Donald Trump and Organized Crime

 

0ff519e9-105d-0453-fd7f-ab27b3aa63b4_8x10_mob_lf_1031_345jpgOn March 10, I blogged about Donald Trump’s apparent violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  See Adam Davidson’s article in The New Yorker, “Donald Trump’s Worst Deal.”  Davidson’s article sets out what looks like a prima facie case that Trump violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a deal he entered into in Baku, Azerbaijan.  The deal Trump cut in that case was with the Mammadov family, a group called by Foreign Policy the Corleones of the Caspian.  That article is a must read.  But I was also intrigued by this quote:  “given the Trump Organization’s track record, it seems reasonable to ask whether one of the things it was selling to foreign partners was a willingness to ignore signs of corruption.”  I have previously noted Trump’s association with Joseph McCarthy lawyer Roy Cohn, a notorious red-baiter from the McCarthy hearings who also represented mob bosses in New York.  Trump’s shoulder to shoulder association with mob figures never seems to make it into main stream media, or so I thought until I googled “Trump Mob”.  Try it yourself.

Here are a few excerpts from the articles I found:

 Excerpts from David Cay Johnston’s May 23, 2016 article in Politico

Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?

“From the public record and published accounts …., it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.”

“Within a few years Donald J. Trump had made friends with the city’s most notorious fixer, lawyer Roy Cohn, who had become famous as lead counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Among other things Cohn was now a mob consigliere, with clients including “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, the most powerful Mafia group in New York, and Paul Castellano, head of what was said to be the second largest family, the Gambinos.”

“The indictment on which Salerno was convicted in 1988 and sent to prison, where he died, listed the nearly $8 million contract for concrete at Trump Plaza, an East Side high-rise apartment building, as one of the acts establishing that S &A was part of a racketeering enterprise.”

“FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family. The FBI believed that Cody previously had obtained free apartments from other developers. FBI agents suspected that Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks, might get a free Trump Tower apartment. Trump denied it. But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.”

Further on in his article, “For instance, Barrett reported in his book that Trump was believed to have met personally with Salerno at Roy Cohn’s townhouse; he found that there were witnesses to the meeting, one of whom kept detailed notes on all of Cohn’s contacts. But instead of looking for the witnesses (one of whom had died) and the office diary one kept, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) took an easier path. They put Trump under oath and asked if he had ever attended such a meeting. Trump denied it. The inquiry ended.”

As Johnston opined,”What Trump has to say about the reasons for his long, close and wide-ranging dealings with organized crime figures, with the role of mobsters in cheating Trump Tower workers, his dealings with Felix Sater and Trump’s seeming leniency for Weichselbaum, are questions that voters deserve full answers about before casting their ballots.”

Too late for that.

Consider this from Tim Hain’s January 9, 2017 article, “MSNBC’s David Corn on Trump’s Ties To Organized Crime, Mafia, Jimmy Hoffa Murder“:

“And [Trump] was asked in that deposition: Have you ever had any associations with mob people, and he said, under oath, no, not at all.

Two years earlier, in an interview with the same reporter, he was asked about his early dealings in Atlantic City. And the two people you showed up there, who he leased his initial property for his first casino there, and in that interview he referred to both of them as mob guys. He said the one guy was a small-time mobster, and the other guy might have been involved in the plot to kill Jimmy Hoffa, the Labor Union guy with mob connections. “

This is from a  David A. Graham Atlantic article:

 “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet“:

“Trump has been linked to the mafia many times over the years, with varying degrees of closeness. Many of the connections seem to be the sorts of interactions with mobsters that were inevitable for a guy in the construction and casino businesses at the time. For example, organized crime controlled the 1980s New York City concrete business, so that anyone building in the city likely brushed up against it. While Trump has portrayed himself as an unwitting participant, not everyone agrees. There have been a string of other allegations, too, many reported by investigative journalist Wayne Barrett.  Cohn, Trump’s lawyer, also represented the Genovese crime family boss Tony Salerno.  Barrett also reported a series of transactions involving organized crime, and alleged that Trump paid twice market rate to a mob figure for the land under Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.  Michael Isikoff has also reported that Trump was close to Robert LiButti, an associate of John Gotti, inviting him on his yacht and helicopter. In one case, Trump’s company bought LiButti nine luxury cars.”

Or this.  David Corn in the September 23, 2016 Mother Jones, “The Many Times Donald Trump Has Lied About His Mob Connections”:

“The time Trump said he couldn’t recall a mobbed-up criminal who worked for his company: Last December, Trump was asked by a reporter about a man named Felix Sater who had once been involved in a Mafia-linked stock swindle. ‘Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,’ Trump answered. ‘I’m not that familiar with him.’ Not that familiar? Sater had worked with the Trump Organization, and Trump had been questioned about Sater in at least three depositions, including the 2007 deposition in Trump’s failed lawsuit against Timothy O’Brien.

Sater had not been mentioned in O’Brien’s book. But two days before the deposition, the New York Times revealed that Sater was doing business with Trump. The newspaper noted that Sater was something of a mysterious figure with a criminal past, and it reported:

‘A federal complaint brought against him in a 1998 money laundering and stock manipulation case was filed in secret and remains under seal. A subsequent indictment in March 2000 stemming from the same investigation described Mr. Sater as an “unindicted co-conspirator” and a key figure in a $40 million scheme involving 19 stockbrokers and organized crime figures from four Mafia families.’

Sater, according to the Times, also ‘became embroiled in a plan to buy anti-aircraft missiles on the black market for the Central Intelligence Agency in either Russia or Afghanistan, depending on which of his former associates is telling the story.’  The newspaper reported that he was now working for the Bayrock Group, ‘a partner in the Trump SoHo, a sleek, 46-story glass tower condominium hotel under construction on a newly fashionable section of Spring Street.’

It was certainly a story to receive much notice in New York: an arms-dealing, Mafia-connected man of international mystery in cahoots with the city’s most famous developer. Naturally, O’Brien’s lawyer asked Trump about him, and Trump said he had only had ‘limited’ interactions with Sater. ‘Have you severed your ties with the Bayrock Group as a result of this?’ Trump was asked. He replied, ‘Well, I’m looking into it, because I wasn’t happy with the story.’ He added, ‘people that were trying to find things out about [Sater] have been unable to.’

Trump did not sever ties with Sater and the Bayrock Group. In fact, the following year Trump’s lawyers asked Sater to testify in Trump’s lawsuit against O’Brien. And two years after that, Sater officially joined the Trump Organization as a ‘senior advisor‘: he was provided Trump Organization business cards and office space. Last year, a Trump lawyer said Sater had searched for high-end real estate deals for Trump’s company. Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union and later was a US government informant on organized crime and national security cases, has claimed that he met regularly with Trump and discussed deals in Los Angeles, Ukraine, and China and that in 2006 he escorted Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump when the two Trump children visited Moscow.

Trump was asked about Sater in depositions related to other cases in 2011 and 2013. In the first, Trump acknowledged that he used to speak to Sater ‘for a period of time.’ Yet in the second, he said, ‘if he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.’ Last year ABC News reported, ‘Trump and Sater can be seen together in photographs attending a Denver business conference in 2005, and the two men posed on stage together at the 2007 launch party for the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium project.’

Sater, who served prison time in the United States for a 1991 first-degree assault in which he stabbed a man in the face with a broken glass, was at first a PR headache for Trump but then became a senior adviser within Trump’s company. And Trump has had to answer questions about him in several serious legal proceedings. So how could he have said he was not familiar with him?”

Here’s another one. Todd Gitlen’s June 2016 article from Bill Moyers’ site:

The Donald Trump Story You’re Not Hearing About“:

“Unlike its TV competitors, ABC News has raised some questions about Trump’s mob relations. Last December, a Good Morning America piece by the network’s investigative master Brian Ross touched on one tendril: Trump’s relationship with a twice-convicted felon, the Russian émigré Felix Sater, who (along with several other felons) occupied office space in Trump Tower. On air, Ross reported that Donald Trump had testified under oath in a civil lawsuit that Sater ‘helped develop the Trump SoHo hotel and condominium in New York City.’  Online, in a simultaneous piece co-written with Matthew Mosk, Ross noted that in 1991, Sater got into an argument with a commodities broker at the bar of a New York restaurant, smashed a margarita glass and with the broken-off stem, slashed the man in the cheek and neck, breaking his cheek and jaw, severing nerves and lacerating his face and jaw. The victim required 110 stitches. Sater was convicted of first-degree assault and sent to prison in 1993. Then, in 2000, he pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges for running a $40 million ‘pump and dump’ stock scam and for, as Mosk and Ross wrote, ‘collaborating with members of four New York mob families.’  Sater served no time, however, because the FBI testified at his sentencing hearing that he was ‘an important witness on both mob-related and national security matters.’”

 

Then there’s this article yesterday by CNN’s Simon Ostrovsky,

Ukraine lawyer seeks probe of alleged hacked texts of Manafort’s daughter“:

Ostrovsky writes that hacked emails of the daughter of former Trump Chief of Staff Paul Manafort if valid appear to implicate Manafort in killings in the Ukraine.  Ostrovsky observes that:  “A Ukrainian human rights attorney representing the victims of mass police shootings in Kiev in 2014 has asked prosecutors to investigate what are purported to be the hacked text messages of one of Paul Manafort’s daughters, saying the texts point to possible influence Manafort had with Ukraine’s president during that period.  ‘You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,’ Andrea Manafort allegedly wrote of her father in March 2015 in an angry series of texts to her sister, Jessica, about her father’s personal and professional life.”

Trumps many character flaws, his lying, his bullying, his total lack of integrity have been on public display.  I think it is time to consider whether they are part of something deeper.   At what point does the border between “associating with organized crime” and “being organized crime” disappear?

 

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5 thoughts on “Donald Trump and Organized Crime

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