A day after escaping federal charges stemming from her “extremely careless” handling of classified email on a vulnerable private server, Hillary Clinton spent the afternoon on the Jersey Shore arguing that Donald Trump is a reckless charlatan who obtained immense wealth by destroying lives.
Clinton’s speech in front of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City came at perhaps the lowest point in her campaign, after FBI Director James Comey delivered a blistering rebuke of her use of sensitive material while Secretary of State, handing Trump’s camp considerable ammunition for the long election battle ahead.
Clinton attempted to recapture control of the narrative on Wednesday. She brought to the podium a former glass contractor who said Trump skipped out on paying his company nearly $500,000 when the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino fell into bankruptcy in 1991.
Clinton — who’s positioned herself during the campaign as a savvy, iron-spined professional — took the mic and lambasted Trump and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Decades ago, Trump deliberately made dangerous business decisions that had terrible consequences for workers at his casinos and hotels in Atlantic City, Clinton alleged, while he himself profited greatly.
And although Trump often cites his business record as proof of his ability to lead, Clinton said what he had done to the people of Atlantic City is “nothing to brag about. In fact, it’s shameful.”
She gestured to the building behind her, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. “Donald Trump once predicted it would be his greatest hit yet,” she said, “Now it’s abandoned. You can just make out the word ‘Trump’ where it used to be written in flashy lights.” She then noted the nearby Trump Marina Hotel and Casino, saying that Trump sold it at a “yuuuuggeee loss.” Trump Taj Mahal, where the mogul forfeited half of his ownership stake in 1991, was another picture of failure, she said.
“It filed for bankruptcy in 2009,” Clinton said. “Things got so bad the new management canceled workers’ health insurance and pensions.”
“It’s fair to ask since he’s applying for a job,” Clinton continued, “what in the world happened here?”
Clinton — herself no stranger to scandal for her role in the Whitewater controversy in 1992 — further pilloried Trump’s history in the coastal New Jersey town, telling the audience that he intentionally ran up large debts in his companies totaling hundreds of million of dollars, defaulted on them and then didn’t pay them back. Trump doesn’t use bankruptcy as a last resort, she said. Rather, he does it repeatedly and on purpose.
“He always rigged it so he got paid no matter how his companies performed,” she said. “He got rich and got out, and he thinks that’s something to be proud of.”
Clinton continually circled back to the plights of people who were affected by Trump’s bankruptcies, such as the small businesses and contractors who were never paid (she cited $3.9 million that was never paid to a marble company) and the employees of casinos who lost their jobs and benefits. “Now Donald Trump doesn’t think going bankrupt is a big deal, but it’s devastating if you’re someone who plays by the rules,” she said.
Furthermore, the pattern of hit-and-run displayed by Trump in Atlantic City is the very same plan that he would bring to the White House, Clinton said. “I want you to understand that what he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he will do if he wins in November.” She added that Trump’s steps in office would give tax cuts to millionaires, add trillions to the national debt, and then default on that debt just like he did with his businesses. Trump’s campaign is now trying to curry favor with the same people he exploited in Atlantic City, she said.