Donald Trump’s former “attorney,” Michael Cohen, was recently the subject of a blistering sentencing memorandum from federal prosecutors, that claimed “the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than [he admits] and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.”
Before Cohen graduated from one of America’s worst law schools, his professional life included earning millions of dollars from taxi medallions that were managed by Evgeny Friedman, an confessed felon who has been a cooperating witness against Cohen in a bid to reduce his own jail time.
Michael Cohen once owned part of a floating casino that would take passengers three miles off the coast of Florida, into international waters where they were outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law. The business ultimately collapsed, leaving behind dozens of lawsuits relating to unpaid bills, paychecks and liabilities to injured customers.
Michael Cohen owned a share of El Caribe Country Club, a social club that served as the headquarters for the Russian mafia in New York under two crime lords.
RAGEPATH suspects we still have much to learn from federal prosecutors about the shady business dealings of Michael Cohen.
Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, reported that Trump’s cousin John Walter would click his heels and say “Heil Hitler” whenever visiting Trump in his office. Ivana was a high-ranking executive at the Trump Organization during the couple’s marriage, managing one of the Atlantic City casinos and later the Plaza Hotel.
Although Fred Trump was born in New Jersey, family members say he felt compelled to hide his German background because most of his tenants were Jewish. “After the war, he thought that Jews would never rent from him if they knew his lineage,” Ivana reportedly said. Certainly, Fred Trump’s camouflage could easily convey to a child the impression that in business anything goes. When I asked Donald Trump about this, he was evasive: “Actually, it was very difficult. My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . and I was even thinking in the second edition of putting more emphasis on other places because I was getting so many letters from Sweden: Would I come over and speak to Parliament? Would I come meet with the president?”
Donald Trump appears to take aspects of his German background seriously. John Walter works for the Trump Organization, and when he visits Donald in his office, Ivana told a friend, he clicks his heels and says, “Heil Hitler,” possibly as a family joke.
Donald Trump has denied knowing Robert Libutti, but there is video tape (there’s always a tape) of Trump and Libutti attending the World Wrestling Federation’s 1988 Wrestlemania together. One of Trump’s casinos was once fined $200,000 for pulling black and female employees off the floor at LiButti’s request. Casino regulators banned LiButti from gambling anywhere in New Jersey because of his close ties to infamous crime lord John Gotti. (Incidentally, Gotti and Trump attended the same prep school).
A newly uncovered video appears to contradict Donald Trump’s claim that he never knew a high-stakes gambler who was banned from New Jersey casinos for alleged ties to organized crime. The reputed mob figure, Robert LiButti, can be seen standing alongside Trump in the front row of a 1988 “WrestleMania” match in Atlantic City, N.J. LiButti wasn’t there by accident, according to his daughter, Edith Creamer, who also attended the event. “We were his guests,” she told Yahoo News in a text message this week. […]
The video appears to lend new support to assertions Trump once had close relations with LiButti, who was banned from the state’s casinos in 1991 because of his ties to Mafia boss John Gotti, then the chief of the Gambino crime syndicate. Separately, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that same year levied $650,000 in fines against the Trump Plaza hotel over its dealings with LiButti, who gambled huge sums at the hotel’s casino. LiButti died in 2014.
The video could raise fresh questions about two separate investigations by casino regulators that led to the huge fines levied in 1991. In one of those cases, Trump’s hotel was fined $200,000 for violating state anti-discrimination laws. Investigators found that the casino accommodated LiButti’s demand — couched in what one state official described as the “vilest” language, including racial and obscene slurs — that blacks and women be kept away from him at the gambling tables. Trump was never questioned as part of the state’s investigation, files reviewed by Yahoo News show.
Trump’s largest Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, was caught breaking money-laundering laws at least 106 times in its first years of operation. The story was broken by CNN in May of 2017, based on records obtained from Congressional investigators.
The Trump Taj Mahal casino broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s, according to the IRS in a 1998 settlement agreement. It’s a bit of forgotten history that’s buried in federal records held by an investigative unit of the Treasury Department, records that congressional committees investigating Trump’s ties to Russia have obtained access to, CNN has learned. (CNN, May 22, 2017)
The prosecution of drug dealers for laundering money at Trump Taj Mahal was not a national news story, however it did make the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer on December 29, 1999. Here is an image of that day’s front page. Scroll down for a close up of the story.
The story noted that members of a cartel based in Hong Kong had laundered $70,000 earned from drug sales made in the United States. The laundered money was then couriered directly to Hong Kong.
The allegation that Donald Trump kept a copy of Hitler’s speeches in a cabinet beside his bed was first made by Ivana Trump. When Marie Brenner of Vanity Fair asked about the book, Trump grew defensive but notably did not deny that he did in fact own a book written by Hitler. Trump claimed that the book was Mein Kampf and had been given to him by a Jewish friend. But his friend Marty Davis admitted giving Trump a book of speeches by Hitler called My New Order and denied that he was Jewish.
Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.
“Did your cousin John give you the Hitler speeches?” I asked Trump.
Trump hesitated. “Who told you that?”
“I don’t remember,” I said.
“Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.” (“I did give him a book about Hitler,” Marty Davis said. “But it was My New Order, Hitler’s speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”)
Later, Trump returned to this subject. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”
Today, RAGEPATH submitted a formal sworn complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s financial disclosures and campaign finance reports.
The complaint details six apparent violations of the California Political Reform Act. Each pertains to possibly inaccurate or incomplete documentation of Ms. Garcia’s financial interests or her campaign finances.
The potential violations we have identified could be quite serious. They include: (1) the undisclosed gift of an entire apartment building worth more than $400,000 (California law prohibits gifts larger than $250); (2) loans of $180,000 from out-of-state residents backed in part by real estate that Ms. Garcia acquired for free during an election campaign; and (3) the use of campaign funds to pay for stays in out-of-state luxury hotels on trips with no clear campaign purpose.
It is our hope that Ms. Garcia will be able to provide further information that shows no violations of California law have occurred. We further hope that Ms. Garcia will be able to provide the public with a clearer picture of her campaign and personal finances.
At RAGEPATH, we believe that public office is a sacred trust and that public officials are rightfully called upon to place that trust above their personal interests. We believe that elected officials should be held to an even higher standard than private citizens, one that reflects both the values and the concerns of the citizenry that has chosen them to serve as representatives.
California law imposes a duty of transparency and disclosure on elected officials, because a complete and accurate understanding of our representatives is necessary for us, as citizens, to give our informed consent and to prevent conflicts of interest.
We consider today’s request for an investigation to be all the more necessary because local newspapers suffering economic duress often lack the resources and headcount to provide the level of scrutiny that we, as citizens, need of our elected officials. For too many Californians, inadequate local media coverage combines with low voter engagement to deliver inevitable candidates who have not been properly vetted.
We, as citizens, have the power and the duty to step up and provide that scrutiny when nobody else can or will.
Ms. Garcia is one of 120 state legislators in California, all of whom should be held to the highest standards of conduct. There can be no accountability without transparency. We encourage California residents – indeed, residents of any state – to demand transparency and accountability from their elected officials at all levels of government – from their local City Council chamber all the way to the Oval Office.
RAGEPATH is the research project of a nonprofit established in 2017, called the Public Research and Education Project (PREP). PREP’s mission is to scrutinize the record of public officials, especially those who have not been vetted by a competitive election process.
We are opposed to corruption, the abuse of power, the victimization of others, and the impunity of public officials. We oppose these things wherever we find them, regardless of party affiliation.
PREP is a registered California non-profit. The politicians we investigate are powerful and frequently retaliate against their accusers, so it is especially important that we protect the identities of those we work with.
Cristina Garciais an elected official from an uncompetitive district in an area of Los Angeles that has been plagued by past corruption scandals. Garcia has not had a credible opponent for the past several election cycles, nor has she received the same level of scrutiny that politicians in hotly contested elections receive. This class of public officials is of especial interest to PREP, because the possibility for unchecked corruption is highest where public scrutiny is lowest.
The recently published news accounts about that matter reflect the stories of real people. Those stories have been verified by professional reporters working for established and reputable news outlets. These factual accounts have been subjected to multiple levels of verification and corroboration. If you have legitimate journalistic questions about the allegations against Garcia, we suggest you speak with the victims who have come forward publicly or the attorneys retained to represent them.
PREP’s investigations are ongoing. It would be unwise to comment on the details of unfinished research. If we confirm credible evidence of wrongdoing, we will bring that information to the public. Until that time, we will provide no further comment.
Trump’s sudden concern for elephants is inconsistent with his documented history of cruelty to animals. As elephants faced extinction in 1989, Trump was using their hides to coat the walls and floors of rooms in his properties. Trump’s sons have controversially engaged in the sport-hunting of endangered African species, including elephants. One of Trump’s Russian business associates once pled guilty to smuggling endangered animal carcasses into the United States. The prosecutor who approved the plea deal is now a member of Trump’s Cabinet.
Cruelty to Animals
Trump is scheduled to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey later this week, which may be his first documented act of mercy towards an animal. In over a year of full-time research, I haven’t yet found an instance of Trump showing kindness or empathy toward an animal (the kind treatment of people has been pretty rare also). I have come across deeply troubling anecdotes, though.
I first discovered allegations of Trump using elephant-hide wall coverings in a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald from June of 1989. The reader had written in to express indignation at a television news segment that had casually featured “elephant hides used as wall-coverings” in the lobby of Trump Tower. I’m still working to verify that claim and find the original source.
Yeah. I spotted this old letter to the editor (6/4/89) which made me try to verify it. Did he have elephant-hide walls in Trump Tower? pic.twitter.com/MrViAA56ss
Confirmation of Trump’s use of elephant-hides for interior decor can be found in a 1989 Miami Herald article about visitors regaled by a trip to Trump’s yacht. The article noted that “even the richest of millionaires was impressed by the elephant-skin ceiling in the movie theater” aboard the yacht. At the time Trump was cladding his walls with their hides, the population of African elephants was plunging dramatically. To stem the mass slaughter of elephants, the United States banned the import of elephant parts in 1990.
While I have not yet “strongly verified” claims of Trump coating his walls in elephant hides, I soon found more recent (and widely known) photographs of Trump’s sons killing various endangered African animals (elephants included) for sport. (Gothamist, March 13, 2012)
Exposure of the photographs prompted Trump to publicly defend his sons, noting they’re hunters and donate the meat of the animals they kill to “the local tribes.”
It’s unclear to me where this tribe of African villagers subsisting off the donated kills of wealthy safari hunters lives. If you spend too long listening to Trump, even the most outlandish things begin to seem plausible, so please take a few moments to wrap your head around the staggering implausibility of the Trumps’ official defense of their conduct. Slaughtering cheetahs for sport would be a convoluted approach to the policy problem of rural hunger in Africa. Nearly any child between the ages of 7 and 10 could explain quite clearly why hunting big-game cats for meat is wrong.
Doing Business with a Smuggler of Endangered Animal Carcasses
Craziest of all, however, is that the international trade of endangered animal parts actually ties in directly with Trump’s Russian business associates. Trump once had a business partner named Tamir Sapir (who passed away in 2014). The relationship between Trump and Sapir goes back a long way and is pretty complicated. But to keep it simple, let’s point out that Sapir was a key partner in Trump Soho, a big Trump-branded development in New York City that is controversial. Two of Trump’s children were nearly indicted for their role in the building’s development and their business partners have been credibly accused of money laundering.
During all of the other sketchiness and fraud going on at Trump SoHo, Tamir Sapir was caught with a yacht full of endangered animal carcasses. Officials reportedly discovered “barstools upholstered with python … skins, seven carved elephant tusks, … a zebra-skin-lined children’s bed, and a cigar box wrapped in elephant hide.” The billionaire pled guilty in 2009 and was punished with a fine of $150,000. The prosecutor in Sapir’s case, Alex Acosta, is now Trump’s Secretary of Labor.
That NYC cab driver turned billionaire has pleaded guilty to charges that he violated the Endangered Species Act by attempting to import 29 rare dead animals into the US aboard his yacht. You may recall Tamir Sapir as the Georgian man who rose from immigrant hack to Russian oil and real estate tycoon, ultimately buying the city’s most expensive townhouse across from the Metropolitan Museum for $40 million in 2006. But Florida Customs officers who peered inside his yacht in 2007 know him better as a dealer in dead endangered wildlife.
According to the Post, Fish and Wildlife Service investigators confiscated the following items: Barstools upholstered with python and anaconda skins, seven carved elephant tusks, hides of jaguars, tigers and zebras, a fully stuffed and mounted lion, a cigarette holder made from python skin, a zebra-skin-lined children’s bed, and a cigar box wrapped in elephant hide. Speaking to reporters, US District Attorney Alex Acosta said, “Personally, I think these items are rather creepy items. And I would not want them in my house, but some people like them and are willing to buy them. The reason laws exist is because there is a market.”
The Trump Administration has been trying to break a deal with Iran lately. Under the deal, Iran doesn’t try to develop nuclear weapons. In return, America doesn’t impose some economic sanctions on Iran.
It’s hard to understand what Trump is thinking. Why would we encourage Iran to resume developing nuclear weapons, just so that we can put sanctions back on them?
Normally, the purpose of sanctions is to create economic pain that will force another country to change its policies. But Iran has already abandoned its nuclear program! Undermining American progress on the denuclearization of Iran just to reimpose sanctions seems like a case of putting the cart before the horse.
So, why the eagerness to reimpose sanctions on Iran, when they’re not actually developing nuclear weapon capacities?
One of the side effects of sanctions is that they create demand for money launderers. Sanctions separate bad people from their money. If the bad people want to get their money back, they need to turn to money launderers, who will make the money look like it’s clean and no longer covered by sanctions.
Does Donald Trump have business partners who have been accused of helping Iran circumvent sanctions? Yes. Does Donald Trump have business partners who have profited from the sale of weapons to the Iranian regime? Yes.
There are at least six clear examples that I know of:
Trump was once the New York City landlord for a state-owned Iranian bank that was accused by American officials of financing Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities orchestrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
As far as I’m aware, Trump’s connections to Iranian business interests haven’t all been reported out together in a single integrated way. A lot of these cases are frustratingly complex and difficult to explain. Unfortunately, that’s how money laundering is supposed to work. You move a pile of dirty cash around through a bunch of shell companies until people become so confused that they give up trying to figure out where it all started from. But despite its complexity, the overall record is clear. Trump has consistently profited off business with partners who were involved in circumventing sanctions on Iran.
Today I found something totally unexpected in a San Diego Courthouse. It’s also totally strange. I’d like to enlist your help explaining what I’ve found. Click here now to see the case file while your eyes are still fresh!
It appears to be a debt collection action by Fred C. Trump that somehow turned into bench warrants and a police manhunt for an elderly couple who owed Trump slightly over $1,000. The entire case is deeply unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it. Several people hanging out with me in the basement of the San Diego Hall of Justice this afternoon agreed it seems most unusual.
So let’s do a quick walk-through of the weird. First, let’s look at the amount of money at stake. Even by the standards of 1982, a debt of $1,310.10 wasn’t huge.
Next, pay close attention to the address of his attorney. For a two-bit collection action in San Diego, Trump hires an attorney with an office in Beverly Hills. That’s 100 miles north of San Diego and some of the priciest real estate in America. This doesn’t look like a cheap attorney.
OK, so next Fred Trump’s presumably high-priced attorney asks the court to schedule a hearing about issuing a “writ of execution” against Sam and Betty Tobias. But they don’t come to the hearing. So the judge issues a bench warrant for their arrest. I’ve seen a lot of collection actions in my career. I’ve never seen them pushed this far.
Now take a look at the arrest warrant itself. Police are searching for a 75-year-old retiree with a receding hairline and a 9 year old car. To arrest him (and his wife!) over a $1,300 debt owed to a landlord 3,000 miles away.
The final filings were barely legible on microfilm (and even less legible after printing and scanning). But they’re an account by the marshal of his unsuccessful efforts to apprehend our fugitives.
This case is one of the dozens of bizarre things you find when you start looking into Trump. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time or money (yet!) to chase down every lead. I’ve given several of my most promising leads to journalists and I’m working on several by myself.
Would you like to try your hand at running this one down? Can you find evidence that would help to explain Fred C. Trump’s motives for launching such a punitive cross-continental quest for such a small sum of money? If so, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org explaining your theory and the evidence that supports it. No attachments, please.