In the weekend prior to Super Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) brought up the idea that real estate mogul Donald Trump has ties to the mob. As it turns out, Cruz's allegation is correct.
On February 28, Cruz told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "There have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the mafia. Maybe his tax returns show that those business dealings are a lot more extensive than reported. We don't know."
The senator continued, "You guys have reported that he's done deals with S&A Concrete, which was owned by two of the big crime families in New York and that he's had involvement in Atlantic City. Maybe that's what his tax returns show. We don't know."
Trump has been hesitant to release his tax returns, and given his documented ties to the mob, that could be the reason. RedState's Dan McLaughlin highlights a passage from PolitiFact that points out that Trump's ties to the mafia began in the 1980s, when S&A Concrete scored a $7.8 million subcontract for Trump Plaza. S&A Concrete was partially owned by Anthony Salerno, also known as "Fat Tony," which Trump himself has admitted. Salerno, who died in 1992 from complications from a stroke in prison, was the boss of the 200-member Genovese crime family. The FBI stated the Genovese family was "once considered the most powerful organized crime family in the nation":
Members and their numerous associates engaged in drug trafficking, murder, assault, gambling, extortion, loansharking, labor racketeering, money laundering, arson, gasoline bootlegging, and infiltration of legitimate businesses.
Genovese family members are also involved in stock market manipulation and other illegal frauds and schemes as evidenced by the recent FBI investigation code named “Mobstocks.”
The Genovese crime family has its roots in the Italian criminal groups in New York controlled by Joseph Masseria in the 1920s. The family history is rife with murder, violence, and greed.
Salerno also served on "the commission," which The New York Times described as "the ruling council of the five principal crime families in La Cosa Nostra," or LCN. According to the FBI, the LCN is an organization headquartered in Italy that has numerous ties to various crime organizations. Salerno was serving a 100-year and 75-year prison sentence for "Federal racketeering convictions," according to The New York Times. This is the man who had partial ownership over a company that Trump described as "excellent contractors" while knowing of S&A Concrete's ties to the mob.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, as McLaughlin also highlights a lengthy expose from Yahoo! News's Michael Isikoff on Trump's association with mobster Robert LiButti. LiButti had ties to John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family after the previous boss, Paul Castellano, was murdered in a hit likely ordered by Gotti in 1985. Gotti eventually served a life sentence in prison for murder and federal racketeering; the Castellano family obtained over "$500 million in revenue from illegal activities such as gambling, drug trafficking, extortion, and stock fraud" during Gotti's reign. LiButti admitted to his ties to Gotti in a secret tape recorded by an FBI informant, referred to him as "my boss" and described his meetings with him, even suggesting bringing Gotti to one of Trump's casinos. Gotti himself was convicted of tax fraud in 1994.
The prospect of ties between Trump and LiButti was first raised by a New Jersey State state regulators probe:
The probe resulted in a $200,000 fine against the Trump Plaza by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for violating state anti-discrimination laws. Investigators found that LiButti had, on multiple occasions, berated blacks and women using what one state official described as the “vilest” language — including racist slurs and references to women in obscene terms — and that the Trump Plaza, in order not to lose his substantial business, sought to accommodate him by keeping the employees away from his betting tables, according to commission documents recently obtained by Yahoo News under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.
According to the Casino Control Commission, some of the vile words spewing out of LiButti's mouth while at Trump Plaza included:
- "dumb c***"
- "dumb bitch"
- "Jew broad"
- "black bastard"
- "Shoot the f***ing dice. Shoot the f***ing dice like you’re f***ing some n*****."
Trump has denied that he ever knew Libutti, but Libutti's daughter, Edith Creamer, told Yahoo! News that Trump is a "liar" for denying this:
“Of course he knew him. I flew in the [Trump] helicopter with [Trump’s then wife] Ivana and the kids. My dad flew it up and down [to Atlantic City]. My 35th birthday party was at the Plaza and Donald was there. After the party, we went on his boat, his big yacht. I like Trump, but it pisses me off that he denies knowing my father. That hurts me.”
Cramer's account is confirmed by John R. O'Donnell, who authored Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall in 1991. The book details a meeting between the two men on Trump's private helicopter, where they attempted to reach a deal involving a racehorse named Alibi that eventually fell through. Although O'Donnell did not explicitly name LiButti in the book, he confirmed to Yahoo! News that LiButti was indeed the man Trump met with in his helicopter.
As Isikoff's piece demonstrates, Trump's association with LiButti was beyond the one meeting in the helicopter. In the secret recording, LiButti describes himself and Trump as "very close," to the point where Trump gave him a check after LiButti squandered $350,000 at craps. LiButti idolized Trump, and was distraught at how Trump was losing his edge due to business and personal issues, especially after his affair with Marla Maples became publicized:
“He’s lost that aggressiveness. … Walks around like a f***ing banana. I can’t believe it’s Donald Trump. I don’t understand it,” LiButti says.
“Yeah, I know you were shocked when you saw him,” Tracy replies.
“Yeah,” says LiButti. “I can’t believe it. My hero. Broke my f***ing heart. My f***ing idol. I wanted to grow up like him.”
In 2011, LiButti continued to express admiration for Trump and even wanted "to vote for the SOB." Creamer has said she will vote for Trump.
Radio host Dana Loesch unearthed further connections between Trump and the mob, including a man named Felix Sater, a former senior adviser to Trump who pled guilty to "racketeering in a fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families." Loesch explains further:
Trump Soho, Trump Fort Lauderdale, Trump Las Olas, summary: Trump’s business partner on these projects is Bayrock Group, which is headquartered in Trump Tower. The partnership dates back to 2005. Felix Sater, whose father is a reputed Russian mob boss, is a top Bayrock executive. As the Daily Beast reported, in 2000 Felix was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a massive stock swindle “which resulted in19 guilty pleas and the conviction of six mobsters – including the nephew of Carmine “the Snake” Persico and the brother-in-law of Sammy “the Bull” Gravano.” The founding chairman of Bayrock is Tevfik Arif, who has reputed Russian organized crime ties. In 2010 he was charged in Turkey for smuggling underage girls into the country for prostitution. Another principal in the deal is Russian émigré Tamir Sapir, who also lives in Trump Tower. Sapir’s executive vice president and top aide, Fred Contini, pled guilty in 2004 to “participating in a racketeering conspiracy with the Gambino crime family for 13 years.”
There are many other criminal figures that Trump had business dealings with, according to Loesch, who include:
- Engin Yesil, sentenced on cocaine charges, owned the Turkey rights to the Trump Towers Istanbul project.
- Raoul Goldberg, former cocaine dealer and drug trafficker, was on probation when "he brought the site for the 45-story tower to Trump in 2005" for Trump Tower Philadelphia, and conversed with Trump's children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., "every day" on the project.
- Alex Shnaider, Trump's partner for Trump Tower Toronto, has ties to Sergei Mikhailov, leader of the SoInsteva Gang, a ruthless "Russian crime syndicate."
McLaughlin suggests that Trump's ties to the mob reveals that he's a "coward," rather than the tough-guy, no-nonsense bully that he portrays himself to be.
"Trump couldn’t stand a fraction of the heat for donating to conservative candidates that the Koch brothers have endured – why do you think that, as President, he wouldn’t similarly wilt like a limp banana?" writes McLaughlin. "If 'nice casino you got there, shame if anything happened to it' is enough to get Trump to suck up to mobsters and fork over checks to Hillary Clinton, why should we think he has the guts for a presidential general election campaign, let alone to not pay ransoms for hostages (literal or figurative) as president?"
CBS News host John Dickerson scoffed when Cruz suggested that journalists are holding back stories on Trump until June or July when he's the presumptive nominee. But he is wrong: Trump's ties to the mob will almost certainly be one of the more publicized news stories that will dominate the headlines and cable news coverage should Trump be the nominee.