The government official enlisted two female agents to covertly gather details about Trump’s establishment. The women claimed to be newly-pregnant and inquired of the doctor’s services. Leland agreed to perform abortions on the women if they returned with cash. Drews drafted a report, but instead of submitting it to the board, he called his friend, attorney Michael Wittenberg, for advice1.
The attorney suggested using the evidence for their own financial gain. Wittenberg and Drews became partners in a plot to extort $2,000 from the doctor. Adjusted for inflation, they attempted to collect the equivalent of $35,000 in exchange for suppressing Drews’ document.2.
On July 1st, 1938, Michael Wittenberg telephoned Leland Trump. He told the doctor about the report and offered to “hush up” any charges, as long as Leland was willing to pay the money. Wittenberg stressed that he would have the Trump’s license permanently revoked should he fail to comply3.
On July 2nd, Leland gave the lawyer $20 and a diamond ring, promising the rest in a few days. Trump later recalled Wittenberg saying, “I can fix everything through my connection with Drews, the state board of health, and the district attorney4.”
Instead of procuring the funds, however, Trump contacted District Attorney Herbert Steffes himself. Upon hearing the doctor’s story, Steffes took action. He arranged for two investigators to hide in Trump’s office when Wittenberg returned for the balance of his payment5. Wittenberg was arrested after presenting Dr. Trump with an envelope full of documents. When questioned, Wittenberg gave a full confession, implicating Drews in the extortion plot.
In the end, Drews and Wittenberg were both convicted and each sentenced to over a year in prison6. None of the documents in Drews’ evidence file were ever used to convict Dr. Trump of a crime. Because the information had been gathered as part of an extortion plot, the authenticity of its contents was questionable.
Although Leland didn’t lose his medical license again, he did lose custody of his only child.
When the doctor gave Wittenberg $20 and a diamond ring, it’s a fair guess that ring belonged to his ex-wife, Mary. Less than a week after Trump received his first threatening phone call, Mary petitioned the court to appoint Rodger as legal guardian of Leland L. Trump Jr. On August 5th, 1938, Rodger was granted custody of his brother’s son.9.
Lawrence recalled Leland continuing with his medical practice until the early 1950’s.
I would see Dr. Trump in his office when I would visit my dad.
Dr. Trump’s nurse was there … I think she was doing more of the work because, health-wise, in his later years, Trump was not able to.
Although Dr. Trump had a long career and a busy practice, he did not die a wealthy man. Probate records indicate Trump’s total assets in 1954 included a modest home, a 1949 Oldsmobile 98, and $472 in a saving’s account10.
Thanks to Dr. Trump, Lawrence’s mother didn’t give birth alone, nor was she left with a child society wouldn’t allow her to keep. Though her heart likely never stopped aching for the loss of her firstborn, her body healed. In time, she married and had two more children.
Thanks to Dr. Trump, Lawrence was placed in a loving home with a mother who cherished him and a father who encouraged him to pursue his dreams.
Thanks to Dr. Trump, countless lives were saved. Women who might otherwise have taken drastic, dangerous measures to end or conceal their pregnancies, instead found a savior at the corner of Humboldt and Meinecke.
I believe there are other “Trump Babies” like Lawrence out there and I would like to find them. These “babies” would have been born in Milwaukee between 1930 and 1953. They may or may not have been provided falsified documents. If you or someone you know is an adoptee who fits this profile, please contact me. I also encourage anyone with additional information about Dr. Trump, his clients, or his possible associates to please reach out.
— Thank you Lawrence, Sylvia, Dawn, and Russell, for letting me join you on your quest and for encouraging me to write this story.
- United Press “Testimony of Walter Drews is Attacked.” The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) 27 Feb 1939: Page 1
- United Press “Walter Drews Faces Charges of Extortion.” The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) 20 Jul 1938: Page 1
- Associated Press “State Investigator and Attorney Face Extortion Trial.” Wausau Daily Herald (Wausau, Wisconsin) 25 Oct 1938: Page 2
- United Press “Walter Drews Held for Trial at Milwaukee.” The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) 25 Oct 1938: Page 12
- “Extortionist is Sentenced” The Rhinelander Daily News (Rhinelander, Wisconsin) 07 Mar 1939: Page 1
- Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. University of California Press, 2008.
- “Woman Doctor Accuses 3 of Extortion Plot” The Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 02 July 1933: Page 2
- City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Guardianship Case File for Leland L. Trump, minor. 5 August 1938. Case no. 112,025, vol. 198, page 125
- City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Probate Case Files. Certificate of Survivorship for Leland L. Trump, 9 February 1955. Case no. 338-137, vol. 311.055, roll no. 1669