his first marriage to Ivanka Trump, he lived with and then married Marla Maples amidst intense media coverage. And then he let Marla go.


In 2023, he lost a civil case to E. Jean Carroll for sexual abuse in which the judge declared him a rapist. In a second case, he lost a settlement of $88.3 million for defaming Ms. Carroll. If circumstantial thinking applies, it is clear how the New York jury might vote.


There is also Trump's business record that reflects conduct most unbecoming. First, Trump has had several major successes. The restoration of the Commodore Hotel, Trump Tower, and 40 Wall Street were impressive. And Trump's golfing and hospitality empire is global. However, a darker side persists.

Throughout his career, it is estimated Trump and his businesses filed or were parties to 4,000 legal cases in United States federal and state courts, including battles with casino patrons, million-dollar real estate lawsuits, personal defamation lawsuits, and over 100 business tax disputes. Trump was well known for sending his attorney, the controversial Roy Cohn, into action to threaten legal actions.

Trump was infamous for not paying bills. In the New York trial, Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen testified to that fact. In one case, Trump said, "Pay the bill at 20% to the dollar." About his business failures, the S-4 registration report filed for Trump's special-purpose acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp. lays this out in detail:

"The Trump Taj Mahal, which was built and owned by President Trump, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991. The Trump Plaza, the Trump Castle, and the Plaza Hotel, all owned by President Trump at the time, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. THCR, which was founded by President Trump in 1995, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., the new name given to Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts after its 2004 bankruptcy, declared bankruptcy in 2009.


"Trump Shuttle Inc., launched by President Trump in 1989, defaulted on its loans in 1990 and ceased to exist by 1992. Trump University, founded by President Trump in 2005, ceased operations in 2011 amid lawsuits and investigations regarding the company's business practices. Trump Vodka, a brand of vodka produced by Drinks Americas under license from the Trump Organization, was introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2011."

Also, "Trump Mortgage, LLC, a financial services company founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007., a travel site founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007. Trump Steaks, a brand of steak and other meats founded by President Trump in 2007, discontinued sales two months after its launch."

The S-4 stated that "Trump is involved in numerous lawsuits and other matters that could damage his reputation, cause him to be distracted from the business or could force him to resign from the TMTG's board of directors."

No president has run for office with this history of conduct. That Trump has maintained such a strong following with some 70 million votes in 2020 raises why he has this hold over so many Americans. Obviously, history is full of individuals who have seized power from Caesar to Hitler and Putin. Yet, few came from the same background.


Admittedly, most Americans are unaware of Trump's history. Whether that would make a difference is unknowable. Perhaps, as the disparities between rich and poor and elites and underclass have soared in America, Trump is the plutocrat who is a traitor to his class. Through his disreputable and idiosyncratic conduct, Trump has taken on the system. In that regard, while he may not appeal to "everyman," he does to many, many millions of Americans.

This is the most extraordinary presidential election in American history. An 81-year-old takes on a 77-year-old with a possible third candidate who is 70. Not since 1861 has the nation been so divided with matching political dialogue that is equally vindictive, nasty and partisan. Trump's legal travails are far from over.

Tell me how this ends?

Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist, a senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council, the prime author of "shock and awe" and author of "The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and the World at Large." Follow him @harlankullman. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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