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How Donald Trump Threatened an Investigative Reporter, Attempting to Bribe Him with a Free Apartment

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Investigative reporter Wayne Barrett has been digging up dirt on Donald Trump since the 1970s. He recalls an unusual offer from the billionaire mogul. “So he said to me, 'Wayne, you don't have to live in Brownsville. I have plenty of apartments,” Barrett recalls. “And so, then, at another time, he started talking to me about how he had broken this other journalist by suing him and driving him into bankruptcy.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump offered you an apartment, the man who’s dogged him for decades?

WAYNE BARRETT: Well, that was very early. I hadn’t started dogging him yet. That was to induce me not to dog him. When I started out on the trail of the Hyatt, I filed a Freedom of Information request with both the state and the city. And I was at the State Urban Development Corporation offices reading all the files, which was a table full of documents related to the Hyatt. And I was alone in a conference room, and the phone starts ringing in the conference room. I don’t know whether to pick up or not. I finally pick up.

“Wayne, this is Donald. I understand you’re going to write a story about me.” I never met the guy in my life at that point; it was like we were old friends. And so, I met with him early in the reporting process. I always use this with journalism students as an example of what not to do. If you’re circling—circling a subject, you don’t want to, you know, go face to face with him, because you never know whether you’re going to get a second shot. You don’t want to go face to face with him until you’ve got all of your ducks in a row. But because he interrupted, very early, the reporting process, I met with him before I really had many of the ducks in a row, and I could only ask softball questions. He loved me then.

You know, it was—Ivana was walking around the apartment. It was on a Saturday or a Sunday; I know it was a weekend. And Ivana’s walking around the apartment. It’s on Fifth Avenue, but it’s long before Trump Tower. And, you know, so in the midst of that, I had not told him that I lived in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, which was then the poorest community in the City of New York. It would be unfathomable to him that I lived there by choice, because I wanted to live there. So he said to me, “Wayne, you don’t have to live in Brownsville. I have plenty of apartments.” And so, then, at another time—it was not at that first interview, but sometime subsequent to that—he started talking to me about how he had broken this other journalist by suing him and driving him into bankruptcy. So it was the carrot and the stick, and they were both jokes.

AMY GOODMAN: Wayne Barrett, investigative reporter who worked with The Village Voice for 37 years. Wayne’s 1991 biography of Trump has just been republished as an ebook; the title, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

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