National Commentary

The President As Racketeer

The FBI raid of the office, home and hotel room of Trump’s personal attorney, his go-to fixer, Michael Cohen, this Monday has elevated the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president’s potential wrongdoing to a whole new level.

Now, suddenly, it’s not about Trump’s collusion with the Russians to corrupt the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Nor is it about hush money and coercion utilized to shut up an affair with a porn star.

Now, it’s about organized criminal activity. According to the New York Times, the FBI agents who raided Cohen’s digs seized evidence of a range of possible federal crimes ranging from bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. The raid was conducted by the “Public Corruption Unit” of the federal attorney’s office in Manhattan, and deemed justifiable by a wide range of high level law enforcement and judicial brass.

There is, as the Times pointed out in its editorial yesterday entitled, “The Law is Coming, Mr. Trump,” no protection of “attorney-client privilege,” despite Trump’s protests, when attorney-client communications are in the furtherance of a crime.
The “law” was also the subject of the Washington Post’s editorial yesterday, entitled, “No One is Above the Law.” In that one, the Post counterposes Trump’s hysterical reaction (“A total witch hunt”) to the raid to what a thoughtful president, almost any of those we’ve had except for Trump, would have said.

Yes, it’s the “law” coming for the president of the United States now, and it’s beyond the point that Trump can exercise his presidential powers to shut it down. It goes without saying that there is an added incentive by the nation’s most powerful law enforcement entities to bring Trump to justice because of his enmity toward them all from day one of his presidency. Like the guilty crook he is, he’s tried to deflect any attention to or probe of his long history of activities as a corrupt hood in New York by soiling the reputations of those looking into him.

In fact, his behavior on these matters bears all the appearances of a small time thug, and that’s what will be the substance of the charges that will most assuredly come down against him. He’s an organized crime figure, and my guess is that the same legal statutes that have brought down Mafia figures, the types that Trump worked with for years, will bring him down. That is, RICO statutes, the laws against racketeering!

Yes, Mr. Trump is a common crook, even more so than Nixon was. His methods, paranoia and thuggish personality during the entirety of his presidential run, election and period in the White House reek of it.

One of his most severe critics this whole time has been the Post’s conservative columnist Michael Gerson, who has been as relentless in his harsh critique of Republican lawmakers and religious evangelical leaders for their slavish acquiescence to the ways of Trump.

Although he’s been on-going and pervasive in his indictments, in a June 2017 column Gerson unleashed a scathing, almost rhythmic assault on Trump that should win some kind of prize. Taking a deep breath, he wrote,

“Trump has been ruled by compulsions, obsessions and vindictiveness, expressed nearly daily on Twitter. He has demonstrated an egotism that borders on solipsism. His political skills as president have been close to nonexistent. His White House is divided, incompetent and chaotic…He has told constant, childish, refuted, uncorrected lies, and demanded and habituated deception among his underlings. He has humiliated and undercut his staff while requiring and rewarding flattery. He has promoted self-serving conspiracy theories. He has displayed pathetic, even frightening, ignorance on policy matters foreign and domestic. He has inflicted his ethically challenged associates on the nation. He is dead to the poetry of language and to the nobility of the political enterprise, viewing politics as conquest rather than as service.”

He went on in this vein with another paragraph of equal length that read in part, “He has invited criminal investigation through his secrecy and carelessness. He has publicly attempted to intimidate law enforcement.” Now, with the benefit of law enforcement’s methodical and thorough ways since then, we’re finding out why.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at