Throughout their political lives, Presidents Donald Trump and Mauricio Macri have publicly exchanged numerous compliments on Twitter, always referring to each other as “my friend.” However, a recent article by Axios shed light on a not-so-cordial side of their relationship behind closed doors. The article reveals that when members of the Obama administration led by then-Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Argentine President in August of 2016, right before the US Presidential Elections and when Trump’s campaign ratings were much lower than Hillary Clinton’s, Macri opened up about his true feelings about his old business associate.
According to three separate sources confirmed by Axios, this is how the story went down:
In the middle of his 2015 presidential campaign, Macri got a phone call from Trump. “This is Donald Trump, I’ve been watching you,” recounted Macri, holding his hand up to his ear to imitate a phone. “I remember you fondly, and I remember the business deal.” Continuing the story, Macri sarcastically responded to his audience at the presidential mansion, “Fondly? Fondly, you son of a gun?” Trump then conveyed that he wanted to help Macri somehow.
A number of days later, Macri received a large envelope from Trump with a check inside for his campaign. One source thought the check was for US $500, and another thought it was US $5,000. The climax of the story was that when Macri’s team went to deposit the check, it bounced — Trump didn’t have enough money in his account to make the transaction.
Even if the check had gone through, Trump would have legally been in the clear; Macri on the other hand, would not have. In Argentina, it is illegal to receive foreign contributions for a presidential campaign. Though, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen, as most campaign contributions are made in cash and are usually not accounted for.
After the story broke, the White House refused to comment on the matter, and a representative for the Argentine government released a statement saying, “The Public Communications Secretariat of the Argentine Government denies that this conversation took place.” However, Axios insists that it did in fact happen, and that it would have been impossible for their sources to coordinate the story so perfectly.
This interaction between the two presidents falls into place perfectly in the context of their past relationship.
Both leaders were born into wealth, and were first introduced to each other during a major real estate deal in New York City. Macri’s father, Franco Macri, had purchased a 77 acre plot of undeveloped land in Manhattan in 1979 — then the largest undeveloped private piece of land in New York City — and Trump, with sights on being a major land developer, was very interested in it. So, the then-teenage Macri began to see Trump regularly to discuss a business deal.
This is where the stickiness begins. In the epitome of the phrase “conflict of interest,” both Macri and Trump were under the financial council of the same banker, Conrad Stephenson. Between 1982 and 1985, the two negotiated how to develop the land. By the end, Macri found himself in a stalemate and, following the suggestion of Stephenson, sold the parcel of land to Trump in ‘85. Macri reportedly believed that Stephenson intentionally stalled the development by tilting negotiations in favor of Trump.
Years later, in an interview with Wayne Barrett while writing Trump’s first biography, Macri opened up his private thoughts on the young businessman.
“[Trump] feels like he is a bit like the owner of New York, and he did not think I had the capacity to confront a project like this,” said Macri. “He spoke as if I were a South American banana farmer. I wasn’t a dummy, and he was very young.”
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Furthermore, right after the deal was signed, Trump told the press that Macri was a “know-nothing” and a “myth who’s now safely back in Argentina.”
Somewhat ironically, Trump himself marred his plans for developing the land for which he fought so hard, and was forced to sell it to Chinese buyers in 1994 in the face of looming debt.
Now that the two are forced to work together as world leaders, in an effort to smooth international relations and develop stronger trade ties, Macri and Trump have put up a convincing facade of their good-natured relationship.
Gracias mi amigo, presidente Donald Trump, por tu apoyo y muestras de afecto a la Argentina. Lo valoramos mucho!
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) May 18, 2018
After Trump tweeted his support for Macri and his work in Argentina, Macri responded by saying, “Thank you my friend, President Donald Trump, for your support and your show of affection to Argentina. We really appreciate it!”