It will come as no surprise to anyone today that back when Donald Trump owned the Miss Universe Pageant, his picks for finalists often overrode the decisions of the judges.
And often, those finalists came from countries where Trump had business interests.
Jeffrey Toobin writes for The New Yorker:
From 1996 to 2015, Donald Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization, which also included the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Teen U.S.A. pageants. A day or two before a pageant began, Trump would casually visit the contestants while they conducted their final rehearsals. Former contestants told me that Trump would circulate among the young women, shaking hands and chatting with each of them, periodically turning to speak with Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization, who followed him at a discreet distance. (Paula Shugart declined to comment.)
Adwoa Yamoah, who competed as Miss Canada in 2012, told me, “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there.’ It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top fifteen.”
Kerrie Baylis, who was Miss Jamaica in 2013, described a similar scene and added that, when the finalists were announced, “the list looked like the countries that Donald Trump did business with, or wanted to do business with.” Shi Lim, who competed that year as Miss Singapore, told me, “The finalists were picked by Trump. He was really in charge. We called it the Trump card.” (A Miss Universe spokeswoman said that the pageant rules allowed the company’s staff, including Trump, to participate in naming the finalists.)
Toobin goes on to chronicle Trump’s obsession with Russian business, and explains how the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant (held in Russia) helped create many connections between Team Trump and several wealthy Russian businessmen.
Well worth the read.