Robert Mueller's Russia Probe
Part Two - U. S. Media Embraces Racketeering Option
By J. R. de Szigethy
One year after Part One of this series, the Media has now embraced a narrative Exclusively proposed by this reporter in the original Feature story of March, 2018. That narrative explored how the RICO Statutes passed by Congress as a tool for Prosecuting members of the American Mafia could now be utilized to prosecute several targets of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
The RICO option proposed by this reporter last year was based in part upon coverage of the 'Mafia Cops' trial in Brooklyn Federal Court in 2006. The two retired Detectives, Louis Eppolito, Sr. and Stephen Caracappa, were charged with 8 Counts of Racketeering murder on behalf of Lucchese Mafia Family UnderBoss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso. A Precedent was set as a result of a ruling by the Judge in this case, Jack Weinstein, post-conviction, regarding the legal tests that must be met regarding RICO charges. RICO stands for “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act,” a Federal law enacted by Congress in 1970. The statutes provide lengthy prison sentences for those convicted of participating in a “racketeering enterprise.” However, the RICO statutes were not fully utilized until the 1980s, most notably by Rudolph Giuliani, the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the landmark “Commission” Trial, which targeted the Godfathers of New York's 5 Mafia families.
Judge Weinstein stunned followers of the Mafia Cops case by overturning their convictions based upon an Argument made by one of the Defense Attorneys who claimed the 5-year Statute of Limitations on Racketeering charges had not been met. Weinstein's decision to throw out the convictions allowed the government to retain the Defendants in prison while it was the government itself that Appealed this Decision. A 3-Judge Appeals Court later re-instated the Convictions, ruling that the racketeering enterprise consisted primarily of the 2 corrupt Police Officers, and that their accomplices varied as they relocated from New York City to Las Vegas, establishing a series of crimes that all fell within a 5-year window. This ruling defined downward the definition of a “racketeering enterprise” to consist of a core group of just 2 people, further expanding the authority of Federal Prosecutors to bring about RICO Indictments.
As noted last year, Robert Mueller had chosen two Prosecutors for his team, Greg Andres and Andrew Weissmann, who have extensive experience in successfully prosecuting Defendants under the complex RICO statutes. RICO statutes are the perfect compliment for Prosecuting crimes involving the laundering of money through banks and real estate transactions, crimes attributed by some in the Media to several known targets of the Mueller investigation. Weissmann, who previously successfully Prosecuted Vincent 'Chin' Gigante, the former Godfather of the Genovese Mafia Family, was praised last year by former Trump Adviser Steve Bannon, calling him the “Lebron James of money laundering investigations!” (1) Many journalists who have observed Weissmann in Court regard him to be a charismatic and highly-skilled Prosecutor who is adept at handling co-operating Witnesses such as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano of the Gambino Mafia Family and Felix Sater, a Russia-born convicted Associate of the Colombo Mafia Family. Critics of Weissmann, including more than one former Federal Prosecutor, allege that Weissmann has on occasion committed Abuse of Power, including the withholding of “Exculpatory Evidence” from Defense Attorneys.
This reporter's case for a potential RICO Prosecution of targets of the Mueller investigation advocated 1 year ago went largely ignored by others with the experience to make a similar legal argument. Finally, in February of this year, former Federal Prosecutor Barbara McQuade published her own narrative detailing how the RICO Statutes could be invoked by either Mueller's team or by other Federal Prosecutors, most notably those in the Southern District of New York. (2)
Then, on March 4, the New York Times published an Op-Ed in which the case was made for a RICO statutes Prosecution. This piece centered on the testimony of attorney Michael Cohen before the House Government Reform Committee, which focused on his co-operation with an investigation by the Southern District which was farmed out by the Mueller team as having not been germane to their investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election. (3) As a result of that investigation, Cohen has pleaded Guilty to 6 Counts of income tax evasion and bank loan fraud and 2 Counts of Campaign Finance violations related to Cohen's payment of money to 2 women who claimed in the days running up to the Presidential Election that they had had an affair with Donald Trump.
Within 1 day after the Times Op-Ed, many major Media outlets in America were reporting on the possibility of RICO prosecutions of several principles in the orbit of the Trump Administration or Trump campaign. Fueling this “new” RICO option was the hiring of Daniel Goldman, a veteran Prosecutor of Russian organized crime figures on RICO charges, for the staff of the House Intelligence Committee led by Chairman Adam Schiff. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, then sent out Document request letters to 81 people or organizations seeking Documents related to his new investigation of President Trump. The Judiciary Committee is the Congressional Entity that can make a Referral to the House to vote for an Impeachment Trial in the U. S. Senate of the President of the United States. The standard in the Constitution is the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” “Abuse of Power,” a term that is hard to define and open to interpretation, is nevertheless a transgression that falls somewhere within the scope of what is considered an Impeachable Offense.
Among those “Nadler 81” are: Allen Weisselberg, Carter Page, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, George Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Sam Nunberg, Steve Bannon, and Rick Gates, as well as Indicted Wikileaks director Julian Assange. Felix Sater was also included on the “Nadler 81” list.
In 1998 Sater was Indicted by the Feds in Brooklyn for his role in a stock “pump and dump” scam that included members of the Colombo Family. Sater agreed to co-operate with the government and his Indictment was placed “Under Seal,” which kept the charges against him a secret. At her Confirmation Hearings for Attorney General in 2015, Loretta Lynch praised Sater's work for the government. During the time Lynch was the U. S. Attorney in Brooklyn, Lynch oversaw the handling of co-operator Sater by Andrew Weissmann.
2 years after Sater's secret work for the Feds began, Indictments were issued for 19 people who were part of the pump and dump scam that netted over $40 million. Among those were Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Godfather Carmine Persico, and Edward Garafola, Sammy Gravano's brother-in-law. (4) Sater then went into business with a company called Bayrock Group, which worked on the controversial Trump Soho Hotel and Condominium project.
Another Exclusive by this reporter in Part One related to a Dossier, created by the FBI decades ago, that in many aspects mirrors the allegations and tactics described in what is known as the “Steele Dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. In early January, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey met with President-elect Donald Trump. It was during that meeting that Comey revealed the existence of the “Steele Dossier,” which alleged that Russian operatives obtained a blackmail video of Donald Trump and several prostitutes engaged in unnatural acts in a hotel room in Moscow in 2013. Comey informed Trump that the reporting of this Dossier by the Media was imminent, even though the Dossier was determined to be “salacious and unverified!”
The “Steele Dossier” had it's origin in April 2016, when the opposition research firm Fusion GPS was hired on behalf of the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee to compile information on Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. There was nothing illegal or uncommon regarding this research. In June, Christopher Steele was subcontracted to provide information to Fusion GPS, for which he was eventually paid $168,00. (5) As that funding was coming to an end, Steele asked the FBI to continue to fund his investigation. The FBI agreed, but distanced itself from Steele once it became apparent he was shopping his allegations to various Media outlets, as well as sharing a copy of the Dossier with Senator John McCain.
Investigative reporters are divided as to the veracity of this Dossier. Carl Bernstein has stated that senior U. S. Intelligence officials were correct in determining that then-President Obama and President-elect Trump should be informed of it's claims, whereas Bernstein's former Watergate partner Bob Woodward dismissed the Dossier as a “garbage document.” (6)
A key allegation in the Dossier – that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in the Summer of 2016 to secretly meet with Russian officials – was denied by Cohen in his recent Testimony Under Oath before the House Government Operations Committee. Cohen is “only” set to serve 3 years in prison for the crimes he has pleaded Guilty to. Had he lied about the Prague allegation – and the government could prove it – he certainly would spend more than 3 years in prison.
As for the veracity of the Steele Dossier, this reporter revealed in Part One of this series that this Dossier is eerily similar to the “JFK Dossier” described in the 2007 book “Re-Claiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” a respected book on this subject by former Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. One skill Prosecutors must have is to be able to investigate and understand criminal conspiracies so that they can explain such plots to the average American juror. Bugliosi accomplished this in his successful prosecution of cult leader Charles Manson and his followers who conspired to commit a series of random and sensational murders in the hopes that a result would be further nationwide social unrest during the troubled late 1960s. In his book on the President's murder Bugliosi utilized investigative methods inherent to Prosecutors. The book is 1612 pages long with the source notes appearing separately on a compact disk. Bugliosi analyzed every known conspiracy theory regarding this assassination and determined that none of them were valid. The Prosecutor's conclusion was that despite the numerous and various enemies of the President, Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assasin who acted alone. (7)
However, in the course of his investigation, Bugliosi discovered one of the most consequential conspiracies in American history; a conspiracy between FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his associates to spy on numerous prominent Americans citizens and collect negative information on them for the purposes of blackmail. Bugliosi reported on how Hoover sent the infamous “poison-pen letter” compiled at FBI Headquarters to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the one-year anniversary of the President's murder. The date chosen by Hoover's gang could have just been a coincidence, or it could have been intentionally chosen as a subtle reminder that what happened to the President on that date a year earlier could just as easily happen to him. Whatever was the case, the authors of that letter made it clear that they wanted Dr. King dead. The letter attempted to blackmail Dr. King into committing suicide, otherwise more damaging negative information would be made public far worse than that on the copies of tapes included in that envelope of Dr. King's private conduct with his associates. Many of these recordings were made in hotel rooms that Dr. King used as he and his associates traveled across America seeking Equality for all. Hoover had those rooms wired. Hoover sent the letter and the secret tapes to Dr. King knowing that his wife opened and sorted his mail.
Bugliosi's book also revealed the “JFK Dossier” contained over 600 pages of information compiled over several decades on the Kennedy family. The JFK Dossier even included allegations of espionage thrown in for good measure. In order to justify his FBI Agents' spying on JFK during his career as a young man working for the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II, Hoover ordered his Agents to investigate the background of Kennedy's romantic interest Inga Arvad, a news reporter who was an alumnus of New York City's acclaimed Columbia University School of Journalism. FBI Agents discovered that a few years earlier Ms. Arvad had interviewed Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. With no more evidence than this, Hoover designated Arvad a “Nazi Spy” as predication for the FBI's electronic surveillance of Kennedy, which included the planting of microphones in a bedroom in which the young Navy Ensign and his girlfriend were captured on tape in what should have been private encounters that the Federal government had no business in monitoring.
One of the more outrageous acts of blackmail on the part of Hoover occurred in the Oval Office of the White House on March 22, 1962. This act was the culmination of events beginning in February, 1960, when entertainer Frank Sinatra introduced a young woman, Judith Campbell, to Senator John Kennedy, then running for President. One month later, Sinatra introduced Ms. Campbell to Sam Giancana, the Godfather of the Chicago Mafia Family. (8) Once Kennedy took office, he named his brother Robert as Attorney General, which made him the putative “boss” of Hoover. AG Kennedy made it clear to Hoover that his Agenda was to agressively Prosecute the American Mafia.
Hoover's own third-in-command, Agent William Sullivan, once famously referred to Hoover as “the greatest blackmailer of all time!” Hoover's insistence for many years that organized crime did not exist in America is believed by some Historians to be the result of Hoover himself being blackmailed by the American Mafia in regards to his own private life. (9)
Apparently complying with Attorney General Kennedy's Directive to investigate the American Mafia, Hoover's Agents monitored Judith Campbell's relationship with Godfather Giancana. Hoover also discovered that in a one-year period between 1961 and 1962, Ms. Campbell had placed 70 phone calls to the White House. On March 22, 1962, Hoover, at his insistence, met with the President and the Attorney General in the Oval Office. It was there that Hoover revealed his evidence the FBI had compiled regarding Ms. Campbell's mutual relationships with both the President and Godfather Giancana. After that meeting, President Kennedy had one final telephone conversation with Campbell that afternoon, never meeting with nor speaking to her again.
There would be no further efforts by the Kennedy Administration to coerce Hoover to retire.
In addition to compiling a Dossier on President Kennedy and Reverend King, Hoover's FBI also compiled a Dossier on Frank Sinatra. In 1998 the FBI, responding to a Freedom of Information Act Request, released numerous of it's files on Sinatra. In a memo from FBI Assistant Director J. P. Mohr to Clyde Tolson dated September 7, 1950, Mohr revealed that Sinatra was seeking to work for the FBI as an FBI Informant. (10) Hoover and his lifelong companion Clyde Tolson turned Sinatra down – at least for that moment.
While many investigators find the Steele Dossier suspect, the JFK Dossier as revealed by Prosecutor Bugliosi shows that the documentation of the private behavior of a man who becomes President of the United States can in fact be used to blackmail him, in Kennedy's case by the FBI. Are the tactics of Russia's FSB, the successor to the former Soviet Union's KGB, any less vicious?
The similarities of both Dossiers are astounding. In the JFK Dossier, it is alleged that the future President was compromised by his sexual relationship with an alleged German spy. In the Steele Dossier, it is alleged that future President Donald Trump was compromised by his alleged sexual relationship with Russian prostitutes acting at the direction of the Russian government. While the relationship between John F. Kennedy with Inga Arvad has been corroborated, no evidence has emerged over 7 decades that Ms. Arvad was a spy for one of America's most hostile enemies at that time. In both cases, the FBI used unsubstantiated allegations to launch a Counter-Intelligence operation for reasons that are now known to have been self-serving to the FBI.
Over 4 decades after the death of J. Edgar Hoover, Hooverian tactics are still being practiced by bureaucrats at the top level of the Bureau for partisan political reasons. To his credit, much of this has been revealed by former FBI Director Mueller's own investigation, which revealed the extra-ordinary efforts by Bureaucrats at the highest levels within the FBI to prevent Hillary Clinton from being Prosecuted for the mishandling of Classified government emails, as well as the promotion of the allegations contained in the Steele Dossier, and other actions and statements by government officials, current and former, hostile to the current President. It was Mueller's office that revealed the machinations of FBI Agent Peter Strzok, the “Insurance Policy” discussed with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the purpose of which was to prevent Donald Trump's election, the alleged lies of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, for which he was Fired, and the actions of others still under review by the Justice Department's Inspector General.
The Steele Dossier is still salacious and still-unverified. The comparison of this Dosssier to that on President Kennedy works both ways; those who support President Trump can take the position that because of the FBI's early involvement with this Dossier, funded by Trump's political opponents, and the open acts of hostility taken by FBI Officials during his campaign, and also taking into context the history of what the FBI did to President Kennedy in his Dossier, the Steele Dossier simply cannot be regarded as credible.
Those who believe the Steele Dossier is more or less accurate can take the position that the Russian FSB committed the same sort of actions against Trump that the American FBI did against Kennedy decades ago, thus this is nothing new.
What is incontrovertible is that Russian government operatives interfered with the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election. It is also clear that associates of the Trump Campaign have committed crimes. Robert Mueller's team has charged 6 former Trump associates, 13 Russians, and 3 Russian companies with crimes, and there may be more that have not been publicly identified. Mueller's investigation continues, as does that of the U. S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan District Attorney's office, and reportedly other investigative agencies.
Then there is the matter of the several Congressional investigations as well. For those Americans 60 years of age or older, the current drama unfolding in Washington can seem like a movie we have all seen before. And it does not have a happy ending.
J. R. de Szigethy is a New York-based crime reporter who can be reached at:
Related Features by this author:
“How Landmark American Mafia Investigations Impact Robert Mueller's Russia Probe,” March, 2018.
“The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the American Mafia,” March 2016. http://americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_536.html
1. “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff. Henry Holt and Company, 2018.
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