Monday, July 30, 2018

Our Mobster President: Rudy Giuliani Bumbling and Ironic Defense of Trump

by Nomad

Trump defender Rudy Giuliani's Fox News interview really underscored what a lot of us have- if only subconsciously- already realized: Trump's a gangster.

Giuliani's Soprano Defense

In an op-ed piece, Eugene Robinson, columnist and an associate editor of The Washington Post, referred to a comment Mr. Guiliani made after CNN published the first of hundreds taped conversations between Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen. And what a defense Rudy came up with.

In order to downplay the importance of the recording, Giuliani went for the tried and true spin of "Nothing unusual about this." To do that he relied on his organized crime prosecution experience.
“How about 4,000 hours of Mafia people on tape? I know how to listen to them. I know how to transcribe them. This tape is crystal clear when you listen to (it). I’ve dealt with much worse tapes than this.”
So, Guiliani's defense was: Trump and Cohen don’t sound as bad as the Gambino family. Robinson describes that as a major "Yikes" moment. 

The taped conversation, the Washington Post journalist noted, might have been business as usual for Trump and his lawyer but, to the average person, it sounds deleted scenes from the last season of "The Sopranos."
The recording, made by Cohen shortly before the 2016 election, is a window into how Trump does business – and, by extension, what kind of person he is. In it, he and his then-lawyer Cohen discuss their machinations to squelch former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal’s story of what she describes as a 10-month affair with Trump. The president of the United States is revealed as a schemer and a liar. That’s no surprise, I realize, but now we can hear him in action – and there is no way he can claim the evidence is “fake news.”
It's not the first time a defender has stumbled over the corpse of Truth. For example, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins (" a Tucker Carlson wannabe") pointed out that "every president has a duty to fight to protect himself and his power."

However, there's a problem with that "whatever it takes" logic. As another columnist observed:
It follows that whichever steps Trump takes to maintain his power are implicitly normal and justified. This is the moral logic of a gangster, and also of the bulk of the ruling American political party.

"Something Familiar"

Actually, Guiliani's comparison of Trump to a mob boss is not unprecedented. It has been dismissed or overlooked by the mainstream media on almost every occasion. 
Former FBI Director James Comey told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that when he met with the president he could hear "something familiar."  Comey said that he had a "flashback to my days investigating the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra."

FBI James ComeyIn that interview, Comey wanted to make it clear that he didn't mean to claim that Trump was putting horse heads in recalcitrant Senator's bed. 
“But instead, what I’m talking about is that leadership culture constantly comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration...
The — the loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’ interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family. That’s why it reminds me so much and not, ‘So what’s the right thing for the country and what are the values of the institutions that we’re dealing with?’
Why Comey made a connection between Trump's demand for loyalty (above respect for the Constitution and the legal system in general) and the code of conduct found in the world of organized crime is easy to understand.
In his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, Comey listed the similarities. 
“The silent circle of assent, the boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. 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.”

Trump's Omertà

In the world of thugs, hoods and made men, it's called "Omertà." Along with respect for the family and for the hierarchy, this code is the glue that holds Mafia organizations together.
It puts great importance on principles of loyalty: keeping your mouth shut, especially when it comes to cooperation with the authorities, and keeping your nose out of anybody else's crimes. Deny any knowledge of what took place. Lie as if your life depended on because it does. 

We have seen this perverted kind of loyalty with people like Sarah Huckabee, John Kelly or Kellyanne Conway and others in Trump's ever-shrinking inner circle.
As Robinson notes:
Yet, even as various scandals have unfolded in and around Trump’s inner circle, we hear more about the importance of loyalty from some of his own team than we do about whether Trump is innocent of wrongdoing.
Asked by NBC’s Katy Tur if there’s “any chance” that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen would end up cooperating with federal investigators who recently raided his office and home, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen “is a very loyal person.”
There was, however, a major hitch to running the presidency like a crime syndicate. Even before he was sworn in, Trump soon realized that the techniques of the Mafia were not applicable to the high stakes world of US politics. 

How so?
Omertà really only works if it is backed up by threats of violence and without it, a leader pretty quickly loses control. 
Ask the people that Trump admires. 
Ask his pal Putin whether stern looks, finger-wagging and booting journalists from press conferences is really as good a deterrent as murdering them execution-style as they return to their homes and families.
Consider it defending your territory.

Trump's Failed Roy Cohn

Reviewing Trump's past, it really shouldn't surprise anybody that Trump and Cohen's conversation reminded experienced mob-busters of crime bosses. 
In terms of his value to Trump, Michael Cohen was more than a lawyer. For Trump, Cohen served the same position that Roy Cohn had once done in Trump's glory days. (Cohn served as Donald Trump's attorney from 1973-1978.)

In the past, Donald Trump has repeatedly said he needed someone like the late Roy Cohn to represent him today. According to Frank Rich, Cohn was the guy who taught Trump to “counterpunch viciously, deny everything, stiff your creditors, manipulate the tabloids.”
That was once Micheal Cohen's job description. 
According to one quote, Trump admired Cohn's reputation for intimidation and general mean-spiritedness. The Daily Beast cites a quote from the AP:
“If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent, you get Roy People will drop a suit just by getting a letter with Roy’s name at the bottom.”
To a man with Trump's mentality, that is what power looks like. 

Even before his death of AIDS in 1986, Cohn was satisfactorily described as “the polestar of human evil..the worst human being who ever lived … the most evil, twisted, vicious bastard ever to snort coke at Studio 54.”

Cohn was known for being such an intimidating, no-holds-barred attorney, his client list was longer than Santa's naughty list. People or organizations that needed a certain kind of lawyer and had the money to back it up had to Cohn's number on speed dial.

There was a darker side to the list as well. Cohn's other clients included infamous and brutal mobsters such as the bosses of the Genovese and-yes-the Gambino crime families Thomas and Joseph Gambino, sons of the late Carlo. And lovely people like Carmine "Lilo" Galante, the reputed boss of bosses; "Fat Tony" Salerno and Nicholas "Cockeyed Nick" Rattenni.

Nicholas von Hoffman, the author of the book Citizen Cohn (1988), points out that Cohn "lived in a matrix of crime and unethical conduct," and "derived a significant part of his income from illegal or unethical schemes and conspiracies."

Apparently, Michael Cohen was the best Trump could find (or the most the cheapskate wanted to pay. Those are boots too large for a weak-willed character like Michael Cohen to ever fill.
Try as he might, Trump's replacement for Cohn was never as intimidating, never as ambitious and certainly never as loyal as a "twisted, vicious bastard" like Roy Cohn.

Final Irony

So, given the people that Trump admired and who called him a friend, it's no wonder that taped conversations would sound like the scheming of gangsters.

The real irony here is that while then-US attorney Giuliani was ambitiously earning his reputation as a mob buster back in the 1980s, Cohn was on the opposing side, trying to keep his gangster clients out of prison. Even back then, the man in the middle of this tug of war between good and evil was the utterly ruthless and immoral Donald Trump.

Today, in his defense of Trump, Giuliani, a man so boastful of his reputation, is now sounding much more like a mob mouthpiece. And yet, in his bumbling way, he is actually defending Trump in a manner only a former US prosecutor of mobsters should.
Very very badly.