It appears that, if a Trump Tower Moscow was ever built, that an apartment in it – the penthouse obviously – might have been given to Vladimir Putin. This is, according to the current narrative, proof perfect that Trump was bought by Putin and the election stolen from its rightful owner, Hillary Clinton. This is to entirely misunderstand how business works.
Oh, sure, imagine that the tower did go ahead, the apartment was gifted, then this would indeed have been something along the lines of a present at least, if not a bribe. The implication of it would not though be that Putin was bought, nor that something was owed. Well, at least not an election. It would have ensured that there would be no problems with either the maffiya or the bureaucracy – to the extent they differ – on the project. And there would have been a flood of oligarchs who would have bought, at added prices, to be in the same building as Putin. But that’s not quite the lens we should look at this through:
Donald Trump’s company discussed a plan to give a $50 million penthouse in its new luxury Moscow development to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to several sources quoted by Buzzfeed News.
Two law enforcement officials told the website that the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, discussed the idea with Mr Putin’s press secretary.
Details emerged on the day that Mr Cohen confessed that he lied about a Moscow real estate deal being pursued during the campaign.
Mr Trump said repeatedly during his White House run that he had no business dealings with Russia, but Mr Cohen’s plea deal reveals that the Trump Tower Moscow project was being pursued up until June 2016.
Consider what “being in business” means. No, not what does making cars mean, not what does being a baker mean. Those obviously enough mean making cars or bread. Being in business is the process of selecting what things are to be made. There’s a vast universe out there of things which can be done. Assets – labour, land, capital, knowledge – can be purposed to making rockets to go to Mars, making electric cars, writing software to publish news on the internet, building apartments for rich folks. “Being in business” is the process of deciding which of these and all the other alternatives one will apply oneself.
Given the size of that possible universe of actions it’s necessary to sieve through rather a lot of ideas in order to find those few that will be attempted. This before that external environment, the market, decides which will be successful.
Here the allegation is that the Trump organisation considered the idea of giving Vova an apartment in order to raise the price of the other apartments in the same building. One that didn’t get built anyway. This is just what being in business means, that things are considered, the vast majority of them rejected for one reason or another. And we can and should critique people for what they actually do, but criticism of what they’ve decided not to do does seem to be missing this point about what business actually entails.
Try using the same logic on a different example. Undoubtedly the Clinton Foundation received various applications for funding. Which were considered. Some of those considered and rejected would have been very bad ideas. Perhaps enriching some dictator somewhere. So, that an idea was floated and rejected does not make Bill, Hillary nor Chelsea guilty of enriching a dictator. What they actually did might do that – I claim no knowledge whatsoever of where the Foundation spent its cash – but what they didn’t does not.
Being in business is the process of sifting through the things that might be done in order to arrive at those which will be. Bribing Vladimir Putin with an apartment is one of the things the Trump Organisation didn’t do. Huzzah etc, now shouldn’t we get back to what it did do?
Or are we, rather, just making ever more stretched attempt to prove that Hills really should be enthroned even now?