August 12, 2016

David Cay Johnston: Have Trump, will travel


David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston

Lately, if it’s a day ending in -y, then it’s a day when David Cay Johnston will be out in the world, answering questions and offering context about Donald J. Trump, who, maybe you’ve heard, is right in the middle of running for president. Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with almost thirty years of experience following Trump, and the author of The Making of Donald Trump, which — sound the trumpets, please — is now officially a New York Times bestseller.

Yesterday, Johnston appeared by phone on The Majority Report, comedian Sam Seder’s internet talk show with the Young Turks Network. In a conversation that was both uproarious and periodically harrowing, Seder and Johnston covered a huge range of Trumpable topics. Asked about Trump’s mob connections, Johnston said:

Donald’s entire life, he has done business — often unnecessarily and gratuitously — with mobsters, mob associates, con artists, swindlers, Russian mobsters.

Donald’s father had a business partner. This business partner was a guy who was an associate of the Gambino and Genovese families named Willie Tomasello, and there’s plenty of law enforcement reports about Willie Tomasello. (Donald, by the way, is running around saying, “Don’t trust the liberal media — none of that’s true aboue my dad! None of it! None of it! Who you gonna believe — the law enforcement records, or Donald Trump?”) Donald, when he came to Manhattan as a young man, made a bee-line to connect with Roy Cohn, the notorious Roy Cohn, lawyer for Senator Joseph McCarthy. Cohn’s clients include the heads of the Genovese and Gambino families, and lots of other awful people. And through him, Donald got labor peace — because they controlled the unions. He got away with putting non-union guys on union work sites. And when there was a concrete strike? Well, Trump Tower, a concrete building, was being built. Every site in the city, the concrete stopped. Except one: Donald Trump’s Trump Tower.

Donald in recent years has done business with a guy named Felix Sater. Now, he told a reporter, I think it was the AP, “I wouldn’t recognize the guy if he were in the room. I hardly know him!” Well, they were together in Colorado in two cities, in Phoenix, in Fort Lauderdale, in New York City, there are plenty of photographs and video tapes of them, they were investors together. Sater is a violent convicted felon who took the broken stem of a margarita glass and pushed it into a guy’s face so badly that it took 110 stitches and he’ll never be right.  He ran a $40 million stock swindle that involved four of the crime families in New York. And Donald continues to do business with him.

Joe Weichselbaum, mob associate, supplied Donald with his helicopters. Now, there are lots of company you can get helicopters [from], both for yourself — as Donald did — and for the casinos. But Donald chose this guy. And after he was indicted as the head of a major cocaine and marijuana trafficking ring, and the indictment says — and he’s pled guilty — that he actually, physically handled the drugs… Donald doesn’t separate himself from this guy. Somehow, mysteriously, Joe Weischselbaum’s case gets moved from Cincinnati, Ohio. [Even though] it only involves Ohio and Florida, it gets moved to New Jersey. And who does it come before? Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald’s sister! Now, she removed herself from the case, Sam, as she’s required to do, but imagine the conversation! She had to go explain, “The reason I can’t handle this case is I, a federal judge, fly in this drug trafficker’s helicopters. My husband, who works for Donald Trump’s casino business, is a lawyer — he flies in them all the time.”

You’re the chief federal judge in New Jersey… flying in helicopters owned by a guy who’s going to confess to being a major drug trafficker? Well, the little fish in that case, they got up to twenty years just for delivering the drugs. And what did this guy get? He spent eighteen months in the clink, and then he moved into a multi-million-dollar apartment in Trump Tower.

Wow. And that’s just a small clip of the wide-ranging conversation, which you can watch here:

That isn’t all Johnston’s done since we last checked in with him, by a longshot. He also stopped by Iowa Public Radio to speak on River to River: “People should know that this man… he doesn’t know anything. He is closely associated with lots of criminals, that his business practices as measured by Fortune magazine and his court record are abominable, that he has a long history of promoting violence against people.” Listen to the entire segment here.

Johnston also, for all the time he’s been spending talking about his book, retains his day job as an investigative journalist. In a piece published at the Daily Beast yesterday, he speculates further about Trump’s unseen tax returns: “Trump says those tax returns will reveal nothing. That’s nonsense.”

Donald Trump calls the Trump SoHo tower in lower Manhattan an architectural marvel. The real marvel is what happened to the profits, which vanished from America thanks to a deal with a corrupt Icelandic investment company with ties to Russian oligarchs — all under an arrangement that Trump himself approved.

If Johnston had a prodigiously busy Thursday, it couldn’t have been on much sleep: he’d stayed up late on Wednesday to make another appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, where he offered many observations and informed predictions about Trump — none, perhaps, as disquieting as this one: “He is unleashing terrible forces in the country, and it’s going to get worse…. There is going to be trouble down the road.” Watch that clip below, and stay tuned for more postcards from Johnston’s extended tour through the swamps and hinterlands of Trumpsylvania.