After President Donald Trump melted down on Twitter Saturday, it's safe to say that virtually no one in America doesn't know that he is under FBI investigation, again.
Although it's highly doubtful that former President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower's phones tapped, the feds are reportedly looking into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian government agents, trying to determine whether they colluded to illegally influence the election.
If he is confirmed, the longtime U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Rod Rosenstein, will oversee this investigation, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself after being caught lying about his own contacts with the Russian ambassador.
1. The obstruction of justice, 1981. As Trump was trying to get into the Atlantic City casino boom, he blew the cover of a confidential FBI informant named Daniel Sullivan, a mob-connected "labor consultant" Trump had hired to liaison with construction unions. "New York was so totally corrupt and so controlled by the mob in the '80s that in order to be a successful businessman, you had to have some way to work that world," Walter Stowe, one of Sullivan's FBI handlers, told the Washington Post last year.
After the Gaming Commission investigated Trump, Trump promised to cut his ties with Sullivan. He paid his mobbed-up partners $8 million to buy them out, and backed-out of the Circle Industries investment. This was fortuitous, as the company, along with 19 other mob-connected drywall contractors, was subjected to a grand jury probe the next year alleging racketeering and tax fraud. One of those indicted was union president, Theodore Maritas, who disappeared and was presumed murdered. Trump's attorney, Roy Cohn, also represented the leaders of that long-running scam. They were members of the Genovese crime family.
This has all been reported in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the book "The Making of Donald Trump,” by David Cay Johnston.
2. The Empty Box, 1986. In the 1980s it was a common practice to avoid state sales tax: You walk into the store and buy something expensive, like jewelry. To avoid the tax, in collusion with the merchant, you direct that an empty box be shipped to an out-of-state address. Many, many merchants engaged in this shabby scam, which gave them a competitive advantage over honest retailers; many were caught. Trump was a regular at Bulgari, a jewelry store on Fifth Avenue. Like other rich, famous people (Henry Kissinger, Mary Tyler Moore, Frank Sinatra), Trump partook of the empty box discount, skipping the state sales tax on some $65,000 worth of purchases. Once pinched, in 1986, he testified against the retailer, avoiding a prosecution that would have jeopardized his New Jersey casino license.
Forbes plowed this ground again last year.
3. The briefcase full of cash, 1988. Donald Trump personally sold two units in Trump Tower to Robert Hopkins, the mob-connected head of New York's largest gambling ring. As the late Wayne Barrett of The Village Voice told the story, Hopkins, who had no verifiable legitimate income or assets, showed up at the closing with a briefcase full of $200,000, which he counted at the table. To complete the purchase, he got a loan from a New Jersey bank that did business with Trump's casino. Trump summoned a limousine to ferry the cash to that bank.
"Tony Lombardi, the federal agent closest to then-U.S. Attorney [Rudy] Giuliani, opened a probe of Trump's role" in the transaction, Barrett reported in the 1993 Village Voice story he reprised last year for the New York Daily News. The feds subsequently made a case against Hopkins' mortgage broker, Frank LaMagra, who offered to give up Trump and even wear a wire. Lombardi's response? He went straight to Trump, who denied any wrongdoing, and that was that. Lombardi "closed the Trump investigation without even giving it a case number," according to Barrett. "That meant that New Jersey gaming authorities would never know it existed."
"Lamagra got no deal and was convicted, as was his mob associate, Louis (Louie HaHa) Attanasio, who was later also nailed for seven underworld murders," Barrett wrote. "Hopkins was convicted of running his gambling operation partly out of the Trump Tower apartment, where he was arrested."
4. The consistent money laundering, 1998-2014, inclusive. In March of 2015 FINCen, the Treasury Department's The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, fined Trump Taj Mahal $10 million for money laundering violations. It was the largest ever FINCen fine against a casino.
Trump Taj Mahal has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 1998, when FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.
A FinCEN spokesman sidestepped the question of whether the agency referred this case for criminal prosecution, referring the reporter to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey. "I'm also going to sidestep it," Will Skaggs, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney says. "We don't confirm or deny the existence of any investigation."
The law indicates numerous criminal charges could have been brought. Trump's casinos were culpable in at least three of the four required "intents": concealment, structuring, and tax evasion. "Concealment" is simply hiding the source, as when a drug dealer or dirty cop takes his loot to the roulette table to convert it into "gambling winnings." "Structuring" just means not filling out the forms required of any currency transfer over $10,000. Trump's Taj Mahal engaged in these acts, and Trump very likely directed it. But the feds never touched him.
5. The Trump University fraud, 2005-2010. Trump owned 93 percent of his real-estate scam school, which operated from 2005-2010 and fleeced customers of at least $25 million. It was not at all innovative, offering the usual free introductory seminar/sales pitch for the standard three-day paid class, which cost $1,500. He had more than 6,000 suckers for this, but, being Trump, he offered a high-price version for $35,000 and got more than 1,000 of those deluded souls to pony up for it. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman came after him but, as with the FinCEN case, only a civil case was filed. Trump settled all the civil cases for a grand total of $25 million after his election.
(UPDATE: Yesterday lawyers for some of the plaintiffs in the Trump University suit asked Gonzalo Curiel, the California judge who oversaw the litigation, to reject the settlement unless former students are allowed to opt out and sue individually, the New York Times reported.)
But: no. A spokeswoman in Schneiderman's office said that when it comes to bringing criminal fraud cases, New York's Attorney General can't do it unless another agency refers the case to him. So it would have required a state police detective to take a victim's statement and build the initial case, or a state agency (like the New York State Education Department, which in fact did complain publicly about Trump's fraudulent use of the term "University" for four years), to ask the A.G. to take the reins. Apparently that did not happen.
There were many other incidents: a 1987 "stock parking" scam involving Bally's Corp, a $3.5 million casino chip purchase by Trump's father in 1991 (money laundering, again), insider trading allegations and an apparent pump-and-dump stock scam in 2006, where Trump owned a Trump-themed (of course!) magazine that burned through $7 million of investors' money in a year; ripped-off investors in condo towers in Florida and Toronto in the late 2000s and since.