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Trump And Nadler Go Waaaaay Back

Donald Trump Jerrold Nadler Judiciary Committee subpoena
TPM Illustration/Getty Images
May 22, 2019 1:51 p.m.

At his impromptu Rose Garden temper tantrum Wednesday, President Donald Trump snuck in a jab as his old nemesis: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

“Jerry Nadler, who fought me in New York unsuccessfully, by the way,” Trump said. “I’ve had great success against Jerry. He was representing Manhattan and would fight me all the time on the West Side railroad many times, very unsuccessfully. He failed. I come to Washington, become President and said oh, no, I have Jerry Nadler again?”

Trump is referring to an incident in the 1980s that gave birth to the animosity between the two. At the time, both were in their 30s. Nadler was serving in the New York State Assembly, representing a portion of Manhattan’s West Side, and Trump was a young real estate developer.

The Washington Post has a good rundown of the feud.

Essentially, Trump wanted to build a sprawling construction project — we’re talking the world’s tallest skyscraper, thousands of apartments in soaring buildings, a shopping mall, television stations — on the lot of a railroad yard in Nadler’s district that had fallen into disrepair.

Trump christened his vision “Television City.”

Nadler christened it “Not Gonna Happen.” The young lawmaker wanted the city to buy the rail yard and revitalize it to create transportation jobs for the middle class.

Trump, accustomed to schmoozing with lawmakers to get his way, invited Nadler to see his models of the project. When Nadler asked why the skyscraper had to be so tall, Trump replied with no reason other than he wanted to live in a penthouse so far off the ground that he’d need a concierge to tell him the weather. Nadler found this “grotesque.”

Soon after, Nadler won an election to become a U.S. representative, and vowed to keep stymying Trump’s project.

Trump responded in classic form. “If Nadler spent more time in a gymnasium losing weight, he would do the voters a bigger service,” Trump said. “He needs to lose about 200 pounds.” He gave the congressman the uncharitable nickname “fat Jerry.” (Nadler, who used to be much larger, underwent weight loss surgery and a lifestyle overhaul in 2002.)

Trump tried to get public funds for the project; Nadler blocked him. Trump tried to get a loan guarantee; Nadler lobbied the HUD secretary not to give it to him.

In the end, neither men got entirely what they wanted. Trump built some residential complexes but far fewer than he hoped to, and ultimately sold the parcel. Nadler kept him from making the biggest changes he sought, like moving the West Side Highway for the complex.

Now the two sons of New York are at odds again, with Nadler battling Trump for the testimony of those in his orbit while the President stonewalls at every turn.

It’s a New York state of mind.

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