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LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2018 at 12:04 am

President 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 yet 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.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly include 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.

Then there’s Paul Manafort—a lobbyist, political consultant and lawyer.

  • He joined Trump’s  presidential campaign team in March 2016 and was campaign chairman from March to August 2016. He attended the Republican Convention in July, where Trump was officially nominated as the GOP candidate for President.
  • On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian Intelligence agents at Trump Tower. The reason: The Russians claimed to have “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In March, 2017, news broke that Manafort, in his work as a lobbyist, had represented Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The story fueled growing controversy over the Trump campaign’s documented ties to Russia,

Trump’s response: 

“The President was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Describing Manafort’s role as chairman of the Trump campaign, Spicer said that he “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” 

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Paul Manafort

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.'” 

Trump’s desertion of his former allies places them in jeopardy—but it also endangers him.

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.

And he may be preparing to reveal them.

In a recent off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

As for Manafort: He resigned as Trump’s campaign manager when news broke that he had received $12.7 million from then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Puttin lackey.

Given Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Manafort—through his own ties there—can deliver a mother-lode of secrets if he so desires.

Donald Trump now faces the dilemma—and possibly the same fate—of John “Teflon Don” Gotti: Faced with increasing evidence of his blatant criminality and possibly even treason, does he:

  • Stand by those whose secrets can destroy him? or
  • Throw them to the wolves, hoping they will still not betray him?

LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2018 at 12:11 am

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan.

They had arrest warrants for John Gotti, boss of the Gambino Mafia Family, and his two lieutenants: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in-command, and Frankie Locascio, his Consigliere, or adviser.

Gotti had become boss of the Gambino Family in December, 1985—by arranging the execution of its then-boss, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, on December 16.

Since then, he had moved his headquarters from Queens to the Ravenite. And, like a king holding court, he had ordered all of his captains to report to him at the Ravenite once a week.  

Word quickly reached the FBI—and agents in vans shot video as they staked out Prince Street. 

Gotti had handed the FBI a mob organization chart.

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FBI Seal

It was only a matter of time before the FBI’s Technical Surveillance Squad (TSS) breached the security of the Ravenite. 

In 1989, the TSS planted a hidden microphone in an apartment above the Ravenite where Gotti held his secret meetings. Tape recorders were running when he bragged that he had ordered three murders—and was running a criminal enterprise: The Gambino Mafia Family.

When he wasn’t bragging, Gotti was badmouthing virtually everyone—past and present—in the Mafia: Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Vincent “The Chins” Gigante. And, most fatally, his own underboss: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, the electronic bug picked up the following conversation between Gotti and his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

The subject: The murders of three former Gambino Family mobsters: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

DiBernardo had been murdered over Gravano’s objections. A fellow mobster had told Gotti that DiBernardo had made “subversive” comments behind Gotti’s back.

But that wasn’t the way Gotti told it.

GOTTI: “Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?”

LOCASCIO: “Never.”

GOTTI: “Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either. I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.”

Next Gotti focused on the murders of Louis Milito and Louis DiBono. Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

But Gotti was determined to lay the blame on Gravano. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

GOTTI: “Every time we get a partner that don’t agree with us, we kill him. [The] boss kills him. He kills him. He okays it. Says it’s all right, good.” 

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family. 

GOTTI: “That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now.  Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years.  He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.  

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit: In his greed, arrogance, egomania, love of publicity and vindictiveness. 

So far, he has survived his lifelong hubris.  But he may not survive his lifelong dedication to “looking out for Number One.”

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2018 at 12:02 am

In one week, two White House staffers were forced to resign after reports surfaced of their brutality toward their wives.

And President Donald Trump’s reaction was to defend the accused wife-beaters and accuse their ex-wives of lying:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

What are the lessons to be learned from this?

First, Donald Trump has his own history of abusing women.

At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013.  And Trump flat-out denies the accusations–which include ogling, harassment, groping, and rape—while attacking the women as “liars.”

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said during a 2016 campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

The election ended on November 8, 2016. And Trump has yet to sue any of his accusers.

So it’s not surprising that when similar accusations strike men he has around him, he leaps to their defense.

Second, Trump fires women-abusing staffers only when the news media outs them.

Accused wife-abuser Rob Porter resigned from his staff secretary position at the White House only after his two ex-wives detailed their abuse to CNN.

According to CNN, White House Chief of Staff John Kelley knew for months that Porter faced claims of physically and emotionally abusing these women. But he never conducted an inquiry to find out if the claims were true or false.

It’s safe to assume that Porter would still be on the White House payroll if CNN hadn’t reported the abuses.

Third, don’t expect Trump to show any sympathy for alleged female victims.

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Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly shown his contempt for women through abusive and humiliating language. For example:

  • During a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, he said of his then-wife, Ivana: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • In 1992, while watching a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower, Trump said: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
  • During a 1991 Esquire interview: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • In 2006, during an appearance on The View: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • Easily the most infamous example of Trump’s predatory attitude toward women came during his 2005 Access Hollywood interview: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Fourth, Trump has often defended men who were charged with abusing women.

  • In March, 2016, his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery by Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields. “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” asked Trump.
  • When Roger Ailes resigned in July, 2016, as chairman of Fox News, owing to sexual harassment accusations leveled against him, Trump said: “It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
  • In October, 2017, the news broke that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid almost $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment allegations. Trump’s reaction: “I don’t believe Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person.”
  • Trump vigorously defended Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for United States Senator in 2017, against charges that he had molested a 14-year-old girl: “Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”

Fifth, any criticism of sexual harassment—or even outright criminality—must come from outside the White House.

Trump’s defense of accused White House staffers Rob Porter and David Sorensen drew fire from prominent Washington officials.

“Women’s lives are upended every day by sexual violence and harassment. I’m going to keep standing with them, and trusting them, even if the President won’t,” tweeted U.S. Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

And Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont tweeted: “As a former prosecutor, I’ve been amazed by the bravery & sacrifice required of victims to come forward. Their lives are forever changed,. Due process is critical, but it can’t be a pretext for not believing women. We don’t need to see photos of bruises to know that.”

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California tweeted: “Apparently his motto is when they go low, he goes even lower.”

Sixth, in assessing Trump’s character, two essential truths should be constantly remembered:

“Tell me whom you admire, and I will tell you who you are.”

And:

“What is past is prologue.”

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am

As absolute dictator on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump delighted in firing one contestant every week.

As President of the United States, he has delighted in firing such high-ranking government officials as:

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
  • FBI Director James Comey
  • White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
  • Presidential Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
  • United States Attorney Preet Bharara

But there have been some officials Trump has fought to retain.  Among these:

  • National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
  • White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter
  • White House Speechwriter David Sorensen

MICHAEL FLYNN had fervently supported Trump during his 2016 campaign for President.  He was rewarded with appointment to National Security Adviser on January 20, 2017—the same day Trump became President.

But later in January, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned Trump that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

In December, 2016, Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration. The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

Instead of firing Flynn, Trump fired Yates.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported these events.  Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

STAFF SECRETARY ROB PORTER had the task of vetting all the information that reached Trump’s desk. He resigned February 7 after two of his ex-wives accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse.

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Rob Porter

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told CNN that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their 2003 wedding.  During their honeymoon trip to the Canary Islands, Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.  

“The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he’d be yelling at me but as he was yelling he’d me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger,” she said. He also repeatedly choked her.

While the couple visited Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2005, Porter punched Holderness in the face.

Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, married him in 2009. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, he began calling her “a fucking bitch” because he felt she was not having enough sex with him.

In the spring of 2010, Porter came to the home they had previously shared and punched a glass pane in the front door, cutting his hand.

Willoughby called police, who suggested that she take out a temporary restraining order. She did so in June, 2010.

In December, 2010, according to Willoughby, “we were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me.

“He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”

They divorced in 2013.

SPEECHWRITER DAVID SORENSEN resigned on February 9.  His ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, told the Washington Post that he put out a cigarette on her hand, drove a car over her foot, threw her into a wall and grabbed her by the hair when they were alone on a boat off the Maine coast.

Sorensen denied the allegation in a statement he released to CNN and other news media: “I have never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life.  In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her.”

He claimed he had spoken with an attorney about suing his ex-wife for defamation.

And how did Trump respond to these revelations?

On February 9, he told reporters that Porter’s departure was “very sad” and that “he did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

Donald Trump

Trump did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused.

Instead, he focused on Porter’s claim of innocence: “He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.  He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

On February 10—the day after Sorensen resigned—Trump took to Twitter to post:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

As Chris Cillizza, CNN’s editor-at-large wrote in a February 9 opinion column:

“This is a familiar pattern for Trump. When a series of women came out during the 2016 campaign alleging that he has sexually abused them, he flatly denied it — insisting that all of the women were conspiring to hurt him for political reasons.

“When a series of women came forward and said that Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore had pursued physical relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his mid 30s, Trump defended his endorsement of Moore, saying: ‘He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.'”

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