Donald Trump once tried to pay a lawyer he owed $2 million with a deed for a horse.
The bizarre scene is detailed in Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump and the Corruption of Justice, a book by David Enrich of The New York Times, due out next week. The Guardian received a copy.
Enrich reports that the lawyer to whom Trump was offering a stallion allegedly worth $5 million “as soon as he could talk again” stammered… “This isn’t the 19th century. You can’t pay me with a horse.’”
Reports of Trump refusing to pay legal and other bills abound. In New York, his business and tax matters are the subject of civil and criminal investigations.
Trump’s reluctance to pay legal fees was also evident in his attempt to reverse his defeat in the 2020 election, which has put him in further legal jeopardy.
In another forthcoming book, Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor, Andrew Kirtzman reports that in January 2021, Rudy Giuliani’s girlfriend demanded $2.5 million from Trump for the former New York City mayor’s legal work in attempting to block Joe Biden’s victory and for “defending you during the Russia hoax investigation and then impeachment.”
Maria Ryan, Kirtzman writes, made the request in the same letter asking Giuliani for a “general pardon” and the President’s Medal of Freedom.
Ryan was unsuccessful. The New York Times reported that Trump told advisers Giuliani “would only be ‘paid out,’ indicating a wager in the casino game of craps, which is essentially a payment on a successful roll of the dice.”
Enrich’s book focuses specifically on Trump’s relationship with Jones Day, a giant US law firm, and the role Donald McGahn, a partner, played in Trump’s 2016 campaign and then in the White House.
It wasn’t all smooth. Enrich quotes an unnamed Jones Day staffer as saying that in the early days of the campaign, after a Trump Tower meeting with Trump close advisers Corey Lewandowski and Alan Garten, McGahn said, “These guys are jerks.”
McGahn, writes Enrich, “disputed the citations attributed to him, particularly the word ‘idiot'”. However, it was previously reported that he called Trump “King Kong” behind his back.
McGahn was Trump’s first White House adviser. A member of the right-wing Federalist Society, he worked with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on an unprecedented federal judiciary mash-up with hard-line conservatives that ultimately included three elections to the Supreme Court.
McGahn resigned in 2018 after it was revealed he had worked extensively with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and Trump-Moscow ties.
Enrich describes Trump’s “reputation for neglecting his attorneys (and banks and contractors and clients)” but says that in Jones Day’s case, “against all odds, Trump paid and repaid.”
Contrary to the description of the alleged “idiot” remark, Enrich’s story about Trump’s attempt to pay a debt with a horse does not identify the attorney involved.
Describing “a lawyer in a white shoe company” who worked for Trump in the 1990s, Enrich writes: “The bill was about $2 million and Trump refused to pay.
“After a while, the attorney lost patience and showed up unannounced at Trump Tower. Someone sent him to Trump’s office. Trump was happy to see him at first — he showed no shame — but the attorney steamed.
“‘I’m incredibly disappointed,’ he scolded Trump. “There’s no reason you haven’t paid us.”
“Trump made a few apologetic noises. Then he said, “I’m not going to pay your bill. I will give you something more valuable.” What on earth is he talking about? the lawyer wondered. “I have a stallion,” Trump continued. “It’s worth $5 million.” Trump was rummaging through a filing cabinet and pulled out what he said was a deed for a horse. He gave it to the lawyer.”
Enrich describes the lawyer’s stunned and angry reaction, in which he threatened to sue.
Trump, writes Enrich, “finally spat out at least part of his debt.”