April 17, 2018

Mob Rule at the White House



In his ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday night, former FBI director James Comey—with extensive past experience prosecuting the Gambino family and John Gotti—said Trump was “morally unfit to be president.” (Image: ABC News)


Increasingly there are those who think the endgame for this administration is nigh—and indeed, that would be the righteous outcome.


By Michael Winship / 04.16.2018



I blame Tony Soprano.

As entertaining and compelling as the “The Sopranos” was back in the day—and I certainly count myself among its fans—by so successfully humanizing a thug and his henchmen in organized crime, I can’t help but wonder if the TV series, and other shows and movies like it, may have helped contribute to an atmosphere in which a man like Donald Trump not only can be elected and then allowed to treat the presidency like a Mafia clubhouse, but even be admired for it.

And yes, that was an 86-word sentence. I can hear Tony growling, You got a problem with that?

In his controversial new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” fired FBI director James Comey, who has come under a relentless hail of Twitter fire from @realDonaldTrump, describes the president as “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” and while Tony Soprano certainly was, too, I confess the comparison may be unfair. To Tony.

Tony Soprano is a far more well-rounded and better written character than Trump, and at least sufficiently self-aware to have once said to his consigliere Silvio, “All due respect, you got no @#%^&* idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other @#%^&* thing. It’s too much to deal with almost. And in the end, you’re completely alone with it.”

Although Trump may realize the truth of this more and more, arrogance and hubris would never allow him to say it out loud.

Comey lists similarities between the current White House and the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-themworldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” And in his ABCinterview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday night, Comey—with extensive past experience prosecuting the Gambino family and John Gotti—said Trump was “morally unfit to be president.”

At The New Yorker, journalist Adam Davidson discusses Trump’s “long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities,” and writes:

I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the FBI is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

Part of our national predicament is the normalization (an overused word these days, I know) of such behavior; the feeling that, as Davidson notes, “It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time.”

But that narrative slowly may be changing. The investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller reaches further than ever and increasingly zeroes in not only on Russia and obstruction of justice but also allegations of widespread financial dirty tricks such as those outlined above. Add to Trump’s troubles the defections from his legal team and his lack of a single competent criminal lawyer to make his case, plus the increasingly tangled role of fixer-wannabe Michael Cohen, whose dedication to non-disclosure agreements on behalf of his bosom buddy Trump (and Trump donor, financier Elliott Broidy) takes sycophancy to new depths.

Now we hear from Peter Stone and Greg Gordon at McClatchy News that Mueller investigators believe that despite his denials Cohen indeed may have been in Prague in the late summer of 2016: “Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.”

A majority of the public caught on to Trump’s venality a long time ago; but now we’re finally seeing signs of erosion in support from his base. Unfortunately, this may take more time. Meanwhile, the president contemplates firings and pardons, spins his rhetorical wheels in the sand and destroys his adopted political party – while gutting representative democracy in the process.

But what are the higher ups of the Republican Party doing to save what’s left of their troubled souls? Or of our democracy? While Trump treats the Constitution like a dog-eared copy of The Godfather, instead of standing up to his despotic dysfunction, for the most part their response is to double-down on their support, to toady and suck up, to smear Comey (who admittedly is not completely the paragon he purports to be) as well as the FBI and Justice Department and to create diversionary fire and verbal violence, like a bunch of cheap gunsels coming to the aid of their lying boss, defending the indefensible.

It’s a disgrace. Look at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, now departing Speaker Paul Ryan, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and all their GOP accomplices—there is nothing left of whatever dignity the Republicans ever had, no shred of the original principles that reportedly led abolitionist Frederick Douglass to once call it “the party of freedom and progress.” They deserve everything that may be coming their way.

Not that Trump is solely responsible for their dissolution. Years of Republicans encouraging soaring income inequality, catering to prejudice and the voracious appetites of the one percent, fighting for tax breaks and against social justice have brought us here. In the words of Esquire’s Charlie Pierce, “Republicanism simply was Trumpism in waiting, and Trumpism is Republicanism in excelsis.”

But while we may not be at the extraction point yet, increasingly there are those who think the endgame for this administration is nigh—and indeed, that would be the righteous outcome. As Tony Soprano would say, we’re sorry it had to come to this, Donald, but you brought it on yourself. No man is above— or in your case, below—the law.


Originally published by Common Dreams under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

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