Mobster in chief

Earlier this week, I linked to Brian Beutler’s take on the Trump spinning off of Adam Davidson’s “end stage” of the Trump presidency post.  Beutler’s main point, though, was about the “gangersterization” of the Trump presidency.  To wit:

A handful of reporters working on the periphery of the campaign beat in 2015 and 2016 resurfaced Trump’s business ties to known mafiosi, and anyone curious enough to learn knows Trump has been in league with crooks, oligarchs, and money launderers for years. Comey’s epiphany will come as no surprise even to Trump’s staunchest defenders, including Steve Bannon, who rightly sees the special counsel’s investigation as a “Gambino-style roll-up.”

But Comey’s epiphany is timely nevertheless. Trump’s political method mixes mass tribalism with the kind of mob-like conscription of notionally ethical elite individualsthat Comey describes in his book. He used this method to co-opt and compromise Republicans in Congress during the election, and has used it as president to avoid congressional oversight and to discredit law enforcement officers investigating him. Those who resist his recruitment efforts, like Comey and a handful of elected GOP officials, get fired, or attacked, or driven out of political life. And with the rule of law closing in on him from multiple directions now, he will use the same method in an attempt to save his presidency, even if it means permanently corrupting the political system of the United States.

But, damn, what really makes this gangster analogy so apt is Trump’s own defendersChait is on the case (and he makes a damn compelling one):

One of the ways in which the scandals around President Trump have come to resemble a mob movie, other than the nature of the crimes themselves, is that nobody involved is putting up much of a pretense that Trump is innocent. Asked today by Katy Tur if “there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,” Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.”

You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong? [emphases mine]

Not all of Trump’s supporters feel so confident that Cohen will respect the omertà. In a conversation with Trump last Friday, Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s lawyers, warned the president, “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, according to TheWall Street Journal. But why would Trump have anything to worry about, unless … Trump committed a crime that Cohen knows about?

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen’s loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate…

Politico has more reporting on Trump allies expressing concern that Cohen will flip on Trump. All of the sources implicitly assume both Cohen and Trump are guilty of serious crimes. (Because otherwise, Cohen couldn’t give prosecutors any information damaging to Trump.)

Again, these are Trump’s lawyers and defenders talking like this.  This is how you talk about a mob boss where everybody knows he’s guilty, the question is just whether any of his associates will be willing to say so.

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