It’s weird being friends with someone who suddenly becomes President of the United States, not least for the reflected glory that suddenly rains down on one’s own far less powerful cranium. I was roundly ridiculed by numerous high-profile journalists and celebrities for predicting Donald Trump’s victory throughout his 16-month campaign. Now, many of those same egg-faced mockers slither up at festive parties to whisper a variant of: ‘Any chance you could put a good word in for me with Donald?’ To which my preferred response is to place a patronising hand on their shoulder and say: ‘It’s Mr President-elect Trump to you.’
When I spoke to Trump after he won (I got 15 minutes, five more than Theresa May; not that I’m suggesting for a moment I’m more important than the Prime Minister. Obviously) it was clear that he, too, is highly amused by the sheer scale of the unctuously sycophantic U-turns he’s had to endure since landing the White House. ‘Everybody suddenly loves Trump again!’ he chuckled.
Perhaps my most delicious schadenfreude arising from Trump’s ascendancy is the abject humiliation it’s imposed upon that other billionaire Apprentice host, Lord Sugar. The pair of them had a very bitter Twitter exchange a few years ago, during which Sugar informed Trump: ‘Success is measured with what you have in business. I own all my real estate with no bank borrowing — how about you, big shot?’ Sugar followed up with: ‘You only have 1.9 million followers, not good for your ego, how come I have 2.5 million?’
Trump toyed with Sugar’s bravado like a great white nibbling on a gnarled old dolphin. ‘Dopey Lord Sugar,’ he retorted. ‘You’re a total loser who Piers Morgan doesn’t think is very smart or rich. I agree with Piers!’
Given Trump’s become the most powerful man on earth and now has 16 million Twitter followers (11 million more than Sugar), it’s perhaps unsurprising that ‘Dopey’ has gone a bit quiet on the how-to-measure-success front.
Trump unleashed a media firestorm when he tweeted that Nigel Farage would make a great UK ambassador to the United States. Everyone assumed he was joking. He wasn’t. ‘You know what a diplomat is?’ he once told me. ‘It’s a person trained from a young age how to be nice. In other words, Piers, you could never be a diplomat!’ He’s right, I couldn’t. Neither could he, and nor could Farage. But the latter is undeniably a very street-smart, canny operator who knows how to win, and Trump loves people like that. ‘Diplomats may be smart but they don’t have any savvy,’ he explained. ‘We need absolute killers to do our deals with countries like China and India.’ Farage’s only barrier for entry to Trump’s negotiating team may be his beer-guzzling. Trump’s never touched a drop of alcohol because his older brother Fred died from alcoholism, and he hates big drinkers. ‘I’ve seen alcohol destroy people,’ he told me. ‘Society encourages it; you can drink anywhere. I preach to people not to start drinking. I mean, try something else — try milk.’ Maybe time for an extended dairy-only detox, Nige.
Trump will be the best golfer ever to become president. Barack Obama is the most prolific, playing more than 300 rounds during his eight-year tenure. But his handicap remains a workmanlike 13. Trump’s is 4, which is not far off professional standard. The only other president to get anywhere close to that was John F. Kennedy, who played off 10 at his peak. If you ever hit the fairways with Trump, though, play fairly or he’ll never forget it.
‘If you cheat in golf you do it in business,’ he told me. ‘I’ve seen it many times. They move the ball an inch and hope nobody sees them, but I always see them. I had a pretty big match and my opponent, a top businessman, hit his drive solidly behind a large tree. There was no way he had a clean hit out of there. I left him to play his shot, and then all of a sudden he’s hit this ball on to the green. So I turned to him and said, “Just out of curiosity, what do you lie?” And he said, “I lie two shots.” I said, “Oh.” And said nothing else. But now I don’t trust him.’
The moral? Be honest about how you lie with Donald Trump.
What price a First Lady? ‘If I offered you $10 billion,’ I once asked him, ‘but you can’t have sex for the next ten years, would you take the deal?’
‘Not even with your wife?’ Trump replied.
‘Definitely not with my wife.’
‘I meant my wife!’
‘No, not even with your wife.’
‘No, I’d absolutely take my wife.’
So there you have it: Melania Trump is worth at least $10 billion.
Postscript: Trump follows just 41 accounts on Twitter, of which I’m the only Brit (no Farage). I only mention this because I know how comforting it will to be to everyone that I have the President’s ear. Happy Christmas.