How Donald Trump Still Lives in the 1980s

When his criminal trial finishes for the day, Donald J. Trump typically returns to the marble-and-gold triplex atop Trump Tower, the high rise he built in the early 1980s and used to establish a public image as a master builder.

It is the silver lining for Mr. Trump, as he spends his first sustained period of time in Manhattan since he moved to Washington in 2017. He passes the days in a dingy courtroom downtown, where he faces 34 felonies, listening to people from his old life describe him as a depraved liar who sullied the White House. At the end of it all, he could be sent to prison.

But in the evenings, people who have spoken to him say, he has been enjoying being back in the penthouse apartment that he moved into four decades ago. He still considers it home — and a permanent reminder of the easiest period of his life.

That period was the greed-is-good era in which Mr. Trump sold himself nationally as a titan of industry, despite a relatively small, and local, real estate portfolio. He had just built a glittering tower on Fifth Avenue, infuriating elites and demanding a tax break from the city. And it is the era he alludes to constantly, referring to 1980s cultural touchstones, including the news show “60 Minutes,” Time magazine and celebrities like the boxer Mike Tyson.

Trump Tower this month.Credit…Mike Segar/Reuters
Trump Tower in 1983.Credit…Jack Manning/The New York Times

It is also the last time Mr. Trump’s preferred public image was intact, and it soon came crashing down. The decade ended with a monthslong tabloid war in which people around the city chose sides between him and his first wife, Ivana. At the same time, the image-obsessed Mr. Trump was the subject of one investigative story after another, making clear he had far less money than it had seemed, had relied on his father for help and had managed his empire into something close to ruin.

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