White House Leaks

Trump Surprised to Learn Building Things Costs Money

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Intimate White House leaks continued over the weekend and, as it turns out, the federal government cannot leverage itself into bankruptcy in the same manner as Donald Trump has.

The New York Times produced a brief profile of Trump's interactions with former Goldman CEO Gary Cohn including one occasion shortly after the election in which Trump was reportedly surprised to learn that rebuilding our nation's infrastructure will cost a lot of money.

When Cohn told Trump his plans would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Trump recoiled.

The president-elect turned to the other people in the room — his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon; his chief of staff, Reince Priebus; and Steven T. Mnuchin, his campaign’s chief fund-raiser and Mr. Trump’s nominee to be Treasury secretary — surprised that his infrastructure ideas had such a potential downside.

“Is this true?” Mr. Trump asked the group, according to those people. Heads nodded. “Why did I have to wait to have this guy tell me?” he demanded.

There are other disturbing details in the Times report, such as Trump's apparent deference to Cohn on virtually everything related to the economy, but this part struck me more than any other detail.

During that sit-down, on Nov. 29, Mr. Cohn briefed Mr. Trump on what he regarded as the chief hurdle to expanding the economy, according to people who were briefed on the discussion: a stronger dollar, which would undermine efforts to create jobs.

If Trump and Cohn discussed currency value several months ago, why did Trump just recently call up Michael Flynn at 3 a.m. to ask him (the wrong person to ask) if a stronger or weaker dollar is "better?"

Is Trump having trouble remembering things? Does he panic in the middle of the night when he can't remember?

It's these small details, which are adding up quickly, that lead me to question Trump's mental capacity. Another major concern is Trump being an empty vessel surrounded by terrible people who he defers to for virtually every decision of any consequence because he personally has no idea what to do.

  • Aynwrong

    So, the infrastructure spending that was promised is never happening. That’s not a surprise.

  • Holy baby jeebus, how the hell can he not know this? My 13 year old knows this. We are so frigging screwed. Gahhh!

  • Draxiar

    Yeah Donnie…you have to actually PAY the people building the infrastructure.

  • muselet

    “Is this true?” Mr. Trump asked the group, according to those people. Heads nodded. “Why did I have to wait to have this guy tell me?” he demanded.

    That right there, in a nutshell, is why Donald Trump’s businesses keep failing: he doesn’t trouble his beautiful mind with trivial details like how things get paid for, or payment clauses in contracts negotiated with contractors, or things he’s been told about the relative value of the US dollar against other world currencies.

    Donald Trump is an actor, one who—unlike Ronald Reagan—never really learned the craft. He has one stock character, a dim, egomaniacal, impulsive, wannabe alpha-male rich guy with an annoying catchphrase. The character, the only one he has, is popular among a certain segment of the public, so Trump is famous enough to get elected President of the United States.

    He’s now outside his comfort zone. His catchphrases—he (or his writers) came up with a new one for his campaign—are no longer enough to satisfy the audience. He’s expected to learn things and decide things and behave differently than he’s used to. He can’t simply show up and ad-lib a few (carefully-written and well-rehearsed) insults, he is expected to contribute to discussions and—horror of horrors!—think about issues and events.

    For Trump, his cabinet is his supporting cast and his advisers are the writing room of the TV show that’s running in his head. Empty vessel? Maybe, but he seems more like someone badly in need of a better writing staff.

    I keep waiting for Trump, in the middle of one of his off-script rambles, to turn to someone off to the side and ask, “Line?”


  • But, but, but . . .

    “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”