Uncovering Trump’s Techniques in Deception

My mentors describe magic as “committing the perfect crime.” I don’t actually subscribe to that thought: When I perform magic, I like to think of it as a fantasy we share together. (Think of the wholesome brand of magic that includes rainbows, fairies and the wide-eyed smiles of audiences.)

So what’s the appeal for me, deceiving other people like that? As another mentor explained: “Dear, it’s because everyone has a little bit of larceny in them.” If a performer memorizes some basic concepts, even the most bumbling conjurer can deceive.

Take Donald Trump, for instance.

Protestors have been demanding that Trump release his tax returns, but he has yet to do so. (Molly Adams)

When I see the president employing standard techniques in deception, it makes me cringe—because it works. Every. Single. Time. Trump presents his smokescreens so rapidly that before we can stop to analyze them, a new illusion has begun.

We as magicians employ standard techniques to create hocus-pocus for audiences. Together, we become escape artists from reality. I love transforming a roomful of cynics into believers—but some people hate being fooled. They want to understand the secrets. When they can’t, they throw out wild theories about what I’m really doing: She’s hiding it in her bra! The dove is inside her bracelet! (No, dear audience, it’s not in either of those places. It’s just magic.)

In this case, being fooled can be dangerous—so I’ve identified seven techniques that Trump uses so that we can keep watch for them before he suckers anyone again.

#1: Act normal.

Sometimes I’ll have something hidden in my hand, but I don’t panic. During the elections, Trump did not flinch—even though his lawyer just paid off porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money. Magicians don’t run if nobody is chasing them. Neither does the president.

#2: Become the convincer.

When an illusionist offers a deck of cards or a magic contraption for inspection to the audience, it’s used as a “convincer” that everything is “fair and balanced.” As a television personality that appeared in their own homes, people were convinced that the president was trustworthy. This sets people up to ignore facts.

#3: Take credit for everything.

When I first started in magic, a spectator demanded that if I really was magic, that I should give him a sign. Suddenly, the poster behind me fell off the wall. I took full credit for that. When anything great happens, Trump steps in to take credit, even if he didn’t do a damn thing. Remember that blooming economy during the first weeks of his Presidency?

#4: Use magic words.

Repetition causes expectation. Need proof? Say ’em with me: Drain the swamp. Lock her up. Build the wall. Fake news.

#5: Rely on a faulty account.

People are not great witnesses.Often, people will approach me after a performance and excitedly tell their friends what they saw me do onstage. They will claim that I floated ten feet in the air—when in actuality, I levitated 1.5 feet. Trump made 1,950 false claims over 347 days that were easily confirmed as lies, but hundreds of thousands of people don’t seem to care.

#6: Cover the smaller movement with a bigger one.

When I make a dove appear in my hands, that big dramatic moment allows me to perform a smaller action right in front of the audience. When the White house approved arctic drilling and refused to ban pesticides linked to brain damage, the administration also leaked classified information to the Russians—which is a breach of national security. Turns out too many of us were looking at the dove.

#7: Make your own rules.

I will inform the audience if I want them to touch a card, think of a card or cut the deck. The viewers never know what I have planned. I am always one step ahead. I make the rules, and people don’t think to ask twice about them. The White House created new rules under Trump that required Democrats to have Republican cosigners to make routine business inquiries. By the beginning of June, the administration had failed to reply to 275 such inquiries.

People are not outwitted by magic tricks because they’re not smart. Oftentimes, some of the most intelligent people in the room believe in the illusion because the performer takes advantage of how the brain works. Our minds accept information that is proven by the quickest logical conclusion provided—by being aware of these techniques, you now possess a more critical eye that can assess a situation a little faster.

Now you now have a choice: You can enjoy an illusion presented to you, or use this information to deconstruct what is really happening. Just be careful that you don’t become a cynical magician. As a conjuror, keep your sense of wonder.

There are con artists out there, but you also have the ability to create something wonderful—and change reality.


Maritess Zurbano, one of the few professional female magicians in the industry, performs mentalism and hypnosis and travels as a speaker around the world. She trained in Las Vegas and competed in the FISM World Championship of Magic.