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PRAGUE – Nearly 30 years ago, Donald Trump was confident he would win the U.S. presidential election — as an independent in 1996, according to recently uncovered files from Czechoslovakia's Communist-era secret police.
Czechoslovakia was the home nation of Trump's first wife, Ivana, a model, athlete and businesswoman who became the mother of his three oldest children: Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.
A year before the 1989 collapse of communism in many parts of Europe, details about Ivana Trump's 1988 visit back to her homeland were recorded in a classified police report. The Oct. 22, 1988 report claimed that Trump refused to run for president in 1988 — despite alleged pressure to do so — because he felt, at 42, he was too young. But the secret report said he intended to run in the 1996 U.S. presidential race as an independent, when he would be 50.
"Even though it looks like a utopia, D. TRUMP is confident he will succeed," the police report said, based on information from an unspecified source who talked to Ivana Trump's father, Milos Zelnicek, about her visit.
It was unclear where the alleged "pressure" was coming from.
The report is interesting because, in the United States, there was little public knowledge that Trump would consider a presidential run until a 1988 interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"I would never want to rule it out totally," he said then.
"I think I'd win," he added. "I wouldn't go in to lose."
But Trump didn't create an exploratory committee until about a decade later, when he launched a bid for the Reform Party nomination ahead of the 2000 presidential election. He dropped that effort about four months later.
Trump's first wife was born Ivana Zelnickova in 1949 in the Czechoslovak city of Gottwaldov, the former city of Zlin that just had been renamed by the Communists, who took over the country in 1948. She married Trump, her second husband, in 1977. As she kept traveling home across the Iron Curtain on a regular basis, Ivana became a tempting target for the powerful, deeply feared Czechoslovak secret police agency known as the StB.
"The State Security was constantly watching (Czechoslovak citizens living abroad)," said Libor Svoboda, a historian from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague. "They were coming here, so they used agents to follow them. They wanted to know who they were meeting, what they talked about. It was a sort of paranoia. They were afraid that these people could work for foreign intelligence agencies. They used the same approach toward their relatives as well."
The StB's specific file on Ivana had a registry number but it is not available. Historians believed it was destroyed. But other documents from the Security Service Archive in Prague, especially a file on her father, who used to visit her in the United States, showed they were both closely watched by spies and informants.
Svoboda said there's no indication of a secret police file on Donald Trump. He didn't travel to Czechoslovakia under communism, unlike his children, who used to spend summer vacations there.
Due to such attention, the secret police reports contain detailed information about Ivana Trump's trips to Czechoslovakia, including dates, telephone numbers she called, people she met, what they discussed and other details about her life with her husband. One of the reports claims the couple had a wedding deal in which Trump allegedly stated he wanted to have at least three children with her.
The Associated Press visited the archive in Prague and obtained copies of all available documents about Ivana Trump. Some of the content has also been reported by Czech media and Germany's Bild newspaper.
The 1988 secret police report in particular suggested that Ivana Trump was nervous, "which is not common for her" after her father picked her up at Prague's international airport after traveling in from Paris, where she visited a fashion house. Trump did not join her on this trip.
Only after she and her father arrived in her hometown did Ivana Trump reveal that the U.S. ambassador to Prague at the time, Julian Martin Niemczyk, twice invited her to visit the embassy, which she declined to accept, according to a police source that met with her father on Oct. 11, 1988. Ivana Trump allegedly said she believed U.S. embassy staffers were following her. The fact that she was supposed to meet with a Czechoslovak security official during the trip added to her nervousness, the police file stated.
She didn't give any details about that meeting, the report said. But it added that she said "as a wife of D. TRUMP she receives constant attention because he is pressured to run for the office of U.S. president ... and any mistake she would make could have immense consequences for him."
Born in 1946, Trump planned to make history in 1996 as an independent candidate despite the fact that both the Democrats and the Republicans were allegedly wooing him to join them, the report said. A note at the end suggested that Ivana Trump's trips home could be possibly used to reveal agents among the U.S. embassy's staffers.
"The StB thought there was a chance that the U.S. intelligence agencies could use (Ivana Trump). And also they wanted to use Trump to gather information on U.S. high society," Svoboda said.
Trump did travel to Zlin in 1990 with his wife to attend the funeral of her father. The couple divorced in 1992.
A year later, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two nations: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
After Trump's presidential win in November, Ivana Trump expressed interest in becoming the new U.S. ambassador to Prague — a possibility heartily welcomed by Czech President Milos Zeman.