Special counsel Robert Mueller has spent a year and a half digging into every seedy corner of Donald Trump's past and present in an attempt to prove that Russia colluded with his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Yet there’s at least one unsavory character that Mueller’s office appears to have missed in the New York muck that Trump emerged from before he came to Washington, judging from The Daily Beast’s conversation this week with Kristin Davis.
The one-time “Manhattan Madam,” who claims to have supplied then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer with prostitutes a decade ago, will appear before Mueller’s grand jury in Washington on Friday, reportedly to detail her friendship over the last decade with longtime Donald Trump adviser and Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone.
The Daily Beast reached out to Davis this week to ask about Raoul Goldberger, who was already a convicted felon when he partnered with Trump on a Philadelphia real estate project around 2005.
Goldberger and Davis were both arrested, and later sent to prison, in the same 2013 FBI operation targeting New York prescription pill rings.
“This Goldberger, whoever this guy is, I’ve never heard his name before in my life,” said the former Manhattan Madam who claims to have provided prostitutes to Eliot Spitzer and who declined to speak on the record about her reported interview with Mueller’s team last month or her coming grand jury testimony. “I don’t want to be linked to anyone I’ve never met or heard of.”
Goldberger couldn’t be reached for comment, but his and Davis’ names are linked in the 2013 FBI release announcing her arrest, just above the mention of his arrest.
And Davis and Goldberger’s names are linked again in then-Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s 2014 release announcing her conviction and sentence, just above the mention of Goldberger’s guilty plea and sentence.
If this is the coincidence that it appears to be, it's one that shows how the criminal acts around Trump often look more like a swamp than a scheme.
However wildly unlikely it may seem that two people in The Donald's orbit would end up separately arrested and imprisoned in the same federal probe of small-time drug crimes, it seemed at least as wildly unlikely then that Trump would be our president now.
Davis was busted by the feds on Aug. 5, 2013, for selling pills including Ambien, Xanax, speed, and Soma—a muscle relaxant “often used in conjunction with painkillers and so-called ‘date rape drugs’”—to a known drug dealer, according to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.
Davis had previously done time after pleading guilty in 2008 to one count of promoting prostitution, reportedly paying $500,000 in restitution and spending four months in Rikers for what police had called a multimillion-dollar “sex for sale” business. While law enforcement officials have never connected her operation with Spitzer, as she had and continued to do, she found a kindred spirit in Stone, who claimed he’d brought down the “Sheriff of Wall Street” by tipping the feds off about his hooker habit after hearing about it while in a Miami swingers club.
Almost immediately Davis left Rikers, Stone helped her run a stunt campaign for governor on a pro-prostitution and pro-pot platform. Her campaign committee had the acronym FOKD, ran, and Stone tried to recruit Tucker Carlson as her running mate.
But even as she ran for office, the one-time Manhattan madam was already involved in the rather low-rent pill-peddling operation, as detailed in court filings.
A dealer who turned cooperating witness for the feds after being collared in December 2012 told authorities that Davis had started buying prescription pills in 2009, claiming she “provided them to others at house parties,” according to the criminal complaint.
Some two years later, Davis started trading the cooperating witness Adderall in exchange for ecstasy, and later outright sold the same cooperator drugs, prosecutors said.
From January to March 2013, Davis sold “hundreds” of pills to the cooperator. In April of that year, Davis “arranged” for another dealer to unload 180 oxy pills on this cooperating witness, prosecutors said.
In April 2013, the Libertarian Party nominated Kristin Davis, again guided by Roger Stone, as its candidate for New York City comptroller, the second most powerful elected office in the city and one that Spitzer had reportedly been eyeing.
In June, Spitzer indeed entered the race.
In August, Davis was arrested, leading to headlines like “Spitzer’s Self-Proclaimed Madam and Fellow Comptroller Candidate Busted for Selling Pills.”
In September, Spitzer lost the Democratic primary to Scott Stringer, who now holds the office.
On March 7, 2014, Davis copped to one count of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances—alprazolam, zolpidem, and carisoprodol—court records indicate.
In Davis’ bid for a lenient sentence, she blamed her narcotics rap on the time she’d spent at Rikers after Spitzer’s fall—federal authorities in fact tied Spitzer to a different prostitution operation and have never connected Davis with him, though the chronology of her case does line up with his—as well as a hamfisted desire to help others.
“I have thought long and hard about why I did what I did,” Davis wrote in a Sept. 8, 2014, letter to Judge Edgardo Ramos, who would ultimately sentence her to two years in federal lockup. “I did not do this to make money off these sales as my friend only gave me enough money to reimburse the cost of filling the prescription…
“I initially met this friend after I spent close to 4 months in solitary confinement in Rikers Island after my first arrest in 2008. I was suffering from [redacted] from the prolonged solitary,” she told Ramos. “I purchased Xanax and various sleeping pills from my friend and I was able to regain some small bit of my [redacted].
“I was under the misguided notion that purchasing these pills was ok because [redacted] and I was so [redacted] and to feel normal that I justified my actions as being right because they helped me.
“I believed that when I sold my friend [redacted] (or purchased from him) that true medical needs justified these actions. That these pills were legal, just difficult to obtain, and could help people as they did [redacted] at one time,” Davis wrote.
In keeping with this “misguided” sense of altruism, Davis also wrote that she initially thought her escort agency was a “positive thing,” since the money “helped the girls who worked for me” escape “desperate situations.” She added that “my views changed after my arrest… No woman wants to be a prostitute and those who say they are ok with it are just trying to cope.”
(In October 2014, just before beginning her two-year sentence, Davis expanded on some of the themes in her sentencing letter in a first-person XOJane essay that also recounts how during her 2008 stay at Rikers she befriended Terror Squad rapper Remy Ma after the self-proclaimed Queen of New York’s conviction for shooting a former friend.)
More of Davis’ story appears to come out in the court documents related to Erik Pichardo, the convicted oxy supplier the feds say she introduced to the cooperator.
While Pichardo is referred to as “Individual 1” in Davis’ complaint, in Pichardo’s complaint, “Individual 1” refers to the person who tried to hook him up with an oxy supplier. While Davis’ name isn’t used in this charging document against Pichardo, the details about its “Individual 1” jibe with what was said publicly about him in the context of her arrest.
And Pichardo’s then-lawyer, Edward Sapone, appears to have invoked Davis’ ignominy in his argument for bail.
During a Sept. 6, 2013, hearing, Sapone said: “Individual 1 had been running for public office here in Manhattan, and to fund her campaign she was engaged as a madam and providing prostitutes to wealthy men. So she was earning money in that capacity to fund her campaign, her local Campaign.”
“In addition to supplement that income—this is all before Individual 1 ever allegedly even met Mr. Pichardo—she was also supplying drugs to her prostitutes’ 10 customers, to the johns, and that was to enhance the sexual experiences,” Sapone claimed.
Kristy Greenberg, one of the assistant U.S. attorneys handling Pichardo’s case, quickly corrected the record, saying “that’s not accurate, that does not accurately describe the charges against the defendant, Individual 1… with regard to heroin, with regard to anything. There’s no [mention] of patrons or prostitution.”
Sapone—who repeatedly brought up Pichardo’s “serious speech impediment” at the bail hearing—also tried to downplay allegedly threatening texts Pichardo sent to Individual 1 when their arrests loomed, such as “You playing f----n’ games? Trust, if you f----d me, this ain’t over.”
“With regard to these alleged threats to Individual number 1, Your Honor, again, it’s apparent from the text messages that there is a romantic relationship there,” Sapone argued. “Nothing was done to her.”
Davis told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that she and Pichardo were merely “acquaintances.”
Pichardo, who would wind up pleading guilty, got a 72-month sentence.
Davis served 18 months behind bars, including stays at medium security prisons in Victorville and Dublin, California. She was released in May 2016, when Trump had already taken a commanding lead in the Republican presidential primary Stone had encouraged him to enter and advised him through.
Meantime, the same group of g-men who’d brought down Stone’s partner Davis were closing in on Trump’s old partner Raoul Goldberger.
The Belgium-born businessman—whose entrepreneurship would repeatedly veer into illicit activities—pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon following an arrest in 1993 “for possessing a loaded firearm, from which several rounds had been discharged,”according to court documents.
In April 1999, Goldberger was charged in Manhattan Federal Court with involvement in a conspiracy to distribute “at least 35,000 ecstasy pills,” prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in February 2000.
Two years later, Goldberger got out of prison and was allowed to return to Belgium for work. He then hooked up with an investment firm, Multi-Capital Group, where we worked to get Trump involved in branding the ill-fated Trump Tower Philadelphia on land owned by the company, according to a May 2006 Philadelphia magazine feature by Maureen Tkacik.
“We picked up the phone,” Goldberger told the magazine, “We said, ‘Hello, Donald. Let’s meet tomorrow,’ and he said, ‘Okay,’ because he always schedules our appointments for the next day.” Goldberger added that he was in daily communication with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump about the deal.
In his own interview, Trump Sr. shrugged that, “It’s possible I met him, because I’ve met a lot of the deal’s great partners… But I don’t know him.” Trump Sr. added that it was his longtime pal Morton “Mortie” Davis, a controversial Wall Street banker, who had recommended Goldberger to him.
Less than a year after the article appeared, in March 2007, Goldberger was arrested for violating his supervised release by neglecting to tell his probation officer about his return to the U.S. and job change.
His lawyer, Jacob Laufer, seemed to lay some blame for Goldberger’s probation woes on the article, which revealed to authorities that Goldberger was back in the U.S. and had switched jobs, and perhaps revealed his criminal past to Trump.
“Yeah, he did try to make a break with his past, he did lie to the reporter, Your Honor. If I might suggest, if I might suggest that that was not to avoid probation, that was to avoid his past, which was where the reporter was seeking in the sense of looking for background against him,” Laufer said. “He was living [with] his mother. He was interacting with lawyers, with architects, with the media in a project involving Donald Trump, a media highlight.”
Judge Sidney Stein, who’d also handled Goldberger’s first federal drug case, wound up giving him another break, with time served for the violation and four years of supervised release. Goldberger had to spend four months of this release in home confinement.
Less than a month after another drug arrest on July 29, 2013—this being the case that placed his name just below Davis’ in FBI and SDNY releases about the pill-ring busts—Goldberger pleaded guilty to one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute amphetamine and oxycodone.
When Goldberger was sentenced on March 13, 2014, Laufer made the argument that his client’s Gaucher disease—an enzyme disorder that can result in extreme pain—helped lead to his addiction.
“It is sad that Mr. Goldberger has a certain medical condition, but it’s hardly devastating given his international travel and ownership of motorcycles, but that too doesn’t excuse what he did and keeps doing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal told sentencing Judge Colleen McMahon.
She wound up sentencing him to five years.
Goldberger got out in December.