Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Will Stories of Mob Ties and Crooked Deals Sink Donald Trump?


Does Donald Trump have an Achilles heel?

by Gaius Publius

The Trump phenomenon is taking off and shows every sign of "having wings," to not mix a metaphor. According to this excellent analysis by Lee Drutman, "What Donald Trump gets about the electorate," Trump has found a policy sweet spot with Republican voters (as opposed to the party's money-bought leaders):
As the punditry attempts to make sense of the continued popularity of Donald Trump, the prevailing establishment narrative has been simple: He's an anti-establishment buffoon; he's channeling an angry mood; his moment will pass. But as Ezra Klein argued on Monday, this narrative may be wrong. What if Trump actually represents a sizable electorate that Beltway elites have marginalized?

The data on this is pretty clear. Put simply: While most elite-funded and elite-supported Republicans want to increase immigration and decrease Social Security, a significant number of voters (across both parties) want precisely the opposite — to increase Social Security and decrease immigration. So when Trump speaks out both against immigration and against fellow Republicans who want to cut Social Security, he's speaking out for a lot people.

By my count of National Election Studies (NES) data, 24 percent of the US population holds this position (increase Social Security, decrease immigration). If we add in the folks who want to maintain (not cut) Social Security and decrease immigration, we are now at 40 percent of the total electorate, which I'll call "populist." No wonder folks are flocking to Trump — and to Bernie Sanders, who holds similar positions, though with more emphasis on the expanding Social Security part and less aggression on immigration.
The underlying data is fascinating. A taste — here's how the electorate feels about Social Security:

▪ Increase Social Security benefits: 50.7%
▪ Keep Social Security benefits the same: 43%
▪ Decrease Social Security benefits: 6.2%

And here's how the electorate feels about immigration:

▪ Increase immigration a lot: 4.4%
▪ Increase immigration a little: 9.9%
▪ Leave immigration as is: 42.9%
▪ Decrease immigration a little: 20.5%
▪ Decrease immigration a lot: 22.9%

Add the middle group to the top group on Social Security and you get a whopping 93% of the electorate. Add the middle group to the bottom two groups on immigration and you get a similarly impressive 86%. Trump is simultaneous selling to both of these large groups.

In addition, unlike all of the other top candidates, Trump is his own billionaire, more or less, and the billionaires backing the rest of the candidates hold exactly opposite views — they want to decrease Social Security benefits (to keep taxes low, among other reasons) and increase immigration (to make available the cheapest non-union labor possible). Thus, while all of the other Republican candidates have to mouth words crafted for them by the wealthy who pull their strings — words that hold little appeal for voters, including Republican ones — Trump, who pulls his own strings, can freely offer policies counter to what elite Republicans want.

He's on a roll in the polls, he's a natural crowd favorite for a certain kind of crowd, and he's apparently having a wonderful time. So what's likely to bring him down politically?

David Cay Johnston on Trump and the Mob

Arrogance is unlikely to do it; that may be his strong suit. And as others have argued, his vicious (and expensive) nativism is a feature to Republicans who live at the intersection of extreme economic insecurity and frightened-male racism. Does Donald Trump have an Achilles heel? David Cay Johnston thinks so; he thinks Trump has several in fact.

From a recent National Memo article, Johnston writes:
I have covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years — including breaking the story that in 1990, when he claimed to be worth $3 billion but could not pay interest on loans coming due, his bankers put his net worth at minus $295 million. And so I have closely watched what Trump does and what government documents reveal about his conduct.

Reporters, competing Republican candidates, and voters would learn a lot about Trump if they asked for complete answers to these 21 questions.

So, Mr. Trump… 
There follow his 21 questions. The whole piece reads well — Johnston has a unique gift for making his subject clear — but I want to focus on just a few of them:

▪ Regarding Trump and the mob:
6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.

Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?

7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.

If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?

8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.

11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?

12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.

Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?

13. You were the first person recommended for a casino license by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, which opposed all other applicants or was neutral. Later it came out in official proceedings that you had persuaded the state to limit its investigation of your background.

Why did you ask that the investigation into your background be limited?
▪ On Trump and crooked deals:
1. You call yourself an “ardent philanthropist,” but have not donated a dollar to The Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2006. You’re not even the biggest donor to the foundation, having given about $3.7 million in the previous two decades while businesses associated with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment gave the Trump Foundation $5 million. All the money since 2006 has come from those doing business with you.

How does giving away other people’s money, in what could be seen as a kickback scheme, make you a philanthropist?

2. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman successfully sued you, alleging your Trump University was an “illegal educational institution” that charged up to $35,000 for “Trump Elite” mentorships promising personal advice from you, but you never showed up and your “special” list of lenders was photocopied from Scotsman Guide, a magazine found at any bookstore.

Why did you not show up?
9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.

How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?

10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.

What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?
About that last, it's not the hard hats; it's the illegal Polish workers and his lack of "labor troubles" at the site. What kind of deal do you have to cut, and whom do you have to cut it with, to fly that low under the construction radar?

▪ Regarding his gaming licenses:
13. You were the first person recommended for a casino license by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, which opposed all other applicants or was neutral. Later it came out in official proceedings that you had persuaded the state to limit its investigation of your background.

Why did you ask that the investigation into your background be limited?

14. You were the target of a 1979 bribery investigation. No charges were filed, but New Jersey law mandates denial of a license to anyone omitting any salient fact from their casino application.

Why did you omit the 1979 bribery investigation?
David Cay Johnston is not alone in asking these questions.

CNN on Donald Trump and the Mob

A simple Web search on "trump mafia new jersey" produces a number of links, including this one, from CNN:
Donald Trump and the mob

Chris Frates, CNN Investigative Correspondent
Updated 12:37 PM ET, Fri July 31, 2015

Donald Trump's glittering empire of New York skyscrapers and Atlantic City casinos have long had a darker side, allegations that the mob helped build them.

Trump's alleged ties to New York and Philadelphia crime families go back decades and have been recounted in a book, newspapers and government records.

"The mob connections of Donald are extraordinarily extensive," New York investigative journalist Wayne Barrett told CNN in an interview.

Barrett, the author of the 1992 unauthorized biography "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall," wrote that Trump's life "intertwines with the underworld."...

In a recent Federalist article, David Marcus writes that Trump bought the property that his Atlantic City casino Trump Plaza would one day occupy -- for twice market price -- from Salvatore Testa, a Philly mobster and son of one-time Philly mob boss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa. (Springsteen fans might recognize the elder Testa from the opening lines of the song, Atlantic City.)

In his book, Barrett writes that Testa and a partner, who together headed a Philly mafia hit-squad called the Young Executioners, bought the property for "a scant $195,000" in 1977. In 1982, Trump paid $1.1 million for it.

"The $220 per square foot that Trump paid for the Testa property was the second most expensive purchase he made on the block, even though it was one of the first parcels he bought," Barrett wrote.

The casino was built with the help of two construction companies controlled by Philly mobsters Nicademo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and his nephew Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, according to, as Marcus notes, a New Jersey state commission's 1986 report on organized crime.

Trump also had a decade-long relationship with Scarfo's investment banker, according to Barrett's book. ...
There's much more in this article, and there are more articles.

What's the Next Move?

For those who call the shots in the Republican Party, what's the next move? They may or may not want to allow Trump to be their nominee, but they certainly won't let him run third-party. (I'm guessing the former won't be permitted and the latter will get Trump "an offer he can't refuse," but that's just me.)

So what do they do, these party bosses and owners, these Kochs and Friesses and Adelsons? Do they wait for Trump fever to die down (to mix a metaphor begun at the top of this page) and risk it growing stronger instead? Or do they make a move?

If it were me and I wanted him gone, I'd make the move and soon. There seems to be plenty to work with, to use for both behind-the-scene threats and for on-camera deep-fat frying. Would even the party's economically insecure racists follow Trump all the way to mobtown, or would they abandon him at the border? What's a bridge too far for Trump supporters? Whatever the answer, this may be the party's strongest move, short of a "friendly" DA filing a RICO indictment.

If I'm right — if big-money Republicans, those backing all other candidates, want to make him gone; and if they're willing to destroy Trump economically and as a brand to do it — this fall's Republican story will be even more interesting than what we've seen already. Republican oppo research is relentless, and Republican tactics seem to have little short of murder as an upper bound. R-on-R violence is violent indeed.

Of course, those are two big ifs in the paragraph above. Ann Coulter, for example, wants to see Trump nominated. How many in that small group of Republicans in a position to decide share her view? I think we're about to find out.


Springsteen's "Atlantic City." As noted in the article, Mob boss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa is mentioned (as "Chicken Man") in the first line of the song.

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At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good question. Here's my take:

The money wants to win. They have the house, albeit filled with children who throw tantrums on occasion. They have the senate, have had since at least 2000 given that the Ds have been 99% servile to money since then if not before. They just want another servile money whore in the white house. They hit the jackpot in '80 and have never been challenged by anyone since. Clinton, especially, performed frequently fellated money (GLBA, CFMA, xxFTA, WTO, GATT, dereg of telecoms...).

And, of course, obamination went way overboard to protect the money criminals in every sector from accountability for their greed, fraud and other perfidy.

The money wants either hilbillary or bush... to continue the unbroken line from 1980. The kochs are more evangelical and would prefer walker... but they'd not be injured in any way other than ideologically by a hillbush.

The good question is whether the money would feel vulnerable if the trumpbo clown act wins. The answer may well be similar to what happened early on with obamination, who met with the money (that with which he didn't already have a relationship from his early corrupt dealings with Rezko and the Chicago machine) and assured them he would be a faithful servant and protector.

Trumpbo certainly knows these asshats personally. They have things on him which they COULD resurrect should he step out of line. He probably has already kissed the ring. I suspect the money is fine with him.

The real question would be whether voters have a line in the sand... would voters bail if they knew this guy was as big a crook as the rest of the moneyed elite. My intuition is that THOSE voters would only worship him more should he be proved to be a criminal and even more corrupt than we already know him to be. Those voters are the purist authoritarian (followers) among us. They are like the first germans who joined the national socialist party, proudly wearing the swastika pins and armbands. Thuggishness and crimes against others to gain power are sanctified to them.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger EliRabett said...

Anyone oppo researcher looking to understand Donald Trump and the mob should surely with his dad, Fred Trump, the builder of apartments and houses in Queens who left the Trump Organization to Donald.

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP should let him run independent and subsequently CRUSH HIM with the truth about his very long and close ties to the mafia.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Hercules said...

Donald "The Mouth" Trump-Breath. Will drag himself down with his casino/mafia past. It's a long tail he's dragging around.

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trump is a Combination of an idiot and crook.It seems certain that his presidency will be a failure,having watched him and listened to him for 8 Months.He is afraid of the Press ,cannot put together ten sentences which are coherent,and the sight of him fumbling and mumbling in the European conference is unforgettable.He is in this to increase his "value" and to make a fast Buck.There is also a fat chance that Mueller will be his nemesis


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