His Family Escaped the Nazis. So Why Is Martin Selig Supporting Trump?

It’s a billionaire real-estate developer thing.

Martin Selig might not seem like a natural fit for the role of Donald Trump’s Seattle booster.

Sure, the two men share a four-word biography—“billionaire real-estate developer.” But Selig’s personal history—coming to America as a Jewish child escaping Nazi Germany—might seem to an outsider to grate against Trump’s forays into authoritarian rhetoric (“You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on in the mosques”). And Selig’s emphasis on the importance of international trade to Seattle’s economy would certainly not jibe with Trump’s seemingly protectionist policy (“Mandate a 15 percent tax for outsourcing jobs and a 20 percent tax for importing goods.”)

Yet Selig is making no apologies for his support of Trump, and will be one of the major donors bringing the Republican presidential nominee to the Seattle area for a fundraiser on August 30. Selig, whose well-appointed offices on Second Avenue overlook some of the downtown skyscrapers he’s built, sat down with Seattle Weekly to explain why Trump’s his man.

When did you get on board with Donald Trump? I’ve been on board with the Republican Party for a long, long time.

But supporting the Republican Party doesn’t necessarily mean supporting Donald Trump. Look at Chris Vance. That’s him, not me. We live in the greatest country in the world. The fact that these are the two people who have been nominated for president, you have to live with that. Of the two people who have been nominated, I go with the Republican side.

So what’s the pitch to a Seattle voter for a Trump presidency?He can create jobs, that he can make it easier for Boeing to sell airplanes overseas and basically make it easier for all corporate entities that are here—Amazon, Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks—to compete, not just locally but overseas. That creates jobs. There’s a reason our mayor and governor travel overseas. It’s to help the economy of the state of Washington.

But that would seem to conflict with Trump’s protectionist policies, especially with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If we start putting up tariffs, other countries will do the same and that will make international trade harder. There’s a possibility [TPP] will work, and a possibility it doesn’t work. That’s an argument we could have all day. If it helps increase trade, that’s good. If.

Given your family’s history of escaping Nazi Germany, what do you make of the comparisons between Trump and the far-right nationalist parties in Europe? That’s so poppycock. It’s just a lot of talking. I really don’t see the comparison. The only way we got out of there was because my father was a member of the American Chamber of Commerce, and we basically got the last boat out. We went from Germany to Poland to Moscow, on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Korea, across the Sea of Japan, to a boat in Yokohama, Japan. It was going to San Francisco, but it stopped in Seattle. For reasons we can’t figure out, my family got off in Seattle. This country kept us alive, allowed us in.

But it gives you no pause to hear Trump talk of keeping people out? It doesn’t bother me. I’m quite sure there’s a lot more depth to it. That what he means is keeping people out who’d do harm to us.

You’ve done quite well for yourself during the Obama administration. I do well in all administrations.

Touché. But it seems like Trump—as well as Bernie Sanders, for that matter—is calling for drastic changes to this country, and I might assume a successful person like you would go for something more centrist.I like small government. Anything that creates small government is fine with me. You ask me why I don’t go to the other side. Let’s say you have two children, and you’re in the service, and you get killed overseas, and the Secretary of State goes to your widow and lies about what happened. That’s what [Hillary Clinton] did [with the Benghazi attacks]. She knew it wasn’t the videotapes that caused it, yet you sit there and lie to a widow and a couple of orphans.

When the Trump visit was announced, some suggested it showed that Trump feels Washington will be in play thiselection. That’s not going to happen. That’s wishful thinking. I wish it would, but that’s not going to happen.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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