In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2023 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump shares more than a few striking similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family.  

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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Donald Trump

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit.

When Gravano learned of these slanders at a pretrial hearing, he agreed to testify against Gotti and other Mafiosi in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may prove true for Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen. 

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

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Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege. 

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part: 

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.’” 

On August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate (Trump) for the “principal purpose of influencing [the] election.” 

On December 12, 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine after pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign-finance violations. On February 26, 2019, he was disbarred from practicing law in New York by the New York Supreme Court.

Cohen reported to the federal prison near Otisville, New York, on May 6, 2019. But he was released from Otisville on July 24, 2020, due to concerns about the spreading COVID-19 virus. He would serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Cohen has been quick to return Trump’s disloyalty. He has:

  • Cooperated with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation of Trump’s hush money payoff to Stormy Daniels;
  • Shared information with New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the Trump Organization for potential financial fraud; and
  • Testified before the House Intelligence Committee, the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

He described Trump as a “racist,” a “con man”, and a “cheat.” Expressing remorse for what he had done for Trump, he accused him of:

  • Reimbursing him for illegal hush money payments;
  • Telling him to lie to Congress and the public about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations; and
  • Filing false financial statements with banks and insurance companies. 

Trump is now facing multiple investigations at local, state and federal levels—any one of which could result in a felony conviction.

His approach when dealing with adversaries has always been bribery or intimidation. But when he meets an opponent who can’t be bought or bullied, he retreats into sulking and self-pitying rants.

Trump has survived investigations for years. And he may survive several—or all—of these.

But even if he escapes conviction, he will spend years—and huge sums of money—fighting off prosecutors and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

For a man in his mid-70s, that cannot be a happy prospect.

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