Body Politic: All in the Family | National | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Body Politic: All in the Family 

Happy New Year!

What's coming for festive 2019?

Keep an eye on the New York Times Style section. When politics merges with prison, couture will blossom, with new designs for the world of "Orange Is the New Black." Truly stylish outfits—cleverly commissioned in anticipation of indictment by Ivanka—and manufactured in China, who will award her the brand—proud that she will be bringing something better to incarceration—with the expectation that her father's influence will have the entire federal prison system order them from Trump companies. Why should the incarcerations be any different than the inauguration?


It appears (our synonym for alleged) that all Trump businesses are crooked in some way, shape, or form. Everyone around him is either a sleaze—he has a nose for recruiting them—or becomes one.

It's a multigenerational family thing. Calling it a tradition is too mild. It's more like being born into a sub-culture or inheriting a compulsion. The president's grandfather, Frederick Trump, was a draft dodger who snuck out of Germany to avoid taxes as well as military service. He came to America and followed the Gold Rush up to Alaska. He opened facilities to serve the miners. Some have called them brothels and Frederick a pimp. An anonymous letter rated one of them very highly: "For single men the Arctic has excellent accommodations as well as the best restaurant in Bennett, but I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings—and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex." Euphemism was the language of the day, and documentation scarce, which will allow you, if you prefer, to think of him as a hotelier who had sex available as a service and profited thereby.

Donald's father, Fred, was a builder. He was very successful at it. In part because he had an aptitude for fraud. He got money from the Federal Housing Authority, appears to have bribed the administrator, used phony evaluations, and pocketed money that appeared on the books as costs. In 1954, there was an investigation of profiteering. Fred was questioned. His testimony is a perfect model—indeed a teaching guide—for Donald's ducks, dodges, and dishonesties years later.

In 1992, the Trumps set up a special company, All County Building Supply and Maintenance, whose sole purpose appears to have been fraud. It "acted" as a purchasing agent for Trump properties, added 20 percent to 50 percent, billed the properties, and kept the difference. This allowed the Trumps to artificially jack up regulated rents—effects still being felt today—and to evade taxes.

All County was owned by Donald plus his three siblings and a cousin. It makes them a literal crime family, not a merely metaphoric one. One of the siblings was Maryanne Trump Barry, who became a federal judge in 1983. The New York Times only discovered the shell company because she revealed a $1,000,000 contribution from it for her Senate confirmation hearings.

Donald has tried to operate many businesses—casinos, an airline, beverage company, mortgage company, the Plaza Hotel, Trump University, a vodka line, steaks—that have failed. All of these, along with his few successes, have been marked by the same things—pulling money out through fees and contracts with other entities that are himself in disguise, sticking others with the costs, and, as in the case of Trump University, outright frauds. His casinos are on the record as having been money laundering operations. It is likely that his real estate holdings have survived primarily because they—allegedly—served as money laundries.

Just as Fred included his children in special ways of doing business, Donald has done the same with his children, Don, Jr., Eric, and, yes, Ivanka. Don't forget Jared. He's more than a son-in-law.

Jared's a kindred spirit. He inherited a real estate fortune from a criminal father. When he had a chance to make his own deals, he went big, and it was, like most of Donald's deals, a terrible one that put it all on the edge of bankruptcy. He only saved himself with suspect deals for foreign money from very unpleasant people.

Tiffany and Barron—Donald's younger children—are apparently not included in the family gang.

Trump got away with his errors and crimes for four reasons. He was willing to spend a lot on lawsuits, making him more trouble than he was worth. When it was clear that he was going to lose, as with Trump University, he folded. Big real estate money is an essential sustenance of New York politics. Money laundering is an essential sustenance of New York real estate. New York prosecutors stay away. Perhaps most important, he learned the game at his father's knee, making things sound as if they were legitimate or had only inadvertently crossed an ambiguous line.

As president, those conditions no longer hold. The law is coming for him for everything he's done. The missing millions from the inauguration fund. We now know Ivanka is in the middle of that. The games with the Trump Foundation. Don, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka are part of that. The Russians and the Russian money go through them. Ivanka's deals in China. Jared's deals with the Saudis and others. The tax evasions in New York. All that will be investigated. As with investigations of metaphoric crime families, they will proceed upward.

It appears certain that there are crimes. Almost certain that they will be revealed. Then what? Indictments? Plea deals? Will the children testify against Dad to save themselves? Will Dad tell them not to rat and hang them out to dry to save himself? Will Ivanka commission really stylish outfits in orange for the whole family? If so, will Donald find a way to profit from it?

That's what I'm thinking about for 2019.

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