Michael Skolnik knows how to ignite social change. He was influential in starting conversations around America’s relationship with race, especially in the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner.
And in 2012, Skolnik skills were called upon to spark a different type of dialogue. He joined media mogul Russell Simmons, as well as Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier, to speak to a businessman about recent hate-filled commentary directed toward the president of the United States.
“We all went to see Donald [Trump] in 2012 at his office in Trump Tower when he was spewing his hatred about Obama and whether or not his was born in America or whether or not he was a Muslim,” Skolnik recalled when speaking with Dean Obeidallah on Wednesday. “And we went to see him basically to tell him to stop it.”
“And when we sat there in his office, probably a two-hour meeting, he basically told us that we were wrong. And that Obama was a Muslim from Kenya and that he didn’t have a birth certificate and that we were crazy and that he was right,” Skolnik said.
It was then that Skolnik saw his first sign of a potential Trump presidential run — literally.
“He had some yard signs that said ‘Trump for President 2012’ and had some binders that said ‘Iowa’ on them.”
Skolnik bluntly asked, “Donald, are you going to run for president?” To which Trump replied, “I’m thinking about it.”
At the time, Trump agreed with Skolnik that “Obama would whoop [his] a**,” stating that he might have to wait four years. And when Trump announced his candidacy the following election cycle, Skolnik said he “wasn’t surprised.”
With the start of the Trump presidency in sight, Skolnik offered a fair warning to Democrats.
“Let’s be careful, let’s be very careful,” Skolnik stressed about Trump’s promised infrastructure bill. “What Donald Trump — when we discuss infrastructure, he’s talking about tax breaks for his buddies in the construction business of projects that have already been approved. This isn’t a massive infrastructure bill in the same way that Obama has proposed. I’m not going to say, let’s just work with him on infrastructure because Democrats like infrastructure.'”
He added, “I certainly believe Donald Trump has to back up first before we back up. I am not interested in backing up first and saying, ‘Okay, we’ll watch you do what you gotta do.’ This man is not interested in the American people, he is not interested in the safety of the American people.”
Skolnik noted that Trump is “putting the safety of the American people at risk” by opting to skip intelligence briefings on the Russian hackings over the past six days. And despite Trump’s lack of contact with the intelligence community, Skolnik described how the president-elect is “making assertions based on a Fox News interview with Julian Assange that he knows what happened.”
“He is power-hungry, he is a narcissist. He could care less about the freedoms and the success of the American people. All he cares about is power. He thinks he bought a business and he’s gonna flip it. And that’s it.”
Skolnik concluded, “This man wants power and money, and his children do too.”
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AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File