Archive for June, 2017

by Barnard Law Collier, Former New York Times Bureau Chief in Buenos Aires.

Yes. The young Donald Trump.

When I met him on occasion as a reporter, he was in his mid-20s, well dressed, handsome, semi-brilliant, the son of a well-to-do real estate developer. He displayed a natural curiosity about anything and anyone who could help him show his overbearing father how he, “Junior,” could erect buildings and amass a fortune in the family enterprise.

The young Donald hung like a rock groupie on every word that a hotshot lawyer named Roy Marcus Cohn spoke. The lessons he learned from Roy Cohn (and which I was party to at various steakhouse-ish venues around midtown) were ones that Trump has clung to all of his life since.

The core Roy Cohn commandment:

“Don’t tell me about the law, tell me about the judge.”

Immorality was defined in the Roy Cohn/Trump realms as doing anything not of direct personal benefit to oneself or one’s “satellites.” It was considered “stupid” if adversaries would not do dirty tricks because of “morality.” Roy Cohn taught that it was anti-business to allow one’s money-making activities to be hampered by any “moral” concept, including any bias against malicious lying, cheating, framing, and stealing.

Roy Cohn was supremely brilliant. He graduated Columbia University School of Law at age 20. He guided the shameless un-American activities and anti-homosexual “witch hunts” by Senator Joseph McCarthy. As attorney for several top Italian mob guys, Roy Cohn made both prosecutors and judges terribly uneasy. His opponents were met by the lowest, meanest, and dirtiest possible counters. His tactics were the talk of those New York real estate people who cared a wit about “the law” and ethics, much less morality.

Trump was then, as he is now, referred to by business people who knew him and his operations as “a noisy pipsqueak.”

Mark Cuban, a contemporary billionaire investor and television celebrity, has asked:

“If he was such a good businessman, where are the hundreds and thousands of people who will come out an say they made money with him?”

They seem not to exist, although many people who were stiffed and conned by Trump do.

By the time he was in his 40s, everyone who counted in New York and New Jersey real estate and banking were aware that the only persons to benefit from a Trump deal was Trump.

Nonetheless, an array of politicians from the major parties begged him for donations, including the Clintons. That’s how Trump got to know the fixers and the judges.

Trump’s ghosted book about the “art” of the deal was itself a scam. There was no art.

His artless point is that to be honest or scrupulous about a business deal (or any deal) is for suckers. To stick it to anyone stupid enough to be stuck is “smart,” and that includes any and all governments.

It was Roy Cohn’s advice to die, as Roy Cohn would die, owing millions of dollars in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. Currently the public does not know how well Trump may carry out that advice.

Most important, taught Roy Cohn, is to obtain a sharp lawyer, take your adversaries to court at every opportunity, accuse the opponents of doing what you yourself are guilty of, and fight ferociously on all fronts to protect your lies.

In Roy Cohn’s alternative world, the “lie” was the alternative truth, and the real truth, such as the fact that Roy Cohn was dying of a new and deadly disease called AIDS, was a “truth” he denied until his dying day, but the autopsy proved that complications from AIDS are what actually killed him. His death came only months after he was disbarred in 1986 by a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court for unethical, unprofessional conduct, including misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, and pressuring a client to amend his will by guiding the hand of a nearly comatose millionaire to put his signature on a will that favored Roy Cohn’s client.

By the time Trump was in his 40s, his working motto became:

“Overpromise, underdeliver, keep the difference.”

There may be no more pithy definition of a scam.

Later in his career he ran into a hard problem he could not solve: His funding among most American banks dried up after several real estate gambles came up snake eyes. However, he found, the Russians do business almost exactly as Trump does.

But Trump is shrewd enough to know, going in, that if you try to scam the Russians, and they catch you, as they inevitably will, they will ruthlessly assassinate you or those you may love, no matter how rich and important you may think you are. (A lot of dead Russians testify to this caution.)

If you or your businesses borrow money from the Russians, there is going to be a payback.

It’s time to face it: The Russians have grabbed Donald Trump by the knurled noil and they know how to shake him.

He’s never had qualms about lying (he has often called it “natural exuberance”), quite probably to himself; a “lie detector” test may prove only that Trump is so expert at lying for a lifetime that his pulse, perspiration, respiration, and pupil size doesn’t budge a micron when he lets loose a mendacious whopper.

It’s time, in my opinion, for all Americans at least to admit and to deal with the fact that the Russians have landed themselves a whopper of a pipsqueak scam artist.

To Russians, more than a few of whom play high level chess, Trump might well represent the “passed pawn”проходная пешка. In slang, the term may also mean “an enterprise likely to bring in gold.”

The pawn is the most minor piece in chess (a pipsqueak). But, when allowed to pass behind the defenses of opponent pawns, the passed pawn has an unobstructed line to the eighth rank, where it can be promoted to a queen, a bishop, a knight, or a rook.

A passed pawn requires an opponent to defend against it, which requires the employment of major pieces which otherwise might be used as attackers.

The Russians may quite literally be “laughing at us” (as Trump has said) because Vladimir Putin has promoted his passed pawn into a golden queen, which would have made Roy Cohn laugh, too.