Outside Shuttered Casino, Hillary Clinton Assails Trump’s Record in Atlantic City

“What he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he'll do if he becomes president. Step one, give tax cuts to millionaires. Step two, run up debt. Step three ... default."

Hillary Clinton in front of Trump Plaza

Photo | Dan McQuade

On the boardwalk outside a closed casino that was once part of Donald Trump’s Atlantic City empire, Hillary Clinton made her case that Trump is unfit to be president.

Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee, ran through a litany of Trump’s struggles in Atlantic City. She talked about his former casino empire, once a third of the city’s market, that is now in the hands of other companies. She talked about Vera Coking’s house, which Trump once tried to take via eminent domain for limousine parking. She even talked about his use of junk bonds in the late 1980s.

“He intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies. He borrowed at high interest rates even after he promised regulators he wouldn’t. And here’s what he said: ‘I figured it was the banks’ problem, not mine. What do I care?’” said Clinton. “He doesn’t default and go bankrupt as a last resort, he does it over and over on purpose.”

Her team blitzed the press with a series of attacks on Trump’s record in Atlantic City. Leading up to the event, the Clinton campaign frequently cited recent New York Times and USA Today stories on the fallout for smaller businesses from Trump’s multiple bankruptcies in Atlantic City. The theme of those stories: The people working for Trump in Atlantic City were forced to accept pennies on the dollar, while Trump made millions.

It seems like good optics for Clinton, but here’s the odd thing: Trump has consistently gloated about this — saying he made millions in Atlantic City, and got out before it went really bad. Even today, he bragged about the amount of money he made.

But while casino companies like Caesars Entertainment can point to the recession and the expansion of gambling in neighboring states for their bankruptcies, Trump’s primary struggles in Atlantic City came during the 1990s and early 2000s. But for Trump, that may be a feature instead of a bug.

On Wednesday, Trump released a statement in response to Clinton’s criticisms:

I have built a tremendously successful business, which has created tens of thousands of jobs. Out of the hundreds of businesses I have owned over the decades, and hundreds of deals and transactions, I have used the chapter laws of our country in four instances, much as many of our country’s elite business people do (but nobody cares about). It is an effective and commonly used practice in business to use bankruptcy proceedings to restructure a business and ultimately save jobs. Nobody understands the economy like I do and no one, especially not Crooked Hillary Clinton, will do more for the economy than I will. I want to bring jobs back to America, while Hillary Clinton wants to get elected to enrich herself with power at the expense of the people. I created thousands of jobs and made a lot of money in Atlantic City, which was what, as a businessman, I am supposed to do for my company and my family — and as President I will make America rich again, and Make America Great Again.

Clinton, meanwhile, launched a a petition supporting striking Trump Taj Mahal workers, the lone remaining vestige of Trump’s Atlantic City empire. Although Trump has no involvement in the casino operation and merely has an agreement with owner Carl Icahn to use his name, Clinton tied him to it anyway, as Trump has said he’d like Carl Icahn to be his treasury secretary. (Icahn last year said there’s “no way” he’d take the role.)

Clinton also released a video attacking Trump’s record in Atlantic City.

“What he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he’ll do if he becomes president,” she said. “Step one, give tax cuts to millionaires. Step two, run up debt. Step three, he’s suggested we just default on our debt — like he did here.”

Speaking before Clinton, Marty Rosenberg shared his tale of dealing with Trump in Atlantic City. The owner of Atlantic Plate and Glass was owed about $1.5 million for work done on the Trump Taj Mahal. It ended up losing $450,000, he said.

“Donald Trump made a promise to me, my family, and to the people of Atlantic City,” he said. “If you do a good job, in a timely manner, you will be paid. … This promise went unfulfilled. Trump’s actions caused great financial burdens to most of us. Some lost their businesses, some went through a bankruptcy, all suffered emotionally. All the while, Mr. Trump went about his extravagant lifestyle, never giving any of us a second thought. I am here today to help ensure that this sort of manipulation of people by Trump will not continue on a national stage.”

Trump has previously dismissed Rosenberg’s story, which first surfaced during the Republican primary: “To the best of my knowledge, I never even met him. Just another publicity seeker.”

Clinton’s visit came a day after the announcement she will not be charged for using a private server to email classified information. That dominated the news cycle for the day, until Trump returned to praising Saddam Hussein later in the evening.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.