Netflix's 'Fear City' Hints at Trump's Mob Connections.
The Real Story Goes Even Deeper.
President Donald Trump is always hunting for snitches, he's quick to retaliate against perceived disloyalty, and loves to reward his associates when they refuse to turn state's witness. As his critics often point out, the president behaves a lot like a mob boss. He even received an endorsement from former Gambino family underboss Salvatore " Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who said that America "doesn't need a bookworm as president, it needs a mob boss."
Netflix's new documentary miniseries, Fear City: New York vs. the Mafia, isn't about political figures with mob-like tendencies—it's about the real-life mafia, which exercised huge power over New York in the 1970s and '80s, and the efforts by the FBI and the US attorney's office (then helmed by future Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani) to take it down. The series makes extensive use of the FBI's secret recordings from bugs planted in mob homes, cars, and hangouts, and on one tape, Trump's name comes up in relation to a construction deal.
As Fear City points out, doing business in broad swaths of New York's economy when Trump was a young man meant doing business with the mob. But Trump's main industries—development, casinos, and luxury real estate—were particularly infested with organized crime. And what makes him notable is that he sometimes appeared to do more business with the mafia than was strictly necessary. According to biographer Wayne Barrett, "he went out of his way not to avoid" contacts with the mafia, "but to increase them."
Trump had a personal connection to some of the city's most powerful mobsters through his friend, mentor, and lawyer Roy Cohn. Cohn, who's these days remembered as one of the most malignant figures in 20th century America, was an attorney for mafia leaders including "Fat Tony" Salerno, Carmine Galante, and Paul Castellano, bosses in the Genovese, Bonanno, and Gambino crime families, respectively.
When the future president's now-famous 5th Avenue Trump Tower was being built in the late '70s and early '80s, most high rises were constructed out of steel. But Trump opted to build with ready-mix concrete, at a time when Salerno and Castellano controlled the concrete industry and its associated labor union.
Ready-mix concrete dries quickly, which can leave developers vulnerable to expensive worker slowdowns, a common tactic from mob-controlled construction sites. While other developers were urging the FBI to take down the mafia, Trump bought its concrete at artificially high prices. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who's known and covered Trump for 30 years, Trump received in exchange a smoothly-operating worksite from the construction union.
According to a former Cohn employee, Trump and Salerno met face-to-face at Cohn's townhouse. Trump has denied the meeting ever occurred, but Salerno was later indicted on racketeering charges for an $8 million concrete deal made for a Trump development.
And the construction of Trump Tower is far from the only endeavor in which Trump has been accused of striking deals with organized crime.
He reportedly bought the land on which he built his Atlantic City casino for twice the amount the lot was worth from a Philadelphia mafioso who was the son of Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, who's known to music fans from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City." When Trump attempted to build a casino in Australia, that nation's authorities blocked his efforts on the grounds of his "mafia connections."
Trump hasn't denied knowing organized crime figures. During a 2013 appearance on David Letterman's late-night show, he admitted to having met mobsters "on occasion."
"They happen to be very nice people," he said. "You just don't want to owe them money."
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