Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

Currently: 98° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Like a Mafia don, Trump’s message on crime: Never go against the family

Let’s consider for a moment the language of criminals.

“Never open your mouth, unless you’re in the dentist chair,” reads a quote attributed to Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Gambino family underboss.

“Don’t let your tongue be your worst enemy,” reads one attributed to John Franseze, Colombo family underboss.

Now, compare that with President Donald Trump’s tweet about the Paul Manafort verdict and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea this week.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ - make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

As those around him are being brought to justice, the president is sounding more like a mob boss all the time. Committing a crime is OK, Trump’s recent comments suggest, as long as the perpetrators are loyal to him.

In describing Manafort as a “brave man” — and as a “good man” during a brief interview — Trump lauded a thief and an enabler of despots around the world. He went on to call the prosecution of Manafort a “sad thing” and attacked the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller as “a witch hunt and a disgrace.”

At the same time, he’s also said nothing about Cohen’s crimes, but has knocked the lawyer for ratting him out. In a separate tweet, he went a step further and urged his 54 million Twitter followers not to hire Cohen.

What else can be inferred than that what matters to Trump is loyalty, not that Cohen broke campaign fund laws and cheated the government out of millions of tax dollars, or that Manafort was convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud?

Clearly, Trump also is sounding a warning to those who might consider implicating him: Do like Gravano and keep your mouth shut.

That message also rang through in Trump’s tweet Sunday about White House counsel Don McGahn not being a “John Dean type ‘RAT.’ ” Given that Dean cooperated with prosecutors during the Watergate investigation and helped bring down Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1974, it was a disturbing comparison.

Keep in mind that Dean, despite having committed crimes himself, came forward during the Watergate investigation for his country to preserve the integrity of the office of the president and help protect democracy.

Calling him a rat says two things about Trump. One, people who use that term have something to hide.

Two, Trump demeaned a hero of the Watergate era, suggesting that he considers the commission of crimes and coverups OK in the name of maintaining power.

This comes from a man who was elected to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer and who, during his inauguration, took an oath to defend the Constitution.

Yet he’s defending an associate who was found guilty of lying to banks and submitting false tax returns, costing the government money that other taxpayers had to pay. Trump is all but saying that he doesn’t believe the rule of law should apply to those in his circle.

He’s acting like the nation’s criminal in chief.

Meanwhile, the heat is rising. Cohen’s guilty plea marked the first time that Trump was directly implicated in a crime, in this case directing and coordinating an illegal hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Then Trump shifted his story on the matter, from initially saying he knew nothing about the Daniels payment to saying he wasn’t aware of it when it happened but learned about it “later on.”

All the while, Trump has continued to pound away at the same narrative: the feds are the bad guys, while those who are being prosecuted are wearing the white hats — at least until they admit the truth.

With his mafioso-like language, Trump is incriminating himself. And Americans are being subjected to a president who’s showing them that in his mind, justice takes a back seat to his self-interests.