A compendium of Donald Trump’s criminality

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Left to right: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, plead guilty to eight counts; Trump; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, who was convicted of eight more charges.

Within minutes of one another, two former high-level associates of President Donald Trump were found guilty of felonies last week. Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign throughout the pivotal summer of 2016, was convicted on eight charges, including tax fraud and bank fraud. Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight charges, including tax evasion and making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate – the hush money paid to one of Trump’s mistresses.

Five of Trump’s former close associates have already been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort and Cohen join Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser; George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign; and campaign aid Rick Gates. Dozens of others have also been indicted. The president has thus far managed to stay just beyond reach, but the indictments and convictions underscore Trump’s lifelong adjacency to criminal activity.

Donald Trump’s first brush with national notoriety, and perhaps the start of his feud with the Justice Department, came in 1973, when he and his father were accused of discriminating against potential black tenants in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Several victims survive to the present day and want an apology from the president, but Trump has never admitted any wrongdoing and the family reached a solution out of court with the Justice Department. The case is perhaps the earliest known example of Trump’s disregard for the rule of law.

More recently, in November 2016, after Trump was elected president, Trump University settled a case and agreed to pay $25 million to defrauded Americans. Everything about Trump University was a scam, right down to its name. Students were promised insight into Trump’s business expertise, taught by professionals handpicked by Trump, and were sometimes told Trump would appear in person. Instead they were bullied by pushy salesmen into purchasing the most expensive courses they could afford, often costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Even Trump’s charity, the Trump Foundation, is under investigation by the State of New York. The New York attorney general alleges Trump “misused his charitable foundation for personal and political gains over more than a decade,” according to The LA Times. Trump allegedly used money from the charity to settle personal lawsuits, donate to politicians, and buy a $10,000 portrait of himself. In a similar vein, Trump charged family members to hold charity events on his property, effectively funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his children’s charitable foundations into his own pocket.

Trump Family

The children who are part of Trump’s business empire have also been at the heart of scandals involving fraud or corruption.

It’s entirely possible that Trump doesn’t view any of this activity as criminal, despite the mounting legal actions against him. His words following the Manafort verdict are instructive. Trump dismissed the fraud charges as “a 12 year old tax case” and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, downplayed the charges, saying, “It’s a white collar crime, who the heck is in jeopardy, the American public?” Trump further praised Manafort for not turning in evidence against him, then suggested that “flipping” should perhaps be illegal.

Giuliani, a former prosecutor who rose to fame during his war on the mafia, knows full well the importance of turning witnesses against their bosses. Now he’s working for a man whose view of the law boils down to “pro-Trump is legal, anti-Trump is illegal,” who demands loyalty, and who has decades of mob ties in his record.

As a builder in New York and New Jersey in the 1980s, some of Trump’s dealings with crime families were virtually unavoidable. According to longtime Trump watcher David Cay Johnston, however, Trump went above and beyond. Trump used mob concrete, provided an apartment at Trump Tower to a known mobster, and used his mob connections to suppress union uprisings and employ cheap, nonunion labor.  In 1992, a Senate report identified members of Asian organized crime in top-level positions at Trump Taj Mahal. Trump’s connections to Russian crime figures run deep, too. In 2013 the NYPD busted a Russian gambling ring headquartered one floor below Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower.

No less serious are the myriad allegations of sexual assault against Trump. At least 16 women have accused him of unwanted groping, kissing, peeping, and more. Many of the accounts match the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump brags, “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.” Trump has admitted to peeping on beauty pageant contestants and has been accused of peeping on underage contestants.

If guilt by association were a real crime, Trump could already be indicted. Despite Trump’s characterization of him as a “brave man,” Paul Manafort’s own daughters refer to their family’s wealth as “blood money.” Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, allegedly grifted more than $120 million from business associates over the years. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s real estate empire was recently fined $210,000 by the State of New York for lying about the number of rent-controlled tenants living in its buildings. Such scandals are routine in Trump’s orbit.

Several former close allies of Trump’s have begun to turn on him. National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who used a “catch-and-kill” process to buy and then suppress potentially damaging stories during Trump’s campaign, is reportedly cooperating with Robert Mueller. Michael Cohen, who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump, is now turning evidence against him. Reality star Omarosa Manigault Newman once warned Trump’s critics that they’d have to “bow down” to him; now she’s written a scathing inside account of her time at the White House.

Exactly what charges, if any, Mueller will bring against Trump is impossible to know right now. One probable scenario is that Trump is a massive, international money launderer. So far, there doesn’t seem to be enough publicly available evidence to charge him in a conspiracy with the Russian government to undermine US elections. From the information already publicly available, however, it’s clear Trump is an unscrupulous, unethical fraud who has surrounded himself with shady grifters and long reigned over a number of criminal ventures.

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Donald Trump’s pipeline to Putin

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.

After his submissive appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month, President Donald Trump faced some of the most severe and unanimous criticism of his chaotic political career. Members of Trump’s own party called the president “treasonous” and “disgraceful” while commentators speculated that Putin must have serious kompromat on Trump to make him behave so obsequiously. As the media and the FBI connect the dots of Putin and Trump’s relationship, their most obvious common interest in oil goes largely undiscussed. Continue reading

Republicans plead for civility

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Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant, an incident that became a flashpoint in the culture war.

For three years, Donald Trump has dominated America’s cultural conversation. In that time, he has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers over the border, mocked a disabled reporter’s handicap, encouraged his crowds to physically assault protesters, and labeled journalists the “enemy of the people.” As President, he has done all he can to shred America’s life-saving social safety net, banned Muslims from entering America, and held migrant children hostage in cages. Now, Trump and his enablers are asking for one thing: civility. Continue reading

Trump Administration dehumanizes victims to justify border atrocities

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After being separated from their parents at the border, the children of migrants are held in chain-link pens at military bases and prisons around the southern border.

By far the biggest story in national headlines this week was the Trump Administration’s policy of splitting up families crossing the southern border without authorization. Following a zero-tolerance policy enacted in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, detained parents have been sent to one facility and their children have been sent to another. Photos and videos of those children – confused, crying, and locked in cages – drew intense domestic and international condemnation. United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said, “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.” Continue reading

Trump’s dictator flirtations reflect his Big Business past

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, one of the worst human rights violators on earth today, and came away feeling very charmed.

On June 12, President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made history in the first-ever summit between an American and North Korean head of state. The two met in Singapore to discuss the North Korean nuclear weapons program and, according to President Trump’s account, got along splendidly.

Reactions to the meeting were mixed, but even many of Trump’s harshest critics acknowledged an air of cautious optimism following the summit. Getting along with another country, even one as brutal and oppressive as North Korea, is undeniably preferable to a global nuclear war. Yet there’s a big line between reaching a détente with North Korea and propping their dictatorial cult state up as a model for the world. Trump crossed that line repeatedly in statements he made after the meeting. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the right-wing presumption of innocence

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Right-wing media is universally friendly to Trump, taking his innocence for granted and echoing his conspiracy theories about the investigation into his shady world.

President Donald Trump has escalated his attacks on the special counsel investigating his campaign’s alleged ties to Russian election interference. Last week Trump unleashed a torrent of tweets in an attempt to undermine the investigation’s credibility. Even as a deluge of shady new information about Trump associates pours in daily, from his personal attorney to his own children and son-in-law, conservative talking heads have dug in their heels behind the president more defiantly than ever. Continue reading

Reminder: Torture is not our only crime

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Gina Haspel, who oversaw a CIA black site in Thailand, is poised to become the agency’s new director.

The Senate is prepared to confirm Gina Haspel, a longtime CIA official, to replace Mike Pompeo as the agency’s director. During her confirmation hearings, Haspel’s role in overseeing CIA torture programs – or “enhanced interrogation” – was a focal point. Haspel made headlines when she refused to answer Senator Kamala Harris’s question of whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Her record on torture led Republican Senator John McCain, famously a torture survivor himself, to announce his opposition to her appointment. Continue reading

Right-wing snowflakes outraged over Michelle Wolf’s anti-elitist standup routine

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Comedian Michelle Wolf performs at the White House Correspondents Dinner, mere feet away from the targets of some of her most brutal jokes.

Comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a risqué performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner last Saturday and became a hot topic overnight. The annual dinner, which is typically a stuffy affair, brings together Democratic and Republican politicians and media personalities for a night of awkward, elitist camaraderie. Wolf’s performance, laced with explicit references to President Trump’s scandals and sexual history, earned the ire of the far-right – a rich irony, given that group’s crusade against political correctness. Continue reading

Trump embraces neoconservative foreign policy

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New National Security Advisor John Bolton, a neoconservative war hawk, looks on at President Donald Trump.

In the revolving door that is President Donald Trump’s Apprentice­-style White House, two major shake-ups in 2018 are especially concerning. Mike Pompeo, formerly the Director of the CIA, has replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, has replaced General H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor. Both men are super-hawks, torture defenders, and Islamophobes. Their move into the White House portends disaster, particularly in the Middle East. Continue reading

The Second Amendment, the NRA, and the quest to militarize American life

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Parkland shooting survivor-turned-activist Emma Gonzalez (left) grills NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch on gun control.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the most hotly debated pieces of text in history. For devotees, it guarantees the most important freedom ever enshrined in a government document. For critics, it is a dangerous relic of colonial history with little relevance to modern life. Continue reading