The Trump Files: Donald vs. a “Nazi” School Board

Ivylise Simones

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Until the election, we’re bringing you “The Trump Files,” a daily dose of telling episodes, strange but true stories, or curious scenes from the life of GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has a long track record of pushing officials in New York and other cities to yield to his demands, but he doesn’t always get his way. Take the case of an old building in Los Angeles that he bought a stake in, where the local school board thwarted Trump’s attempt to build yet another massive tower.

The building was the Ambassador Hotel, a rundown property most famous for being the site of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. It closed in January 1989 and that year Trump snapped up a 25 percent interest in the partnership that owned the hotel, later pledging—what else?—to build the world’s tallest building on the site. But LA’s school board wanted to use the property to build a high school, and its members voted to seize the Ambassador using eminent domain.

Rather than agreeing on a sale price with the district, the Los Angeles Times reported, Trump decided to fight. Trump launched a years-long battle as he first lobbied to keep the property, then agreed to sell when he needed cash in 1991, and finally waded into a complicated legal battle with the city as both parties squabbled over how much the land was worth. Trump complained during one deposition obtained by the Times that the “fools” on the school board had taken the hotel from him “as viciously as in Nazi Germany.” And he griped: “I assumed that the people essentially teaching the kids were not stupid. They turned out to be very stupid.”

The school board eventually won the dispute, knocked down the hotel, and built a wildly expensive K-12 campus that opened in 2010. And Trump, defeated, sold his stake in the partnership in 1998 and never tried to build a major building in Southern California again.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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