Part of Donald Trump’s sales pitch to the American people has been that he knows how to make deals. He does. And some of his very best deals have been made with the Mafia. At POLITICO, David Cay Johnson has an extensive piece on Donald Trump’s equally extensive history of parlaying his contacts within the mob into business deals. The overview:
No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.
This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.
After graduating in 1968 from the University of Pennsylvania, a rich young man from the outer boroughs of New York City sought his fortune on the island of Manhattan. 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.
In the summer of 1982 Cody, then under indictment, ordered a citywide strike—but the concrete work continued at Trump Tower. After Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union, Trump sued the woman for $250,000 for alteration work. She countersued for $20 million and in court papers accused Trump of taking kickbacks from contractors, asserting this could “be the basis of a criminal proceeding requiring an attorney general’s investigation” into Trump. Trump then quickly settled, paying the woman a half-million dollars. Trump said at the time and since then that he hardly knew those involved and there was nothing improper his dealings with Cody or the woman.
…He paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot lot that had been bought five years earlier for just $195,000. The sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr., a pair of hitmen for Atlantic City mob boss Nicky Scarfo who were known as the Young Executioners. For several adjoining acres, Trump ignored the principal owner of record and instead negotiated directly in a deal that also likely ended up benefiting the Scarfo mob.
And it goes on and on and on. There is so much stuff in the article that to do it justice I’d simply have to cut-and-paste it here. I really encourage you, no matter your views on Trump, to read the article.
While no one claims Trump was a “made man” it is really clear that from his earliest days in the business that Donald Trump cultivated relationships with known mobsters. These relationships were not incidental or accidental. He sought them out. He used mob influence to allow him to hire illegal immigrants to work on union construction sites. He used mob contacts to gain ownership of key pieces of property. He knowingly paid kickbacks to mob figures to facilitate construction on some of his projects. He provided jobs and financial assistance to mob figures and their associates.
If you want to claim that he had to do that to do business in New York, fine. Make the claim. But it just isn’t true. Guys like Trump are the ones who kept the mob in business even as legitimate businessmen were being victimized for standing up to provide evidence in court. As Trump acquired prominence he could have used his star power to stomp out mob influence in the real estate development sector. He didn’t because he had the close relationship with the mob that he needed to ensure that his projects were completed without a hitch while his competitors did not have that advantage.
This is very much in character for what we’ve discovered about Donald Trump’s persona. At his core, should he be seen to have such a thing, is a seething, effervescing puddle of narcissism and corruption. He believes in nothing other than his own greatness. He is utterly amoral. He has treated the women in his life like Kleenexes. He has cheated workers of their pay and left small businesses who were contractors to his enterprise ruined and destitute. You may see all of these things as Machiavellian features, I see them as bugs that indicate the man will govern the same way as he has run his personal life.