Trump’s statement following former FBI Director, James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last Friday, was quite startling, wasn’t it?  Here’s what he said:

“No collusion, no obstruction, he’s a leaker,” Trump told reporters in the White House rose garden on Friday. “We were very, very happy, and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”

And then there was this:

“One hundred per cent,” said the president. “I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance.’ Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? Think of it: I hardly know the man, it doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t say the other.”
Trump said he would be “glad” to tell the same thing to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election. But Trump remained elusive on the subject of tapes."

Now us “normal” types wonder why Trump would go so far to paint Comey as a liar, a leaker and that his entire testimony was somehow bogus?  Most of us would trust Comey's honesty as opposed to Trump's proven history of straying from the truth.  But I can tell you why.  At least here’s why I think Trump has no compunction about saying such egregious – and patently false – things like those he said about Comey’s testimony.

He’s a developer.   

There’s another part of the reason why – he’s had no experience in criminal proceedings but knows civil proceedings very well.  I’ll deal with this aspect later. 

First, I’ve dealt with developer types for decades.  Anyone in the business of Architecture and Planning will have had the same experiences with developers as I have.  Right out of the gate, I will tell you that developers don’t lie.  At least they don’t think they do.  Say one thing while testifying before a Zoning Commission or Planning Commission and then saying something else – sometimes totally opposite – before a local community group or church group who owns the property right next to the condos they want to build?  No problem.  What a developer will tell you, if he actually acknowledges that he told two different stories (I’ve never raised this question), is that he simply emphasized two different aspect of the same project as he was trying to thread through the municipal and community gauntlet of regulations, presentations and reviews that he sees as trying to thwart his objectives.  So inconsistencies among the statements they make aren’t “dodges” or “misstatements” or “lies.”  They are simply a matter of “emphasis” depending on the audience they are addressing.  Selective, yes, but not illegitimate or insane.

Developers firmly believe that they are doing God’s work.  This is the second aspect of the developer personality and Trump fits this description like the O.J. glove.  They aren’t totally wrong.  After all, sometimes they do take considerable risk in proposing projects in areas that aren’t the best environments but might have the potential for future transformation and they see what they are doing as supporting this very important aspect of providing needed goods and services to society.  

The third aspect of the developer’s personality, is control.  I’ve never worked with a developer where this isn’t foremost in their minds and tends to shade virtually every aspect of their actions.  Firing some recalcitrant employee?  “You’re fired!” with nary a second thought.  In a sense, they are not wrong about wanting to exert control.  Development projects, excepting the very smallest, are enormously complicated.  You’ve got all the technical requirements – zoning and building regulations, environmental constraints, workers rules, Federal laws and local laws, and the often diametrically opposed oobjective of municipal officials and local community residents - that must be navigated if you want your development project to succeed.  It can take many years.   I’ve seen projects flushed down the sewer when a community activists reveals that XYZ developer has a history of labor law infractions on the developer’s prior projects.  

Trump does exhibit these "developer personality" traits, at least as I read him.  But here's another aspect of Trump which is very much in line with your typical developer experience.    But there is the problem that most developers do not become President.   I’m not aware of any criminal legal case Trump has been involved in.  It’s well known that he has been involved in literally dozens of civil cases.  His current actions and words as President speak volumes to his ignorance about the difference between the two.  I recall reading transcript excerpts from a couple of his civil trials and in true Trump fashion there was a lot of overblown rhetoric (“my university instructors were the best in the country’) and a whole lot of questionable assertions (“every single instructor has been thoroughly vetted.”)  He reached an out of court settlement in the Trump University case and, therefore no one – an administrative judge or a jury – had occasion to evaluate the veracity of this statements.  But even if it was determined that Trump was “exaggerating” his claims or even outright lying, nothing bad would have happened to him save maybe a couple of Breaking News Headline articles in the New York Post the day following the decision. 

But lying in a criminal proceeding or to a Congressional investigative hearing, a Grand Jury, a U.S. attorney or the FBI, for example, can result in an entirely different outcome including jail time.  Trump’s Comey remarks, his prior remarks about Judge Curiel, his bashing of the NSA, CIA and FBI all speak to Trump’s lack of exposure to criminal judicial proceedings just like every developer I've ever known.  Criminal actions are just not a part of a developers everyday experience.   Even Bill Clinton’s impeachable remark to a Grand Jury “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” was tagged as perjury and this was the basis for his impeachment.  But one can interpret his remark (as many did) in this way:  If one believes that “sexual relations” means penile/vaginal sex, i.e. going all the way, and a blow job falls outside of this definition, - admittedly a stretch -  one could argue that Clinton did not lie since he did not have vaginal intercourse with Monica Lewinsky.  But  the Grand Jury determined otherwise.   

Developers are adept at giving testimony in a broad range of venues:  municipal boards and commissions, non-governmental bodies like your local historic preservation society or environmental groups all the way down to a dozen local citizens gathered in neighborhood meetings to evaluate a given project.  Developers typically tailor their testimony or presentations to the biases and predilections of their current audience. In none of these venues is Developer XYZ in danger of being legally punished for misstatements, exaggerations or out right lies.  The worst that could happen is some revelation or concerted pushback that could derail the successful completion of his condominium building.

Trump’s comments that Comey is lying were delivered in a venue – The White House Rose Garden and Twitter -where he faces no danger of legal censure.  This is what he’s used to.  This is what he knows.  This is his world - the world of the developer.  There have been several news reports about his lack of honesty when testifying in civil cases.  Sure, in those venues it's called "exaggeration" or "misstatements" or "stretching the truth."   What he fails to realize, however, now that he is President of the United States and the consequences of his "misstatements" and “lies” isn’t just a negative article or two in the New York Post.  His willingness to “testify under oath” on this matter presents a significant danger that he is apparently unaware of.  Or, he is aware of it but is willing to take the gamble that no one will take him up on his "gamble" in typical developer hubris to testify under oath.  The likelihood of this happening is nil since even if Trump wanted to testify under oath I’m assuming that someone would persuade him that this cannot happen. 

So when you see headlines enquiring “Is Trump Insane?” and “Does the President Have a Mental Disorder?” or “Is Trump Fit For Office?” just remember that Trump is a developer and his behavior is not all that unusual for a developer particularly one as wealthy and seasoned as he is.  I recall one developer who, during the recession while we were waiting to appear before the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board, pulled me aside and said:  “I wish people would just stop talking about the recession and we wouldn’t be in such bad shape.”  The power of words to shape reality.  This is what he was telling me – although he probably wasn’t aware of it – but I thought it was a ridiculous comment given the underlying factors that led to the crisis.  But his comment was true to the developer's creed: tell the people what they want to hear and you’ll get your golf course, condo, hotel, office building, shopping mall project approved. 

It’s exactly how Trump thinks and his actions show it.

This piece is not intended to absolve Trump of the egregious things he's actually done.  That's not my point.  But all the hue and cry over his mental condition is specious.  It is, in fact, a way of pardoning his crimes just as we "pardon" mass shooters because they are mentally ill.  Trump is neither mentally deficient, which is not the same as stupid or dumb, nor crude.  He does have a developer's personality, though, and that goes some distance in explaining his behavior without resorting to terms like "crazy" and "insane."  For me, having known so many developers over the years as I have, much of his no hold barred actions, much of his intemperate talk, or his seemingly "not from the real world tweets" are more appropriately and analytically evaluated through a developer lens.  At least such a perspective provides some "rationality" to a portion of his otherwise inexplicable behavior like the "pussy grabbing" talk.  Maybe an over-the-line commentary by a potential President but not so for your typical developer.   At least from my real world experience. 

There You Have It!   Trump As Developer!


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