I knew I heard that arrogant, defiant, stupidly-smug tone of voice before.
At first, I thought it was my brother’s voice, condemning the “fuckin’ FBI,” for laying out the evidence that sent him to prison for Income Tax Evasion over 30 years ago.
When Trump told his advisors that the highly-classified, top secret documents he had in his possession were “not theirs; it’s mine,” shades of my oldest brother’s, and his associate John Gotti’s, brazen bravado, bullying, and whining about law enforcement came to mind.
Then, I sat straight up in my chair. I knew where Trump got this gallows gangsterism from. Ironically, it was in an earlier FBI Affidavit that sent another political leader—and a pal of Trump’s– to prison 10-years ago.
I tore through my copious files of past cases of political corruption, and came upon the utterly damning 75-page racketeering and criminal corruption affidavit
against the disgraced, impeached, convicted, ex-Governor of Illinois, Rob “Blago” Blagojevich, who tried frantically to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat in November, 2008, right after Obama was elected President, and resigned from the Senate.
Caught on an authorized wiretap, in an ongoing, 6-year government corruption case, Blagojevich’s, conduct dripped with desperation and criminal intent to use his public office for personal gain. Blago was under enormous personal financial pressure. He could feel the hot breath of the Illinois’ State Legislature’s case for impeachment against him. His sense of urgency to cash in on his public office—while he still held it– leaped off of every page of the FBI’s meticulous affidavit against Blagojevich–an essential part of the government’s case for showing probable cause of the commission of crimes, and getting Court approval of an arrest warrant of the powerful Democratic politician. Blago’s voice was unmistakably loud and clear to FBI Agents listening in:
“I’ve got this thing and its fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not gonna do it.”
— (Page 59, FBI affidavit in support of an application for a criminal complaint and corresponding arrest warrant charging ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, December 7, 2008).
Bingo, or “Blago” more appropriately! There it was.
I could clearly hear Trump making similar statements in precisely the same, self-righteous, victimhood voice: “I’ve got these things, these classified documents, and they are fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving them up for fucking nothing. I’m not gonna do it.”
Only, unlike Blagojevich, Trump wasn’t caught on a government wiretap: his own people, his own recklessness, ostentatious obstruction of justice, and colossal callousness toward consequences of his own actions, did him in. And, he was playing with far more fire than Blago was: top-secret, highly classified documents with enormous national security implications. Selling a Senate seat was chump change in comparison. Trump’s extortion of the United States was potentially jeopardizing millions of lives, and thousands of “human sources” in our Intelligence Agencies.
Of course Trump would view Blago’s blatantly illegal behavior as giving him a green light to “monetize” everything he could get his hands on in government. They were buddies who first bonded on “Celebrity Apprentice,” April 4, 2010—nearly one year to the day after Blagojevich was charged by a Federal Grand Jury on 16 counts of racketeering, fraud and extortion.
Although Trump “fired” Blago that night on “Celebrity Apprentice,” he saw at least one thing in him he greatly admired:
“ I have great respect for you, Governor. I have great respect for your tenacity, for the fact that you just don’t give up.”
Two years later, on March 15, 2012– the day Blagojevich reported to Federal Prison in Colorado to begin serving out his 14 year term—Trump, always acutely attuned to trotting out a “victim-model” that he might someday find useful, tweeted:
“ It’s outrageous that Blagojevich goes to jail for 14 yrs, when killers and sex offenders are walking the streets. Is this Justice? I don’t think so.” (Trump Tweet March 16, 2012)
Trump must have had his old friend Jeffrey Epstein on his mind when he lamented “sex offenders walking the streets.” Just the year before in 2011, Epstein told the New York Post:
“ I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an offender. It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”
Rather than bloviating about stealing bagels, Trump continued to be obsessed with Blago’s case and his “unfair” punishment well into his Presidency. One month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Blagojevich’s appeal for the second time, in April, 2018, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was “considering” commuting Blagojevich’s 14 year prison sentence, which he described as “an overly harsh penalty” for what essentially amounts to a “foolish statement.” (Chicago Tribune). Typically, Trump failed to mention that his buddy Blago’s “foolish statement,” and his actions, were illegal.
One week after Trump’s May 31, 2018, statement on Air Force One, Blago’s lawyers filed a request with the White House for Executive Clemency. The following summer, Trump reiterated that he was “very strongly considering commutation of Blagojevich’s sentence because he felt the corrupt, racketeering, extortionist, impeached, ex-Illinois Governor had been “mistreated.” There it was again. That “fuckin’” FBI acting against such cute and curmudgeonly criminals, like the Teflon Don Gotti, with whom Trump did business, and Blow-dried Blago, for whom Trump had “great respect .”
In February, 2020, when he was up for re-election, Trump commuted Blagojevich’s 14-year criminal sentence, after the guy who actually did try to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, had served 8 years in prison. On February 19, 2020, Trump Tweeted:
“Rob Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey & Gang deal!”
It didn’t matter to Trump that Blago “did not sell the Senate seat” because he was caught, or that James Comey was notthe head of the FBI when Blagojevich was arrested, convicted and sent to jail. That happened during the 13-year tenure of Robert Mueller as FBI Director, who also sent Gotti and Bernie Madoff away to prison, where—regardless of how both appeared to be coated in Teflon while killing and swindling people–they died. Which is, perhaps, “Teflon” Trump’s biggest fear.
But there it was again, the old gangster grievance against the “fucking FBI,” which John Gotti and other New York mobsters–put away on airtight evidence and federal wiretap transcripts gathered by the FBI–considered to be a competing and dangerous “gang,” since the “Feds,” had the power to end their criminal enterprises.
Now, that may simply be Mar-A-Blago speak, with Trump making the reckless, illegal and utterly bonkers bet that his “fucking golden” tickets of classified national security documents—which he fraudulently claims are “his, not ours,”—are his final “get out of jail free cards.”
Maybe he’ll call his buddy Blagojevich to see how that worked out for him. After all, Blago owes him one.