This week, Texas and Louisiana are facing the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, which is the most significant storm to make landfall in the United States in over a decade. The Trump Administration has claimed to be equipped to deal with the devastation, but as some have pointed out, seeing as authorities are relying in part on local civilians with boats to rescue trapped people, the government doesn’t seem to be coming through.
Additionally, it’s worth noting, throughout recent months, Trump has moved to undo key protections against the kind of widespread damage facing Texans. For instance, he recently nullified an Obama-era directive to build infrastructure in flood prone areas according to certain specifications.
As it turns out, there is an even more personal side to the issue of Trump and dealing with natural disasters. While not previously unknown, an issue over storm damage to Trump’s Florida Mar-A-Lago resort that reportedly was made up has made its way back to the front of the nation’s political conversation in light of Harvey.
In October of last year, as the nation was gearing up for the general election, the Associated Press got wind of insurance claims that Trump had filed after the 2005 hurricane season, claiming massive damage to Mar-A-Lago.
There was just one problem — the damage doesn’t seem to have actually existed.
To start out with, “Mar-a-Lago members, staff and preservation officials do not recall significant damage.” Obviously, personal testimony can be hit-or-miss, but there’s more.
Palm Beach city records show that Trump never took out a permit for any major repairs to the property, even though the magnanimity of the damage that would have underlined $17 million in insurance claims would have no doubt required work that needed permits, as former city officials explained to the AP.
The president has stuck by the claims that the large insurance payouts were warranted, but it’s worth noting that he doesn’t seem to have been asked about the issue anytime recently.
In a 2007 deposition taken as part of an unrelated lawsuit, Trump described the supposed damage and subsequent repair work by saying:
‘Landscaping, roofing, walls, painting, leaks, artwork in the — you know, the great tapestries, tiles, Spanish tiles, the beach, the erosion. It’s still not what it was.’
Even still, those who claim that the 2004-2005 hurricane season didn’t actually inflict massive damage include Trump’s former butler, Anthony Senecal, who said that “Hurricane Wilma, the last of a string of storms that barreled through in 2004 and 2005, flattened trees behind Mar-a-Lago, but the house itself only lost some roof tiles.”
‘That house has never been seriously damaged. I was there for all [the 2004-2005 hurricanes.]’
Confirming what we could all guess is going on here, Trump admitted at one point to having deposited “some” of the money into his own accounts.
Hank Stein, the insurance agent who assessed Trump’s claims at the time they were filed, says that he can’t remember details of the breakdown of the supposed $17 million in damage.