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Alleged threats against Stormy Daniels are a startling reminder of Trump’s mob ties

Ignored amidst all of his other scandals, Trump's mob ties are as deep as they are unprecedented.

Trump's mob ties call into question his denials about Stormy Daniels' accusations. CREDIT : GETTY / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
Trump's mob ties call into question his denials about Stormy Daniels' accusations. CREDIT : GETTY / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Who allegedly threatened Stormy Daniels and her infant daughter?

Daniels, an adult film actress who says she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, said in an interview with 60 Minutes Sunday night that an unknown man threatened her not to reveal any information about Trump.

Daniels said she was threatened in 2011, the same time she had been in discussion with In Touch Magazine about revealing details of the alleged affair. “A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'” Daniels recalled Sunday. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone.”

Daniels doesn’t know the name of the man who threatened her, but said she would be able to recognize him “right away.” And as Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said on Monday, he has “no doubt” that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen or one of Trump’s close associates were behind the threat.

The president, thus far, has refrained from directly commenting on the matter. On Monday, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Trump “doesn’t believe that any of the claims that Ms. Daniels made last night in the interview are accurate” — including the claims of a threat.

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But Trump may not be in any position to judge Daniels’ accuracy, especially given his well-documented ties to organized crime figures, and the use of similar strong-arm intimidation tactics in the past.

Indeed, no president — or presidential candidate, for that matter — had as extensive a history of ties to mobsters and mafiosi as Trump. As New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, “Trump’s Mafia connections are the sort of scandal that would have killed an ordinary candidacy but barely even register on the outsize scale of Trump scandals.”

While much of it has been buried under a growing pile of scandals and controversy, revisiting the links between Trump and the mob, both domestic and foreign, shows what kind of illicit friends he kept close.

Mobster’s paradise

One journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, spent the past three decades cataloging Trump’s seedy ties throughout his years as a developer in New York and New Jersey. In 2016, before Trump’s election, Johnston provided a tour de force introduction into Trump’s ties to the dons and lieutenants of the New York mafia.

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Trump “hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul Castellano,” Johnston wrote. And it wasn’t just business, either. Trump “also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn.”

Trump also routinely worked with individuals connected to the mob in Atlantic City. One of his associates, court records later revealed, was in turn an “associate of the Scarfo crime organization, serving as a financier of mob activities in South Jersey and Philadelphia,” the Washington Post wrote.

Nor, of course, was it only the American crime networks in close proximity to Trump. From Azerbaijan to Iran to Russia, Trump’s dealings — and his properties themselves — often played key roles in money laundering for organized crime and drug cartels.

One figure linked to the Russian mob, Felix Sater, has been a recent headache for the president, given reports on Sater’s willingness to cooperate with a probe into international money laundering networks.

All told, as Johnston found, “[n]o other candidate for the White House [in 2016 had] anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks.” Trump’s mob ties were so extensive, and so concerning, that Australia eventually barred Trump from opening a hotel casino in the country. As authorities wrote, “Atlantic City would be a dubious model for Sydney and in our judgment. The Trump Mafia connections should exclude” Trump from consideration. 

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That didn’t prevent Trump from winning the presidency, of course — and from suddenly seeing accusations that his inner circle played a role in threatening the safety of a young mother and her child recently come to the fore. If anything, Trump’s presidency has only served as another introduction to the tactics employed by Trump himself and the business from which he refuses to divest.

Look at everything that’s played out at Trump’s former property in Panama over the past two months, for instance. After the majority owner of the building attempted to terminate the Trump Organization as the property manager, Trump Organization security staff decided to scuffle with the property’s actual security staff, going so far as to allegedly grab one of the non-Trump employees by the neck to wrestle them to the ground. All of this while they blocked the majority owner from his property units.

A few weeks later, a Panamanian judge who had ruled against the Trump Organization said Trump’s lawyers paid her a visit, leaving her “intimidated and threatened.”

It’s unclear whether Trump has any plans to comment — or tweet — directly about Daniels’ allegations moving forward. But she’s not the only one over the past year who’s revealed physical threats relating to her relationship with Trump. As Buzzfeed reported this week, a lawyer representing clients who stood to lose over a billion dollars due to Trump’s business malfeasance received a threatening phone call of his own. (The lawyer just so happened to work for the same firm tasked with tracking down the assets of former Haitian dictatorsJean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier — including a Trump Tower apartment.)

“I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids,” the caller allegedly said.

The caller was never identified, but suspicions about his ties to Trump remain — as do the questions surrounding the president’s links to any number of notorious mob figures. After all, as another journalist chronicling Trump’s mob ties told Johnston, “[Trump] saw these mob guys as pathways to money — and Donald is all about money.”