rhetoric

Trump’s businesses and brand still suffering from his polarizing rhetoric : NPR

Trump Tower’s new wine and whiskey bar, 45, includes enormous pictures of the former president, in and around the White House.

Andrea Bernstein/NPR


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Andrea Bernstein/NPR


Trump Tower’s new wine and whiskey bar, 45, includes enormous pictures of the former president, in and around the White House.

Andrea Bernstein/NPR

Once, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was a bustling indoor mall, with floors and floors of retail, a pink marble atrium and an indoor waterfall. On a recent visit, the waterfall and the pink marble were still there, but the escalator going up from the first floor was roped off, a currency exchange was closed, and small ground-level shops had been converted to display windows for Trump-branded merchandise.

There is something new: a wine and whiskey bar, called 45. Its logo, ringed with stars, looks kind of like a presidential seal. Inside, there are enormous pictures of the former president, in and around the White House.

Trump Tower embodies the contradictions of Donald Trump’s business, post-presidency. There’s a cache to sell, but also an extremely polarizing brand. Trump’s continued espousal of lies about the 2020 election have driven away potential partners; after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, associates from Deutsche Bank to the Professional Golf Association pulled back.

There’s an ongoing criminal fraud case by the Manhattan district attorney against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. The New York attorney general and the Westchester district attorney are also investigating. Trump, his company and his CFO have denied wrongdoing.

Donald Trump did not put his name back on many company documents after his presidency; Weisselberg, who was indicted for 15 felonies, removed his own name from some corporate documents; only Donald Trump Jr.’s and Eric Trump’s names remain on many management filings.

Even without all the brand challenges, Trump is heavily tied up in businesses such as office rentals and retail that are struggling post-pandemic. Just this month, Forbes took the former president off its tally of the 400 richest people. Had Trump sold off his assets and invested in markets while he was president — which ethics experts advised him to do — he would have been $4.5 billion richer today, Forbes said.

“What sorts of businesses would you want to be invested in, in 2021?” asked Dan Alexander, the senior editor at Forbes who calculated Trump’s wealth. “Not many people would pick large office buildings and big fancy hotels located in urban areas.”

The New York State Comptroller earlier this month issued a report showing the value of Manhattan office buildings dropped $28 billion since the onset of the pandemic. Tourism and retail shopping also plummeted.

“The impact has been really negative in what we call the brick and mortar economy,” said Kathy Wylde of the New York City Partnership, a business group.

Neither the Trump Organization nor spokespeople for the former president responded to requests for comment.

Though there’s millions of dollars of debt, Trump still

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