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Is Donald Trump Connected To The Mob?

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Is Donald Trump Connected To The Mob?

A new Netflix documentary miniseries, Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia is shining a light ont eh shadowy underworld of New York organized crime. The city has always been known as a hotbed of mafia activity — just watch the Godfather movies as an example — and this series brings the reality of that situation the screen.

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For decades, the Mob was intertwined in major industries in New York City, including everything associated with constructing buildings. Donald Trump, as we all know, was also associated with constructing buildings in New York City and there have always been suspicions that he had dealings with the Mafia during his career as a real estate developer. Fear City reveals that the FBI had Trump on their radar during investigations of various Mafia enterprises, though he was never implicated in organized crime himself. 

Is Donald Trump connected to the Mob? 

The Mob was unavoidable in New York building industries.

It's a well-known cliche to think of New York construction firms as Mob-connected. Jokes about having the Mafia hide bodies in cement foundations of buildings go way back and the reason for that is because the connection between building trades and the New York Mafia are well-documented. "New York was so totally corrupt and so controlled by the mob in the '80s that in order to be a successful businessman, you had to have some way to work that world," former FBI agent Walt Stowe said to reporters. There was simply no way Trump could have operated his growing real estate development business in those years without some kind of contact with the Mafia. The Mob was involved in sales of supplies, the trade unions that did the building work, and, of course, in financing deals. 

Trump did deals with two Mafia families on Trump Tower.

There is a verifiable paper trail connecting Trump to the Mafia families that controlled the concrete industry. When Trump Tower on 5th Avenue was being built, Trump had the building constructed of fast-drying cement. Trump turned to "Fat Tony" Salerno of the Genovese crime family and Paul Castellano of the Gambino family to buy the concrete he needed. He also hired unions associated with their businesses.

While it's true Trump needed to get labor and supplies from someplace — and organized crime had a lock on what he needed — there is evidence that it wasn't just a simple transaction. Trump apparently paid inflated prices for the concrete in exchange for the union agreeing to stick to his building timeline. At the time, it was common for the union to work slower than planned to rake in extra days or weeks of pay. Trump avoided that by paying more upfront. 


A post shared by Trump Tower (@trumptower) on Sep 27, 2019 at 3:30pm PDT

Trump tower was built with Mafia supplies and labor. 

How did Trump meet the Mafia?

Trump's entry point into the lawless world of Mafia-run businesses was probably his lawyer Roy Cohn. Cohn, who was infamous for his role in the McCarthy Red Scare hearings, went on to private practice and made quite a career representing organized criminals. Among his client list were significant figures from the Genovese, Bonanno, and Gambino crime families. It's quite possible that Cohn handed the introductions between Trump and the construction industry Mafia figures. Cohn's office could have also provided a venue for conversations between Trump and Mob representatives that would have been free from surveillance due to legally protected lawyer-client confidentiality. 

Could Mafia ties explain his hostility to Robert Mueller?

Trump's relationship with the Gambino family may explain some of his hostility to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Sure, anyone would be hostile to a legendary lawyer being appointed to probe into their potentially illegal dealings as President. But Mueller has a Mafia connection that might have bothered Trump; Mueller was the prosecutor who put Gambino Family boss John Gotti in prison. If Trump continued to have friendly relations with the Gambino crime family, he would certainly have held resentment against the man who saw to it that Gotti died in prison.  

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The Mafia also has a big role in the Atlantic City casino business.

Like construction in New York, casinos in Atlantic City are Mafia hotbeds. Trump didn't shy away from doing business with Mafia-connected people when he started breaking into the gambling industry there. According to reports, Trump bought the land for one of his Atlantic City casinos for twice its actual value from a Philadelphia mafioso who was the son of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa.

One of Trump's highest rollers in another casino was a Mafia-connected horse breeder named Robert LiButti. LiButti ran afoul of the aging commission by demanding that casino owners allow women or people of color as dealers when he gambled. Trump had been happy to comply since LiButti was in the habit of losing millions of dollars while gambling and the casino saw him as a profit center. LiButti was eventually banned from Atlantic City altogether due to his connections to the Gambino family.

Has Trump ever been brought up on charges related to organized crime?

As far back as 1976, the FBI has connected the Trump name to mafia business deals. At one time, the FBI questioned Trump about a Mafia plan to buy a Miami hotel using Trump as a frontman for the deal. Trump denied knowing anything about it at the time and wasn't investigated further. Another time, he cut ties with Daniel Sullivan, a Mob connected "labor manager" when he realized being too close to Sullivan's Mafia buddies could affect his ability to get a gaming license. Trump made sure to let the FBI know he had severed that relationship. But apart from those tangential dealing with law enforcement, Trump has never been suspected of being part of organized crime himself. 

For his part, Trump has never denied knowing Mafia members. "They happen to be very nice people," he once told David Letterman. "You just don't want to owe them money."

Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia is available on Netflix. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.