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Donald Trump Flouts Zoning Laws with Giant Flagpole
Aired January 24, 2007 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, Donald Trump does legal battle again, this time with a bunch of millionaires down in Palm Beach, Florida, who told Trump he`s flying his flag too high. P.S., that`s the American flag. Can you fly the American too high? Let`s see, the U.S. Supreme Court says you can burn the American flag, but Palm Beach says he can`t fly the American flag? And they have ordered it down. Can you believe they`re going to charge this guy $25,000 to date to fly the American flag?
Right now, Trump is with us live. And tonight, live to Tennessee. A Tennessee couple fights for a little Chinese baby they took in seven years ago. But before you judge, the Chinese mom would go and hide in a neighborhood gas station just to watch her little girl go by on a bike or out on a walk. They claim they never meant to give her up. So what should the judge do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Casey (ph) He has waited and waited to be reunited with Anna Mae. The Hes say they have already missed out on too many years with their daughter and want her home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I imagine that I will be very excited. And I will take her by the hand. I will hold her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shortly after Anna Mae`s birth, the Hes gave their daughter to Jerry and Louise Baker. They thought it was a temporary situation. But the Hes asked for Anna Mae back. The Bakers refused. And after a long battle through the court system, the Hes are now planning for Anna Mae`s return.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. First, to Trump`s battle over the American flag. This is allowed in our country. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . retail stores, expensive cars, and Mar-A-Lago, Trump`s exclusive multimillion dollar private club. It`s now at the center of a heated legal battle over an American flag. The City of Palm Beach wants Trump to remove an 80-foot pole proudly flying the American flag. And it`s costing the real estate tycoon fines totaling over $23,000. Trump is refusing to comply, even filing a $25 million lawsuit against the City of Palm Beach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: You`re seeing something that is commonplace, right here in America. It`s OK to burn the American flag. Look, there`s somebody taking pictures of it. They`re all so happy to burn the American flag, to stomp on the American flag. And you know what? The U.S. Supreme Court says that`s OK. But when Donald Trump wants to fly the American flag, that`s suddenly not OK. Joining us right now, Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump, thank you for being with us. How did it get this far?
DONALD TRUMP: It`s absolutely unbelievable to me. I thought I was doing the town a favor with a gift to the town from me. The size of the flag is absolutely perfect. It`s a similar size to that flying over the White House in Washington.
And yet, Mar-A-Lago is actually larger than the White House. The community totally loves the American flag flying just where it is. And the town council wants me to rip down the American flag and just -- it`s disgraceful, Nancy, and hard to believe.
GRACE: Mr. Trump, who is it exactly that`s making the complaint? Who has complained about your American flag?
TRUMP: Virtually nobody. Because everybody in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach virtually love what we`ve done. The flag is magnificent. It`s a beautiful proportion to the property. They want you to put up a little four-foot by six-foot flag. If I ever put that on the lawn of Mar-A-Lago, people would say, what happened to Trump? Where is he? What`s the problem? Because it is just a disgrace.
But this they have a limit as to the size of the flag. They have a limit as to the height of the pole. And you know, Mar-A-Lago is a 20-acre property. Mar-A-Lago is a huge property in Palm Beach. And you just can`t put a little flag on the front lawn of Mar-A-Lago.
So they want me to take it down. And essentially they said I didn`t get permits to put up the American flag. Well, number one, they told me even if I applied for permits, I wouldn`t get it. So that was very important. You know, a lot of people would say, why didn`t you apply for permits? I would have applied but they told me that if I applied, I won`t get it.
And number two, it`s my contention, and my attorney`s contention, that you don`t need permits to put up the American flag.
GRACE: I had a similar argument with my apartment building here in New York following 9/11 about the size of my flag hanging off my balcony. But we managed to work it out. Yours is ending up with a $25,000 fine to date and it`s getting bigger every single day. Who is it exactly trying to levy a fine on you?
TRUMP: Well, essentially it`s the politicians in Palm Beach. They thought they would get some good publicity on it by attacking the Mar-A- Lago Club which is sort of fodder for them because it became very successful and they`re not so thrilled with that.
And what happened is they thought they were going to end up getting good publicity and now they`re getting killed because everybody in the country wants this flag to stay up.
I mean, we`ve received thousands and thousands of letters. And virtually none of them want the American flag ripped down. But the town council virtually wants me to rip the flag down. And it`s disgraceful.
GRACE: What`s amazing to me is this bunch on the -- what is it, the zoning board? Is that who it is?
TRUMP: Well, the zoning board, and various other boards. But they have so many boards in Palm Beach County, in Palm Beach, that you don`t even know. But the zoning board, and basically it`s the town council.
GRACE: Where does the mayor stand?
TRUMP: Well, I haven`t heard from the mayor. I haven`t heard from members of the town council.
GRACE: What, are they afraid to come out one way or the other, to support you or disagree with you?
TRUMP: Well, you would certainly think they -- I would certainly think being political, they would not want to have somebody rip down an American flag, especially one that looks so beautiful on the property. I mean, cars are stopping. Everybody is totally -- they are in love with this flag.
GRACE: You know what`s amazing to me is that in this country, we protect someone burning and stepping on the American flag. When we see people dropping dead every day overseas to protect our country and our flag, and that`s OK. That`s actually protected by the U.S. Supreme Court. But you flying a flag is costing you $25,000 today.
TRUMP: Well, Palm Beach is a very unusual place. It`s probably or definitely the wealthiest place in the United States. And it`s interesting how these few wealthy councilmen and people that are ruling Palm Beach want to do this to the flag. They have been met with tremendous pressure, and it`s a disgrace.
And fortunately we have a highly respected judge who I don`t know, but he`s highly respected, Daniel Hurley, a federal judge, and he`ll be making a ruling fairly soon in West Palm Beach.
GRACE: Well, Mr. Trump, the first thing he`s going to ask you is, number one, why didn`t you get a permit; number two, why didn`t you try to get what is called a variance so you could fly this.
TRUMP: Well, I was told -- it`s a very simple answer. I was told that if I applied for a permit, I wouldn`t get it, number one. So if I`m told that I won`t get the permit, what`s the purpose of going through this charade?
Now they would have loved me to apply. And then they would have loved to reject me. But they told me they were going to reject me before I applied. So there`s no reason to apply. Otherwise I would have been very happy to apply.
GRACE: You know, it`s my understanding that there are a bunch of multimillionaires, no offense, Mr. Trump, down there.
TRUMP: And multibillionaires, yes.
GRACE: And -- sorry. Multibillionaires down there in Palm Beach, and they claim you flying this big flag makes the whole area look like a used car dealership. Well, I`ve got a question. What`s wrong with that? The rest of America is perfectly OK with a car dealership and with a big flag. So what`s their problem?
TRUMP: Well, you know, Nancy, they were very clever, because you see now, as I look at the television as I`m doing this.
GRACE: It`s beautiful.
TRUMP: . you see the proportion of the flag to Mar-A-Lago. What they try to do is say the flag is so big, I don`t know if you`ve ever seen some of these flags that they have on used car dealerships, they literally -- they were on a 40-foot pole and they`re 50 feet long and it looks ridiculous.
And you know, they hang down onto the ground. This flag is beautifully proportioned. Done by the finest flag company in the United States. It was proportioned to the lot, to the building, which is almost 20 acres, which is very large, with the Atlantic Ocean right behind it.
And frankly, it`s unbelievable to everybody. I just get letter after letter, please fight, please don`t let them take down the American flag. It`s a disgrace.
GRACE: And, Mr. Trump, I want to give you some legal advice, since you did not ask, and that is, when this thing finally goes to a trial, please, trust me on this, get a jury. Don`t trust some federal judge who`s got a job for life, no matter what he does, rule on your flag. You get a jury of your peers, all right?
I hated bench trials. You never know what some kooky judge is going to do. Then you can`t appeal it. Please, promise me, if this goes to trial, your lawyers will take it to a jury of 12.
TRUMP: Well, Judge Hurley is highly respected, but I understand it would probably be ultimately a jury trial.
GRACE: Let`s go to the lines. Who`s my caller, Liz? Laurie in Florida, hi, Laurie.
CALLER: Hi, Nancy. Love your show.
GRACE: Thank you.
CALLER: You`re welcome. I just want to say I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Trump and I applaud you for being patriotic.
GRACE: You know what, a lot of people, Laurie, are suggesting that Trump put this flag up as some kind of a P.R. attempt. Listen, this man does not need any more P.R. than he`s already got. Much less to try to make a dollar off the American flag.
This flag has been there for a long time. So I find that very, very difficult to believe. As a matter of fact, right now, let`s go out to Joyce Kaufman. Everyone, with us live with us tonight, Donald Trump, who is now losing money by the minute, because he wants to fly the American flag.
Can you believe it? With all of the children on crack, the crime rate, you`ve got a war going on in Iraq, this town council is concerned about Trump flying the American flag. Out to Joyce Kaufman with WFTL radio.
Hi, Joyce. What is the update on the case?
JOYCE KAUFMAN, WFTL RADIO HOST: Well, the whole idea of anybody taking on the American flag when we`ve got men and women fighting overseas is so ludicrous, that Mr. Trump doesn`t have a worry in the world.
I took phone calls on my show yesterday and today. I did not get one call from anyone who wants him to take down that flag. They`re behind him. They are concerned that that old money is trying to just, you know, mess with the nouveau riche.
It`s so funny, because Palm Beach is a strange town. If you`ve not been here, you really have to come down and see for yourself.
GRACE: OK. Well, wait, you named -- the millionaires -- the old millionaires are angry at the new millionaire? Is that what you just said? I`m sorry.
KAUFMAN: Yes, pretty much.
GRACE: . I can`t relate to that. I`m having a hard time relating to that.
KAUFMAN: Well, because their money was inherited.
KAUFMAN: Their money is old. And Donald Trump is a self-made millionaire.
GRACE: OK. Let`s go back to Mr. Trump joining us tonight. Of course, the town zoning -- the planners are trying to make him take his American flag down. Let`s get a shot of it, Elizabeth, to see exactly what they are trying to destroy.
They say this flag, look at it, is an eyesore. That it is inappropriate. What about, Mr. Trump, the theory of selective prosecution? Aren`t there at least 20 others that you know of flying, or having an erection of a flag or an accessory, I believe they call it, to a home as tall as yours?
TRUMP: Well, I appreciate you bringing that up, Nancy, because the fact is, there are over 20 flags of all different sizes and shapes and heights, and there`s one on top of a major hotel in Palm Beach that`s 150 feet higher than mine.
It`s been there for years and they don`t have any permits. And not only that, they have the American flag and then they have the flag of the hotel right next to it, and that`s higher than the flag that I have. So it`s absolutely disgraceful.
The other thing, they are all afraid that I`m going to end up putting the Mar-A-Lago flag up and Trump flag, and I would commit never to do that. I think it would be totally inappropriate. But they`re saying, oh, well, after he gets the American flag, then he`ll do something else.
The funny thing is the major hotel in Palm Beach has a flag that is flying with its own name on it and then next to it is the American flag and they never got a permit. They never asked for a permit. And they never would.
GRACE: So why you? Why are you being targeted?
TRUMP: Well, the Mar-A-Lago Club has become a very big success. It took me a long time to get it. I had to go through the legal process. I fought the establishment in Palm Beach. And the establishment in Palm Beach is very nasty, and I won.
And then against all odds, it became the most successful club. It`s a tremendous success. Members love it. Everybody loves it. And by the way, every one of the members that I have, and there`s a lot of them, they want to literally march down to the town council and protect the flag. But it became a great success. And there`s a lot of hatred over this. There`s a lot of -- it`s a very, very strange town. And it`s a very jealous town.
GRACE: I just don`t see that.
TRUMP: And they`re very upset about the success of the Mar-A-Lago Club.
GRACE: Mr. Trump, I just don`t see that this, of all times -- not that there`s ever a good time, but now, when our country needs support more than ever, an attack on a symbol of our country, I just don`t think it`s appropriate.
Out to the lines. Jeremiah (ph) in Indiana, hi, Jeremiah.
GRACE: What is your question, dear?
CALLER: Hey, just think about it this way. All of our boys and girls are over there fighting for this country, we have the right to fly a flag no matter what size it is.
GRACE: You know, I`ve got to agree with you, Jeremiah. And the thing is this, Trump is out there. He`s in the news. He`s out there talking about his show, "Apprentice." He`s on the forefront. He`s always making waves or he`s always a target in one way or the other.
And I`m just wondering, Mr. Trump, if the people of Palm Beach consider that to be tacky or gauche in some way, and they`re attacking you in the only way that they can. Do you think that could be part of it?
TRUMP: Well, you have a lot of Palm Beach people that, frankly, are not very happy people. But you have most of the Palm Beach people are -- and even my enemies, I mean, I`ve had many, many calls from people that aren`t even great friends of mine, that think the flag is the most beautiful thing that they`ve seen in Palm Beach.
The thing that nobody really understands is, everybody loves the flag. They love the proportion. They love the beauty. It`s not like the famous used car lot that somebody got, oh, it`s a used car lot. They never even saw the flag when they made that statement. They think it looks absolutely beautiful.
Now I sued the town -- it`s a very rich town, so they can afford it. But I sued them for $25 million, with the stipulation that any and all money, every penny of the money that I win, if I win the money, goes toward returning Iraqi soldiers.
GRACE: Will you repeat that one more time, Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: I sued the town for $25 million, all proceeds go to the returning Iraqi soldiers, wounded soldiers I would say.
GRACE: Donald Trump with us live, defending his decision to fly the American flag. And wouldn`t you know it, there`s a city council, the planning and zoning code enforcement officials there in Palm Beach, fining him $25,000 to date. It`s rising by the minute, for flying the American flag. I want to know what you think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERRY FRANKEL, WORTH AVENUE ASSN.: I think if Donald Trump`s name was Herman Smith they would have done exactly the same thing, might not have made the headlines. It may be looked upon as, you know, he is being a bad boy. But if you don`t play the rules, then you have to suffer the consequences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump has the support of the proletariat, which is interesting. I think the only problems he is having is with the other really rich people who think he`s getting way too much attention. The nouveau riche love Donald Trump. He`s eccentric, he`s colorful. He brings attention to their. They would rather be at his -- if he throws a party, they would rather be invited to his party than one of the stuffy old old West Palm Beach parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: The proletariat? (INAUDIBLE) I guess that is us, the regular people, the poor people? So, Trump, you know, I guess you`ve got the support of the poor people like us. I don`t know how much that`s going to help you in your battle with the rest of the -- you corrected me, the billionaires down there at Palm Beach.
Everybody with us, Donald Trump, you know his as The Donald, he is all over the news, but the bottom line is, he is flying the American flag in front of private property, on private property. And the Palm Beach authorities -- the code enforcement officials, are fining him by the day, it`s up to $25,000. They say he`s flying the American flag to high.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court says sure, you can burn the flag in the town square. You can step on it. You can tear it up. But the Palm Beach officials are saying, you can`t fly it. With us, Donald Trump.
I understand their next tactical move, Mr. Trump, is to change the courtroom. They`ve taken you to a federal courtroom. Why is that?
TRUMP: Well, they felt that they would be better in federal court although the laws are very strongly on my side. And one of the interesting things, and I notice as you`re speaking, I`m paying -- I`m thinking to myself, I`m probably the only one in the history of this country -- this great country where I`m paying $1,250 a day for the privilege of flying the American flag.
They`re fined me $1,250 a day. I guess that`s up close to $25,000 now. And that`s because I`m flying the flag. I don`t think anybody`s ever been fined or made to pay for flying the American flag. And personally, I think if I was in Palm Beach, I`d lead a revolt to knock out the people in office. I mean, these people shouldn`t be serving in office. This is an absolute disgrace, and especially in this time.
GRACE: Do you ever get used to being a target of people mocking you, or making fun of you?
TRUMP: Well, I am a target. And I`ve been a target for a period of time. And I guess I consider it a badge of courage. And I`m very happy with it. But I`ll be a target for the American flag any day.
I mean, I`m a respected businessman. I`m on the cover of Forbes last month, on the Forbes 400. I`m on the cover of the business magazines all the time. Unfortunately I`m also on the cover of lots of other magazines having to do with things other than business.
GRACE: Well, the issue is, a lot of people, including myself, we can`t relate to millionaires that live in the lap of luxury. But the bottom line is, many people have been targets, or persecuted for some reason or the other. And that doesn`t feel good to anybody. This man is willing to pay by the day, now nearly $25,000 to fly the American flag. What the hey is going on in Palm Beach!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is a very welcome resident to Palm Beach. He brings with him a lot of prestige. He hosts a lot of fabulous parties. He gets invited to all the parties, I don`t think he attends many. He has just enriched this community. Mar-A-Lago is one of the most beautiful golf courses and country clubs in the world. So Palm Beach residents are pretty pleased to have him there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: The U.S. Supreme Court says this is OK to desecrate the American flag, especially at a time when we are at war. But the Palm Beach code enforcement officials say it`s not OK to fly the flag a little too high.
I didn`t know you could fly the American flag too high. To those of us that have fathers as veterans, or have friends and relatives overseas in Iraq right now, this particular legal action is especially irritating.
Out to Donald Trump, joining us. It`s not just the fines. You`re having to pay legal fees. You`re going to federal court now. This ain`t over, Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Well, I`m spending a tremendous amount of money on lawyers. And I fully expect that. But it`s very important to protect the sanctity of the flag. And the fact is that the flag is beautifully proportioned. The flag is on a pole that`s lower than many of the poles in Washington, D.C.
The flag is on a pole that`s substantially lower than our big hotel in Palm Beach, which as I said, is flying it without permits. And they chose to go after the Mar-A-Lago club and myself. And I think it`s disgraceful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERRY FRANKEL, WORTH AVENUE ASSOCIATION: Unfortunately, in this town, they`re very into preserving the quality, and the laws, the bylaws, and I think that`s what it`s really all about. In no way would anybody ever think that the flag shouldn`t be there.
Apparently what`s happened is that they have a 40-foot law. And the pole, the flag pole is now currently standing at 80 feet, which does not come under the auspices of the law of the land in Palm Beach.
There`s probably no one more patriotic than this entire town. I mean, their whole thing is America, and what`s good for America, what`s good for its people. They are probably the most philanthropic people. Certainly in no way would they be offended by a large flag. They probably are secretly very thrilled. It`s just that there are certain rules and regulations that have to be passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Preserving the bylaws? OK, I don`t know if you took this class in law school, but it`s called B.S. 101. Preserving the bylaws and not letting this man fly his flag? We`re talking about Donald Trump. He`s now currently fined nearly $25,000. That amount is going up by the day, because he is flying -- let`s show it, Liz -- this flag in front of his estate on private property.
Now, what if you get a phone call or, of course, it would be a letter, a typed letter, telling you what you can do on your private property, especially flying the American flag?
Out to investigative reporter Pat Lalama. How did this whole brouhaha start?
PAT LALAMA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, it started back toward the end of last year, when Mr. Trump did his duty, and said, "Hey, guess what? I`m putting up a flag." But, you know, what it sounds like to me, Nancy, is that these people on the board are like a bunch of potted plants, sort of pitted in provincial protocol, if I can use all those words there.
GRACE: Pitted in provincial protocol?
LALAMA: Write that down. I think that sounded pretty good. And I think what they`re saying is, "We`re the bosses here and you will not violate our rules." And the fact is, towns and cities do have codes. You know, you drive through certain towns in America...
GRACE: I`m OK with codes, Pat. I`m OK with codes. But why are there at least 20 other flags, including the one over, where is it, the Breakers? They`ve got a huge flag with the Breakers, which is a ritzy resort with their own private flag on it. But that`s OK. But the American flag that Trump`s flying is not OK.
LALAMA: Obviously, I mean, there seems to be this element that we`re going to pick on Mr. Trump because, you know, he`s got pizzazz and he brings charisma to the area, and the potted plants feel a little bit shaken up. And they don`t really like that.
But what`s interesting about it is, if it goes to the federal courts and it becomes a constitutional free speech issue, then he may set precedent. And that would be great for Palm Beach.
GRACE: Take a listen to what a local reporter has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYCE KAUFMAN, WFTL RADIO HOST: What do most Americans think about zoning commissioners and zoning restrictions on the homes that they own in the communities they live in? They resent them. They`re angry all the time, because they make them take down Christmas decorations, and American flags, and put in rules that are sometimes ridiculous.
Obviously, we wouldn`t want Donald Trump flying a huge, you know, flag, with a middle finger waving over Palm Beach. But that`s not what he did.
Donald Trump has the support of the proletariat, which is interesting. I think the only problems he`s having is with the other really rich people who think he`s getting way too much attention. The nouveau riche love Donald Trump. He`s eccentric. He`s colorful. He brings attention to their town. They`d rather be at his -- if he throws a party, they`d rather be invited to his party than one of the stuffy old, old West Palm Beach parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Out to that reporter, her name is Joyce Kaufman with WFTL, she`s a radio host there. Joyce, it`s kind of hard for the rest of us to relate to which party, which stuffy party is better down with the millionaires in Palm Beach. To me, this is about what you can do on your private property that you own, much less flying the American flag. This is bigger than whose party is better.
I couldn`t care less what party is going on in Palm Beach. But I do care about what I or my family can do on our private property.
KAUFMAN: Well, then you really wouldn`t like living in south Florida, because...
GRACE: Well, no one has invited me to Palm Beach. So I don`t think I`m in any danger of getting an engraved invitation to come live down there by Mar-A-Lago.
KAUFMAN: But even in Pompano Beach, and even in Fort Lauderdale, there are all kinds of insane zoning regulations, where families are not allowed to put American flags on balconies or they`re not allowed to put Christmas decorations on their roofs. Why would...
GRACE: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You mean you can`t have Santa and the reindeer on the roof?
KAUFMAN: Not in certain communities.
GRACE: OK, you know what? That`s got to go. Sorry.
GRACE: OK, I don`t know what`s going down in Palm Beach right now. But do you remember this, speaking of Santa on the roof? This peace sign wreath was disallowed in Colorado. And full-scale battle ensued across the country, and the wreath was put back in place. That went down in December.
Let`s unleash the lawyers and see what they have to say. Joining us tonight out of Atlanta, Renee Rockwell. Also with us, Randy Kessler. OK, Renee, go ahead and tell me.
RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I can tell you one thing about that zoning commission. They better have lawyers, guns and money to fight Donald Trump. The sensitive thing is that it`s the American flag. But, Nancy, what they`re going to say is, "It`s not about the flag; it`s about the flag pole." So there`s your argument.
GRACE: They`re also saying the flag is too big, Miss Rockwell. They`re saying the flag`s too big, that the flag offends them.
ROCKWELL: The flag is too big.
GRACE: It doesn`t offend me.
ROCKWELL: The flag is too big, and it`s also violating. But they`ve not charged him with the violation; they`ve charged him with not getting the permit. It`s in place in the wrong place. He didn`t ask. That might be the problem. But it`s going to take something like this, Nancy...
GRACE: Renee, you know, this is one of your favorite sayings, better to get permission -- better to get forgiveness than permission.
ROCKWELL: Forgiveness than permission.
GRACE: So, you know, I know you better than that.
OK, Kessler, weigh in.
RANDY KESSLER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m on the opposite side. I think you always create a paper trail. We tell our clients, "Create a paper trail." There`s something fishy. You know, if I was a teenager watching this show, I`d say, why can`t these grown-ups figure this out? Someone wants to fly the flag, what`s the big deal? There`s more to the story. There`s always two sides to the story.
GRACE: And, really, what is the big conspiracy theory, Randy Kessler? What`s more to the story?
KESSLER: How many people out there have heard of Mar-A-Lago until this issue came up? How many people knew about it?
GRACE: Well, anybody that has ever opened a newspaper or watched "E.T." or "True Hollywood Story." I would say probably 90 percent of America. You`ve got to be living in a cave, Kessler, not to know what Mar- A-Lago is.
KESSLER: Well, now the other 10 percent know about it because of this controversy. So there`s no such thing as bad publicity.
GRACE: Wait. Nobody is making money off Mar-A-Lago. That`s just a residence.
KESSLER: There is a brand, and it`s Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is a brand. And everything Donald Trump seems to turn to gold.
GRACE: So you`re saying he`s flying the American flag for money? That`s what you`re saying?
KESSLER: I say everything Donald Trump does and gets his name out there, when he puts his name on something, it increases in value. And if his name is out there...
GRACE: Well, is that a reason to target him for flying the flag?
KESSLER: No, I think Donald Trump put himself out there as a savior of the American flag, and he`s done a good job of it, and everyone likes what he`s doing, and that means people want to buy his products, they want to watch his shows, they want to rent from him, they want to buy from him. It feels good. You know, I might just go out...
GRACE: So you`re saying treat him differently, because he`s a millionaire, as opposed to me, with my little flag on my apartment door?
KESSLER: I`m saying he`s flying the American flag. I might just go buy a condo from him just because I feel so patriotic today. So it`s working.
GRACE: You don`t even know what Mar-A-Lago is. You`re not going to buy an apartment from him.
KESSLER: Not in Mar-A-Lago, but he`s got other places where he has condos for sale and he has TV shows to watch.
GRACE: You know, Renee, what`s going to happen in court?
ROCKWELL: Nancy, I would think that they`d probably kick it right back down to state court, because I don`t think it`s going to be -- in this judge`s eyes, it`s not going to be about the flag. It`s probably going to be about the flag pole. That`s just how I weigh in on it.
GRACE: There you see the flag flying in front of a private residence. Twenty others as big or bigger than this one are allowed to fly, but not Trump`s American flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, HOST, "THE APPRENTICE": I wouldn`t get it, so that was very important. You know, a lot of people would say, "Why didn`t you apply for permits?" I would have applied, but they told me that, if I applied, I won`t get it. And, number two, it`s my contention and my attorney`s contention that you don`t need permits to put up the American flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... gave their daughter to Jerry and Louise Baker. They thought it was a temporary situation. When the Hes asked for Anna Mae back, the Bakers refused. And after a long battle through the court system, the Hes are now planning for Anna Mae`s return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She knows that she`s a Chinese girl. And she knows that she has a Chinese mom and dad. And so we are confident that this transition will be smooth and successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Tonight, we take you live to Tennessee where a battle over a little Chinese girl is boiling over. Well, according to the foster parents, her biological parents handed her over at the time of her birth. And they`ve kept her nearly eight years. Now the child has been ordered to China with her biological parents.
What`s the truth of the matter? Out to reporter with the "Nashville City Paper," Jared Allen. Jared, what`s going on?
JARED ALLEN, REPORTER, "NASHVILLE CITY PAPER": Well, Nancy, this case goes back a long, long way. And what happened in the eight years since the first legal proceedings started was a great deal of animosity between these two families and, also, what is pretty clearly a significant amount of misunderstanding as to...
GRACE: Just give me the facts.
J. ALLEN: In 1998, the Hes were preparing to have their first daughter. This is the Chinese couple. When Mr. He was accused of sexual assault in his position at Memphis University where he was a graduate assistant, in thinking that he was going to lose his job, which he did, he knew he wasn`t going to have health insurance. So they sought out assistance, which they weren`t sure was going to be in the form of foster family or a temporary family, or what have you, and they met the Bakers.
GRACE: Let`s take a look at the time line, Liz. Apparently at a time when they were strapped for money, they were looking for potential adoptive parents before the baby was born.
`99, Anna is born. `99, Bakers agree to keep Anna for just 90 days. It goes on and on and on. It`s extended. Suddenly it`s four months later, and they still have the baby. The biological parents want the child back. The court denies that petition citing lack of income?
Now, we`re up to 2001. The biological parents, the Hes, want custody. The Bakers fight back for adoption. Now we`re in `02. The Hes visit Anna. Let`s move it along, Liz. We`re in 2002, 2004, a trial begins in front of Judge Childers and he terminates the biological parents` rights. They appeal. The Tennessee Court of Appeals hears the case.
Let`s go along. The court upholds the court below. Arguments now before the Tennessee Supreme Court. They`ve returned custody to the biological parents. The child is about to celebrate her 8th birthday.
Out to Pat Lalama, it`s my understanding that the biological mom would actually go hide in a local gas station to see the little girl go by on a bicycle, after she was turned away from the home for visitation?
LALAMA: Yes, obviously, you know, this is an emotional thing for all four of these people. I mean, you can refer to them all as parents. But after a certain amount of time -- and the parents, by the way, the biological parents, did visit their baby on 80 occasions, I believe, before it got so -- there was so much animosity that the cops were called. They told the Hes to stay away. That`s when things really got bitter.
Let`s also keep in mind that the father, Mr. He, was acquitted of all of these allegations.
But, Nancy, the lower courts found, in looking at this case, that they felt that the parents were manipulative and deceptive and that Mrs. He wasn`t even really Mrs. He when she came to this country. And they even charged them with using this whole custody case to avoid deportation.
So they kind of took a nasty little turn toward the Hes and said, well, you know what? We don`t feel this is a stable environment. But the high court came back and said, "Whoa, you had no right to do this." There was a lot of misunderstanding, and the people did not understand that the Bakers wanted to keep them for good.
GRACE: Well, I agree with you, that the Hes say they didn`t understand the Bakers wanted the child for good. But the child has been there now eight years.
GRACE: My question is, have they been trying to get the child back from the very beginning? One thing -- let`s go out to the lawyers, Renee Rockwell, Randy Kessler -- that`s disturbing to me, is I`ve looked at the court`s findings, the sworn record here, and it says that, before the baby was born, Randy, they were trying to put it up for adoption, that they had gone to other prospective parents and they were angry that those parents would not pay for the care of Miss He while she was pregnant. And she wanted rich parents.
KESSLER: Well, there are a lot of findings like that throughout this whole case. In fact, the judge entered a 73-page order. And I`ve never seen, in 20 years of practicing family law and criminal law, anything like that. He found all sorts of things. Not only did they give this child away, they gave another child away, sent that child to China, sent money to China to help support that child.
GRACE: Wait, wait, wait. The Hes gave another child away, is that what you just said?
KESSLER: Yes, ma`am. Yes, Nancy. They did that. They also signed the consent order in 1999 giving custody to the other parents, to the Bakers, and the judge found, Judge Childress found in his order that, when they did that, they knew absolutely there was no guarantee they could ever come back and get the child back. He made that a finding of fact.
And the one thing we know about trial judges is they get to see the witnesses. They judge their demeanor. They can sense, and taste, and smell what`s going on in the courtroom. And, you know, when two grown-up people or four grown-up people can`t figure something out for their kids, you leave it to the laboratory of the courtroom. And they did. And he took his time. I heard there was over 70 hours of testimony, 28 witnesses...
GRACE: Let me get back to the facts. To Jared Allen with the "Nashville City Paper," Jared, has anyone questioned the girl, Anna?
ALLEN: I don`t believe so. She`s been kept from media exposure, from both sets of parents, primarily the Bakers, who have been very protective of her, as protective as the Hes have been in advocating that they want her back.
GRACE: And to Andrea Macari, Dr. Macari, clinical psychologist, we also know that the mom picketed in front of the Bakers` attorney`s office. We know she showed up at the courthouse, at the judge`s office and wouldn`t leave, wanting to get her biological child back. There`s a lot of conflicting evidence. But what effect will this have on the child?
ANDREA MACARI, INSTRUCTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY: Well, that`s a really hard question to answer, Nancy. You know, if I were the psychologist on this case, I would spend a lot of time with the biological parents, trying to really prepare them for making the smooth transition. It`s going to be difficult, but Anna fortunately...
GRACE: They`re taking her to China.
MACARI: But Anna is still young. There are many children in China, Nancy, who are successfully and effectively raised. So I don`t really have a problem with that at all.
I think the court system actually failed this girl. This should have been resolved years ago. The earlier it got taken care of, the easier it would have been on her.
GRACE: So there was no formal adoption, right, Andrea?
MACARI: Not that I know of.
GRACE: Back to a Tennessee case. A child, a Chinese child, has lived with an American couple eight years. Now, thanks to a judge, he`s heading back to China with her biological parents. Straight out to Trenny Stovall, child advocate. Weigh in, Trenny.
TRENNY STOVALL, CHILD CUSTODY ADVOCATE: The reality is, the rights of this child outweigh her needs, outweigh that of the parents. It`s unfortunate if they didn`t understand, but the fact is, removing her from a home that she`s been in for eight years is going to be detrimental, regardless of what anybody says. The parents` ignorance of the law is no excuse. If the parents didn`t understand what they were doing, in this country, they have a right to get counsel.
STOVALL: Someone could have helped them to understand.
GRACE: Very quickly to Lee Allen, with the National Council for Adoption, they actually showed up at a birthday party and tried to take the little girl home when she was two.
LEE ALLEN, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION: That`s true, Nancy. But what`s most important about this case is that it was never an adoption case. This is about guardianship, and guardianship is very different than adoption, because adoption is a legal process that was never intended for this little girl. And the guardianship is a temporary caretaking agreement. And the Bakers had no reasonable expectation that they would be able to adopt this child ever.
GRACE: So who do you side with, Lee?
L. ALLEN: Well, I side with the court decision, the Supreme Court decision. The parents are the parents. And they ruled that the lower court...
GRACE: Right, that the biological parents will take the child. Lee Allen is with us, with the National Council for Adoption. And that is his opinion.
Let`s stop for a moment to remember Army Specialist John Barta, 25, Corpus Christi, Texas, killed, Iraq. First tour of duty, all-star baseball and football player. His friends called him their Superman. He leaves behind a loving family, widow, Killeen, and a proud brother. John Barta, American hero.
Thank you for being with us. NANCY GRACE signing off. Until tomorrow night, good night, friend.