The Trump Files: When Donald Couldn’t Tell the Difference Between Gorbachev and an Impersonator (Video)

Duped by a fake Soviet?

Ivylise Simones

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Until the election, we’re bringing you “The Trump Files,” a daily dose of telling episodes, strange but true stories, or curious scenes from the life of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

When then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited New York City in 1988, Donald Trump saw an opportunity for an up-close-and-personal encounter with the top Russian. Unfortunately, he got the wrong Gorbachev.

After descending from his office in Trump Tower upon hearing that Gorbachev was outside, Trump shook hands with a man who appeared to be Gorbachev—but wasn’t. Impersonator Ronald Knapp, who had won a Gorbachev look-alike contest, had the pleasure of meeting Trump, who notoriously loathes handshakes.

Trump denied that he fell for the stunt. “He looked fabulous and he sounded fabulous, but I knew it couldn’t be right,” Trump said, according to the Milwaukee Journal. “For one thing, I looked into the back of his limo and saw four very attractive women…I knew that his society had not come that far yet in terms of capitalist decadence.”

But a man accompanying Knapp, Gordon Elliott, assured the New York Times that Trump had been played. “There was absolutely no question that he bought it,” Elliott said. Knapp subsequently wrote a book about his time as a Gorbachev impersonator. The title? The Guy Who Got Trump.

Read the rest of “The Trump Files”:

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate