Who is Roy Cohn?
Roy Cohn was a dishonest and disbarred attorney from New York with both a colorful and a dark past. He first came to fame as a prosecutor for Cold War-era spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, but he is best known as the chief counsel for anti-communism conspiracy theorist and disgraced Senator Joseph McCarthy during the infamous“McCarthyism” era.
In addition to advising clients like George Steinbrenner, Aristotle Onassis, Alan Dershowitz, and the Archdiocese of NY, Roy Cohn seemed to revel as the “fixer attorney to the Mob”, having worked for:
Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, Carmine Galante Bonanno Family boss, John Gotti Gambino Family boss… and Donald J. Trump
Cohn was described by many as a ruthless New York City “power broker”.
How Donald Trump and Roy Cohn’s Ruthless Symbiosis Changed America
Vanity Fair, Jun 2017
“You knew when you were in Cohn’s presence you were in the presence of pure evil,” said lawyer Victor A. Kovner, who had known him for years.
Cohn was known for his manipulative, underhanded, and illegal approach to business and the law. He has been accused of felonies but was never convicted. The IRS had several liens against Cohn for tax fraud, but nothing criminal. Cohn is known to have said that he wanted to die broke, owing the IRS a lot of money. He succeeded in the latter. Cohn became very good at staying out of jail and taught his Mob clients and Trump those same skills.
Who is Donald J. Trump?
Of course, everyone knows DJ Trump was born to a wealthy NYC real estate developer Fred Christ Trump. What many don’t know is that Trump’s father had a suspicious past regarding White Supremacy and bigotry. In 1927, he was hauled into the police station because he refused to disburse during a KKK riot. He was released by the police without charges. Later in life, Fred Trump refused to rent to “Coloreds” which we’ll revisit under The Cohn/Trump Connection heading below.
Trump’s criminality started at an early age.
Trump was a troubled child with severe behavioral problems. In the book Art of the Deal that Tony Schwarts wrote for him, Trump had Tony boast about his behavioral problems, “... even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way...”
“I actually gave a teacher a black eye. I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and almost got expelled.”
— The Art of the Deal, Dec 2009, page 71
Most know that Trump went to military school when he was 13. Trump occasionally boasts about his training:
Trump: 'I always felt that I was in the military'
Politico, Sep 2015
“I felt that I was in the military in a true sense... I got more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”
What many people don’t know is that Trump wasn’t sent away to get an elite boarding school experience. Fred Trump sent Donald to military school to keep him out of Juvie Hall. Fred found Trump’s collection of illegal switchblades and that was the tipping point. Possession of switchblades is and was a Class A Misdemeanor.
Trump’s scofflaw behavior, with much of it molded by organized crime, continued throughout his entire life as we’ll examine later. It is well documented that during the 1970s and 1980s, organized crime dominated the real estate development industry in New York City. You couldn’t get a shovel lifted without greasing someone’s palm, usually several palms: the Boss who controlled concrete, the Boss who controlled labor, to the Boss who expedited permits and inspections, etc. Or you could go through an intermediary that would handle all of them for you. Trump didn’t use intermediaries. He worked elbow-to-elbow with Mobsters as a peer and he learned a lot.
The Cohn/Trump Connection
Trump met Roy Cohn at “Le Club, a members-only nightspot in Manhattan’s East 50s, where models and fashionistas and Eurotrash went to be seen”. Trump introduced himself and started describing a legal issue he was having:
In his first job out of college, Trump was President of his father’s real estate company which leased apartments and offices. The Federal Government sued Fred C. Trump, Donald Trump, and Trump Management Inc. for civil rights violations, specifically the Fair Housing act. They were doing all kinds of despicable things to keep from renting to African Americans. Most notably, they put “C” for “Colored” on their rental applications to make sure managers wouldn’t approve them. With much more evidence than that in the pocket, the Feds went after them.
Cohn represented Trump and Trump lost, but he and Cohn established a life-long bond over that case. Cohn became Trump’s mentor, and handled his legal affairs for years after, including working with Mobsters to get Trump’s casino business established in Atlantic City.
As a power broker, Cohn introduced Trump to his friends in organized crime and associates not affiliated with organized crime with whom Trump established life long relationships. Self-proclaimed “political trickster” Roger Stone and propagandist Rupert Murdoch are two of Cohn’s friends who would also play a significant role in Trump’s business and political aspirations over the years.
Two months before he died of AIDS in 1986, “the New York State Supreme Court ‑ the court his father had served on ‑ disbarred Roy for dishonesty, fraud, and deceit in cases dating back as far as twenty years”. Donald Trump testified on [Cohn’s] behalf at the disciplinary hearing.
Trump’s bond with Cohn was so strong that after Cohn’s death, Trump was known to lament “Where’s my Roy Cohn”, as no other attorneys could live up to Cohn’s dishonesty, deception, and ruthlessness. He lamented the same, expressing frustration with Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.
What Trump Learned From Cohen and His Cronies
Roger Stone believes he has a good idea of how Cohn operates. When you read it, you can see that Trump follows Cohn’s playbook perfectly.
Roy was a master of situational immorality . . . . He worked with a three-dimensional strategy, which was:
- Never settle, never surrender.
- Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately.
- No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.”...
“Pro-Americanism,” Stone said, “is a common thread for McCarthy, Goldwater, Nixon, [and] Reagan. The heir to that tradition is Donald Trump. When you combine that with the bare-knuckled tactics of Roy Cohn—or a Roger Stone—that is how you win elections. So Roy has an impact on Donald’s understanding of how to deal with the media—  attack, attack, attack, never defend.”
Let’s examine how Trump employs these strategies:
1. Never settle, never surrender.
This is a strategy that Trump consistently employs and has vocalized many times, “I never settle...”. However, it has not always been successful. Whether direct suits or countersuits, there is one key factor in winning against Trump: you have to have the resources and time to see it to the end. That’s why whether it is a direct lawsuit or a countersuit, Trump has used the courts to cheat the little guy. Trump knows they don’t have the resources to weather the storm, and he can get away with reneging on contracts, shortchanging the vendors, or refusing payments completely. That is Trump’s most frequently used tactic.
A 2016 USA Today article states that Trump has been involved in 3,500 lawsuits as either a plaintiff or defendant. Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, says it’s the “cost of doing business...I think we have far less litigation of companies of our size,". Nothing could be further from the truth.
However, even by those measures, the number of cases in which Trump is involved is extraordinary. For comparison, USA TODAY analyzed the legal involvement for five top real-estate business executives: Edward DeBartolo, shopping-center developer and former San Francisco 49ers owner; Donald Bren, Irvine Company chairman and owner; Stephen Ross, Time Warner Center developer; Sam Zell, Chicago real-estate magnate; and Larry Silverstein, a New York developer famous for his involvement in the World Trade Center properties.
To maintain an apples-to-apples comparison, only actions that used the developers' names were included. The analysis found Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others — combined.
Organizations with the resources and time usually win lawsuits against Trump and his organizations — case in point the Trump University lawsuit. Through a class action, the plaintiffs had the resources to win a whopping $25 million settlement and to close down the organization.
2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately.
In the aforementioned Civil Rights case, Trump/Cohn countersued for $200 million. They failed miserably of course. Mostly Trump is only effective when he counter-sues the little guy. If Trump shorts them on payment, they’ll sue him. Then Trump will countersue for performance, and he’ll string them out in court.
3. Claim victory, never admit defeat.
Are we tired of winning yet? Winning against coronavirus? Winning against the failing economy? Winning the trade war? Perfect call. Does anymore need be said?
[4.] Attack, attack, attack, never defend.
Trump’s bottomless well of slanderous personal tweets is one example of Trump’s attacks. Fake news, Deep State, and other disruptions of American institutions represent other examples.
Trump also attacks by using frivolous lawsuits strategically. Every attorney knows that satire and comedy are not legal grounds for slander or libel. That’s been settled law for decades and has gone mostly unchallenged. The most notable case was Jerry Falwell (may he rest in agony) vs. Hustler Magazine. It didn’t stop Trump from suing Bill Maher for $5M because, in one of his comedy bits, Maher said Trump’s mother was an orangutan. Trump dropped the case of course because Maher has the means to fight him.
We’re now seeing another frivolous lawsuit in play — a CNN opinion piece that extrapolated Trump’s words from two years ago, saying he would take opposition research information from foreign governments.
“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” said Trump when asked whether he’d accept opposition research from foreign governments.
That lawsuit will fail miserably.
Mob Boss Tactic: Strategic Ambiguity and Plausible Deniability
One of the most effective strategies used by Mob Bosses is "strategic ambiguity” which facilitates “plausible deniability”. What is strategic ambiguity? A Mob Boss doesn’t say “break his legs”, a Mob Boss says “give him an offer he can’t refuse”. A Mob Boss doesn’t say “I support White Supremacists”, a Mob Boss says “there are very fine people on both sides”. “Very fine people on both sides” gave Trump wiggle room to apply plausible deniability two full days later when he could weigh the response.
“He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in a code. And I understand the code, because I’ve been around him for a decade,”
— Michael Cohen, testimony before Congress.
Trump’s Criminal Activity That Should Have Landed Him In Jail
Through all of the strategies mentioned, Trump has gotten away with criminal activity that would easily have landed others in jail. He has stayed out of jail mostly through legal delays and court appeal tactics that end up resulting in fines, instead of jail sentences, because the costs of prosecution would have been so high.
Trump Foundation — The foundation alone was rife with dozens of instances of “illegality”.
“Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests…
None of the Foundation's expenditures or activities were approved by its Board of Directors. The investigation found that the Board existed in name only: it did not meet after 1999; it did not set policy or criteria for choosing grant recipients, and it did not approve of any grants. Mr. Trump alone made all the decisions related to the foundation.”
— Former NY Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, summarized from the court petition against the Trump Foundation.
Trump University — In California, it is criminal to target veterans or the elderly.
… financial elder abuse in violation of Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15600 et seq.;
— from the court petition
I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.
— Sworn statement from Ronald Schnackenberg, former Trump University Sales Manager
The earnings announcement was so distorted that the Securities and Exchange Commission called it “materially misleading” because it “created the false and misleading impression” that the company was performing better when in fact it was not. The SEC said that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts violated federal anti-fraud laws by “knowingly or recklessly” issuing the information.
— Crain Investment Company
FinCEN Fines Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort $10 Million for Significant and Long Standing Anti-Money Laundering Violations
Trump Castle Admits Gaming Law Violation
“In December, Fred Trump, through his lawyer, bought 700 gray gambling chips without intending to gamble. The purchase of the 5,000 chips gave the casino enough cash for an $18.4-million interest payment… will pay $30,000 to the state.
There Is Light At the End of the Tunnel!
If Biden wins in November, then Trump leaves office in January. When Trump leaves office, he will no longer have Executive Privilege or his contrived, fake “Blanket Immunity”. We may not see the evidence, but you can bet your buttocks the investigators on the dozen or so active investigations will see Trump’s tax returns, business records, and banking records, domestically and internationally. The investigations will pick up with vigor. I can’t wait.