It’s impossible to turn the news on today without hearing a mention of the business mogul-turned reality TV star-turned Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. Love him or loathe him, “the Donald” has quite an interesting background, partly due to the fact that he spent his career in business and entertainment and not in politics.
As a result of his business activities, including building and managing casinos in areas such as Atlantic City and building major properties in Manhattan, it isn’t a surprise that Trump encountered some unsavory characters while building his business empire. The question his enemies ask is how close were some of these characters to Trump and how much did Trump do to disavow them?
The question has gained more relevance as Trump advances towards the Republican nomination and possibly, the White House.
Let’s take a look at Trump’s most notorious personal associates through the lens of investigative journalists who have brought some of these connections to light:
Back in Trump’s early casino building days, it was alleged that he dealt with the notorious Testa crime family from Philadelphia. According to an article in the Federalist, Trump purchased the lot used to build Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza from mobster Salvatore Testa at twice the market rate. Perhaps more interesting, the same article goes on to note that Trump’s companies employed multiple firms that were part of Philadelphia’s organized crime families. So in addition to making a huge profit off of the parcel, Trump’s business enriched these mobsters with further construction contracts.
Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno
More concrete controversy came when Trump was making his mark on the New York City skyline. According to PolitiFact, a Trump Plaza contract was awarded to S&A Concrete, a company partially owned by mobster Fat Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese Crime Family. Trump himself has acknowledged that dealing with such crime organizations were a fact of life in building in New York in the 1980s, and it should be noted he never faced any criminal proceedings then or now for dealing with such associates.
Most troubling and relevant to today is the case of Felix Sater. A Trump business associate who pleaded guilty to a Mafia-related stock fraud scheme in the late 1990s, Sater turned to become a government witness in the case. The AP recently reported that even after learning about Sater’s criminal background, which included one count of racketeering, Trump appointed him as a senior advisor in his organization. Sater shared the same office floor as Trump in his business development role, which he was hired for in 2010. Trump has since distanced himself from Sater, but this associate has provided his enemies with plenty of ammunition about Trump’s judgment and associates.
So there you have it. Decide for yourself if Trump’s criminal associates were just the normal price of doing business, or a troubling sign of a lack of judgment from a potential future president.