A Bit of Insight Into Trump’s Risk-Taking

There have been a couple of news stories this week that bear on how President Trump deals with risk. The New York Times’s stories about Trump’s taxes show how he has treated risk in business decisions, and the news that he has contracted the coronavirus is ironic given his public stance of skipping some of the precautions experts advise.

There’s some interesting information on how Trump treats risk in the growing library of interactive transcripts that I’m helping PBS Frontline to make available as part of its Transparency project.

The type of documentaries that Frontline makes are deeply researched. Frontline’s The Choice 2020, a two-hour documentary that aired September 22, drew on 47 new interviews and 13 archived interviews.
The detective work that goes into the journalistic research process includes asking many people the same questions so you don’t have to rely on any one source, and asking a wide range of questions to make sure you’re getting at what’s important. This invariably produces a whole lot of material that doesn’t make it into the documentary.

The more than 100 hours of Choice 2020 source interviews contain information from a range of sources, including eyewitnesses and historians, and a lot of it bears on how Trump deals with risk.

You can peruse the whole 60-interview library to discover information for yourself.

If you want a bit more direction on the subject of Trump and risk I think a good place to start is former staff members like John Bolton and Anthony Scaramucci; his niece Mary Trump, who had a birdseye view growing up and is also a clinical psychologist; Apprentice contestant Surya Yalamanchili; and also researchers like Christina Greer and authors like Andrea Bernstein and Mark Fisher who’ve sifted through a lot of material to write their books.

But you can probably find something about how Trump deals with risk in many of the 60 interviews.

I’ve previously mentioned that to enable the Frontline interviews we use a process we first used at Duke University to rapidly connect each sentence of an accurate interview transcript to the interview video. The method makes it practical for Frontline to link supporting content to sentences in these interview. It also allows viewers to get a link that will take them directly to a given sentence in an interview. This enables anyone, including other journalists, to put a quote from an interactive interview in a story and link back to the quote context of the full interview.

Using this ability I can point you right to a list of quotes that bear on Trump and risk. Click on a link to go to that quote in the context of the full interview, whether it’s a text-only interview or an interview linked to video. For video interviews you may have to start the video, depending on your settings.

Well, I mean, this is someone who hasn’t really ever had to fully think through a lot of his planning because for quite some time—keep in mind, for several decades—no matter what Donald Trump did, whether it was a success, but oftentimes it was a failure, his father was there to bail him out, said Christina Greer


Now, it’s worth saying that after that, he could not get any financing from mainstream United States banks, and he still can’t, because they were burnt so badly and lost so much money in Atlantic City on Donald Trump’s big gamble, said Andrea Bernstein.


…a senior Cabinet official, gone from the White House, comes to my office. It’s October of 2019. We’re sitting in my office at SkyBridge. The person says to me, “We’re going to have a disaster.” I said, “Well, why is that?” “Well, the president doesn’t know how to manage,” said Anthony Scaramucci.


We lost two-plus months when actions might have been taken that would have alleviated the shortages in testing capability, hospital capability, that might have accelerated work on the vaccine, because that would have meant acknowledging we were facing a severe threat. And he simply did not want to do that, said John Bolton


And once you edited an episode a certain way, his judgments are always right, said Surya Yalamanchili