After winning the Republican primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, Donald Trump took the stage at his victory celebration and delivered a rambling speech in which he repeatedly denigrated Nikki Haley, who he had hired to be his UN ambassador when he was president. He did not offer thanks to any specific person. He did not mention his top campaign advisers. He did not express appreciation to anyone on his New Hampshire team. He did not refer to any member of his family. (His wife Melania did not appear with him.) But he did namecheck two supporters in attendance: Steve Wynn and John Paulson.
Most viewers probably missed the significance of this moment, which offered a true snapshot of Trump’s perverted worldview.
Wynn is a former casino mogul. For years, he was the king of Las Vegas. He developed several resorts there, including the Golden Nugget, the Mirage, and the Bellagio. He also built casinos in Macau, Atlantic City, and elsewhere. He became a wildly successful billionaire—the sort of guy Trump once aspired to be. Though Wynn and Trump had a bruising legal fight over their Atlantic City casinos in the 1990s, they eventually settled the dispute and ended up bosom buddies. A big-money Republican donor, Wynn was an early supporter of Trump’s first presidential campaign. After Trump entered the White House, Wynn became finance chair of the Republican National Committee.
Wynn is also a disgraced businessman who was credibly accused of sexual assault. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal published a blockbuster article citing dozens of people saying that Wynn had “sexualized his workplace and pressured workers to perform sex acts.” The piece opened with the story of a manicurist who said that Wynn had forced her to have sex with him in his office. The newspaper noted that the woman’s supervisor filed a report with the casino’s human resources department, and Wynn later paid the manicurist a $7.5 million settlement. According to the Journal, dozens of people who worked at his casinos described incidents that formed “a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct.” Wynn denied the charges, telling the paper, “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”
Wynn’s alleged wrongdoing led to multiple investigations, lawsuits, and regulatory actions. In 2019, Nevada regulators fined Wynn Resorts $20 million for ignoring complaints about Wynn’s misconduct. This was the largest fee imposed on a gambling licensee in the state. That year, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission released a report concluding that senior executives at Wynn’s company had covered up allegations of Wynn’s behavior. The Massachusetts regulators fined Wynn Resorts $35 million. Last July, Wynn paid a $10 million fine and agreed to cut his ties to the casino industry to settle a case with Nevada gambling regulators that began with the allegations of workplace sexual misconduct. (In 2022, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to force Wynn to register as a foreign agent for the Chinese government for having lobbied the Trump administration to extradite fugitive Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui to China; the case was dismissed on a technicality.)
Wynn resigned as national finance chair of the RNC days after the Wall Street Journal story appeared in 2018.
Despite the many allegations against Wynn, Trump remains his pal. So much so that Wynn warranted one of the few shout-outs of the night in New Hampshire. It’s as if Trump and he are two accused sexual predators in a pod. (Actually, Trump was found liable for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll.) Here’s a good window into Trump’s psyche: a billionaire forced out of his business due to a flood of sexual misconduct allegations was foremost in Trump’s mind when he was celebrating an important political accomplishment.
John Paulson, whose attendance Trump also noted, is a hedge fund billionaire. He’s most famous—or infamous—for having made about $4 billion in 2007 betting against subprime mortgages. Though this move has been hailed as one of the greatest trades in US financial history, it is tainted. Paulson scored this windfall by shorting a package of mortgage bonds assembled by Goldman Sachs. Guess who selected the bonds that went into this package? Paulson.
Goldman Sachs allowed an investor looking to wager against the housing bubble to concoct this package that Goldman Sachs then peddled as reasonable investments to its clients, including pension funds, foreign banks, and insurance companies. “Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio,” the Securities and Exchange Commission stated when it filed a civil lawsuit against the firm in 2010. The complaint did not name Paulson as a defendant, but it detailed his role in creating the financial instrument that led to $1 billion in losses for Goldman’s customers. Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to the SEC to settle this case. That was one of the largest penalties ever paid by a Wall Street firm.
Like Wynn, Paulson supported Trump in the 2016 campaign, and he has been a Trump donor ever since. In 2020, he held a $500,000-per-couple fundraiser for Trump at his mansion in the Hamptons.
From the stage in New Hampshire, Trump told Wynn and Paulson, “Good to have you guys.” He also teased that he might name Paulson Treasury secretary if he returns to the White House.
This was just a brief occurrence in a speech full of the customary Trump nonsense that included misogynistic references to Haley, the usual lies about the 2020 election, and inflammatory rhetoric about migrants and President Joe Biden. But it was telling that in the middle of this triumph the people Trump appeared to care most about were not campaign aides who have toiled hard to help him achieve his win or loved ones who have been at his side. When he looked into the audience, his gaze fell upon two oligarchs—one an accused sexual assaulter; the other, a wheeler-dealer who cashed in on a deal that led to one of the biggest penalties in Wall Street history.
These are Trump’s people. This is his world. This is his crowd.