I’m glad Donald Trump reminded everyone he is “like, a smart guy.” Because for a person who has never held elected office, he doesn’t seem to be boning up much for a job that is like, hard.
Instead, since winning the election, Trump has been seeking input from a cast of characters who would seem to know little about global affairs. Trump has met with rapper Kanye West, romance novel cover model/actor Fabio, and actor Sylvester Stallone, to name a few. The Stallone meeting went so well Trump reportedly offered him a top post at the National Endowment for the Arts.
To be sure, Trump is also busy assembling his administration. (That’s a separate cast of characters.) But the meetings with B-list stars resemble a casting call for the next “Celebrity Apprentice.” Then again, Omarosa made the leap from “The Apprentice” to the White House.
Trump has also spent time with shady characters, including boxing promoter Don King, who was convicted (and later pardoned) of manslaughter; boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has a history of domestic violence; and former pro football star Ray Lewis, who was charged in a double murder following a fight at a Super Bowl party in 2000. The charges were later dropped and Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
It would seem Trump’s time could be better spent preparing for the global challenges that await. Then again Trump has long associated with disreputable characters.
Consider one of the attendees at Trump’s $525-a-ticket New Year’s Eve party in the Grand Ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida: Joey “No Socks” Cinque, a felon with ties to the Gambino crime family.
Cinque, who was convicted of possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork in 1989, was shot three times in what authorities described as a mob hit, according to a profile in New York Magazine.
Cinque is chairman of the American Association of Hospitality Sciences, a company best known for giving out hospitality awards. More than a dozen of Trump’s golf courses, hotels, casinos. and private clubs have been awarded the association’s International Star Diamond Award, according to the Associated Press.
In fact, the association listed Trump as an “ambassador extraordinaire.” That beats winning a Dundie. In a 2009 video, Cinque had this to say about Trump: “There’s nobody like him.” You can say that again.
When the AP asked Trump about Cinque in May, he denied knowing anything about him or his criminal past. “If a guy is going to give you an award, you take it,” Trump said. “You don’t tend to look up his whole life story.”
So, remember kids, when Joey No Socks makes you an offer you can’t refuse, take it — and the cannoli.
To be sure, Trump knows a little bit about working with mobsters. He used mob-connected firms on development projects in New York and Atlantic City, according to David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who published a book this year titled “The Making of Donald Trump.”
“Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists, and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service,” Johnston wrote in a May story for Politico.
Much has also been written about how Trump’s career was greatly influenced by hard-nosed attorney Roy Cohn, who was Sen. Joe McCarthy’s henchman during the Red Scare and represented mobsters, including Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno.
Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1988, was one of the most feared lawyers in the country until he was disbarred. Cohn represented Trump for a number of years and the two frequently socialized together and spoke numerous times a day, according to a New York Times story in June.
“I hear Roy in the things (Trump) says quite clearly,” Peter Fraser, who was Cohn’s companion the last two years of his life, told the Times. “That bravado, and if you say it aggressively and loudly enough, it’s the truth — that’s the way Roy used to operate to a degree, and Donald was certainly his apprentice.”
Cohn also introduced Trump to Roger Stone, a former adviser to Richard Nixon, known for digging up dirt on opposing candidates. Stone has been a longtime Trump confidant. Stone’s website quotes articles that describe him as a “political hit man” and “dirty trickster.”
What a supporting cast.
Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote: “In a president, character is everything.” That brings to mind a Japanese proverb: “When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends.”
Paul Davies is the deputy editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may email him at [email protected]. Column courtesy of Associated Press.