FLOTSAM & JETSAM: A half century of mob politics leading to the Trump Mafia

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A half century of mob politics leading to the Trump Mafia

Sam Smith - Largely ignored by the media, the past half century of national American politics has deeply involved mobs and the Mafia, Trump's administration - definitely run more like a mob than a republic - is certainly a peak in this trend but hardly the beginning.

For example, Vice reported in 2018 on Richard Nixon: "The military veteran and aspiring politician felt safe meeting face to face with Mickey Cohen, the notorious Jewish gangster based in Los Angeles. Despite Nixon's notorious anti-Semitism, Cohen was an important figure in California politics. Cohen, for his part, later said he got approval for the meeting, a lunch at Goodfellow's Fisherman's Grotto, from Cosa Nostra bosses in New York and Don Santos Trafficante in Florida."

Vice interviwed Don Fulsom, author of The Mafia's President Nixon, who said that lawyer Murray Chotner "was Nixon’s first campaign manager and he had 221 Mafia clients. He dressed like one of the Mafia people: He had the white-on-white shirt, silk tie, pinky ring, monogramed shirts, and cufflinks that were little clocks. In other words, he was a fancy dresser and tied into the Mafia like no one else in the Southern California area. Nixon, through Murray Chotiner, was able to get in touch with Mickey Cohen, the boss of LA, and through Cohen, got some big contributions from the Southern California underworld in his [first] race for Congress way back in 1946"

As for Trump, Vice later reported:
Trump's mentor on issues of politics and business was Roy Cohn, a lawyer whose other clients included a passel of mobsters, among them the bosses of the Genovese and Gambino crime families. Cohn, who served as Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief witch hunter before going into private practice, operated out of a townhouse on East 68th Street where clients Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno and Paul "Big Paul" Castellano were regular visitors. Besides getting advice on their legal problems, as a former secretary later recalled to Wayne Barrett in his 1992 book, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, the visits by the mob titans to their lawyer's office allowed them to talk shop without having to worry about FBI bugs. Cohn told a reporter that Trump called him "fifteen to twenty times a day, asking what's the status of this, what's the status of that," according to Barrett's book.
Nixon would be far from alone. In The Mafia, CIA and George Bush  Peter Brewton describes  "President Bush's business ties with the Mafia, detailing the crimes of Bush's sons, Jeb and Neil, Bush's link to the BCCI scandal, and the CIA's involvement in disguising that involvement."

And here's a quick look into Ronald Reagan's mob connections

Even Barack Obama had mob connections. As Maria Houser Conzemius wrote a decade ago:
When former Pres. Barack Obama was in Chicago, he got a little help from some unsavory but powerful friends. Some had links to the Mafia. When Obama bought a house in Chicago, he got some help from Tony Rezko. Obama couldn't afford a side yard to the large house on the south side of Chicago, so Tony Rezko's wife bought the side yard and resold it to the Obamas. A Syrian immigrant who earned millions in the real estate and restaurant businesses, Rezko [was imprisoned] after he was convicted on 16 fraud and attempted bribery counts. The judge in the case stated that the endemic corruption in Illinois had to stop.

... Is Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Mayor and former chief of staff to Pres. Obama, tied to the Mob? He and two other Democrats once got into an argument got with a pollster. They found a company that offered a service: sending a dead fish in a mahogany case to someone. Emanuel and his friends sent a dead fish to the pollster. Emanuel claimed to be unaware that sending someone a dead fish was a not-so-subtle Mafia message to "sleep with the fishes"

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel awarded a contract connected to O'Hare Airport to a mob-connected firm, United Maintenance, the Service Employees International Union Local 1 secretary-treasurer, Laura Rueda, complained that Emanuel was taking care of his millionaire friends by hiring United Maintenance, and in so doing, taking away middle-class jobs from SEIU workers.

Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies, served time in 1987 after he was charged in the same corruption case as late mobster Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the owner of United Service Companies, Richard Simon, had partnered in the past with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr. United Maintenance is one of the five divisions of United Services Companies.
One of the most startling examples of a president with mob connections - because it was so poorly reported by the media - was Bill Clinton. As I wrote:
When Bill Clinton is 7, his family moves from Hope, Arkansas, to the long-time mob resort of Hot Springs, AR. Here Al Capone is said to have had permanent rights to suite 443 of the Arlington Hotel. Clinton's  mother is a heavy gambler with mob ties. According to FBI and local police officials, his Uncle Raymond -- to whom young Bill turns for wisdom and support -- is a colorful car dealer, slot machine owner and gambling operator, who thrives (except when his house is firebombed) on the fault line of criminality.

As Hot Springs prosecutor Paul Bosson put it: - "'In Hot Springs, growing up here, you' were living a lie. You lived a lie because you knew that all of these activities were illegal. I mean, as soon as you got old enough to be able to read a newspaper, you knew that gambling in Arkansas was illegal, prostitution was illegal. And so you lived this lie, so you have to find some way to justify that to yourself and, you know, you justify it by saying, "Well," you know, "it's okay here."
When Clinton decides to run for office, his Uncle Raymond  offers the candidate unlimited use of his private plane, and other contributions that will launch Clinton in the most richly financed race in the annals of Arkansas.

Uncle Raymond - who had also played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in keeping young Bill out of the Vietnam draft - was far more than an auto dealer. In the nationally prominent fount of vice and corruption that was Hot Springs from the 1920s to the 1980s (its barely concealed casinos generated more income than Las Vegas well into the 1960s), the uncle's Buick agency and other businesses and real estate were widely thought to be facades for illegal gambling, drug money laundering and other ventures, in which Raymond was a partner. He was a minion of the organized crime overlord who controlled the American Middle South for decades, New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello or "Mafia Kingfish" as his biographer John Davis called him."

In 1978, Clinton is elected governor and he Clintons and McDougals buy land in the Ozarks for $203,000 with mostly borrowed funds. The Washington Post will report later that some purchasers of lots, many of them retirees, "put up houses or cabins, others slept in vans or tents, hoping to be able to live off the land." More than half of the purchasers will lose their plots thanks to the sleazy form of financing used.

In the 1980s, Arkansas becomes a major center of gun-running, drugs and money laundering. The IRS warns other law enforcement agencies of the state's "enticing climate." According to Clinton biographer Roger Morris, operatives go into banks with duffel bags full of cash, which bank officers then distribute to tellers in sums under $10,000 so they don't have to report the transaction.

A drug pilot brings a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into eastern Arkansas where he is met by his pick-up: a state trooper in a marked police car. "Arkansas," the pilot will recall years later, "was a very good place to load and unload."

In  1981 major drug trafficker Barry Seal, under pressure from the Louisiana cops, relocates his operations to Mena, Arkansas. Seal is importing as much as 1,000 pounds of cociane a month from Colombia according to Arkansas law enforcement officials. He will claim to have made more than $50 million out of his operations. As an informant, Seal testified that in 1980-81, before moving his operation to Arkansas, he made approximately 60 trips to Central America and brought back 18,000 kilograms.

Documents confirm that from 1981 to his brutal death in 1986, Barry Seal carried on one of the most lucrative, extensive, and brazen operations in the history of the international drug trade, and that he did it with the evident complicity, if not collusion, of elements of the United States government, apparently with the acquiescence of Ronald Reagan's administration, impunity from any subsequent exposure by George Bush's administration, and under the usually acute political nose of then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. . .

In 1986, Journalist Evans-Pritchard will describe the Arkansas of this period as a "major point for the transshipment of drugs" and "perilously close to becoming a 'narco-republic' -- a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States." There is "an epidemic of cocaine, contaminating the political establishment from top to bottom," with parties "at which cocaine would be served like hors d'oeuvres and sex was rampant." Clinton attends some of these events.
And several of the Clinton's close business partners ended up in prison.

These were brief exceptions from the mob connections of  our presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Jerry Ford over the past fifty years. But the key point is that the Trump Mafia didn't come out of nowhere. It was prepared for by decades of media, judicial and political acceptance of corrupt behavior and political lies. For example, my reporting on the corruption of the Clintons led to my being banned from CSPAN and the DC public radio station.

The Trump Mafia is undoubtedly the most corrupt national government we have ever had. But it had its roots in a half century of mob-related politics that our media and other leaders simply refused to take seriously.

And the story isn't getting any better.