CNN: Charlie Leerhsen, who was the ghostwriter for President Donald Trump book 'Surviving at the Top,' describes how Trump dealt with his personal and business problems saying Trump was very good at compartmentalizing bad news.
"I thought it was interesting that from the story that the times dug up the other day about the ten years of income tax, you think of chaos and misery, but in the center of that was this quiet office where he was going through fabric swatches most of the day and in the middle of all this sturm und drang, he was oblivious to it. He wasn't really paying a lot of attention to the plaza hotel and the Trump shuttle and the other things he just invested in," Leerhsen told CNN host Erin Burnett.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, calling Trump out. A man whose job it was to get inside Donald Trump's head and share his story with the world says Trump is a failing real estate developer who had little idea what he was doing.
Charlie Leerhsen was Trump's ghost writer for his 1991 book "Surviving at the Top." He worked with Trump during the years that "The New York Times" bombshell report showed Trump had over $1 billion in losses. In the couple years double the next biggest loser in America.
It is a starkly different picture than the one painted in "Surviving at the Top."
So, Charlie Leerhsen is OUTFRONT.
So, you know, "Art of the Deal" becomes his bestseller. Then he wants to do a sequel, and so, he sits down with you, you write it. As I said, you really get his voice. I encourage people to read it. It's quite fascinating, he talks about an open marriage and all kinds of things like that.
But let me -- let me just ask you, during this time, things are turning around for him very much to the south.
CHARLIE LEERHSEN, GHOSTWRITER FOR DONALD TRUMP'S "SURVIVING AT THE TOP": Right.
BURNETT: We now see a billion dollars in losses and now you feel like you need to speak up because obviously that's not what he said in the book.
LEERHSEN: Well, I thought it was interesting that from the story that the times dug up the other day about the ten years of income tax, you think of chaos and misery, but in the center of that was this quiet office where he was going through fabric swatches most of the day and in the middle of all this sturm und drang, he was oblivious to it. He wasn't really paying a lot of attention to the plaza hotel and the Trump shuttle and the other things he just invested in.
BURNETT: So, you know, let me just show some examples because he wanted to use this to portray -- I guess when you got in his head, did he believe the spin that he was giving you? LEERHSEN: Well, as I say in the piece, the only thing I think he's
above average at is compartmentalizing. So, he was able to put all that bad stuff --
BURNETT: The failure.
LEERHSEN: -- in a box that he didn't think about during the day. I think it only really bothered him when it became public. At this time things were really going to hell in his business, but the public didn't know about it yet so he wasn't that concerned.
BURNETT: Then he wants to put this book out to -- I'm curious what word you'd use. Let's talk about a yacht. He bought a yacht. He calls it the Trump Princess in 1987.
BURNETT: Actually from a relative of Jamal Khashoggi, Adnan Khashoggi. He also had to turn it over to lenders because he was so far in the hole that he lost the boat. In the book, he says after a couple of years, I started to think about an even bigger boat and I had plans drawn for a second one. This is a classic example of how I keep trying to top myself. Owning the world's most magnificent yacht only made me want to get something bigger and better. But as much as I've enjoyed it until now, I don't need it anymore. I don't want it anymore.
In that year when it was taken from him --
BURNETT: -- he had $42.2 million in business losses. This was not spinning.
BURNETT: This was just a blatant lie.
LEERHSEN: Oh, yes. And I can -- I can still see myself at my kitchen table writing what you just read.
BURNETT: You remember him telling you this.
LEERHSEN: No, he didn't tell me that. We had -- each time we had a whole book of braggadocios stuff all prepared. Then as we were ready to go to press "Forbes" magazine and some other people came out with the news that he actually had a below zero net worth, that everything was going south. His wife Ivana left him. Mike Tyson was his meal ticket in Atlantic City got knocked out. Everything is going poorly. So, we had to salvage the book, w had to come up with these lame explanations, meaning me and the editors.
BURNETT: To try to sell the whole thing.
LEERHSEN: He wasn't really involved --
BURNETT: Interesting he makes a point in here he's the one who left Ivana. I mean, that's all there, it's happened contemporaneously.
Trump shuttle. You got a picture with the Trump shuttle is the boast airline of any kind anywhere. He bought the shuttle for $365 million. It never made a profit, lost $182 million that year on his business losses. So that was also B.S.
LEERHSEN: It was and all of these deals were really stupid deals that he made for the plaza hotel, the Trump shuttle. He simply paid too much for them and he did the equivalent -- if you bought a house and only put $10 down, your mortgage would be astronomical. You couldn't pay it every month. That was the position he was in.
BURNETT: What was your impression of him?
LEERHSEN: At the time I thought he was a goofy -- what we call in New York, a bridge and tunnel guy. He was from Queens, I was from the Bronx, so we got along. The stakes were lower, it didn't matter that much. He wasn't evil, he wasn't mean, he was going to separate babies form their families, he was like a middle level real estate guy with aspirations.
So, I didn't think he was evil at the time, but I think he is now.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I enjoy going through this.