Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who oversaw the construction of Trump Tower in Manhattan, has claimed that in the early 1980s future president Donald Trump ordered an architect on the project to remove Braille from planned elevator panels in the building, saying "No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower."
In a 12 September 2018 op-ed column for the New York Daily News, Res wrote:
On this particular day, the architect had come to Donald Trump’s office to show him what the interior of the residential elevator cabs would look like. Trump looked at the panels where the buttons you push to reach a floor were located. He noticed that next to each number were some little dots.
“What’s this?” Trump asked. “Braille,” the architect replied. Trump told the architect to take it off, get rid of it. “We can’t,” the architect said, “It’s the law.” “Get rid of the (expletive) Braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it,” Trump yelled back, calling him weak.
The more the architect protested, the angrier Trump got. Donald liked to pick on this guy. As a general rule, Trump thought architects and engineers were weak as compared to construction people. And he loved to torment weak people. But did he think the architect would remove the Braille from the panels? Never.
In subsequent interviews with the Washington Post and Snopes, Res said the incident took place in 1980 or 1981, a couple of years before Trump Tower was opened to the public in 1983.
Speaking to us by phone, Res affirmed that she was in the room for the conversation in question and therefore had first-hand knowledge of it. She declined to identify the architect involved, and the Trump Organization did not respond to our request for comment in time for publication.
We were unable to independently corroborate the veracity of Res' claims, although as far as we know they have not yet been contested by the Trump Organization, the White House, or President Trump himself.
The Braille conversation was presented by Res an example of what she characterized as Trump's habit of issuing "ridiculous orders" which would be ignored by his employees, a trend which she perceives as continuing in the White House.
Res' reflections came against the background of several weeks of explosive anecdotes taken from investigative reporter Bob Woodward's book Fear, an exposé of the inner workings of the Trump administration which includes claims that Defense Secretary James Mattis ignored a request by the president to assassinate his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, and that Trump's former economic advisor Gary Cohn once took a letter from the president's desk in order to prevent him from signing a memo to end a trade deal with South Korea.
Res was also critical of a 5 September 2018 op-ed in the New York Times in which an anonymous official from the Trump administration claimed that "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations":
Trump is really not all that different now, but the stakes are higher. And there aren’t many order refusers anymore either. Off the record, staffers tell reporters that Trump is out of control. But what have they done to try to control him? Steal a memo off his desk so he will forget to sign it?
How about not preparing the memo in the first place? And who refuses to lie for him when he makes his outrageous claims? ... The self-aggrandizing Anonymous wants the world to know that there are adults in the room. Really? What the hell are they doing?
Res was a vice president and construction executive in the Trump Organization during the 1980s and once had a close professional relationship with the current president. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump defended himself from allegations of misogyny by citing his hiring of Res, whom he described as "fantastic" and lauded for overseeing the construction of Trump Tower.
However, Res spoke out against her former boss during the campaign, declaring that she would be voting for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and warning that "He [Trump] must be stopped." In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Res explained that Trump's demeanor toward women had changed for the worse since she first began working with him in the late 1970s:
Initially we were very close and he was very reserved in his way of talking about women and things like that, and very respectful of women. Later on, he got a little different. He started acting a little bit macho ... and then all of a sudden he started talking about women and he was leering at the women in the office. So he actually changed in the way he was treating women.