A mob incited by then-President Trump invaded the Capitol. Everybody knows about that mob.
But what about the other mob that has been nurtured, cuddled, stroked by Trump? By whatever name — Mafia, organized crime, gangsters — this mob has gotten very little media attention, particularly in the 2016 and 2020 elections.
Let’s call the first Mob 1 and the second Mob 2.
As noted last September, I have followed Trump’s Mob 2 since the 1980s. But in this essay, I will rely on works of three great investigative journalists: David Cay Johnston, an expert on Trump’s fraudulent finances; the late Wayne Barrett, who for decades reported on Trump and other New York crooks, and Dan E. Moldea, the reporter who exposed the cozy relationship between professional sports team owners and organized crime.
New York City real estate is thoroughly mobbed up. Trump “mob-nobbed” his way into the higher reaches of Manhattan real estate, wrote wordsmith Barrett. With notorious lawyer Roy Cohn blocking for him, Trump fraternized with mobbed-up companies and labor unions. Barrett’s book, Trump: the Deals and the Downfalls “reads like a Who’s Who of Mafioso in the New York/ New Jersey/ Philadelphia Metropolitan Areas,” writes NationalMemo.com.
Just some of the Trump pals and their then-titles named in that article: Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino Mob; Fat Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese Mob; and Nicky Scarfo, Atlantic City/Philadelphia crime boss.
Cohn was consigliere to both Castellano and Salerno, according to Johnston. Most skyscrapers at the time were steel-girder construction. But in the construction of Trump Tower in New York, Trump used the costlier and often riskier ready-mix concrete. Reason: “Salerno, Castellano and other mob families controlled both the concrete ready-mix business and the unions involved in delivering and pouring it,” according to Johnston.
Trump overpaid Salerno, Castellano et al for the concrete, but with Cohn as his lawyer, had no reason to fear them. “What Trump appeared to receive in return was union peace,” wrote Johnston. “That meant the project would never face construction or delivery delays.”
Summed up Johnston in Politico in 2016: “Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt labor leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.”
The media regularly state that Trump’s ego is so inflated that he must always win. He declares that those he dislikes, particularly his critics, are “losers.” But when does Trump actually win? Have you sipped Trump Vodka, flown on a Trump airline, learned about real estate from Trump University? Trump did not succeed in his corporate takeover attempts: a casino, slot machine maker and some resorts.
His biggest flops were the Atlantic City casinos — classic victims of his hubris. He stiffed subcontractors, workers, lenders, bondholders largely through bankruptcy. His niece, psychologist Mary L. Trump, summed it up in her book “Too Much and Never Enough.”
She wrote: “If one casino was good, two would be better and three even better than that.” This was at a time when the Trump empire was drowning in debt. “Of course, his casinos were competing with one another and eventually would be cannibalizing one another’s profits.”
Trump’s hubris wiped out the casinos, but it had earlier fooled the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. In applying for a casino license, Trump claimed that he was too young to have any unsavory connections. At hearings, the division commissioners “dismissed as unreliable what mobsters, corrupt union bosses, and Trump’s biggest customer, among others, said to Barrett, to me, and other journalists and filmmakers about their dealings with Trump,” wrote Johnston for Politico.
The commissioners put Trump under oath. He “denied any misconduct or testified he could not remember,” according to Johnston. Trump got his license and New Jersey got a very black eye. The state’s gambling enforcement crowd still boasts about its meticulous research. If it has a good reputation (very doubtful), it is a result of “willingness to look the other way,” according to Johnston.
Not surprisingly, Trump got into pro football, a haven for high rollers and mob-connected billionaires. Trump bought into a New Jersey team in the short-lived United States Football League. Among his fellow owners was Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., a billionaire developer.
Although snubbed by Major League Baseball, DeBartolo bought 90% of the San Francisco 49ers pro football team and turned it over to his son, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. But young DeBartolo in 1998 pleaded guilty to failure to report that Louisiana’s former governor extorted $400,000 from him to win a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo Jr. pulled out of the project when subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about the deal. He was fined $1 million but never was incarcerated as the former governor was.
On Feb. 18 of last year, then-President Trump pardoned the junior DeBartolo.
The former president is still cozy with Mob 2.
Don Bauder retired in September 2018 as a columnist for the San Diego Reader. He lives in Salida, Colorado.