Long before reports of Russian connections started dogging him, the Bully President spent hours with federal law enforcement types trying to explain away his association with known mafia types as he scrambled to keep his flailing business empire afloat.
The closed-door encounters with investigators spanned decades. The content of these conversations coupled with exhaustive research of public records and interviews with individuals familiar with his operations in New York and Atlantic City produced eye-opening media reports during the Republican primaries and his historic ballot box battle with Hillary last fall.
Articles that ran in the Washington Post, in Alternet (an online publication) and, most recently, The New Yorker magazine painted a picture of a man struggling financially, making investments in questionable projects and associating with nefarious characters in the United States, Russia and other foreign countries.
The narratives uncovered serious ethical — if not personal and professional — questions about the Bully President’s association with and reliance on mafia-related folks at home and suspected criminals abroad to maintain his public profile as a highly successful businessman turned presidential candidate.
While the detailed reports produced a lot of smoke around the self-proclaimed artful deal-maker, none of the issues raised in the narratives torched his efforts to occupy the White House. And so far, he does what he said he would do if elected: manages our country and his businesses from the Oval Office.
How is it possible that someone who runs so close to the edge of criminality earned enough votes to wind up as chief executive of the world’s leading democracy? Forget the Russian hacking scandal for a moment; associating with crime family members should disqualify any presidential candidate no matter his or her party affiliation.
Maybe the media reports didn’t present a strong enough picture, or produce enough evidence of the Bully President’s close ties to the mob, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The Wall Street Journal published one of the most thorough compilations of his mafia entanglements — Donald Trump and the Mob (Sept. 1, 2016).
The Journal article provided a short list of people he associated with over the years as a NYC real estate tycoon and casino operator. The list included “a man described by law enforcement as an agent of the Philadelphia mob; a gambler convicted of tax fraud and barred from New York racetracks; a union leader found guilty of racketeering; and a real estate developer convicted in a stock scheme that involved several Mafiosi.”
As the WSJ noted, during an interview with the Bully President he admitted “he worked at times with people who might have had such ties, but said he either had only cursory relationships with them or wasn’t aware of the ties at the time,” a standard duck and dodge he uses frequently these days in dealing with questions concerning his administration’s Russian connections.
Here’s the rub: He ran for president passing himself off as a highly reputable and supposedly successful businessman who could use his skills to fix all that was broken in our country. But the man now in the White House with advisers who want to deconstruct our country didn’t build an alleged thriving business empire single-handedly. He had help — reportedly in no small part over decades — from organized crime families.
The Journal was not the only media outlet that took a hard look at the Bully President’s relations with organized crime. After the November election, human-rights lawyer Scott Horton wrote a number of articles for an online publication, Alternet, based on a series of studies by The Financial Times of London, a highly respected international publication, that shows “how funds from Russian crime lords bailed Trump out after yet another bankruptcy.”
Horton’s work, generated after an exhaustive review of the FT’s studies, examined the structure and history “of several Trump real estate projects from the last decade — the period after his [sixth] bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources. He was their man,” Horton wrote.
Another reason why the Bully President won’t ever release his tax returns?
Most recently, The New Yorker published a comprehensive review of a project in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan — Donald Trump’s Worst Deal/March 2017. The article details how “The President helped build a hotel . . . that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”
In 2014, The New Yorker reported, the Trump Organization publicly announced that it was helping turn a 33-story building located in a troubled neighborhood into a luxury hotel. The hotel has never opened.
The Azerbaijanis behind the project, the magazine revealed, were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, that country’s transportation minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. It’s important to note that Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world, according to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
In what has become a crisis mode response for the Trump Organization, Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten told reporters that the project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov. Plus, Garten added, he was a passive player in the project, simply licensing his name to be used by a company headed by Mammadov’s son.
The New Yorker provides details on the Baku project and the Trump Organization’s current involvement in the seemingly dormant operation of the luxury hotel. The article raises question about the Bully President’s past and current business operations in Baku, its association with Mammadov and other oligarchs in that part of the world, and the role Ivanka Trump played, or is playing, in getting guests to darken the doors of the vacant hotel.
In past national elections, presidential candidates would have been tossed aside by their respective parties if anything even hinting at an association with crime families, especially in Russia, had surfaced in media reports.
The Bully President, however, handily deflected all the detailed reports concerning his past and present associations with organized crime. He was just being a good real estate developer and casino operator. No crime, no foul.
A few questions linger, however: What does he owe; how much does he owe; and to whom does he owe it? Without his tax returns we’ll never know “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey, a long-ago radio talk show host, used to say.