Trump Began Planning Bid Right After Romney Lost

The Donald started to run for president six days after President Obama won a second term, and he did it by ripping off Ronald Reagan.


Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Records show that Donald Trump applied to trademark the phrase “Make America Great Again” six days after President Obama was elected to a second term.

The timing suggests that Trump was preparing his latest run for president long before most people imagine.

And he was poised to do so while appropriating an old Ronald Reagan slogan as his own.

Call it The Art of the Steal.

As filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on November 11, 2012, application TRMP 1207224 read:

MARK: MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN APPLICANT: Donald J. Trump ADDRESS: 725 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022 ENTITY: A United State citizen

The application said the phrase was to be used for “political action committee service, namely, promoting public awareness of political issues and fundraising in the field of politics.”

A standard sworn declaration bore Trump’s signature. It said in part that to the best of his knowledge “no other person, from corporation, or association has the right to use the mark in commerce, either in the identical form thereof or in such near resemblance thereto as to be likely, when used on or in connection with the goods/services of such other person, to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.”

This past March, two and a half years after he filed for the trademark, Trump was quoted saying, “The line of ‘Make America great again,’ the phrase, that was mine, I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody’s now using it, they are all loving it.

“I don’t know, I guess I should copyright it.” He added, “Maybe I have copyrighted it.”

As has been noted elsewhere, Make America Great Again was a slogan from Reagan’s 1980 campaign, employed prominently in everything from buttons to posters to his acceptance speech at the Republican convention. In that race, Trump contributed to President Carter, not to Reagan.

But Trump was buddies with Roger Stone, the Northeast coordinator of the Reagan campaign. Stone was a protégée of Roy Cohn, who was Trump’s lawyer/mentor/consigliore in the 1970s and ’80s. Cohn was also close to Reagan and is said to have been a major factor in securing a federal judgeship for Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry.

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The Wall Street Journal has reported that Donald Trump sought to attach himself to the newly elected Reagan, inviting the president to everything from the 1983 opening of Trump Tower (declined) to a LaToya Jackson concert (also declined). Trump contributed $1,000 to Reagan’s re-election campaign and got an invitation of his own, to a White House state dinner for King Fahd of Saudi Arabia (yes, a Muslim, but Trump accepted).

Trump said of Reagan in a recent TV interview, “I have great respect for him. I helped him. I knew him. He liked me and I liked him.”

Former Reagan aides have suggested that this was some typical Trump overstatement, but it seems unlikely that Trump was unaware of the Republican icon’s slogan and just happened to coin the very same one for himself.

In filing the trademark back in 2012, Trump did not seem to anticipate how popular it would become. He failed to claim the exclusive right to use “Make America Great Again” on clothing such as T-shirts and hats like the one Trump now famously sports.

In what may be seen as a bit of what goes around comes around, Meri Bares and Bobby Estell of California took note of Trump’s oversight. They filed application number 86716074 on Aug. 5 of this year to trademark the use of “Make America Great Again” not just on hats and T-shirts, but also on everything from sweatshirts to socks and swimsuits, from backpacks to change purses to wallets, even “dog apparel.”

Two days later, Estell, who goes by Bobby Bones, tweeted:

“hey @realDonaldTrump, if you donate 100k to @stjude, I will give you your clothing trademrk back. thanks!—Bobby”

St. Jude being St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Estell posted a follow-up tweet later on Aug. 7:

“Hey @realDonaldTrump. I don’t even want this trademark. Let’s get this thing done. I want no money. Just for @StJude

On Oct. 27, Trump issued a check for an undisclosed amount—reportedly the full $100,000—to the hospital.

“Transfer of Trademark,” read an accompanying notation on the check.

On Nov. 11, a U.S. Trademark examiner made the transfer official. Trump continued to sell Make America Great Again hats ($25 regular, $30 camouflage) and sweatshirts ($50) and even a Trump Presidential Dog Raglan sweater ($15).

He also continued to repeat the slogan at seemingly every opportunity, including the Republican debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday night.

“All I want to do is make America great again. We want to make America great again.”

At one point, a moderator noted that America’s bombers, missiles and submarines are all aging out and asked Trump which part of the nuclear triad would be his priority.

Trump had thought to appropriate and trademark his slogan for his latest bid to become commander-in-chief more than two years ago, but he did not seem even to understand what the triad was, much less what he would do regarding a president’s biggest responsibility.

He still had his slogan. And at the end of the debate he offered a slight variation, after expressing his determination to beat Hillary Clinton.

“If I do, we will make this country great again,” he promised.

The slogan may have been Reagan’s, but during the debates, Trump’s mouth had pursed and twisted in pouts and sneers such as The Gipper would have never contemplated.

Win one for The Lipper!