The Trump Files: How Donald Drove Palm Beach Nuts With an American Flag

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 20, 2016.

We all know Donald Trump firmly believes that size matters. It turns out it matters just as much to him when it comes to the American flag.

Trump waged a yearslong battle with the blue bloods of Palm Beach, Florida, the city where his Mar-a-Lago club is located, over everything from his parties to his plans to convert the former mansion to a club and noise from the local airport. Trump launched yet another fight in 2006 when he put up an American flag that smashed the city’s flag-flying rules. Palm Beach ordinances allowed for flags up to 4 feet by 6 feet on poles as high as 42 feet; Trump’s flag, according to the Sun-Sentinel, was a gargantuan 25 feet by 50 feet on a flagpole 80 feet high.

The city started fining Trump $1,250 a day for flying the flag, but the tycoon was gleeful. “This is a dream to have someone sue me to take down the American flag,” he told CNN’s Nancy Grace in January 2007. The city did not in fact sue, but Trump—predictably—did. He filed a $25 million federal suit against Palm Beach, alleging that the city had violated his free speech and equal protection rights in going after his flag. Flying a smaller flag, the suit claimed, “would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s…patriotism.” Trump also pledged to donate any damages to veterans returning from the war in Iraq.

After what the Sun-Sentinel said were “secret, court-ordered negotiations,” Trump and the city struck a deal in April 2007. The city would drop the $120,000 in fines against Trump and allow him to keep the flag on a slightly shorter but still technically illegal 70-foot flagpole. Trump, for his part, would drop the suit and donate $100,000 to a veterans’ charity.

According to the Washington Post, Trump wrote to the city a few months later to brag that he’d sent $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity that helps house families visiting hospitalized veterans, and thrown in $25,000 for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial out of the goodness of his heart. But there was still one Trumpian twist to the story. He made the contributions through his foundation—a move that was possibly illegal—which was primarily funded by other people’s money.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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