We should have known this was coming. As soon as Michael Cohen told us that the Trump organization worked like the Mafia, we should have known. Like dozens of previous prosecutors when jousting with mafia dons, Mueller couldn’t pin a crime on the Trump mafia.
Let’s fess up. I was wrong about Trump and his guys. You probably were, too. We thought the Trump group was a bunch of bozos who bumbled their way into the presidency. We thought they would be easy marks for a criminal investigation.
On the Edge of Legality
Instead, we now know that the Trump organization, like mafia clans, is a tight ship, with loyalty and secrecy an everyday aspect of activities. For most of his life, Trump has operated on the edge of legality, cutting corners in every way possible. The Trump mafia was built to cover up his manipulation of laws, lawyers, and other people. The goal, as with most underworld organizations, is to squeeze money and power out of every transaction.
We didn’t really understand this side of Trump. We were fooled by the clownish way in which he runs his administration. And there were the weird twitter rants at all hours of the day and night. When it comes to governing a huge country, the Trump mafia works poorly (even if the Republican Party is eager to help out.)
However, when it came to working with the Russians, the Trump mafia knew how to play their cards tight to the vest. The Russians feared that Hillary Clinton’s aggressive foreign policy inclinations would mean trouble for them in the Crimea and Ukraine. To stop that, they were busy trying to sabotage her campaign. How Putin and his mafia gang must have rejoiced when a fellow gangster, already well known to the Russians, became the Republican candidate.
Clues to the Truth
We have brief moments of clarity, where we see connections between members of the Trump mafia and the Russian disruption campaign in 2016:
- The meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and a Russian spy in June;
- Trump pulling all mention of the Crimea and Ukraine out of the Republican platform;
- Campaign Manager Manafort giving polling data to the Russians in August;
- Trump secretly negotiating a giant skyscraper deal in Moscow right up until his election victory;
- Trump siding with Putin vs. U.S. intelligence about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
While a pattern is obvious, Mueller could not build a legal case tying the incidents together – remember mobster Al Capone was finally jailed in the 1930s for tax evasion!
It was not all in vain. The Mueller investigation energized the media and consumed a great deal of Trump’s energy before the 2018 elections brought in a Democratic House. While his presidency is a disaster, he has not been as successful as we initially feared and the growing resistance to his rule was fueled partly by the knowledge of his selling out to Putin.
Fortunately, there are other legal investigations pending as well. Our task now is to ensure he doesn’t have the resources of the presidency to shield him when the indictments come down in 2021.