Trump and the Mob

For starters, at the time Trump’s mentor on issues of politics and business was Roy Cohn, a lawyer whose other clients included a passel of mobsters, among them the bosses of the Genovese and Gambino crime families. Cohn, who served as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief witch hunter before going into private practice, operated out of a townhouse on East 68th Street where clients Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano were regular visitors. Besides getting advice on their legal problems, as a former secretary later recalled to Wayne Barrett in his 1992 book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” the visits by the mob titans to their lawyer’s office allowed them to talk shop without having to worry about FBI bugs. Cohn told a reporter that Trump called him “fifteen to twenty times a day, asking what’s the status of this, what’s the status of that,” according to Barrett’s book.

Another reason the FBI might not have taken Trump’s professed ignorance at face value was that Trump had already brushed up against his share of wiseguys in New York’s gritty construction business, without apparent concern. To help build his first big Manhattan project, the Grand Hyatt New York on East 42nd Street, Trump had chosen a notorious demolition company secretly owned in part, according to the FBI, by a top Philadelphia mobster who doubled as crime lord of Atlantic City. To pour concrete for the new hotel, Trump picked a firm run by a man named Biff Halloran who was convicted a few years later for his role in what prosecutors dubbed a mob-run cartel that jacked up construction prices throughout the city. For the carpentry contract, Trump settled on a Genovese family-controlled enterprise that was central to another mob price-fixing racket, as found by a subsequent federal probe.


https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/04/27/trump-and-the-mob#.bRnhTK6eX

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Why Activists Today Should Still Care About the 40-Year-Old Church Committee Report

Today, if you go on Twitter, you can find the NSA tweeting about its commitment to recycling, or the CIA joking about still not knowing the whereabouts of Tupac. Why are these once-sinister and little-known spy agencies so eager to put on a friendly face for us? The answer can be traced back to the Church Committee of 1975-76, which forever changed the way Americans looked at the intelligence agencies meant to serve them.

Last week marked 40 years since the final report of the Church Committee was released to the public. You can read its report here. Set up in January 1975 in the wake of Watergate, and shortly after investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed the CIA’s role in not only undermining foreign governments but in spying on U.S. citizens, the Committee spent 16 months trawling through classified and unclassified documents and grilling hundreds of counterintelligence officers, CIA directors, FBI higher-ups and other officials in order to shine a light on the scope of the intelligence community’s abuses over the previous decades.

The result was an unprecedented public spotlight on the shadowy world of American intelligence that forever altered the public’s perception of the United States’ various intelligence agencies. This was particularly so with the NSA, whose role and even existence was little-known among the public prior to the Committee’s revelations.

More important was what the Committee actually revealed. Its final report, released on April 26, 1976, detailed a stunningly broad scope of lawlessness and abuses by the intelligence world, which had, under successive presidents, turned its considerable powers increasingly on the American people themselves. Agencies like the CIA and FBI appeared to be acting as governments in themselves, flouting legal restraints as they ran programs that elected officials, even right up to the president, were kept in the dark about.

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Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence

Sheldon Silver, who rose from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to become one of the state’s most powerful and feared politicians as speaker of the New York Assembly, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison in a case that came to symbolize Albany’s culture of graft.

The conviction of Mr. Silver, 72, served as a capstone to a campaign against public corruption by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, which has led to more than a dozen state lawmakers’ being convicted or pleading guilty.

But none had the power, cachet or longevity that Mr. Silver, a Democrat, had enjoyed, and prosecutors sought to make an example of him. They asked that he receive a sentence greater than the terms that had been “imposed on other New York State legislators convicted of public corruption offenses.”

The longest such sentence cited by the government was 14 years, the term imposed last year in the case of another former Democratic assemblyman, William F. Boyland Jr., who was tried and convicted in federal court in Brooklyn.

A list of the longest prison terms given to convicted former state officeholders in New York in recent years.

Defendant Sentence Year
William F. Boyland Jr., Assemblyman 168 months 2015
Sheldon Silver, Assembly speaker 144 months 2016
Daniel J. Halloran III, N.Y. City Councilman 120 months 2015
Brian M. McLaughlin, State Assemblyman 120 months* 2009
Carl Kruger, State Senator 84 months 2012
Malcolm A. Smith, State Senator 84 months 2015
Efraín González Jr., State Senator 84 months 2010
Anthony S. Seminerio, State Assemblyman 72 months 2010
Miguel Martinez, N.Y. City Councilman 60 months 2009
Pedro Espada Jr., State Senator 60 months 2013
Larry B. Seabrook, N.Y. City Councilman 60 months 2013

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/04/nyregion/sheldon-silver-ex-new-york-assembly-speaker-gets-12-year-prison-sentence.html Continue reading

Inside the Assassination Complex

by Edward Snowden

I’VE BEEN WAITING 40 years for someone like you.” Those were the first words Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate kinship; we both knew what it meant to risk so much — and to be irrevocably changed — by revealing secret truths.

One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency, who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint. They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: What begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice.

But unlike Dan Ellsberg, I didn’t have to wait 40 years to witness other citizens breaking that silence with documents. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971; Chelsea Manning provided the Iraq and Afghan War logs and the Cablegate materials to WikiLeaks in 2010. I came forward in 2013. Now here we are in 2016, and another person of courage and conscience has made available the set of extraordinary documents that are published in The Assassination Complex, the new book out today by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. (The documents were originally published last October 15 in The Drone Papers.)

https://theintercept.com/2016/05/03/edward-snowden-whistleblowing-is-not-just-leaking-its-an-act-of-political-resistance/ Continue reading