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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.”

TEFLON DON, MEET TEFLON PRESIDENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 5, 2018 at 12:02 am

In August 1983, two members of John Gotti’s “crew” were arrested for dealing heroin.

Paul Castellano, the most powerful Mafia boss in the nation, had continued the Gambino Family’s longtime “deal and die” policy against trafficking in narcotics. Castellano threatened to “whack” Gotti and his entire crew. 

For Gotti, it was literally a case of kill-or-be-killed. 

On December 16, 1985, four gunmen, wearing white trench coats and black Cossack Diplomat hats, shot Castellano as he exited his car to enter Sparks Steakhouse in downtown Manhattan. With him died his underboss, or second-in-command, Thomas Bilotti.

Gotti and his closest associates pretended they didn’t know who ordered the execution. But nearly all of the Family’s capos knew it was Gotti. Gotti assumed the position of “acting boss,” but nobody dared challenge his leadership.  

Suddenly, Gotti burst into the public’s consciousness. He swaggered down streets, gave impromptu press conferences to reporters, partied at discos and nightclubs. He delighted in being approached by average citizens on streets and in restaurants. 

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John Gotti

Old-style Mafia bosses like Carlo Gambino had carefully avoided publicity. During the 1950s, newspapers didn’t have photos of Gambino in their files. 

Gotti moved his headquarters from Queens to the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan. Like a king holding court, Gotti 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 handed the FBI a mob organization chart. 

Like other mobsters, he often found himself under indictment. Unlike other mobsters, he didn’t claim physical infirmity to avoid prison. He claimed he was a victim of anti-Italian prejudice. He taunted the FBI agents he knew were stalking him.

He swaggered into courtrooms and smirked as his attorney, Bruce Cutler, viciously attacked the prosecution’s witnesses. And he emerged victorious in three high-profile trials in a row.

Local and Federal prosecutors didn’t realize his secret: Jury tampering and witness intimidation.

The press dubbed him “The Teflon Don.”  

In 1989, the FBI 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, he 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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Sammy Gravano

Gotti charged that Gravano was too greedy—and tried to frame him for the murders of three Mafiosi Gotti had ordered hit.

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite, arresting Gotti and Gravano. At a pretrial hearing, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano, enraged, agreed to testify against Gotti and other Mafiosi in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

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. In 1998, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He died 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:   

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Donald Trump

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone: In April, 2018, his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, came under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law. Trump’s reaction: Cohen handled  only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s overall legal affairs.

History still waits to learn if the hubris that struck down John Gotti will overtake Donald Trump.

TEFLON DON, MEET TEFLON PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2018 at 1:08 am

He was tall, broad-shouldered and bushy-haired.  He spoke in a heavily New York-accented voice, and his speech was often laced with crudities and obscenities.

He loved to strut in public, wearing $2,000 custom-made suits, and surrounded by a phalanx of tough-looking bodyguards. He loved being noticed, especially in restaurants and discos, by “my public.”  Making the cover of Time magazine was probably the greatest thrill of his life.

And he loved to brag: He was the toughest, the smartest, the guy nobody dared cross.  And when he wasn’t bragging about himself, he was disparaging even his closest associates.

He was rumored to be implicated in a long string of felonies. He knew the FBI was watching him. But he continually met openly with his cronies at the same place—a social club in Little Italy. 

He ordered his subordinates to be extremely cautious when they talked on the phone. But he totally ignored his own advice—and created a litany of incriminating tapes that would destroy him.

No, he wasn’t Donald Trump.

He was John Gotti, once the boss of the most powerful crime family in America.

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John Gotti’s 1990 mugshot

And he shared more than a few striking similarities with Donald Trump—another New Yorker who has since become President of the United States.

Like Trump, Gotti spent a good portion of his time in court—although Trump’s 3,500 lawsuits (filed by and against him) completely dwarf Gotti’s four high-profile trials.

Like Trump, he seemed invincible in court: He won three of those legal confrontations—and thus earned the nickname, “The Teflon Don.”

And, like Trump, he loved to taunt the FBI agents he knew were stalking him. After each court victory he gave a press conference, claiming he had been framed by FBI agents who hated Italians.

Warned to knock it off, to show humility instead of arrogance, Gotti told his would-be protectors to go to hell. He wasn’t going to be anything but what he was.

Years afterward, the FBI learned the reason for the Teflon: Gotti had used jury tampering and witness intimidation to beat the rap.  

It was the fourth trial that did him in—and sent him away for life.

Unlike Trump, he wasn’t born into a wealthy family, with a father who gave him $200 million to start his own real estate business. Instead, he grew up in poverty, resenting a father who worked as a day laborer and liked to gamble. 

He was born on October 27, 1940—almost six years before Trump (June 14, 1946). He turned to crime at the age of 12, working with street gangs affiliated with the New York City Mafia. By 1966 he had been jailed twice.

He hijacked trucks at John F. Kennedy Airport.  Arrested three times for hijacking, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years at Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.

Paroled in 1972, Gotti’s big break came in 1973.  Emanuel Gambino, the nephew of the Mafia’s “Boss of all Bosses” Carlo Gambino, was kidnapped and murdered. Gambino sent a trio of hitmen—one of them Gotti—after the culprit: James McBratney. Although not the actual killer, Gotti was identified by eyewitnesses as a participant.  

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Carlo Gambino

Through a plea bargain arranged by attorney Roy Cohn, Gotti received a four-year prison sentence for attempted manslaughter. 

Cohn had earned an infamous reputation as chief counsel for Red-baiting Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s. After leaving government service in 1954, Cohn went into private practice. Among his clients: Mafia bosses “Fat Tony” Salerno and Carmine Galante—and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Released from prison in July, 1977, after only two years, Gotti finally received his dream gift: He was fully initiated as a “made man” into the Gambino Family. 

Gambino himself had died of natural causes in 1976, and was now succeeded by his son-in-law, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano.

Gambino had represented the “old-school” Mafia: Men who shunned publicity like the plague and cultivated the image of a harmless small businessman. Although he had ordered his “soldiers” to steer clear of the drug trade, which brought too much heat, Gambino reaped millions from loansharking, extortion, hijacking, bookmaking and labor racketeering.

Castellano sought to “legitimize” the Mafia by moving it into legitimate business. He launched Dial Poultry, a poultry distribution business that once supplied 300 butchers in New York City. He profited as well by supplying construction concrete. No one could pour concrete for a project worth more than $2 million without the approval from the “Concrete Club”—a mob-controlled enterprise. 

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Paul Castellano

“Big Paul,” who had never “whacked” anyone, didn’t see himself as a gangster. He liked socializing with bankers and even once told his maid (with whom he was having an extramarital affair) that “I could even do a favor for a President.”

John Gotti, by contrast, was neither publicity-shy like Gambino nor seeking to enter the legitimate business world like Castellano. There was no point, he reasoned, in being a gangster if you weren’t going to act like one. 

For Gotti, those two traits—his love of publicity and desire to be “a real gangster”—would prove a fatal combination.

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2018 at 12:13 am

President Donald Trump has two major legal problems.

First, he’s under investigation by Independent Counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, who’s armed with top-flight investigators and an unlimited budget.

And, second, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, is rushing from one TV talk show to another, making incriminating statements that Mueller can use against Trump.

Giuliani is a former United States Attorney and United States Associate Attorney General. So he should know that the more he speaks about Trump, the more potential leads he provides Mueller’s investigators to follow.

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Rudolph Giuliani

Thus, he said, on Fox News’ “Sean Hannity” program, that Trump paid back his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid porn actress Stormy Daniels.

The reason: To ensure her silence over an alleged affair with Trump.

Giuliani’s statement, on May 3, contradicted Trump, who had previously denied knowing about the payment. It also contradicted Cohen’s February statement that Trump did not reimburse the $130,000.

Not content to stop there, Giuliani added: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton“—thus giving a political motive to the action.

Donald Trump

Giuliani, appearing on a Right-wing Fox News show, clearly felt comfortable. After all, he wasn’t being interrogated by a reporter for CNN or The New York Times.

It’s precisely that sense of safety that experienced cross-examiners hope to instill in witnesses—just before they lower the hatchet.

But Hannity—an ardent supporter of Trump—wasn’t trying to ensnare Giuliani. 

Hannity asked if Trump would testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

GIULIANI:  “Well, right now, a lot of things point in the direction of, they made up their mind that [former FBI Director James] Comey is telling the truth and not the president.

“When you look at those questions about what does the president think, what does the president feel, what does the president really desire, those are all questions intended to trap him in some way and contradicting what is in fact a very, very solid explanation of what happened.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. Actually, he couldn’t get that. So, he fired him and he said, I’m free of the guy, and he went on Lester Holt.”

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James Comey

Later in the interview, Giuliani returned to the Cohen payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels:

GIULIANI: “Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000, I mean, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money, sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”

HANNITY:  “They funneled it through a law firm.”

GIULIANI: “Funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.”

HANNITY:  “I didn’t know he did.”

GIULIANI:  “Yes. Zero.”

HANNITY:  “So the president—“

GIULIANI:  “Just like every, Sean—“

HANNITY:  “So this decision was made by—“

GIULIANI: “Sean, everybody—everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn’t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put in to that campaign. I said $130,000. You’re going to do a couple of checks for 130,000.

“When I heard Cohen’s retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, I said that’s how he’s repaying—that’s how he’s repaying it with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.”

HANNITY:  “But do you know the president didn’t know about this? I believe that’s what Michael said.”

GIULIANI:  “He didn’t know about the specifics of it as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this. Like, I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people….

A settlement payment which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be wasn’t a campaign finance violation, which usually results in a fine by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn’t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.”

HANNITY:  “But he had said he didn’t, I distinctly remember that he did it on his own—“

GIULIANI:  “He did….”

**********

So, Giuliani:

  • Admits that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for patently illegal reasons. [Comey accuses Trump of demanding a pledge of personal loyalty; Trump denies this.]
  • Exonerates Michael Cohen for acting as a fixer to buy the silence of a porn actress about an extramarital affair.
  • Claims that arranging hush money payments is a routine practice among lawyers (“Like, I take care of things like this for my clients”).

If Trump were a reader, he might now recall the famous warning by the French philosopher Voltaire: “Lord, protect me from my friends. I can take care of my enemies.”

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2018 at 12:02 am

It’s a truth well-known to cross-examining attorneys: The best way to obtain the truth is often to “kill your opponents with kindness.”

Witnesses always expect the opposing counsel to immediately start screaming at them. But that only causes the witness to stay alert and say as little as possible.

So the smart attorney comes on as courteous, friendly, even sympathetic.

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A classic example of this: A laborer claimed to have permanently injured his shoulder in a railway accident, leaving him unable to work. He claimed he could no longer raise his arm above a point parallel with his shoulder.

The railway’s attorney asked him a few sympathetic questions about his injuries. And the witness quickly volunteered that he was in constant pain and a near-invalid.

“And, as a result of the accident, how high can you raise your arm?” asked the attorney.

The witness slowly raised his arm parallel with his shoulder.

“Oh, that’s terrible,” said the attorney.

Then: “How high could you get it up before the accident?”

Unthinkingly, the witness extended his arm to its full height above his head—to the laughter of the judge, jury and spectators.

Case dismissed.

In politics, sometimes your best friends turn out to be your worst enemies.

Kevin McCarthy proved this during his September 30, 2015 appearance on Fox News.

McCarthy, the Republican member of the House of Representatives from Bakersfield, California, was undoubtedly feeling relaxed.

After all, he wasn’t being interviewed by such “enemies” of the Right as The New York Times or MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow.

He was being interviewed by Sean Hannity, a Right-wing political commentator whose books included Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda and Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism.

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Sean Hannity

The topic under discussion: Who would be the next Republican Speaker of the House, now that John Boehner had announced his decision to leave not only the Speakership but the House itself in November?

Now Hannity wanted to know what would happen when the next Republican Speaker took office. And McCarthy—who was in the running for the position—was eager to tell him.

“What you’re going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win.

“And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?

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Kevin McCarthy

“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

In 51 words, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its purpose was not to investigate the 2012 deaths of four American diplomats during a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Its real purpose was to destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
  • To accomplish this, its members spent 17 months and wasted more than $4.5 million of American taxpayers’ funds.

On October 8, 2015, Republicans were expected to choose their nominee for Speaker. On that same date, McCarthy announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration:

“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader. I have always put this Conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for Speaker of the House.”

When reporters asked McCarthy if his revelation was the reason he withdrew, he replied, “Well, that wasn’t helpful.”

But then he quickly replayed the official Republican version: “But this Benghazi committee was only created for one purpose: to find the truth on behalf of the families for the four dead Americans.”

On October 29, 2015, Republicans—holding the majority of House members–elected Paul Ryan, (Wisconsin) the 54th speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Democrats and Republicans were united in their anger that the real reason for the Benghazi “investigation” had been revealed.

Democrats were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that their major Presidential candidate had been the victim of a Republican smear campaign disguised as a legitimate inquiry.

And Republicans were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that the “legitimate inquiry” had been nothing more than a Republican smear campaign.

For McCarthy, the Benghazi Committee had legitimately served the nation—not by uncovering relevant details about a terrorist act but by causing Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers to drop.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan had attacked the leaders of the Soviet Union thusly: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

McCarthy’s comments demonstrated that the Republican Party had adopted the same mindset and tactics as the dictators of the former Soviet Union.

Two years and six months after Kevin McCarthy revealed himself and his party as ruthless hypocrites, Republicans suffered a similar outbreak of truth.

But this time, the stakes were higher—involving Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

NUREMBERG FOR TRUMP, COMEDY FOR REPORTERS

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2018 at 12:06 am

It was the second annual White House Correspondents dinner of the Donald Trump administration.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

Barack Obama—President for eight years—never missed one of these occasions. And with his comedic timing—and help from sharp-witted speechwriters—he starred in them.

But Donald Trump has chosen to skip not only one but two such dinners so far. And he’s likely to skip the rest of those given during his term as President.

Why?

Because Trump—who delights in insulting others—has too delicate a skin to put up with having even harmless jokes aimed at him.

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Donald Trump

As both a Presidential candidate and President, he has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

But Trump skipped the White House Correspondents dinner to attend a “campaign rally” of fanatical followers in 2017. And skipping the dinner this year, he attended another Nuremberg-like rally in Washington, Michigan.

His speech featured attacks on immigrants, former FBI director James Comey, the European Union, Democratic members of Congress—and the news media.

Trump complained that the media hadn’t given him deserved credit for making possible the April 27  meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea.  He claimed  he had “everything” to do with it.

He attacked the media as composed of “very, very dishonest people” who put out “fake news.”

Meanwhile, at the correspondents dinner, comedian Michelle Wolf was on a roll. Among the barbs she aimed at the Trump administration:

  • “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
  • “If you don’t give [White House spokeswoman Kelleyanne Conway] a platform, she has nowhere to lie. It’s like that old saying, if a tree falls in the woods, how do we get Kellyanne under that tree?”
  • “There’s also, of course, Ivanka [Trump].. She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So, I guess like father, like daughter.”
  • “It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.”

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Michelle Wolf

This was an all-too-accurate reference to the payment of $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Trump’s lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen, to prevent her from talking about her 2006 tryst with the future President.

Taking a shot at Fox News—which functions as a propaganda arm of the Republican party—Wolf cracked: “Fox News is here. So you know what that means, ladies. Cover your drinks”—a reference to men who spike women’s drinks with “roofies.”

Wolf couldn’t resist noting that the man who would otherwise star at the dinner—President Trump—had refused to attend: “Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed. He’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”

Once again, a painful reference (for Trump supporters) to Trump’s infamous remark that, when you’re a celebrity, “you can do anything” with women: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

But Wolf had sharp words for Democrats, too:

“Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up. You’re somehow going to lose by 12 points to a guy named Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor.”

Those who weren’t Trump fans enjoyed Wolf’s routine.  Among these:

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ attorney, said he thought Wolf was “really funny.” And actor Rob Reiner said that although Wolf’s routine wasn’t going over well but that he believed “she spoke the truth.”

But Trump devotees had a different reaction.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the event “a disgrace.” 

New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman reacted on Twitter:

“That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.” 

To which Wolf tweeted in reply: “Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though?” 

According to the Fox News website: “Apparently offended by many of the comedian’s jabs at President Donald Trump and members of his administration, many attendees sat in silence, or simply got up and walked out.” 

All of which amounted to a Right-wing chorus: “Legitimacy—and humor—are for us. Not for you.”

THE STORMY LIFE OF DONALD TRUMP

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2018 at 12:06 am

On January 12, the Wall Street Journal announced in a front-page headline:

TRUMP LAWYER ARRANGED $130,000 PAYMENT

FOR ADULT FILM-STAR’S SILENCE

According to the story that followed, real estate mogul Donald Trump had his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, pay porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in October 2016.

The payment was to ensure her silence about a tryst she had had with Trump in July, 2006.

The hush-money payment came while Trump was the Republican nominee for President—and the election was less than a month away.

At the time of the payoff, Daniels—whose real name is Stephanie Clifford—was reportedly in talks to be a guest on Good Morning America and be interviewed by Slate. She was also talking with The Daily Beast about an interview.

Then she backed out on November 3—five days before voters went to the polls.

Stormy Daniels in 2007 (Wikipedia)

Cohen initially said that Trump Trump “vehemently denies” they met.

But on February 13, Cohen said he paid $130,000 of his own money to Daniels: “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.” 

Cohen didn’t explain why, if there had been no affair between Trump and Daniels, he paid $130,000 of his own money to a woman making false claims. 

On January 17, 2018, In Touch Weekly published excerpts of a 2011 interview it had obtained with Daniels, where she had bragged of having a 2006 extramarital affair with Trump.

According to her, she met him at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump asked for her number and she gave it to him. Then he asked if she would like to have dinner with him and she said yes. She went up to his hotel room where they ate dinner and talked. And then had sex.

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Donald Trump

Trump had married his third wife, Melania, on January 22, 2005. At the time of his tryst with Daniels, Melania Trump was caring for their four-month-old son, Barron. 

This was not Trump’s only encounter with Daniels.

Throughout 2007, Trump tried to persuade Daniels to land a her own TV show. 

He gave her the phone numbers of his bodyguard, Keith Schiller, and his secretary, Rhona.

Whenever Daniels wanted to reach him, Trump immediately took her call or called back in 10 minutes.  His number was always blocked.

Trump called her about every 10 days. He would start the conversation by asking, “How’s it going, honeybunch?” 

For whatever reason, Daniels never landed a TV show of her own.

While in bed with Trump, Daniels told In Touch, she thought: “Please don’t try to pay me.” She thought of herself as a porn-star, not as a prostitute. But then she thought: “I bet if he did, it would be a lot.” 

Apparently, Daniels has since decided that $130,000 wasn’t enough. In the months since the Wall Street Journal revealed the affair, she has made a grab for publicity, if not notoriety—and the monies that come with it. 

After all, she will be 39 on March 17—long past her prime as a porn star in an industry that chews up women like raw meat.

As The Atlantic phrased it in a January 31 article, “The Upside Down Logic of Stormy Daniels”: “The adult-film actor and director is engaged in a promotional tour where she can’t discuss events she says never took place.”  

On January 20, she began touring national strip clubs as part of her “Make America Horny Again” publicity campaign. 

Ten days later—the same day as Trump’s first State of the Union address before Congress—she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!  

But Kimmel—-and his viewers—were seriously disappointed. Instead of spewing a lot of salacious details, she gave a series of giggled non-answers to questions about her encounter with Trump.

Only hours before the interview, Daniels had issued a statement, once again denying that she had ever had a sexual affair with Trump.  

“Did you sign this letter that was released today?” asked Kimmel.

“I don’t know, did I?” Daniels coyly replied. “That doesn’t look like my signature …I do not know where it came from.” 

Clearly, she was trying to have it both ways: To cash in on her newfound notoriety and avoid being sued for violating the hush-money’s non-disclosure clause. 

Apparently she tired of being unable reap the publicity—and money—of sharing all the sordid details of the affair. 

So, on March 6, she had her lawyer file a lawsuit on her behalf. 

The filing, in Los Angeles Superior Court, states that Trump never signed the nondisclosure agreement presented to her in 2016, rendering it null and void.  

Daniels claims she isn’t suing for money—but to ensure that she can tell her story without fear of being sued for violating the confidentiality agreement.

But if she can do so, the financial rewards will be considerable—such as a book deal and paid appearances at various clubs. 

Whatever the outcome, for Trump, the episode marks yet another stain on his thoroughly scandal-stained reputation.

STORMY WEATHER AT THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2018 at 12:15 am

On January 17, In Touch Weekly published excerpts of a 2011 interview it had obtained with porn star Stormy Daniels. In it, she had bragged of having a 2006 extramarital tryst with Donald Trump.

Since then, the story has provided fodder for magazine writers and comedians—such as late night Late Night TV host Stephen Colbert.

On the eve of President Trump’s attending an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, Colbert joked: There was a good reason why First Lady Melania Trump wasn’t traveling with him:

“Yes, there were logistical issues. For instance, the weather. She was afraid it was going to be too Stormy.”

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
When his wife’s away, Trump thinks, “Why worry?
Sex with sluts is kinky.
And they don’t mind I’m really stinky.”

But for Melania, the scandal can’t be a laughing matter.

On January 26, her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted: “The laundry list of salacious & flat-out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications & TV shows has seeped into ‘main stream media’ reporting. She is focused on her family & role as FLOTUS – not the unrealistic scenarios being peddled daily by the fake news.”

While Trump was in Davos, Melania visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She then flew to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Notably, she didn’t post a photo of herself with Trump to mark his first year as President. Instead, she posted on Twitter a picture of herself grinning while standing next to an unsmiling Marine.

There has been much speculation on social media about whether Melania might divorce Trump—now or later—over his rampant infidelities.

(In his infamous 2005 Access Hollywood exchange with Billy Bush, Trump admitted: “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.)

Donald Trump, Adrianne Zucker and Billy Bush

What would happen if Melania decided to file for divorce while they still occupied the White House?

The Presidency of Andrew Jackson provides a partial answer.

In 1829, his Secretary of War, John Eaton, married Margaret “Peggy” O’Neill, a former tavern maid with a supposedly lurid past.

In 1828, Margaret’s first husband, John B. Timberlake, a navy sailor, had died unexpectedly.  Rumors circulated that he had committed suicide over his wife’s alleged affair with Eaton. (Medical examiners concluded that Timberlake died of pneumonia brought on by pulmonary disease.)

Both Eaton and Margaret denied the affair, claiming to be nothing more than friends. When they married shortly after Timberlake’s death, the ladies of Washington society ostracized the new couple.

Jackson sympathized with his friend, Eaton. Jackson’s late wife Rachel—whom he had unwittingly married before her divorce from her first husband was final—had also been the victim of social gossip when she first came to Washington.

Vice President John C. Calhoun’s wife, Floride, led Washington’s elite in snubbing the Eatons.  They refused to pay courtesy calls on the Eatons at their home or receive them as visitors, and denied them invitations to parties and other social events.

Jackson sided with the Eatons. His late wife, Rachel—whom he had unwittingly married before she divorced her first husband—had been mercilessly attacked during Jackson’s 1828 Presidential campaign. Jackson believed these attacks caused Rachel’s death on December 22, 1828, after his election to the Presidency.

For the rest of Jackson’s first term, his opponents used the “Petticoat Affair,” as it was known, to attack the President’s moral judgment and his administration’s policies and appointees.

It finally ended in 1831. Eaton and Secretary of State Martin Van Buren resigned to allow Jackson to install new members to his cabinet and protect his Presidency from further scandal. 

Now, fast forward to 2018:

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
What a couple—she’s got boobs; he’s horny.
Trumpy spanks his wanker
And says “It’s fun; it’s lots of fun.
It’s just like doing my Ivanka.”

If Melania divorced Trump while he is still President, the Peggy Eaton scandal would pale by comparison.

  • Washington would divide into two camps—those supporting the President and those supporting the First Lady.
  • Reporters would besiege the White House for separate interviews—with Trump and Melania.
  • News media would be filled with stories recounting Trump’s extramarital affairs—not just during his current marriage but during his marriages to his ex-wives Ivana and Marla.
  • Trump would vent his anger and frustrations on Twitter—as he does whenever he’s thwarted. These would fuel more controversy via sensational news stories.
  • His legislative agenda would grind to a  complete halt as Republicans were distracted and Democrats took advantage of it.
  • Comedians like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert would find themselves in comic heaven, with Trump’s outrageous comments and tweets practically writing their joke routines.
  • Trump’s diehard supporters among the Religious Right would be pressed to defend or condemn his multiple adulteries.
  • These would distract Republicans from effectively pursuing Trump’s—and their—social and political agenda.

Stay tuned for possibly tumultuous developments.

Pay, pay, pay the porn star’s silence
There’s an election.
You don’t want the world to know that you
Can’t get erection.

STORMY WEATHER AT THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 29, 2018 at 12:25 am

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
What a couple–they’re so dumb and wormy.
They are, I tell you, brother
A match that’s made for one another.

On January 12, the Wall Street Journal announced in a front-page headline:

TRUMP LAWYER ARRANGED $130,000 PAYMENT

FOR ADULT FILM-STAR’S SILENCE

According to the story that followed, real estate mogul Donald Trump had his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in October 2016.

The payment was to ensure her silence about a tryst she had had with Trump in 2006.

The timing of the hush-money payment came while Trump was the Republican nominee for President. And while the election was less than a month away.

At the time of the payoff, Daniels—whose real name is Stephanie Clifford—was reportedly in talks to be a guest on Good Morning America and be interviewed by Slate. She was also talking with The Daily Beast about an interview.

Then she backed out on November 3—five days before voters went to the polls.

Stormy Daniels in 2007 (Wikipedia)

Since then, Cohen has denied that Trump engaged in such an affair. He also produced a letter allegedly signed by Daniels, wherein she denies having an affair with Trump and receiving hush money.

This might appear convincing except….

On January 17, 2018, In Touch Weekly published excerpts of a 2011 interview it had obtained with Daniels, where she had bragged of having a 2006 extramarital affair with Trump.

After the interview, In Touch insisted that Daniels take and pass a polygraph test. She did so. So did one of her friends and her ex-husband—both of whom backed up her story.

According to her, she met him at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump asked for her number and she gave it to him. Then he asked if she would like to have dinner with him and she said yes. She went up to his hotel room where they ate dinner and talked.

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Donald Trump

Trump asked her a lot of questions about the porn movie business—such as “how it works and how it functions. All like technical questions. He was very curious. Not necessarily about the sex or anything like that, but business questions.”

He spent a lot of time talking about himself, showing her a magazine whose cover he had recently graced.

At one point, Daniels asked: “Yeah, what about your wife?”

“Oh, don’t worry about her,” Trump replied.  Daniels quickly changed the subject.

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
When his wife’s away; Trump thinks “Why worry?
Sex with sluts is kinky.
And they don’t mind I’m really stinky.”

Daniels excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she came out, Trump, sitting on the bed, said: “Come here.”  They started kissing, and sex followed.

While in bed with Trump, Daniels said she thought: “Please don’t try to pay me.” She thought of herself as a porn-star, not as a prostitute. But then she thought: “I bet if he did, it would be a lot.”

As for the sex: “So anyway, the sex was nothing crazy. He wasn’t like, chain me to the bed or anything. It was one position. I can definitely describe his junk perfectly, if I ever have to. He definitely seemed smitten after that. He was like, ‘I wanna see you again, when can I see you again?’

“….It was textbook generic. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, I love you.’ He wasn’t like Fabio or anything. He wasn’t trying to have, like, porn sex.”

Trump had married his third wife, Melania, on January 22, 2005. At the time of his tryst with Daniels, Melania Trump was caring for their four-month-old son, Barron.

This was not Trump’s only encounter with Daniels.

During their night together, Trump had spent a lot of time assuring her that she should have her own TV show—and he could make this happen: “You would be perfect for it because you’re such a smart businesswoman. You write and you direct and you produce and obviously you’re hot and you’re beautiful.”

DANIELS: “Well, it’s never going to happen. NBC is never going to let a porn star on.”

TRUMP: “I can make it happen.”

(For the entire next year, Trump kept pushing the idea of helping Daniels land a TV show of her own: “We have to get together to talk about your appearance on.”)

He had already given her the phone number of his bodyguard, Keith Schiller. He also gave her the number to his secretary, Rhona.  Whenever Daniels wanted to reach him, he immediately took her call or called back in 10 minutes.  His number was always blocked.

Trump called her about every 10 days. He would start the conversation by asking, “How’s it going, honeybunch?”

Said Daniels: “I think it was always his excuse to call, ‘I just read about you in such and such or there’s a quote about you in magazine, I turned on my channel in my hotel room and guess whose face popped up?'”

Pay, pay, pay the porn star’s bill off
It’s a deduction.
Pay, pay, pay it off because for you
This is seduction.

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