Reviews | Ivana Trump’s funeral in Bedminster looks like the last family affair

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In his enforced (and hopefully temporary) retirement, defeated former President Donald Trump has proposed a new venture. He undertakes.

Technically, his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ now acts as a “graveyard business.” (Suggested tagline: “People are dying to get into Bedminster!”) And he’s already found his first occupant: He just buried his late ex-wife, Ivana Trump, just off the first tee.

Pictures published by the New York Post on Sunday show a lonely grave at the edge of a field with yellowing grass around it, a bunch of white flowers on the freshly turned earth, and a flat stone marker with a less than effusive epitaph: ” IVANA TRUMP, February 20, 1949 – July 14, 2022.” She died last month from an apparent fall.

The former president has shown little interest in conventional post-presidency activities, such as building a presidential library; he doesn’t like reading very much and he tries to hide his presidential papers, not display them. But why would he bury himself in, of all things, the burial business?

Simple: He apparently turned his late ex-wife (and his oldest children turned their late mother) into a tax dodge. Dartmouth professor Brooke Harrington, a specialist in tax optimization, checked the New Jersey tax code and reported that operating a cemetery at Trump National offers “a trio of tax avoidance. Property, income and sales taxes all eliminated. She tweeted that it “looks like a corpse will be enough to wipe out at least 3 forms of taxes”.

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This unearths an old problem for Trump. David A. Fahrenthold reported for The Post in 2017 that local officials had approved two burial sites at Trump’s New Jersey club: a 10-plot one near the first hole where Ivana now rests and a 284-plot plot for anyone wishing buy “eternal membership in Trump’s club.” The proposals had gone through various iterations — up to 1,000 graves for the public grave and, for the private grave (which a Trump representative said would bury “only the good guys,” including Trump himself), 19-foot-tall stone obelisks, along with a combined mausoleum and chapel that would also serve as a wedding venue.

It was unclear at the time how much a cemetery tax break on part of the property would help Trump, as he had already avoided taxes by asking local authorities to declare the largest wooded site a farm – at the reason that some trees were turned into mulch there.

Obituary: Ivana Trump, first wife of Donald Trump, dies at 73

But in his post-presidency, Trump unearthed all manner of scam techniques. The Post reports that he used the presidential seal, apparently illegally, at last week’s Saudi-sponsored golf tournament at the Bedminster course. Trump also milked his supporters for $121 million in campaign cash but, Republican agent Karl Rove complainsdidn’t use much of it to help GOP candidates.

Trump never liked cemeteries. As president, he skipped a visit to an American military cemetery in France when it was raining (he blamed the Secret Service), then skipped a veterans day tour at Arlington National Cemetery because it was “busy”. But now there’s money to be made (or, at least, taxes not to be paid) in the funeral business.

So while the Trump family burial ground waits for other potential occupants to qualify for the residence (the former president faltered on his initial commitment to make Bedminster — his “favorite property” — his final resting place ), maybe Trump can come up with some mixed-use schemes for the site.

Its proximity to the first tee makes it an obvious spot for a practice green for putting and chipping. Or how about a cemetery-themed mini-golf course, in which paying patrons navigate their way over, around, and through garish headstones and monuments?

Alternatively, the high-vacancy Trump Cemetery could be used as a keepsake for those who are technically alive but whose careers and reputations were buried by Trump. Michael Cohen? Michael Flynn? Mike Pence? House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has been so defeated by his desperate loyalty to Trump that he now says he has been late night talking to paintings hanging in his office.

Institutions buried by Trump could also get space in this Trump National Memorial Park. The FBI. Judiciary power. The Republican Party. Free elections. Equal justice. The truth. And, in the center with an eternal flame, would be a simple stone marker as plain and unsentimental as Ivana’s:

“AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, July 4, 1776 – January 6, 2021”

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