In 1986, a 40-year-old Donald Trump sent a letter to then-First Lady Nancy Reagan inviting her to stay at his Mar-a-Lago mansion – which, he informed her, was designed to be the “southern White House” – when she came down for the American Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach, Florida.
According to a Washington Post review of Reagan Library archives, the East Wing staff had no clue what Trump was talking about – the first lady had not been invited to the Red Cross ball – but Mrs. Reagan nevertheless drafted a hand-written letter declining the businessman’s invitation and telling him, “I am familiar with Mar-a-Lago.” Then, apparently thinking better of the potentially ego-stroking line – she crossed it out.
Trump’s ego – more so than Trump himself – was well-recognized at the Reagan White House, where, The Post‘s review of records found, aides sought to reject the mogul’s many overtures without wounding his pride.
Since launching his presidential bid last summer, Trump has frequently compared himself to Ronald Reagan and claimed a closeness with the 40th president – “He liked me,” Trump has said – that did not exist, the White House records suggest.
In 1987, White House Political Director Frank J. Donatelli wrote a memo asking Chief of Staff Howard Baker to reach out to Trump directly after the New York developer announced that he was weighing a request to headline a big fundraiser for congressional Democrats. “It would be most helpful if you would place a phone call to Don Trump today. He has a large ego and would be responsive to your call,” Donatelli wrote in the memo, underlining the word “large.” (Trump ultimately decided not to chair the event.)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: Flashback Moments, 1979 1992
The memo came amid a decade’s worth of almost-begging invitations Trump extended to the Reagans – all of which the president and first lady declined or ignored. Here are six examples, via The Washington Post:
• “In 1983, a request came in for a presidential telegram congratulating Trump on the grand opening of his eponymous tower on Fifth Avenue. A lawyer in the counsel’s office wrote ‘NO’ and explained internally that it would be inappropriate because it was a ‘commercial’ venture.
• In 1984, Trump requested that Reagan attend a gala to honor Vietnam veterans in New York City and said he would schedule it for any day that worked on the president’s calendar. The White House said no …
• In 1987, Trump urged Reagan to pick ex-Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) as Transportation Secretary. The president went with Jim Burnley instead.
• In 1988, the New York Board of Trade gave Trump an ‘outstanding executive’ award. The head of the group sent the White House a letter asking if POTUS could come. ‘Advanced word is that Mr. Trump will have some stimulatingly interesting comments to make during his talk at the dinner,’ he wrote. The scheduling office never seriously entertained the idea.
• Around the same time, Trump sent a glossy pink invitation to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue inviting the president and first lady to an 11 p.m. LaToya Jackson concert at his Atlantic City casino. This was ignored.
• Back in 1983, Trump snagged a picture with the president during a photo line at a White House event. The president, not paying close attention, signed it ‘Reagan Reagan.’ Five years later, Trump included the image in his book The Art of the Deal. An aide in the social secretary’s office noticed the mistake. She sent an apologetic note and a corrected picture – signed with an autopen.”
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Trump appears to have embellished his relationship with the former president in multiple interviews over the past year. During an interview with Good Morning America in August 2015, he said of Reagan, “I have great respect for him. I helped him. I knew him. He liked me and I liked him.”
“I didn’t know him well,” Trump later admitted to The Wall Street Journal, insisting, however, that friends told him Reagan was a fan. “He felt very good about me,” Trump said. “Frankly, he liked my attitude.”
“My father would not have known Donald Trump if Trump stood up in his soup,” Ron said.