The Klansmen and Mobsters in Donald Trump’s Closet

Trump’s campaign is haunted by his reported dealings with a Mafia boss, a drug smuggler, and a Russian gangster, as well as his dad’s alleged Klan arrest.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Ghosts of the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia swirled up from Donald Trump’s past as he blustered on toward a future few could have foreseen.

The Klan ghosts were roused by Trump himself when he failed to reject immediately an endorsement by former KKK grand dragon David Duke.

“I’d have to look at the group,” he told CNN on Sunday.

He afterward tweeted, “I DISAVOW,” including a video clip from Friday in which he had indeed disavowed Duke, if not exactly the Klan.

But that only deepened the mystery of why he had hesitated to disavow Duke and the Klan on Sunday. It is especially puzzling given reports that somebody with Trump’s father’s name, listed as living at the father’s address, had been arrested at a KKK protest turned “near riot” in Jamaica, Queens, on Memorial Day in 1927.

The police had moved in after the Klansmen broke a promise not to march in their robes and hoods. The Klansmen later papered the neighborhood with handbills declaring, “Americans Assaulted by Roman Catholic Police of New York City.”

“Native-born Protestant Americans clubbed and beaten when they exercise their rights in the country of their birth,” the handbills said. “Liberty and democracy have been trampled upon when Native-born Protestant Americans dare to organize to protect one flag, the American flag… one language, the English language.”

As reported by The New York Times, Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road, Jamaica, Queens, was arrested. He subsequently appeared in a Jamaica court and was freed without bail by Judge Thomas Doyle, who was almost certainly Catholic.

The arrest and address are confirmed by the precinct logbook, though Fred Trump’s age is given as 25 when he was 22 at the time. Donald Trump has flatly denied that the incident ever occurred.

“He was never arrested,” Donald Trump told the Daily Mail. “He has nothing to do with this. This never happened. This is nonsense and it never happened. This never happened. Never took place. He was never arrested, never convicted, never even charged. It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”

If it was in fact all a mistake, you would think that Donald Trump would have been repulsed by any association with the KKK, even if the rhetoric in that long ago handbill did contain some of the same sentiments he has voiced to such effect during the present presidential campaign.

Fred Trump certainly had no problem dealing with Catholics as well as Jews of the Brooklyn Democratic machine as he made his fortune with the help of tax abatements and subsidies. The machine was inextricably linked to the Mafia, which also essentially controlled the construction industry.

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In fairness, all major New York builders had to deal with mob-linked firms and unions well past the time Donald Trump built his signature tower. The same was true in Atlantic City when he built his casinos. Trump’s dealings there went beyond Mafiosi to include at least one member of a triad. A U.S. Senate report suggests he had no trouble working with the Chinese when it came to this alleged organized crime member (PDF).

On Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz sought to rouse the mob ghosts of Donald Trump’s earlier days, saying on NBC that “ABC, CNN, multiple news reports have reported about his dealings with, for example, S&A Construction, which was owned by ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, who is a mobster who is in jail.”

Trump did deal with S&A Construction in the early 1980s, though not necessarily out of choice.

S&A was indeed owned by Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno of the Genovese crime family, but he was sentenced to 100 years in prison back in 1986 and died behind bars in 1992.

So an apologist might just shrug and say it was what everybody had to do back in the day in order to build anything at all.

A Trump supporter might even suggest that he and indeed all his fellow builders were victims of the mob in that era.

But few of the builders who accepted S&A concrete as an offer they could not refuse actually met with Salerno, as Trump is said to have done in the office of Roy Cohn the lawyer and fixer, who represented The Donald as well as the Don.

The Smoking Gun also reported that the now-extensive licensing of Trump name began with two lines of glamorized Cadillac limos — the Trump Golden Series and the Trump Executive Series — produced by Dillinger Coach Works, which was itself apparently named after the famous gangland figure John Dillinger. The company was owned by two convicted felons, one of whom, John Staluppi, has been identified by the FBI as a member of the Columbo crime family.

And only Trump helped a lady friend of a mob-connected union boss secure financing for three duplex apartments priced at nearly $10 million directly beneath the Trump penthouse in the signature Trump Tower. Verina Hixon’s complex included the building’s only private swimming pool, an addition that required structural alterations to the building.

As reported by Wayne Barrett in his book Trump: The Deals and the Downfall and confirmed by law enforcement officials as well as by people who worked on Trump Tower, the beautiful Hixon was a close pal of union boss John Cody, an avowed admirer of Jimmy Hoffa and also close to Cohn.

The value of Cody’s goodwill became clear when his union, Teamsters Local 282, called a citywide strike just as Trump Tower was near completion. The Trump site was exempted.

The danger of Cody’s displeasure became equally clear when Trump grew so weary of Hixon’s demands that he finally said no. Concrete deliveries ceased not just at Trump Tower but at sites across the city. Hixon soon got what she wanted.

Then Cody was sentenced to federal prison in 1984 for extortion and for attempting to murder the man who took over the union following his arrest. The extent of Cody’s fall became clear when Hixon was forced out of the tower. Trump no longer had her beneath his 68th-floor aerie, which is in truth on the 58th floor, the numbers in the tower’s elevators going from 1 to 6 and then 16 to 68 to make it all seem huger.

As he expanded into the casino business in Atlantic City, Trump agreed to pay twice the market value for land occupied by a bar owned by the sons of two Philadelphia Mafia bosses, the boys having made a name for themselves as part of a crew called the Young Executioners. The purchase, also reported by Barrett in his book, was reportedly routed through the secretary of Paddy McGahn, a thrice-wounded Marine war hero who had become as influential in his city as Roy Cohn was in New York.

In bringing high rollers to Atlantic City, Trump used a helicopter service owned by Joseph Weichselbaum, a mob-connected drug smuggler who lived in a Trump apartment while awaiting sentencing on narcotics charges in 1987. The case was prosecuted in Ohio but was moved to New Jersey for reasons that remain unclear.

As reported by The Smoking Gun, the case was then assigned to The Donald’s sister, federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. Some serious ghosts would soon be rising from that supposed coincidence had somebody not thought to quickly shift the case to another judge. Barry’s now-deceased husband, John Barry, often served as The Donald’s lawyer in New Jersey.

Trump’s dealings with mob figures appear to have included at least one member of Chinese organized crime. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Government Affairs reported in 1992 that Danny Leung was both a vice president for marketing at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino and an associate of the 14K Triad.

“He was formerly a business partner with Eddie Louie, a 14K Triad member and the brother of Nickie Louie, aka Louie Yin Poy, a former leader of the Ghost Shadows Gang,” the committee reported. “Leung has also given complimentary tickets for hotel rooms and Asian shows to numerous members and associates of Asian organized crime.”

The committee notes, “The 14K Triad comprises over 30 subgroups which include an estimated membership of over 20,000… The 14K engages in a variety of criminal activities including heroin trafficking, alien smuggling and counterfeit credit card manufacturing, and has connections in the United States for all of these purposes.”

More recently, Trump was joined in building the Trump SoHo by the son of a convicted extortionist described in court papers as a Russian gangster. Court records also show that the son has himself been convicted of felony assault and of bilking investors out of millions in a stock scheme.

Trump has insisted that he only had minimal dealings with the felon, Felix Sater, and was unaware of the man’s record until it was reported in the newspapers. Trump has also insisted that he had minimal dealings with John Cody, telling The Daily Beast that “I barely knew him,” describing the union boss as “a bad guy.” Trump has further denied ever encountering Salerno, though the encounter has been described by a Cohn assistant and there is no disputing that Trump did business with the mobster’s firm.

Just the name of the long-dead mobster was enough for Cruz to rouse the ghost of the Mafia from Trump’s past. Trump himself roused the ghost of the KKK, by chance on the very day that three people were stabbed at a Klan rally that turned into a near riot, too reminiscent of that long-ago one where a man with the same name and address as Trump’s dad was arrested.

Not that the smilingly spooky Donald Trump seems even slightly scared by any of the ghosts of his past as he continues to scare so many of us on the way to Super Tuesday.