However, Trump’s recollection when confronted with questions regarding past associates has been inconsistent. When asked about his dealings with controversial figures, for example, Trump in several instances has responding by saying, “I don’t know that man” or “I wouldn’t recognize him if we were in the same room.”
A Washington Post report on Tuesday delved into Trump’s business relationship with Russian-born businessman Felix Sater.
Sater, who at one point was using Trump Organization office space and business cards, “had already done a stint in prison for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass, and he was now awaiting sentencing for his role in a Mafia-orchestrated stock fraud scheme,” according to the Washington Post.
Sater, who has said he had a fairly close relationship with Trump, reportedly said that the real estate mogul once even asked him to escort Donald Jr. and Ivanka around Moscow.
But under sworn video testimony for a civil lawsuit in 2013, Trump insisted he barely knew Sater.
“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” he said.
This was not the only time Trump denied knowing a potentially problematic associate.
For example, reputed New Jersey mob figure Robert LiButti was known to frequent Trump’s Atlantic City casino, Trump Plaza. LiButti’s daughter, Edith Creamer, told Yahoo News that her late father and Trump had a close, personal relationship. She said Trump attended her 35th birthday party and that her family had ridden in Trump’s helicopter with the real estate mogul’s own family.
When asked by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991, however, Trump denied knowing LiButti, who was accused of repeatedly using racist and sexist slurs at Trump’s casino.
“If he was standing here in front of me, I wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump told the newspaper.
He echoed that response in March, when Yahoo News asked him about LiButti.
“During the years I very successfully ran the casino business, I knew many high rollers. I assume Mr. LiButti was one of them, but I don’t recognize the name,” Trump said through his spokeswoman.
Trump’s inability to recollect certain encounters extends beyond controversial figures. More recently, Trump publicly mocked a disabled New York Times reporter at a November rally.
Trump gestured wildly while impersonating the reporter, Serge Kovaleski, whom Trump accused of backpedaling from a story that he says supported his theory that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were seen celebrating the 9/11 attacks.
After the incident generated a firestorm of criticism, Trump denied knowing the reporter.
“I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski (sic) is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” he said in a statement on Twitter. “Despite having one of the all-time great memories, I certainly do not remember him.”
But Kovaleski, who has a joint condition called arthrogryposis, said that he and Trump had met numerous times.
“Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski said in a New York Times story. “I’ve interviewed him in his office. I’ve talked to him at press conferences.”
Trump’s spotty memory has manifested itself in a more trivial sense too.
Earlier this year, Trump and actor Samuel L. Jackson became entangled in a public feud regarding a round of golf played years ago.
When asked in January for a Rhapsody magazine interview who the better golfer was, Jackson smiled and said, “Oh, I am, for sure. I don’t cheat.”
Trump retaliated and wrote on Twitter, “I don’t know @SamuelLJackson, to best of my knowledge haven’t played golf w/him & think he does too many TV commercials—boring. Not a fan.”
I don’t know @SamuelLJackson, to best of my knowledge haven't played golf w/him & think he does too many TV commercials—boring. Not a fan.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2016
But actor Anthony Anderson said Trump did, in fact, play golf with Jackson.
— Anthony Anderson (@anthonyanderson) January 5, 2016