jueves, 21 de julio de 2016

Donald Trump Threatens the Ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal”


On the first day of the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump made a surprise speech—and the Trump Organization’s general counsel sent a threatening letter to Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal.”

When Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 memoir “The Art of the Deal,” decided to tell the public about his concerns that Trump isn’t fit to serve as President, his main worry was that Trump, who is famously litigious, would threaten to take legal action against him. Schwartz’s premonition has proved correct.

On Monday, July 18th, the day that this magazine published an interview with Schwartz, and hours after Schwartz appeared on “Good Morning America” to voice his concerns about Trump’s “impulsive and self-centered” character, Jason D. Greenblatt, the general counsel and vice-president of the Trump Organization, issued a threatening cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz. (You can read the full letter at the bottom of this post.) In it, Greenblatt accuses Schwartz—who has likened his writing of the flattering book to putting “lipstick on a pig”—of making “defamatory statements” about the Republican nominee and claiming that he, not Trump, wrote the book, “thereby exposing” himself to “liability for damages and other tortious harm.”

Greenblatt demands that Schwartz send “a certified check made payable to Mr. Trump” for all of the royalties he had earned on the book, along with Schwartz’s half of the book’s five-hundred-thousand-dollar advance. (The memoir has sold approximately a million copies, earning Trump and Schwartz each several million dollars.) Greenblatt also orders Schwartz to issue “a written statement retracting your defamatory statements,” and to offer written assurances that he will not “generate or disseminate” any further “baseless accusations” about Trump.

On Thursday, reached by e-mail on an airplane, Schwartz said that he would continue to speak out against Trump, and that he would make no retractions or apologies. “The fact that Trump would take time out of convention week to worry about a critic is evidence to me not only of how thin-skinned he is, but also of how misplaced his priorities are,” Schwartz wrote. He added, “It is axiomatic that when Trump feels attacked, he will strike back. That’s precisely what’s so frightening about his becoming president.”

That day, a lawyer representing Schwartz, Elizabeth A. McNamara, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, sent Greenblatt a response. (You can read that letter in its entirety at the bottom of this page.) McNamara states that Schwartz “will not be returning any of the advance or royalties from the Book, and he has no intention of retracting any of his opinions about the character of the Republican nominee for the presidency, nor does he have any obligation or intention to remain silent about the issue going forward.” She describes Trump’s cease-and-desist letter as “nothing more than a transparent attempt to stifle legitimate criticism.”

As McNamara notes, Greenblatt’s letter does not actually refute Schwartz’s claim that he, not Trump, wrote the book. Instead, Greenblatt writes that Trump “was the source of all of the material in the Book and the inspiration for every word in the Book,” rather than the author. Greenblatt acknowledges that Trump provided Schwartz “with the facts and facets of each of these deals in order for you to write them down.”

On “Good Morning America,” Schwartz told host George Stephanopoulos that “The Art of the Deal” very likely contained “falsehoods” owing to the fact that Trump, in his opinion, has a strong propensity to exaggerate and lie. Greenblatt attacks Schwartz’s statement, arguing that if the book is less than accurate, then Schwartz had breached his obligations as the book’s co-author. In response, Schwartz’s lawyer notes that because Trump takes credit for providing “all of the material in the book,” if there are falsehoods they must have been provided by Trump. “Any purported failure by Mr. Schwartz to be ‘accurate in the completion of [his] duties’ would be entirely because of misleading statements by Mr. Trump,” McNamara writes.

In his letter, Greenblatt also accuses Schwartz of having tried to profit from his association with Trump after “The Art of the Deal” was published, as Trump had said in a phone interview with me. Greenblatt quotes from a friendly letter that Schwartz wrote to Trump in 1988, soon after “The Art of the Deal” was published, in which he described their “partnership” as “a success in every respect,” and said, “I hope we’ll be able to work together again, on other projects.” Greenblatt does not acknowledge that when Trump asked Schwartz to co-author a sequel to “The Art of the Deal,” Schwartz rejected the offer. Greenblatt’s letter claims that Schwartz has “pleaded with Mr. Trump to provide you with more work.” Schwartz says this is “totally false,” and that he has made no business overtures to Trump during the last twenty-eight years. Asked last night to provide any evidence that Schwartz had ever sought work from Trump after the publication of “The Art of the Deal,” Greenblatt said he could provide none at that moment, but would try to find some soon. Speaking by phone from the Republican National Convention, in Cleveland, he added that “Mr. Trump is a bit busy tonight,” so would not be available to back up his allegations with any specifics, either. Instead, he cited Schwartz’s agreement, earlier this year, to a plan to issue an audio version of “The Art of the Deal.” (Schwartz has pledged to donate all royalties from the book in 2016 to charity.) Other than that, Schwartz reiterated to me that he has had almost no contact with Trump, and until a few months ago had kept almost silent about him.

“I fully expected him to attack me, because that is what he does, so I can’t say I am surprised,” Schwartz noted. “But I’m much more worried about his becoming president than I am about anything he might try to do to me.”

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