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Trump's Attacks on Senator Recall Empire State Building Fight

Trump in the 1990s waged a years-long court battle with Senator Richard Blumenthal's father-in-law, Peter Malkin, over control of leases in the Empire State Building.

(Bloomberg)—President Donald Trump has a tangled history with the family of one of his favorite targets for Twitter attacks: Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Trump in the 1990s waged a years-long court battle with the Connecticut Democrat’s father-in-law, Peter Malkin, over control of leases in one of New York City’s most iconic properties, the Empire State Building.

“It was a royal battle,” said Raymond Hannigan, a lawyer with the law firm Herrick Feinstein, who was involved in the conflict and at one point represented the Trump Organization.

Hannigan said it stemmed from a business investment born out of a conversation at a gym between Marla Maples, Trump’s second wife, and Kiiko Nakahara, the daughter of one of Japan’s wealthiest men, Hideki Yokoi. Yokoi held title to the building, and his daughter told Maples she wanted to talk to Trump about a possible deal to give him a stake in the building, Hannigan said.

Trump and Nakahara later created a business partnership that sought to gain control of the lucrative long-term lease on the 102-story property, held by a partnership managed by Malkin. Trump argued that Malkin and the building manager let it fall into disrepair, violating the leases.

After years of litigation, Trump lost. He wound up selling his stake in the building to Malkin’s partnership with a profit of several million dollars -- far less than the more than $100 million a year he and his partners might have collected from rent if he had prevailed.

For Trump, “it’s clear to say it didn’t work out as well as he had hoped,” said Henry Bubel, a New York tax lawyer who advised Trump’s Japanese partners on tax matters in the project.

‘Nasty Fight’

“It was a nasty fight,” Bubel said in an interview. “Trump believed that there were valid reasons for breaking the lease or renegotiating it. Malkin was adamant that there wasn’t any way that was going to happen. It was a serious fight about a serious amount of money and a serious property.”

The White House didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Trump’s battle with Malkin. Asked about the Empire State Building connection on MSNBC on Tuesday, Blumenthal said he had “no idea what’s in the president’s head.”

This year, Trump has unleashed several tweet storms against Blumenthal, a former U.S. attorney and attorney general of Connecticut who played no role in his father-in-law’s business.

Blumenthal has repeatedly raised concern about possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russia. Blumenthal has called for a full investigation of any ties, and of Russian meddling in the election. The senator also is a sponsor of legislation that would make it harder for Trump to dismiss the special counsel leading a criminal investigation of the matter.

Trump’s latest tweet attack was Monday morning, shortly after Blumenthal spoke on CNN about Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and “potential collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice.”

Trump responded by raising, as he has before, a controversy from Blumenthal’s 2010 successful Senate bid, when the senator was forced to apologize for his false claims of service in Vietnam while serving in the Marine Corps Reserves.

“Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal,” Trump tweeted. He added that “it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at [email protected] Justin Blum, Laurie Asseo

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