The Chicago Syndicate: Donald Trump
Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Suspect in Mob Boss Assassination Said to Have Killed in Order to Support @RealDonaldTrump, & the #MAGA Agenda while Under the Influence of #QAnon - Per His Attorney

A 24-year-old man who has been charged with shooting to death a reputed New York mob boss earlier this year thought he was under the influence of QAnon, pro-Trump Internet postings about the president supposedly battling a cabal of liberal elites, his lawyer wrote in a recent submission to New York state court.

Prosecutors have charged Anthony Comello with murder over the fatal shooting Francesco Cali, the alleged leader of the Gambino crime family who was gunned down outside of his Staten Island home in March. But in a new court filing, Comello's attorney argues that he became so engrossed with unsupported QAnon theories that on the night of Cali's death, he was acting under a delusion, which included that Democratic politicians, celebrities and people associated with organized crime were part of the "deep state," according to Comello's lawyer. He wrote that his client believed he was on a mission "to save the American way of life."

"Beginning with the election of President Donald Trump in November 2016, Anthony Comello's family began to notice changes to his personality," attorney Robert Gottlieb wrote. "Mr. Comello's support for QAnon went beyond mere participation in a radical political organization, it evolved into a delusional obsession."

When Comello arrived at Cali's home, according to the filing, the plan was to stage a citizen's arrest of Cali, not shoot him. But after a heated exchange with Cali, Comello says the alleged mob boss made a "furtive action with his hand," which made Comello afraid for his life. He then reached into his pickup truck, grabbed a gun and fired at Cali, killing him.

"Because of his self-perceived status in QAnon, Mr. Comello became certain that he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had the president's full support," Gottlieb wrote to the court.

The details contained in the filing are part of Comello's planned "mental disease or defect" defense, Gottlieb said.

News of Cali's death ignited speculation about a possible restart of duels among New York's Mafia families. The New York Daily News reported shortly after Cali's death that investigators initially suspected an underling of Cali, or someone who had a beef with him.

But neither theory turned out to be true, and what really happened, according to Comello's lawyer, was even stranger: Comello carried out his violent act as a way of fighting against the deep state to "expose the entire conspiracy and ensure that every criminal is brought to justice," the filing says.

At a court hearing shortly after his arrest, Comello held up his palms, which had ink scribbling of MAGA, for Make America Great Again, and the letter Q, possibly a QAnon symbol.

Comello had a history of bizarre stunts, according to the filing. He attempted to arrest New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at his official residence, Gracie Mansion, but was thwarted by police. In another instance, Comello went to a federal district courthouse in Manhattan, believing that U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff were there. His lawyer said he planned to "arrest and detain" the two Democrats from California. He then went to a U.S. Marshals Service office nearby "but was unsuccessful in securing their assistance in his attempt to arrest both representatives."

A spokesman for the Staten Island District Attorney's Office declined to comment to NPR about the filing.

Thanks to Bobby Allyn.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In Keeping with a Presidential Executive Order by Donald Trump to #MAGA, the United States, Colombia and Mexico Strengthen Their Commitment to Dismantling Transnational Criminal Organizations

In Cartagena, Colombia, prosecutors from Colombia, Mexico, and the United States came together for the second Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) Working Group. The mission of the Working Group is to engage in specialized training and to develop joint strategies and best practices to dismantle the transnational criminal organizations that threaten the three nations.

During the Working Group, experienced prosecutors from the three nations benefited from trainings on international judicial cooperation and money laundering, and began developing a road map for the development or dissemination of best practices and effective strategies to dismantle these dangerous enterprises. This effort is all the more critical given the increasing interconnectedness between Mexican cartels and Colombian drug trafficking organizations, which collaborate to improve their profits and ability to traffic narcotics, humans, weapons and other contraband into the United States, threatening its national security.

The TCO Working Group is a direct outgrowth of Presidential Executive Order 13773 – Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking – which recognized the threat that transnational criminal organizations, including transnational drug cartels, pose to the national security of the United States. In the Executive Order, President Trump prioritized the need to increase cooperation and information sharing with foreign counterparts, and to enhance their operational capabilities via increased security sector assistance, all with the goal of dismantling TCO. Since the 2017 Executive Order was issued, the President has continually reiterated the need to immediately attack the ability of these organizations to traffic narcotics and other criminality into the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT), which is housed under the Department’s Criminal Division, seized on the momentum from the Dec. 6 to 7, 2017 “Trilateral Summit Against Transnational Organized Crime,” to spearhead the TCO Working Group. The Attorneys General from the United States, Mexico and Colombia converged at the Trilateral Summit to strengthen their commitment to international judicial cooperation and to reinforce joint strategies to dismantle transnational organized crime, such as narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and public corruption. Via a Joint Declaration, the three Attorneys General called on their respective institutions to increase the exchange of best practices to effectively dismantle TCO and to develop joint capacity building and training programs for those charged with investigating and prosecuting TCO. With this clear mandate, OPDAT Colombia and OPDAT Mexico sponsored the first TCO Working Group in August 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Participating in the TCO Working Group meeting was U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida; representatives of the Fiscalía General de la Nación (FGN) of Colombia including Claudia Carrasquilla, head of the National Organized Crime Unit and Ricardo Carriazo, head of the National Drug Trafficking Unit of FGN; representatives of the Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) of Mexico, OPDAT Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) in Colombia and México and Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the federal districts of Arizona, Southern District of California, Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, District of New Jersey, District of New Mexico, Eastern District of Texas, Southern District of Texas, Western District of Texas and District of Utah; trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and representatives from the Criminal Division’s International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP); the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Colombian National Police.

“Global cooperation is the key to mitigating threats to our national security and thwarting borderless crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “The OPDAT Program continues to provide us, and our international partners, with the vital tools, information, and resolve necessary to defeat criminals, wherever they operate.”

"We held the trilateral meeting between the U.S., Colombian and Mexican prosecutors, where we've discussed issues of absolute importance for the dismantling of transnational criminal organizations that affect the national security of our countries,” said Ricardo Carriazo, Director of the Special Unit against Drug Trafficking for the Colombian Attorney General’s Office. “The results in this exchange of experiences and good practices will be seen soon in the development of international judicial operations. "

OPDAT spearheads and organizes this critical event in coordination with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Former Organized Crime Investigator Hired to Lead Intelligence Committee’s Sweeping Investigation into President Trump’s Foreign Dealings and Finances

When he left the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan in 2017, Daniel Goldman didn’t envision a future career in Washington, D.C., the city where he grew up. But now, Goldman is leveraging the very skills he honed investigating and prosecuting white collar and organized crime cases in the Southern District of New York to leading the House Intelligence Committee’s sweeping investigation into President Trump’s foreign dealings and finances.

“One of the things you learn as a prosecutor is that you need to figure out how to investigate someone without going straight at that person, particularly when you are doing covert investigations,” Goldman told The Hill in a recent interview. “You have to figure out how you are going to get materials about someone from other sources,” he added. “I think that the traditional congressional method of investigation is to go directly to the person, ask them for documents, ask them to come testify, and sort of move forward along those lines.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a former assistant U.S. attorney himself, tapped Goldman, 43, to be the panel’s senior adviser and director of investigations in February, the same month he unveiled a probe into whether Trump or his associates are subject to foreign compromise — an outgrowth of the panel’s original Russia investigation. The probe drew immediate ire from Trump.

Goldman is one of three former assistant U.S. attorneys that make up the panel’s investigation apparatus, which also boasts a 25-year FBI veteran who led the financial crimes section and a Russian-speaking expert.

Goldman worked in the criminal division of the Southern District for a decade, prosecuting and overseeing myriad cases. He oversaw the prosecution of a Russian organized crime ring that ensnared more than 30 defendants on racketeering, gambling and money laundering charges. He also prosecuted famed Las Vegas sports better William “Billy” Walters, who was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges in 2017 for his role in a $43 million insider-trading scheme, as well as securing convictions against members of the Genovese crime family.

Goldman’s career as a prosecutor has afforded him an integral skill in his latest job — knowing how to find “creative ways” of gathering evidence on a subject without “going directly to the source of the information,” he said.

House Democrats have opened up a bevy of investigations into Trump and his administration, producing fresh headaches for the White House in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year inquiry.

The Trump administration has sought to thwart the probes, accusing Democrats of overreaching and trying to score political points against the president ahead of a reelection year. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, say the administration is flouting congressional oversight powers and stonewalling legitimate investigations at an unprecedented level.

Mueller did not charge any members of Trump’s campaign with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election, a result Trump and his allies have cheered as vindicating the president.

Republicans have also criticized Schiff and other Trump critics for pointing to what they viewed as evidence of Russian “collusion” during Mueller’s investigation — remarks which Schiff has stood by.

Democrats say more investigation is needed. Schiff is particularly interested in the potential counterintelligence risks arising from Trump and his associates’ dealings with Russians and other foreign powers.

Schiff, who said at an Axios event last week that the panel is looking to “revise the scope of our investigative and oversight work” following the release of the Mueller report, has long pointed the proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow as a key line of investigation.

Much of the panel’s investigative efforts are happening behind the scenes, supervised by Goldman. His team members are sifting through documents and open-source material, drafting document and testimony requests, and preparing for witness interviews. Goldman said he is also coordinating with other committees and briefing Schiff and other members on the status of the probe.

The panel, together with the House Financial Services Committee, has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial records related to Trump. Details of the subpoena became public last month, when the president and his family sued Deutsche Bank to prevent the lender from complying with the subpoena, accusing Democrats of harassing Trump and looking for information that could damage him politically.

“We’re integrated with the committee staff, but our principal focus is on any investigations that arise from any of the oversight work,” Goldman said. “We are focused on uncovering facts. We are not in the business of a political, partisan investigation.”

To say Goldman’s career has had a diverse range would be an understatement. He studied journalism at Yale University and after college became an Olympics researcher at NBC News, where he worked on a team that gathered all of the data for the broadcast of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He went on to cover the 2002 and 2004 Olympics, winning three Emmys as a part of NBC’s team along the way. But another career was calling.

“I come from a family of lawyers, so it was somewhat very familiar for me,” Goldman recalled. “And at the end of the day, I made the decision that, as I thought about my longer trajectory career, I did want to do more public service.”

Goldman went to Stanford Law and eventually landed back on the East Coast, where he clerked for an appeals court judge before landing the job of assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District in 2007.

Goldman’s former colleagues describe him as a thorough and creative investigator and prosecutor, someone particularly suited to conduct “follow the money” investigations.

“He’s good at taking massive amounts of information and being able to see the forest through the trees,” Mimi Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney who was Goldman’s supervisor in Manhattan, said in a phone call. “In investigations, that can be the most important thing.”

In a brief interview, Schiff cheered Goldman as a “tremendous addition” to his panel.

“He combines that rare skillset of both being a very good lawyer and a very good communicator, and I think has helped the committee enormously in terms of organizing our oversight and investigative work,” Schiff said.

Goldman spent time as a legal analyst at MSNBC and a fellow at the liberal Brennan Center for Justice before joining the Intelligence Committee.

His latest job has not come without sacrifice: Goldman, who has five children, commutes to D.C. each week from New York, where his wife Corinne lives full time with their kids.

“My five-year plan is to once again live with my family,” Goldman quipped when asked about what’s next for him.

“I don’t have a plan, I really don’t. I will say, when I left the U.S. attorney’s office at the end of 2017, I left without having any idea of what I was going to do,” he recalled.  “I’ve learned from that experience that there’s no point in predicting or pursuing a particular goal, because I’ll just see where things go.”

Thanks to Morgan Chalfant.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Siege: Trump Under Fire" is the Sequel to the Bombshell Bestseller "Fire and Fury" by Author @MichaelWolffNYC

Michael Wolff, author of the bombshell bestseller Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, once again takes us inside the Donald Trump presidency to reveal a White House under siege.

Michael Wolff — who enraged President Trump with his international bestseller "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," about pandemonium in the first-year White House — will be out June 4 with a sequel, "Siege: Trump Under Fire."

The book, "about a presidency that is under fire from almost every side," begins with Year 2 and ends with the delivery of the Mueller report. The publisher says: "'Siege: Trump Under Fire' reveals an administration that is perpetually beleaguered by investigations and a president who is increasingly volatile, erratic, and exposed."

"Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" sold more than 4 million copies in all formats worldwide, according to Henry Holt, which is publishing both books.

Publishing sources say "Siege: Trump Under Fire" is about what Wolff considers the insurmountable legal, personal and political challenges ahead of Trump — about everybody coming after him.

The publisher says Wolff interviewed 150 sources for the new book. We're told the two key groups of sources were former senior officials, and acquaintances outside the White House who talk to Trump at night and that more than two-thirds of the book's essential sources talked to Wolff again. Indeed, some of them sought him out, knowing he was working on what was being called "Fire and Fury II."

Wolff didn't seek an interview with Trump in an effort to avoid legal action that might delay the book. Trump threatened to sue to stop publication of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which he called a "phony book." That backfired and stoked sales.

With Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff defined the first phase of the Trump administration; now, in Siege: Trump Under Fire, he has written an equally essential and explosive book about a presidency that is under fire from almost every side. A stunningly fresh narrative that begins just as Trump’s second year as president is getting underway and ends with the delivery of the Mueller report, Siege reveals an administration that is perpetually beleaguered by investigations and a president who is increasingly volatile, erratic, and exposed.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Former Acting Director Fires Back in "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump"

There is no love lost between Donald Trump and Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director (and, briefly, acting director) of the FBI.

During his campaign for president, Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. McCabe, who was in charge of investigating whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server compromised classified information and national security, had a conflict of interest. In exchange for a promise not to indict her, Mr. Trump maintained, Mrs. Clinton had directed Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to transfer $700,000 to the campaign coffers of Mr. McCabe’s wife, who was running for the Virginia state senate.

Mr. Trump continued his tweets against Andrew McCabe from the White House. Not surprisingly, Mr. McCabe believes the president is responsible for a finding by the inspector general that he “lacked candor on four separate occasions.” And for a decision by the attorney general to fire him — 26 hours before his scheduled retirement.

In “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” Mr. McCabe fires back. He devotes most of his book to a review of his career at the FBI, highlighting his role in combating the operations of Russian organized crime on American soil; investigating the Boston Marathon bombing; terrorist threats on New York City subways; the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya; Mrs. Clinton’s email server; Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Greater public knowledge of FBI activities, accomplishments and the constitutional constraints under which law enforcement agents operate is urgently necessary, Mr. McCabe emphasizes. By identifying the FBI and the CIA with the “Deep State,” declaring that their leaders are corrupt, incompetent and partisan, and taking the word of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un over experts he has appointed, Mr. Trump, Mr. McCabe asserts, is doing lasting damage to the intelligence-gathering services of the United States.

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” is filled with examples, some familiar, some new, of Mr. Trump’s breaches of propriety and historical norms, lies, mean-spirited behavior and, most important, his interference with investigations, indictments and prosecutions by the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The president was upset, Mr. McCabe reveals, that James Comey was allowed to fly home from Los Angeles after he was fired as FBI director. He demanded that Mr. Comey be forbidden from entering the FBI building to clear out his office.

According to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Trump made the self-evidently unsubstantiated claim that “at least 80 percent” of FBI personnel had voted for him. He stated as well that “so many FBI people” had contacted him to say they were glad Mr. Comey was gone. Such contact, Mr. McCabe points out, would have violated White House policy. And, Mr. McCabe indicates, the president, who demands loyalty to him, asked, “Who did you vote for?”

Some readers, no doubt, will dismiss “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” as an exercise in score settling. After all, it is obvious that Mr. McCabe is not a disinterested observer. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who fired Mr. McCabe, it is worth noting, are skewered in this book as well.

That said, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump” should be judged by the credibility (and, where possible, corroboration) of the analysis. And Mr. McCabe concludes with concerns (shared by many) that, in my judgment, should command the attention of readers across the political and ideological spectrum.

Donald Trump did not invent partisanship and polarization. But our country does seem more divided than it’s been for more than a century. And Mr. McCabe provides evidence to support his assertion that the president is “actively pushing” an agenda that encourages his supporters to identify themselves as “the real Americans,” stigmatize others and seek to lock them up, and accept as “facts” only information that is presented by their media outlets.

Mr. McCabe “would love to imagine a future in which we have righted the ship.” But other than endorsing traditional values — obedience to the Constitution, fairness, compassion, individual and institutional integrity, accountability, public service and diversity — he comes up empty. Perhaps we cannot begin until and unless we agree that the threat is real.

Thanks to Glenn Altschuler.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mob Boss Killer Anthony Comello Shows Love of Trump with Pen Markings of #MAGA Forever and Additional Patriot Slogans

The man charged with killing the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family wrote pro-Donald Trump slogans on his hand and flashed them to journalists before a court hearing Monday.

Anthony Comello, 24, was arrested Saturday in New Jersey in the death of Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali last week in front of his Staten Island home.

While waiting for a court hearing to begin in Toms River, New Jersey, in which he agreed to be extradited to New York, Comello held up his left hand.

On it were scrawled pro-Trump slogans including "MAGA Forever," an abbreviation of Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." It also read "United We Stand MAGA" and "Patriots In Charge." In the center of his palm he had drawn a large circle. It was not immediately clear why he had done so.

Anthony Comello MAGA Forever.jpg


Comello's lawyer, Brian Neary, would not discuss the writing on his client's hand, nor would he say whether Comello maintains his innocence. Asked by reporters after the hearing what was on Comello's hand, Neary replied, "Handcuffs."

He referred all other questions to Comello's Manhattan lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, who said in an emailed statement his client has been placed in protective custody due to "serious threats" that had been made against him, but gave no details of them. Ocean County officials could not immediately be reached after hours on Monday.

"Mr. Comello's family and friends simply cannot believe what they have been told," Gottlieb said. "There is something very wrong here and we will get to the truth about what happened as quickly as possible."

The statement did not address the writing on Comello's hand, and a lawyer from Gottlieb's firm declined to comment further Monday evening.

Comello sat with a slight smile in the jury box of the courtroom Monday afternoon as dozens of reporters and photographers filed into the room. When they were in place, Comello held up his left hand to display the writings as the click and whirr of camera lenses filled the room with sound.

During the hearing, Comello did not speak other than to say, "Yes, sir" to the judge to respond to several procedural questions.

Cali, 53, was shot to death last Wednesday by a gunman who may have crashed his truck into Cali's car to lure him outside. Police said Cali was shot 10 times.

Federal prosecutors referred to Cali in court filings in 2014 as the underboss of the Mafia's Gambino family, once one of the country's most powerful crime organizations. News accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot, though he was never charged with leading the gang. His only mob-related conviction came a decade ago, when he was sentenced to 16 months in prison in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was released in 2009 and hasn't been in legal trouble since then.

Police have not yet said whether they believe Cali's murder was a mob hit or whether he was killed for some other motive.

The last Mafia boss to be rubbed out in New York City was Gambino don "Big Paul" Castellano, who was assassinated in 1985.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

If the Parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are Striking? Then, Rudy Giuliani Perfected the #RICO Template for Prosecuting Organized Crime #SDNYInvestigation

Any onetime Mafia investigator who listened to Donald Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testify Wednesday would have immediately recognized the congressional hearing’s historical analogue — what America witnessed on Capitol Hill wasn’t so much John Dean turning on President Richard Nixon, circa 1973; it was the mobster Joseph Valachi turning on the Cosa Nostra, circa 1963.

The Valachi hearings, led by Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, opened the country’s eyes for the first time to the Mafia, as the witness broke “omertà” — the code of silence — to speak in public about “this thing of ours,” Cosa Nostra. He explained just how “organized” organized crime actually was — with soldiers, capos, godfathers and even the “Commission,” the governing body of the various Mafia families.

Fighting the Mafia posed a uniquely hard challenge for investigators. Mafia families were involved in numerous distinct crimes and schemes, over yearslong periods, all for the clear benefit of its leadership, but those very leaders were tough to prosecute because they were rarely involved in the day-to-day crime. They spoke in their own code, rarely directly ordering a lieutenant to do something illegal, but instead offering oblique instructions or expressing general wishes that their lieutenants simply knew how to translate into action.

Those explosive — and arresting — hearings led to the 1970 passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, a law designed to allow prosecutors to go after enterprises that engaged in extended, organized criminality. RICO laid out certain “predicate” crimes — those that prosecutors could use to stitch together evidence of a corrupt organization and then go after everyone involved in the organization as part of an organized conspiracy. While the headline-grabbing RICO “predicates” were violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, arson and robbery, the statute also focused on crimes like fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering and even aiding or abetting illegal immigration.

It took prosecutors a while to figure out how to use RICO effectively, but by the mid-1980s, federal investigators in the Southern District of New York were hitting their stride under none other than the crusading United States attorney Rudy Giuliani, who as the head of the Southern District brought charges in 1985 against the heads of the city’s five dominant Mafia families.

Ever since, S.D.N.Y. prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have been the nation’s gold standard in RICO prosecutions — a fact that makes clear precisely why, after Mr. Cohen’s testimony, President Trump’s greatest legal jeopardy may not be in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

What lawmakers heard Wednesday sounded a lot like a racketeering enterprise: an organization with a few key players and numerous overlapping crimes — not just one conspiracy, but many. Even leaving aside any questions about the Mueller investigation and the 2016 campaign, Mr. Cohen leveled allegations that sounded like bank fraud, charity fraud and tax fraud, as well as hints of insurance fraud, obstruction of justice and suborning perjury.

The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are more than we might like to admit: After all, Mr. Cohen was labeled a “rat” by President Trump last year for agreeing to cooperate with investigators; interestingly, in the language of crime, “rats” generally aren’t seen as liars. They’re “rats” precisely because they turn state’s evidence and tell the truth, spilling the secrets of a criminal organization.

Mr. Cohen was clear about the rot at the center of his former employer: “Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.”

RICO was precisely designed to catch the godfathers and bosses at the top of these crime syndicates — people a step or two removed from the actual crimes committed, those whose will is made real, even without a direct order.

Exactly, it appears, as Mr. Trump did at the top of his family business: “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” Mr. Cohen said. Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen said, “doesn’t give orders. He speaks in code. And I understand that code.”

What’s notable about Mr. Cohen’s comments is how they paint a consistent (and credible) pattern of Mr. Trump’s behavior: The former F.B.I. director James Comey, in testimony nearly two years ago in the wake of his firing, made almost exactly the same point and used almost exactly the same language. Mr. Trump never directly ordered him to drop the Flynn investigation, Mr. Comey said, but he made it all too clear what he wanted — the president isolated Mr. Comey, with no other ears around, and then said he hoped Mr. Comey “can let this go.” As Mr. Comey said, “I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.” He cited in his testimony then the famous example of King Henry II’s saying, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?,” a question that resulted in the murder of that very meddlesome priest, Thomas Becket.

The sheer number and breadth of the investigations into Mr. Trump’s orbit these days indicates how vulnerable the president’s family business would be to just this type of prosecution. In December, I counted 17, and since then, investigators have started an inquiry into undocumented workers at Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf course, another crime that could be a RICO predicate; Mr. Cohen’s public testimony itself, where he certainly laid out enough evidence and bread crumbs for prosecutors to verify his allegations, mentioned enough criminal activity to build a racketeering case. Moreover, RICO allows prosecutors to wrap 10 years of racketeering activity into a single set of charges, which is to say, almost precisely the length of time — a decade — that Michael Cohen would have unparalleled insight into Mr. Trump’s operations. Similarly, many Mafia cases end up being built on wiretaps — just like, for instance, the perhaps 100 recordings Mr. Cohen says he made of people during his tenure working for Mr. Trump, recordings that federal investigators are surely poring over as part of the 290,000 documents and files they seized in their April raid last year.

Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a “corrupt enterprise” could also help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office; they could lay out a whole pattern of criminal activity, indict numerous players — including perhaps Trump family members — and leave the president himself as a named, unindicted co-conspirator. Such an action would allow investigators to make public all the known activity for Congress and the public to consider as part of impeachment hearings or re-election. It would also activate powerful forfeiture tools for prosecutors that could allow them to seize the Trump Organization’s assets and cut off its income streams.

The irony will be that if federal prosecutors decide to move against President Trump’s empire and family together, he’ll have one man’s model to thank: his own TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who perfected the template to tackle precisely that type of criminal enterprise.

Thanks to Garrett M. Graff.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Special Agent Elvin Hernandez, with Homeland Security Investigations, a Specialized Unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is Honored by President Trump

The federal anti-trafficking agent invited to the State of the Union address by President Donald Trump helped take down brutal operations that smuggled women from Mexico into the U.S. and forced them into prostitution.

Elvin Hernandez is a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, a specialized unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He and his colleagues began targeting trafficking in Tenancingo, Mexico, a prostitution pipeline rife with crime and violence, in 2012. The final defendants of one crime family were sentenced last month to decades in prison.

Hernandez, who works in the New York office, was one the guests who sat with first lady Melania Trump. He was given a round of rousing applause when Trump introduced him, as he reddened and smiled.

At a recent briefing for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on one of his major cases, Hernandez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said they targeted 10 organizations and dismantled all of them.

Trump has pushed the idea that human trafficking is a major reason why he needs $5.7 billion for a border wall, a request Democrats have flatly rejected. However, most trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, according the Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative, a global hub for trafficking statistics with data contributed by organizations from around the world.

Advocates say Trump distorts how often victims come from the southern border — the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a venture supported by federal money and operated by the anti-trafficking group Polaris, said there was a near-equal distribution between foreigners on one hand and U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents on the other. But advocates also say Tenancingo is a breeding ground for traffickers, where boys are groomed to be pimps, and women and girls are forced into prostitution, their families threatened with violence.

In total, Hernandez and his colleagues on the case brought down more than 80 defendants; rescued more than 150 victims including 45 minors; and reunified 19 children with their mothers.

One organization, the Rendon-Reyes family, smuggled young, poor and uneducated women into the U.S. from Mexico and forced them into prostitution throughout the U.S. Some of the women crossed the border illegally, and others were smuggled in using false birth certificates.

The traffickers manipulated the girls into fake romantic relationships. According to court documents, the suspects used “beatings, sexual assaults, forced abortions, threats to the victims, their families and psychological coercion.”

The women were forced into seeing as many as 45 clients in a day, according to documents.

Thanks to Colleen Long.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics by Chris Christie

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics - by Chris Christie.

From the outspoken former governor, a no-holds-barred account of Chris Christie's rise to power through the bare-knuckle politics of New Jersey and his frank, startling insights about Donald Trump from inside the president's inner circle.

After dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, Chris Christie stunned the political world by becoming the first major official to endorse Donald Trump. A friend of Trump's for fifteen years, the two-term New Jersey governor understood the future president as well as anyone in the political arena--and Christie quickly became one of Trump's most trusted advisers. Tapped with running Trump's transition team, Christie was nearly named his running mate. But within days of Trump's surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Christie was in for his own surprise: he was being booted out.

In Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, Christie sets the record straight about his tenure as a corruption-fighting prosecutor and a Republican running a Democratic state, as well as what really happened on the 2016 campaign trail and inside Trump Tower. Christie takes readers inside the ego-driven battles for Trump's attention among figures like Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowksi, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Manafort. He shows how the literal trashing of Christie's transition plan put the new administration in the hands of self-serving amateurs, all but guaranteeing the Trump presidency's shaky start. Christie also addresses hot-button issues from his own years in power, including what really went down during Bridgegate. And, for the first time, Christie tells the full story of the Kushner saga: how, as a federal prosecutor, Christie put Jared Kushner's powerful father behind bars--a fact Trump's son-in-law makes Christie pay for later.

Packed with news-making revelations and told with the kind of bluntness few politicians can match, Christie's memoir is an essential guide to understanding the Trump presidency.


Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Accenture Hired to Satisfy Donald Trump's Mandate to Secure the Border, Instead,Charges the US almost $14 Million to Hire Just 2 Border Agents #Corruption #DraintheSwamp

A scathing report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fill thousands of new jobs to satisfy President Trump's mandate to secure the southern border is "nowhere near" completing its hiring goals and "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars."

The audit found that as of Oct. 1, CBP had paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million of a $297 million contract to recruit and hire 7,500 applicants, including Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction agents. But 10 months into the first year of a five-year contract, Accenture had processed only "two accepted job offers," according to the report.

The inspector general called for immediate action. The report is titled "Management Alert — CBP Needs to Address Serious Performance Issues on the Accenture Hiring Contract." It alleges the consulting company — which CBP agreed to pay nearly $40,000 per hire — failed to develop an "efficient, innovative, and expertly run hiring process," as the company pledged to do when it was awarded the lucrative contract. Instead, the probe concluded the company "relied heavily" on CBP's existing infrastructure, resources and experts in all of its recruiting.

"We are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided," the report states. "Without addressing the issues we have identified, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations."

According to the report, CBP has bent over backward to accommodate Accenture.

When it became clear the company would miss a 90-day deadline to reach the "full operation phase" outlined in the agreement, the agency modified the contract granting Accenture another three months to ramp up operations to meet the terms of the contract.

CBP also allowed the company to use the government agency's applicant tracking system when Accenture failed to deploy its own, leading to another contract revision.

The result of both changes meant that as recently as July 1, CBP staff continued to carry out a "significant portion of the hiring operations," the OIG noted. And because there was no way to track which applicants were recruited through Accenture's efforts, CBP agreed to "give credit and temporarily pay Accenture for a percentage of all applicants."

The OIG's conclusion: "CBP must hold the contractor accountable, mitigate risk, and devise a strategy to ensure results without additional costs to the Government."

The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog launched the investigation after receiving complaints about Accenture's performance and management on an OIG hotline.

Thanks to Vanessa Romo.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Offices Raided by FBI of Ed Burke, the Powerful Chicago Alderman & Real Estate Tax Attorney for Donald Trump

Federal agents raided the City Hall office of powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke on Thursday morning, sources familiar with the development confirmed. A law firm headed by Burke helped Donald Trump and investors in Trump's luxury downtown Chicago hotel cut their property taxes by an incredible 39 percent over seven years, saving them $11.7 million, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

Agents arrived at the office early Thursday morning, told employees to leave and papered over the glass windows at the office’s entrance to conceal the investigation going on inside, a source confirmed. A woman who left the office and did not identify herself said FBI agents were inside.

Burke’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Burke’s ward office on the Southwest Side also had the same brown paper taped over its front door with three signs that read, “Office closed.” An officer sitting in a squad car parked behind Burke's ward office said a search warrant was being executed inside but offered no further details.

Burke is the longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, where he controls much of the legislative purse strings at City Hall. He has held office since 1969 and is running for re-election to a record 14th term.

A law enforcement source told the Chicago Tribune that FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall office and that the search was ongoing. No arrests were made or are imminent, said the source, who had no details on the nature of the investigation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Trump Loyalists Reputedly Act Like Mafia Members to Manipulate and Gain Favor with The President

In mid-November, the New York Times published a report detailing cracks that are allegedly starting to show in Donald Trump’s relationship with Vice President Mike Pence. According to the report, Trump has alarmed some of his advisers by constantly asking whether they think Pence is loyal. Trump disputed the claims made in the report, but even those unfamiliar with White House matters have had the opportunity to observe that the president appears to put loyalty at the top of his priority list.

As recently detailed by the Inquisitr, some journalists claim that Trump is always seeking approval, talking to aides and collaborators who nod their heads in agreement, while rejecting any and all pushback, and firing those who dare disagree with him or his administration’s policies. In an interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Donald Trump’s biographer Michael D’Antonio shed light on how Trump loyalists, like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, behave.

“[Corey] Lewandowski and [David] Bossie are not exactly heavyweights, either in politics or policy,” D’Antonio explained to Ana Cabrera on CNN Sunday, Raw Story reports. “They’re a couple of guys who got very lucky to be associated with a long-shot candidate who gained the Oval Office, despite losing the popular vote, and I think they’re trying to make themselves relevant.”

“They are people who have identified themselves as almost loyal captains. You know, in the mafia structure, they would be capos. And the way that they talk is sort of in a mafia style, talking about loyalty being the most important thing and when you signed on indicates how valuable you are.”

D’Antonio’s comments about Lewandowski and Bossie are in reference to their upcoming book, "Trump's Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency". In the book, according to the Washington Post, the two Republican operatives portray Trump as a victim of an elaborate conspiracy. The president, they claim, is being attacked by disloyal members of the administration and Washington “swamp creatures.” According to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, the fact that Lewandowski and Bossie have decided to write a book essentially defending the president comes as no surprise since the two men are thought to be ardent supporters of the president and his agenda.

Trump loyalists, D’Antonio claims, talk and act like members of the mafia. In the Sicilian mafia, much like in the Trump administration, loyalty is appreciated and perceived as invaluable, according to the writer. And much like the infamous Sicilian mafia, the administration has a hierarchical structure.

D’Antonio concluded that Lewandowski and Bossie’s mafia-like behavior appears to be paying off, since the two Trump loyalists have managed to land an interview with the president, which means that he is likely to endorse and promote their book, the journalist claims.

Thanks to Damir Mujezinovic.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodard is Officially Released Tomorrow #Crazytown

THE INSIDE STORY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS ONLY BOB WOODWARD CAN TELL IT

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward, one of the most revered and well-respected journalists in American history, reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear: Trump in the White House, is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

The book details aides of Trump as they try to deal with Trump's behavior. According to the book, aides took papers off of his desk to prevent him from signing them. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly referred to Trump as an "idiot" and "unhinged", while Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader," and John M. Dowd, formerly Trump's personal lawyer, called him "a fucking liar" telling Trump he would wear an "orange jump suit" if he agreed to testify to Robert Mueller in the Special Counsel investigation.

The book is based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries".

Is Donald Trump the Head of a Crime Family and Does He Believe that He is Superior to Us?

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, reporter and researcher David Cay Johnston said during an MSNBC panel discussion Sunday that the president’s superiority isn’t a recent occurrence. Apparently, the president has felt everyone is below him for quite some time.

When it came to discussing Bob Woodard’s new book, Johnston opened up about his personal experience in dealing with the man. “Woodward’s book basically confirms everything I wrote about in my 2016 book, The Making of Donald Trump,” Johnston said. “He’s appallingly ignorant, lies all the time, he’s the head of a crime family, and Donald really believes that he is superior to the rest of us.”

Johnston said that there is a reason that Trump frequently attack’s people’s intelligence or calls them “dumb.”

“Because he believes we’re all idiots and fools and he alone is the person competent to run the country, which should help us to understand how totally incapable he is of carrying out the job and why so many people talked to Woodward,” he said.

Host Ayman Mohyeldin noted that Trump dismissed the book because the comments don’t sound like him. Johnston called it nonsense, saying it sounded exactly like Trump.

The panel also spoke about the interview with Omarosa Manigault-Newman on the network Sunday, in which she claimed the use of the #TFA hashtag was frequently used in text conversations in the White House. The acronym stands for “Twenty-Fifth Amendment,” something an anonymous New York Times op-ed writer said was discussed among cabinet members. Johnston said that it didn’t make sense for anyone to try to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Why Does a Career Russian Organized Crime Expert Bruce Ohr Upset Donald Trump So Much?

Followers of President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter feed know him as a frequent critic of the U.S. Justice Department. Although his favorite targets remain special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lately the president has pushed another, rather unknown name into his crosshairs: Bruce Ohr.

Here, we’ve saved you a lot of Googling.

Who is Bruce OhrBruce Ohr - Russian Organized Crime Expert?

Ohr has been with the Department of Justice (or “Justice” Department, as per the president) for nearly three decades. He started as a prosecutor in New York before transferring to Washington, D.C., where he was eventually named associate deputy attorney general.

His focus is international organized crime ― particularly Russian organized crime. Colleagues and family members told The New York Times he has an upstanding reputation as “a scrupulous government official.” CNN reported that Ohr was viewed as “a consummate government servant.”

In certain posts, Trump called him a “creep” and a “disgrace.”

Ohr was demoted in December 2017. In a statement provided to Fox News at the time, a Justice Department official suggested he was doing too much ― “wear[ing] two hats” ― and the new role will allow him to focus back on organized crime.

Is that all?

Not quite. Ohr knows Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the Trump dossier, because Steele once worked for the FBI as a “confidential human source” over an unspecified time. (The agency kept the receipts.) Ohr communicated with him as a Justice Department official.

When Steele shared information with Mother Jones magazine shortly before the 2016 election, reportedly out of frustration, the FBI stopped using him as a source. But Ohr continued to talk to him and pass his information along to the FBI, even though he wasn’t officially involved with any investigation pertaining to Trump.

The so-called Nunes memo ― a much-hyped document authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) ― claims Steele told Ohr he really, really did not want Trump elected president.

Additionally, Ohr is married to Nellie Ohr, who formerly worked for Fusion GPS, the company that used funding from Democrats to compile a dossier containing several appalling claims about Trump. He didn’t initially tell Justice Department leadership about the scope of his wife’s work or his continued interactions with Steele.

Why does this matter?

Thanks to his wife and to Steele, Ohr is loosely connected to the Russia investigation. For that he has found himself at the center of a theorized anti-Trump conspiracy. (Phrases such as “RIGGED!,” “WITCH HUNT!” and “Fake Dossier” tend to materialize in the president’s complaints about him on Twitter.)

On Tuesday, Republicans in the House brought him in for a closed-door interview about his contacts with Steele. He was also questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2017.

To the right, Ohr’s behavior taints the Russia investigation into possible coordination between that nation and Trump’s campaign. But the idea misses one big point: The Russia investigation didn’t start because of the Trump dossier. It was prompted by the actions of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser.

What could Trump do to him?

The president could revoke Ohr’s security clearance, as he has threatened to do in recent weeks. That would make it pretty hard for Ohr to do his job.

To fire Ohr, Trump would have to lean on Sessions, an ostensible Trump supporter in the doghouse for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Why is this all coming up now?

Conservative media have seized on the Ohr story, implying that the Russia investigation was born out of partisan prejudice. The president’s channel of choice, Fox News, is particularly preoccupied with it lately, and Trump has on multiple occasions cited the news outlet’s coverage in his tweets.

Thanks to Sara Boboltz.

Monday, August 27, 2018

American Capitalism Made Donald Trump, Not the Mafia

President Trump’s ruminations after the criminal conviction of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and the guilty plea entered by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen have been likened to that of a mafia boss. “With Mob-Tinged Vocabulary, President Evokes His Native New York” read The New York Times White House memo headline Friday.

No doubt, Trump’s references to “rats” and former insiders “flipping” on him creates the sense he orbits in a solar system of self-interest, outside the bounds of our criminal justice system that’s defined by absolute values of right and wrong. But Trump’s amoral alignment that has him flying "above the law" is not just one we can ascribe to organized crime but to how we police American capitalism itself.

This is no trivial matter, since Trump is the first President that has been bestowed upon our republic by the business world and with the ever-exploding costs of campaigns, certainly likely not to be the last. And it is easy to understand from Trump’s previous brushes with law enforcement how he would now come away annoyed with how he and his associates are being treated.

For up until now, Trump’s battles with the government as a businessman were ones that were civil in nature, where government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission or the Security Exchange Commission made allegations, and his lawyers negotiated a resolution with Trump, perhaps paying a fine, but with Trump not having to admit any wrongdoing.

This regulatory deference to capital, corporations and the people who run them is baked into our system and repeatedly comes to the rescue of serial offenders like Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, who have ruthlessly preyed upon the public, paid their fines and gone on to prosper.

Even though these laws often have criminal penalties attached to them, they are rarely invoked. By the time the former government regulators-turned pricey white-collar defense lawyers get done, the penalties are hardly a speed bump.

Shoplifters trying to score dinner go to jail. But if your heist is really, really big like millions of foreclosed homes, our politicians go golfing with you and ask you for campaign cash. The bigger you think, the greedier your ambition, and the bigger your bank account, the more our jurisprudence has your back.

Back in 2002 the SEC issued a cease and desist order against Trump’s Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. for issuing a “fraudulent” press release that gave the public and investors the “false and misleading impression that his company had exceeded earning expectations through operational improvements, when in fact it had not.”

“Trump Hotels consented to the issuance of the Commission’s order without admitting or denying the Commission’s findings,” the SEC said in a press release. “The Commission also found that Trump Hotels, through the conduct of its chief executive officer, its chief financial officer and its treasurer, violated the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act by knowingly or recklessly issuing a materially misleading press release.”

There was no fine, just whatever punishment the markets might exact in how it priced the stock.

At the time of the alleged violations, Trump was chairman of the company. He issued a statement that he had “great respect for" the SEC and its chairman, Harvey Pitt and that he was “very happy that this all worked out."

It was all very civil.

Back in the summer of 1986, Trump ran afoul of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act, which requires the disclosure of mergers or acquisitions to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice so those agencies can insure the transactions will not negatively impact national commerce or have anti-trust implications.

In 1988 the FTC charged that “in two separate transactions, Trump acquired stock in Holiday Corp. and Bally Manufacturing Corp. through Bear Stearns in an amount well beyond the dollar threshold at which he should have filed pre-merger notifications with the FTC and DOJ. Trump eventually made the appropriate filings but not within the time frame established by the HSR Act.”

Trump paid a $750,000 fine, but of course the FTC press release had the business boilerplate, “This judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by Trump that he violated the law.”

"I firmly believe that I was in full compliance with the Hart, Scott, Rodino Act reporting requirements,’’ Trump said in a statement, adding he only agreed to the settlement ''to avoid protracted litigation with the Federal Government over a highly technical disagreement between the F.T.C. and the business community.''

Generations of enabling American corporations and characters like Donald Trump to get away with their self-dealing has left us with vast wealth and income inequality that only grows wider.

They bought the law, so there is no great equalizer.

No, we can’t blame Donald Trump on the mafia. He is a product of no-holds barred American capitalism where the law is only for the unincorporated little people.

Thanks to Bob Hennelly.

Friday, August 24, 2018

As 2 of His Most Trusted Advisors Face Jail Time, Some Say @RealDonaldTrump Sounds Like Crime Family Mob Boss John Gotti

Following the conviction of two of his top lieutenants, Donald Trump has adopted the gangster parlance of another New Yorker famously terrorized by Robert Mueller: John Gotti. “I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years, I’ve been watching flippers,” Trump explained in an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday, referring to the deal his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, cut with federal prosecutors this week. “If you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” he told Fox host Ainsley Earhardt, who appeared to be trying her best to maneuver the president toward more advantageous talking points. Instead, Trump lashed out again and again at those he has described as “rats” for speaking with federal law-enforcement officers about the conduct they witnessed in the course of his 2016 campaign.

If the White House was at all concerned about the president of the United States emulating La Cosa Nostra, they did nothing to stop Trump from happily publicizing his remarks on Twitter, where he shared multiple clips from the interview. In perhaps the most revealing moment, he suggested that cooperating with prosecutors should itself be made a crime—and that anything his former associates are telling Mueller about him are lies to save their own skin. “I have seen it many times,” he continued, leaning in toward Earhardt. “I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.”

Trump’s casual admission that he has had “many friends” involved in flipping, or being flipped on themselves, is the sort of thing that would, in another era, shock Republicans and generate weeks of controversy. Instead, party leaders are largely excusing the president’s criminal idiom as just more locker-room talk. “Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue,” Orrin Hatch, the second-highest-ranking official of the U.S. Senate, told The New York Times on Wednesday, after Cohen testified that Trump had directed him to break the law by facilitating hush-money payments to two women who allege they had affairs with the future president. “I think most people in this country realize that Donald Trump comes from a different world. He comes from New York City, he comes from a slam-bang, difficult world.” Trump’s prolonged campaign to tar the Justice Department (often with sarcastic quotation marks around the word “Justice”) has itself been tacitly adopted by all but a few outspoken G.O.P. leaders.

On the campaign trail, Trump’s rough reputation as a brash Manhattan real-estate magnate was part of his appeal. More recently, however, the seedier side of his playboy lifestyle has overwhelmed the gilded facade: associations with criminals and con men, payoffs to women, out-of-court settlements, non-disclosure agreements. Trump’s hard-core fan base appears to be giving him a pass—the interview with Earhardt itself epitomized the casual indifference with which Fox News has treated the majority of the president’s scandals. Trump’s allies in Congress, however, sound increasingly worried that the appearance of criminality surrounding the president’s inner circle—and his tacit support of their behavior—will hurt the party’s chances of holding onto the House in November. The Times reports that “Publicly and privately, Republicans conceded that the guilty pleas did not look good and were not optimal heading into the midterm election—especially as the party struggles to keep its hold on the House.”

Still, as the Times notes, Republican lawmakers aren’t doing much about the convictions, or Trump’s Goodfellas-inspired response, other than to distance themselves from his most overt indulgence of white-collar crime. (On Wednesday, Trump called Manafort “brave” for refusing to “break” under pressure.) “It is bad news for the country, bad news for these people involved who either pled or were found guilty,” Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama told the Times, but said he didn’t want to get too involved while he focused on appropriation bills: “I don’t know other than what I read and see.” Senator Lindsey Graham described his “No. 1 goal right now” as to “keep doing my day job” and let Mueller do his.

For now, Republicans are pinning their hopes on the ability of the Trump-media industrial complex, namely Fox News, to keep the heat off Trump while helping to discredit Mueller’s investigation into the president. Trump himself seems to be betting on the booming economy as a firewall in November. “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job,” Trump told Earhardt. If he were impeached, he argued, “Everybody would be very poor.” But the president’s habit of talking like a mafioso isn’t doing the party any favors. When asked Thursday whether he agreed with Trump that flipping should be illegal, Texas Senator John Cornyn—a former state Supreme Court justice and attorney general—perfectly encapsulated how the G.O.P. has found itself boxed in by the president’s “slam-bang” understanding of law and order. “Uh, I have to think about that a little more,” Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill. “That’s uh—I’ve never heard that argument before.

Thanks to Tina Nguyen.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Have Connections to the #Mafia Marked @RealDonaldTrump's Entire Career?

Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas titled their classic group portrait of Harry S. Truman’s foreign policy team, “The Wise Men.” A book about Donald Trump’s associations might be called “The Wise Guys.”

Mario Puzo would’ve been just the man to write it. Martin Scorsese could option the movie rights. And if he’s not in prison when filming starts, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves a role. Though Manafort hasn’t been accused of Mafia membership, Smooth Paulie certainly acts the part, judging from testimony at his trial in federal court on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He has a closet full of suits worthy of John Gotti (though even the Dapper Don might have balked at an ostrich-skin windbreaker) and a maze of offshore bank accounts dense enough to addle Meyer Lansky.

When Manafort’s turncoat lieutenant Rick Gates took the stand to detail their alleged conspiracies, I was transported to the day back in 1992 when Gotti’s underboss Sammy Gravano began singing at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Gotti’s lawyers attacked Sammy the Bull by demanding to know how many people he’d whacked. Manafort’s team asked Gates how many affairs he’s had.

If it seems harsh to compare Manafort to a mobster, take it up with President Trump, who got the ball rolling with a tweet before the trial began. “Looking back at history, who was treated worse, [Al] Capone, legendary mob boss . . . or Paul Manafort?” Trump mused. And the president ought to know: He has spent plenty of time in mobbed-up milieus. As many journalists have documented — the late Wayne Barrett and decorated investigator David Cay Johnston most deeply — Trump’s trail was blazed through one business after another notorious for corruption by organized crime.

New York construction, for starters. In 1988, Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro of the Genovese crime family testified before a U.S. Senate committee concerning the Mafia’s control of building projects in New York. Construction unions and concrete contractors were deeply dirty, Cafaro confirmed, and four of the city’s five crime families worked cooperatively to keep it that way.

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-owned by Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.

Coincidence? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

His gambling interests led him into the world of boxing promotion, where Trump became chums with fight impresario Don King, a former Cleveland numbers runner. (Trump once told me that he owes his remarkable coiffure to King, who advised the future president, from personal experience, that outlandish hair is great PR.) King hasn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But investigators at the FBI and U.S. Senate concluded that his Mafia ties ran from Cleveland to New York, Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” wrote one sleuth. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.” But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, not everyone in these industries is corrupt, and if Donald Trump spent four decades rubbing elbows with wiseguys and never got dirty, he has nothing to worry about from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But does he look unworried to you?

Thanks to David Von Drehle.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Omarosa - Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House - Reputedly Backed by Secret Recordings

The former Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the Trump White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman, provides an eye-opening look into the corruption and controversy of the current administration.

Few have been a member of Donald Trump’s inner orbit longer than Omarosa Manigault Newman. Their relationship has spanned fifteen years—through four television shows, a presidential campaign, and a year by his side in the most chaotic, outrageous White House in history. But that relationship has come to a decisive and definitive end, and Omarosa is finally ready to share her side of the story in this explosive, jaw-dropping account.

A stunning tell-all and takedown from a strong, intelligent woman who took every name and number, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, is a must-read for any concerned citizen.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Where the Mob Bodies, Bootleggers and Blackmailers are Buried in the Lurid History of Chicago’s Prohibition Gangsters

In 1981, an FBI team visited Donald Trump to discuss his plans for a casino in Atlantic City. Trump admitted to having ‘read in the press’ and ‘heard from acquaintances’ that the Mob ran Atlantic City. At the time, Trump’s acquaintances included his lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included those charming New York businessmen Antony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano.

‘I’ve known some tough cookies over the years,’ Trump boasted in 2016. ‘I’ve known the people that make the politicians you and I deal with every day look like little babies.’ No one minded too much. Organised crime is a tapeworm in the gut of American commerce, lodged since Prohibition. The Volstead Act of January 1920 raised the cost of a barrel of beer from $3.50 to $55. By 1927, the profits from organised crime were $500 million in Chicago alone. The production, distribution and retailing of alcohol was worth $200 million. Gambling brought in $167 million. Another $133 million came from labour racketeering, extortion and brothel-keeping.

In 1920, Chicago’s underworld was divided between a South Side gang, led by the Italian immigrant ‘Big Jim’ Colosino, and the Irish and Jewish gangs on the North Side. Like many hands-on managers, Big Jim had trouble delegating, even when it came to minor tasks such as beating up nosy journalists. When the North Side gang moved into bootlegging, Colesino’s nephew John Torrio suggested that the South Side gang compete for a share of the profits. Colesino, fearing a turf war, refused. So Torrio murdered his uncle and started bootlegging.

Torrio was a multi-ethnic employer. Americans consider this a virtue, even among murderers. The Italian ‘Roxy’ Vanilli and the Irishman ‘Chicken Harry’ Cullet rubbed along just fine with ‘Jew Kid’ Grabiner and Mike ‘The Greek’ Potson — until someone said hello to someone’s else’s little friend.

Torrio persuaded the North Side leader Dean O’Banion to agree to a ‘master plan’ for dividing Chicago. The peace held for four years. While Torrio opened an Italian restaurant featuring an operatic trio, ‘refined cabaret’ and ‘1,000,000 yards of spaghetti’, O’Banion bought some Thompson submachine guns. A racketeering cartel could not be run like a railroad cartel. There was no transparency among tax-dodgers, no trust between thieves, and no ‘enforcement device’ other than enforcement.

In May 1924, O’Banion framed Torrio for a murder and set him up for a brewery raid. In November 1924, Torrio’s gunmen killed O’Banion as he was clipping chrysanthemums in his flower shop. Two months later, the North Side gang ambushed Torrio outside his apartment and clipped him five times at close range.

Torrio survived, but he took the hint and retreated to Italy. His protégé Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone took over the Chicago Outfit. The euphemists of Silicon Valley would call Al Capone a serial disrupter who liked breaking things. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, there had been more than 700 Mob killings in Chicago alone.

On St Valentine’s Day 1929, Capone’s men machine-gunned seven North Siders in a parking garage. This negotiation established the Chicago Outfit’s supremacy in Chicago, and cleared the way for another Torrio scheme. In May 1929, Torrio invited the top Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters to a hotel in Atlantic City and suggested they form a national ‘Syndicate’. The rest is violence.

Is crime just another American business, a career move for entrepreneurial immigrants in a hurry? John J. Binder teaches business at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and has a sideline in the Mob history racket. He knows where the bodies are buried, and by whom. We need no longer err by confusing North Side lieutenant Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, who shot his own brother in the chest, with the North Side ‘mad hatter’ Louis ‘Diamond Jack’ Allerie, who was shot in the back by his own brother; or with the bootlegger George Druggan who, shot in the back, told the police that it was a self-inflicted wound. Anyone who still mixes them up deserves a punishment beating from the American Historical Association.

Binder does his own spadework, too. Digging into Chicago’s police archives, folklore, and concrete foundations, he establishes that Chicago’s mobsters pioneered the drive-by shooting. As the unfortunate Willie Dickman discovered on 3 September 1925, they were also the first to use a Thompson submachine gun for a ‘gangland hit’. Yet the Scarface image of the Thompson-touting mobster was a fiction. Bootleggers preferred the shotgun and assassins the pistol. Thompsons were used ‘sparingly’, like a niblick in golf.

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is a well-researched source book. Readers who never learnt to read nothing because they was schooled on the mean streets will appreciate Binder’s data graphs and mugshots. Not too shabby for a wise guy.

Thanks to Dominic Green.


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