It’s Bagmen All The Way Down

Unlike some (oh you whippersnappers!), I do remember Reagan and the two Bush presidencies (BAND NAME!). There was a lot of corruption. But the president was never so personally corrupt. The latest on Il Trumpe’s bagman, Michael Cohen, is astonishing (boldface mine):

This was all my thinking when I wrote this post yesterday evening about Michael Cohen’s uncle and his social club that was the headquarters of the Russian mob. As I noted, we’d known the El Caribe was a reputed mob hangout for Italian and Russian mobsters. What I hadn’t realized was that the boss of the Russian mafia in the U.S. literally worked out of an office in that establishment. Then someone flagged me this excerpt of Seth Hettena’s new Trump/Russia book just published in Rolling Stone. Seth already had most of what I stumbled across yesterday…

But in that excerpt, the reference to the El Caribe is followed by these two paragraphs:

I spoke to two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Donald Trump by his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who arrived in the U.S. in 1975. Shusterman was in the garment business and owned a fleet of taxicabs with his partners, Shalva Botier and Edward Zubok – all three men were convicted of a money-laundering related offense in 1993. “Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures,” a former federal investigator told me. “Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.” (“Untrue,” Cohen told me. “Your source is creating fake news.”)

Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, also set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the “taxi king” Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously in 2012. Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was independently hired to examine Trump’s Russia connections during the real estate mogul’s presidential run, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Cohen “had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida – Russian organized crime figures,” including Garber.

Trump brought Cohen into the organization not because he was a lawyer but because he was a conduit for money from Russia and Ukraine. He’d been on a buying spree in the year or so before he was hired, buying up apartment units for him and members of his Ukrainian immigrant family. Trump wanted access to that spigot and more. So what Seth describes here – along with how Cohen got into the taxi business – is basically in line with my understanding. But I’d never realized Shusterman was such a critical player – perhaps even already a source of cash for Trump and, if Seth’s source is right, the reason Cohen got his job.

Admittedly, even Il Trumpe’s defenders aren’t even trying to claim Trump is innocent. Still, the corruption is staggering.

And in other Trump corruption, in 2008, an Egyptian scam artist ‘gifted’ Trump with a $10.3 million mansion. This is fine. And now would be an excellent time to see Donald Trump’s tax returns.

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