Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
The Ineluctable Criminality of the FPOTUS
Donald was, is, and always will be a crook.
“The Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”
—Oscar Wilde, April 1882, during a lecture in Missouri, two weeks after the murder of Jesse James
Four weeks ago yesterday, the FBI searched the Palm Beach golf club that doubles as Donald John Trump’s residence. Since then, the slow but steady trickle of information leaking out appears to lead to a conclusion as obvious as it is unthinkable: the 45th President of the United States not only made off with some of the most sensitive and important secrets our intelligence services possess, but he sold them to our enemies.
That’s where this is headed, right? That FPOTUS set up a fucking garage sale at Mar-a-Lago and hocked our classified documents like they were signed, fake Time magazine covers in plastic frames? Certainly Trump’s been behaving like a kid whose short fingers are trapped in the cookie jar; the adjective typically used to describe him—unhinged—fails to capture his flop-sweaty desperation this past month.
We are staring at a Wheel of Fortune board that looks like this:
E S P _ O N A G E
. . . and we are all too stunned to solve the puzzle. Even the unflappable Vanna White looks like she’s about to puke.
While that last piece of the puzzle—the garage sale part—has yet to be confirmed, this much is certain: Trump stole the documents. Classified documents, top secret documents, code-word documents: a fuck-ton of them. He stole them, and when he got caught, he refused to give them back. Then he had his bargain-basement attorney attest that they were all returned when they weren’t. That in itself is damning and should send him to prison for the rest of his life. But the question remains: What was he doing with them? Is anyone alive gullible enough to believe that this analphabetic moron was reading them, for his own curiosity, or to jog his memory to write a presidential memoir? Please. This con man, this grifter, this mobbed-up bandit boosted those documents for his own personal gain. That’s what Trump does. It’s what he’s always done. It’s all he knows how to do, ultimately. He’s an American vory v zakone: a fucking thief.
And none of this is a surprise.
Oh, the talking heads on TV act surprised. So do the Republicans who kissed Trump’s gaudy ring for years and are now nervously eying the lifeboats as the ship goes down. Too many of the nation’s op-ed writers and pundits and print journalists, even at august publications like the New York Times, also seem “shocked, shocked” that Trump is such a dastardly S.O.B. Fuck them all. The wool covering their eyes these last six years was heavy and itchy and uncomfortable, but they chose to pretend it didn’t exist. They betrayed us with feigned ignorance—even as Kevin McCarthy told Paul Ryan in 2016 that he thought Trump was on Putin’s payroll, even as Trump hired Paul Fucking Manafort to run his campaign, even as Hillary Clinton called out the Manchurian Candidate on live television during the 2016 presidential debates, even as Trump’s ties to Russia were so obvious that I was able to write an entire book on the subject, a year before the Mueller Report, based solely on news articles. The dots were all there, just waiting to be connected, like the stars in the Big Dipper.
None of this is a surprise. Because, like, Trump’s done it before. We’ve seen him hand out top secret intel like Halloween candy. The day after he fired James Comey, the FBI director who was investigating him, Trump hosted two high-level Russian officials in the Oval Office, and gave them classified intelligence. If you believe that was the only time in the last five years that this happened, I have a gleaming tower in Baku to sell you.
This is who Trump is, always has been, and always will be. And it’s been painfully obvious this whole time.
Start here: We know that Donald Trump is a serial rapist and sexual assailant. We knew this before the election. There are some four dozen credible accounts of rape or sexual assault against him—and that’s just the stuff we’ve heard about. He raped a journalist in the dressing room of a department store. He sexually assaulted another journalist at his house while his wife was home. He (allegedly) raped his wife. He sexually harassed one of the contestants on his stupid reality show. He routinely walked through the dressing room of the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant. He sent his teenage daughter—the one he kept saying he wanted to date—to work at a modeling agency run by a legendary sleazebag. He’s been married three times and has cheated on all of his wives. He had his attorney pay hush money to a porn star so she wouldn’t talk about his affair during the campaign. On and on it goes.
FPOTUS believes, or says he believes, that he is entitled to do whatever he wants with whatever woman he wants, because he is a celebrity. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them,” he infamously remarked to Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood set. “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. . . . Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Trump’s tropism toward rape was well known in the days leading up to the 2016 election. Voters of course ignored it, accepted his “locker room talk” apology—still, to my knowledge, the only time he’s apologized for anything in the last six years—and pulled the lever for him anyway. Elect a guy who treats women like shit, and you’ll get a Supreme Court that codifies treating women like shit. Elect a rapist, and he’ll fuck us all over.
We know that Trump is a criminal. We knew this before the election. He is a second-generation money launderer for organized crime. His father, Fred Trump, worked closely with Genovese-associated and -owned construction entities since building the Shore Haven development in 1947. Donald brought the family’s real estate enterprise from Queens to Manhattan—not possible without sanction from the Gambino crime family. He knew all of these characters through his mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn. To be fair, this was not common knowledge in 2016—I didn’t know it until later—but plenty of New York reporters had written enough about Trump’s mob ties that it should have been frontpage news. That’s the job of the press, after all: to vet the candidates. Instead: her emails.
Protected by his father, by Roy Cohn, by the heads of the various crime families, and by his FBI buddy Jim Kallstrom, Trump was so untouchable that even Sammy “The Bull” Gravano—the same mobster Comey compared Trump to—couldn’t get to him. On his podcast, Gravano recounts dealing with The Donald back in the day:
It’s very hard to fuck with Trump. His jobs are hundreds of million-dollar high rise construction, and they are all union. He has around him ex-FBI agents as security. He came from a wealthy family. He was not self-made. His father was a heavyweight construction guy with a ton of money and a ton of connections: with the government, politicians, the FBI. When you start getting people that connected, fucking with them is not a smart move. Trying to shake them down is not a smart move.
Trump may not have been self-made, but he was sure as hell made.
As a criminal, Trump is most comfortable in the presence of other criminals. That’s one of the reasons he sold so many condos to Russian mobsters—he liked dealing with them. His inner circle is honeycombed with sketchy characters:
Mike Flynn, his disgraced former national security adviser, is a felon. He was convicted of lying to the FBI. (Flynn also did a short stint at juvie when he was 17 years old, the seriousness of which he tries to minimize in his memoir. I suppose the criminal impulse never quite goes away for some people, rather like riding a bike.) Trump pardoned him before sentencing.
Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, was convicted of tax evasion and campaign finance violations relating to the Stormy Daniels brouhaha. Because he flipped, Trump did not pardon him.
Paul Manafort, chair of the Trump campaign from June through August 2016—prime treason season—was indicted for conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, FARA violations, and a host of other charges. He was convicted and spent 23 months in prison. Trump pardoned him.
Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime chum and political adviser, was indicted on five counts of false statements, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstructing an official proceeding. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. Before he could serve his time, Trump commuted the sentence and subsequently pardoned him.
Stephen K. Bannon, who ran the Trump campaign after Manafort’s departure and was even on the national security team for a minute, was indicted for wire fraud and money laundering. Trump pardoned him. He was indicted again this past year for obstruction of Congress, and was convicted. He awaits sentencing.
George Papadopoulos, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, was convicted of making false statements to the FBI. His drunken gossip is what led the FBI to open its investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. He served 12 days in federal prison. Trump later pardoned him.
Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump crony and one of his money men, is under indictment for acting as an unregistered agent for the UAE. He is believed to be cooperating.
Trump’s associates who have so far escaped indictment are just as bad if not worse:
Rudy Giuliani, one of the worst humans to ever draw breath, was allegedly involved in the extortion of Ukraine president Zelensky, was a leader of the movement to illegally overturn the 2020 election, and on January 6 demanded “trial by combat.”
Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder and Trump booster, is still at large and up to no good.
Steve Mnuchin ran Treasury for four years, handled the PPP program during the early pandemic, and was handed a billion bananas by the Saudis on his way out the door.
That’s a lot of shady motherfuckers to be associated with—and this is far from a comprehensive list. I haven’t even mentioned Allen Weisselberg, the longtime CFO of the Trump Organization, who just pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts of tax evasion. Or Junior, Eric, and Ivanka. Or Kellyanne Conway’s grandfather. Or Matt Gaetz. Or Jim Jordan. Or Eddie Gallagher. Or Semion Mogilevich. Or Jeffrey Epstein.
On and on it goes to infinity, a Möbius strip of mountebanks and scoundrels.
To state the obvious: People don’t associate with so many criminals who are not criminals themselves.
None of this should be a surprise. Elect a criminal, and a crime spree is inevitable.
The fact that the American public is shocked right now at Trump’s brazen criminality is an indictment of our Fourth Estate, which failed us mightily in 2016, and continues to fail us with its disingenuous both-sidesing. (Brianna Keilar this week picked up the Maggie Haberman mantle). It’s an indictment of our social media outfits, all of which chose obscene profits over the health of our democracy. It’s an indictment of our elected officials, every last Republican and more Democrats than I’d like to admit, who downplayed the Trump years as same-old, same-old. It’s an indictment of our captured, corrupted judicial branch (fuck off, Leonard Leo). And it’s also, to some degree, an indictment on all of us—myself very much included—for not wanting to believe just how dire the situation was and remains.
We elected a criminal. We gave him the run of the place for four years. And he made like Tony Soprano at Ramsey Outdoor—only with the entire fucking country.
Trump was president, yes, but the other 43presidents are not his true peers. He’s a businessman, but a spectacularly bad one, unworthy of mention among the bona fide captains of industry. What Donald John Trump is, above all else, is a criminal—arguably the most notorious criminal in American history. His proper cohorts are Al Capone and John Dillinger, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Madoff, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. Trump is a criminal, a filthy fucking criminal. That’s what he is, what he always has been, and what he always will be. Lock him up.
Photo credit: Mugshots of Al Capone and John Dillinger, in the public domain. Trump is from a photo by the indefatigable Gage Skidmore.
Grover Cleveland is number 22 and 24, but he’s the same dude.