President Trump now chats with the leaders of China and Singapore about executing drug dealers.
But back in the 1980s, Trump helped a multi-kilo cocaine dealer escape with a minimal sentence.
And a little over a decade ago, Trump worked with a convicted pill pusher to develop Trump Tower Philadelphia, a real estate deal that also involved Don Jr. and Ivanka.
The dealer turned developer was Raoul Goldberger, aka Raoul Goldberg. He had previously been caught with a loaded gun that had been fired. He had also done time for smuggling and distributing considerable quantities of ecstasy. He would follow the Trump Tower Philadelphia dealings by being convicted of selling opioids. He remained number 46245-054 in federal prison when Trump was elected.
The cocaine dealer was Joseph Weichselbaum. He was indicted for heading a Colombia-Miami-Middle America cocaine ring in 1985, even the helicopter service owned by him and his brother Franklin was getting more than $2 million a year from Trump to ferry high rollers to and from his casinos in Atlantic City.
The charges against Joseph Weichselbaum were brought in Cincinnati, but after he pled guilty there, the case was mysteriously transferred to New Jersey for sentencing and assigned to Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. She recused herself two weeks later, reportedly in part because she and her husband had taken rides in Weichselbaum choppers.
The case was given to fellow New Jersey federal Judge Harold Ackerman, along with the implicit message that she had some connection to the defendant. Ackerman then received a September 1986 letter from the Donald himself, regarding Weichselbaum and written with full knowledge of his big-time drug dealing.
“A credit to the community… conscientious, forthright and diligent,” Trump wrote in a missive first reported by the late, great Wayne Barrett.
More minor participants in the drug ring were hit with as much as 20 years. But the kingpin Weichselbaum got just three years. He served only 18 months and then was released to a halfway house.
At the time of his sentencing, Weichselbaum was living in Trump Plaza in Manhattan in an apartment owned by Trump. The rent was a cut-rate $7,000 a month.
“Payable by $3,000 in cash and $4,00 in monthly helicopter service,” a New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement report noted, the service including maintenance on Trump’s personal chopper, the Ivana.
During Weichselbaum’s confinement, a woman identified by authorities as his girlfriend purchased two adjoining apartments in Trump Tower, 49-A and 49-B, for $1,175,000 each, a total of $2,350,000. Weichselbaum moved in after his release and was visited there by his probation officer, who got the latest gossip on Trump and Marla Maples long before the affair became public knowledge.
Marla flies on the Ivana!
All of this was accurately reported by Barrett and corroborated by the New Jersey Davison of Gaming Enforcement, whose investigators found in Trump’s files a copy of the letter he had written to the judge on Weichselbaum’s behalf. Trump swore under oath that he could not remember writing it.
After a bank foreclosed on the two Trump tower apartments, Weichselbaum moved in with an interior designer in the Hamptons. He returned to the city on Thursday nights to eat with Joey Hunter of the Ford Modeling Agency at Rao’s, the impossible-to-get-into Italian restaurant in East Harlem.
In the meantime, Trump’s business dealings came to include at least one other convicted drug dealer. Goldberger had been arrested in 1999 for large-scale dealing in ecstasy pills that he and his co-conspirators smuggled in from Belgium. They had been caught after a hollowed-out table containing 200,000 pills was mistakenly sent to Spain instead of New York.
“I’ve been in this business for years,” Goldberger was recording telling a co-conspirator on the phone. “There is nothing you can do when the shit hits the fan.”
Goldberger was grabbed at his mother’s coop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He already had a felony gun collar on his record, but his lawyer convinced the judge that he was a fundamentally good young man who came from a well-to-do family and was attending Cardozo Law School. He got 46 months, followed by five years supervised release.
Back on the street, Goldberger managed to go to work for Multi Capital Group in 2005. He told Philadelphia magazine that he had an epiphany as he was inspecting a tract on the Northern Liberties section of that city. He decided it would be the perfect spot for Trump Tower Philadelphia.
“We picked up the phone,” Goldberger later told Philadelphia magazine. “We said, ‘Hello, Donald. Let’s meet tomorrow,’ and he said, ‘Okay,’ because he always schedules our appointments for the next day.”
Goldberger told the magazine the Don, Jr. was working on lining up a big-shot chef and Ivanka was working on a hot-shot spa. Goldberger said he spoke daily to one of the two.
The elder Trump made a video.
“Trump Tower Philadelphia is going to create a mark like likes of which Philadelphia has never seen before! It’s going to bring it into world class!”
He said the tower would have a cigar lounge and multiple “wine tasting sections.”
“We’re going to have so many things other buildings have not even thought about, especially in Philadelphia!”
The elder Trump may not have been aware of Goldberger’s past, though that seems less likely when you consider the future president’s response when asked about the drug dealer. Trump gave almost precisely the same answer as when he was asked about convicted labor racketeer John Cody. He also offered the same reply when asked about Felix Sater, who pled guilty to a Mafia connected stock scheme and then became an FBI informant. Trump had extensive dealings with both Cody and Sater, and he was unquestionably aware of their criminal pasts.
“It’s possible I met him,” Trump said of Goldberger, as he had said of Cody and of Sater. “But I don’t know him.”
The plans for Trump Tower Philadelphia would fall victim to the 2008 financial collapse, but by then Goldberg was already out of the deal. He had been arrested for violating the terms of his release by traveling to and from Belgium without informing his probation officer. Belgium being where the ecstasy pills had originated. He could have been sent back to prison for the four remaining years of supervised release, but he got only four months of home detention.
“Incredibly lenient,” a prosecutor noted.
In the meantime, Goldberg resumed drug dealing, this time also selling opioids. He pled guilty after the prosecution suggested it would ask for a sentence of between 27 and 33 months. He seems not to have duly registered a warning from Judge Colleen McMahon that she would not feel constrained by the prosecution’s recommendation.
On March 13, 2014, Goldberger appeared before McMahon for sentencing. She hit him with 60 months.
“Forty-six months weren’t enough to teach you a lesson,” the judge said. “I particularly don’t feel sorry for someone who’s graduated from law school, who knows the difference between legal and illegal conduct, who’s already done a substantial amount of time in a federal penitentiary and who hasn’t learned his lesson. I don’t feel sorry for that reason. I think I have to dream up a way to convince that person that best he shouldn’t do it a third time.”
She went on: “What I think really is important which is that you need to be taught a lesson. You need to have it hammered into your head that you can’t do this because each time it’s going to get worse. Each time, the segment of your life you’re going to have to forfeit is going to be more. I think that’s the only thing that will get to you… I think I would be deluding myself to reach any other conclusion. I think you are deluding yourself, and I think the time for delusion is past.”
She then said, “Society needs to be protected from people like you, but you need to be protected from yourself.”
McMahon was tough and righteous, but her aim was justice, not vengeance. She spoke with a moral authority no draconian state could summon, be it in China or Singapore or anywhere else. She has since become the chief judge for the Southern District of New York.
Goldberger went off to prison and was still incarcerated when his onetime business pal was elected president.
But Goldberger was released on Dec. 5, 2017, so he was at liberty when Trump was inaugurated.
Long at liberty was Trump’s other drug dealer pal, Weichselman, who is said to have moved out to California.
And the man who helped Weichselbaum get off with a light sentence now says that drug dealers should be executed.