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Trump slams ‘flipping,’ but he’s offered to cooperate with FBI before

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Michael Cohen and Donald Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald
Trump.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Sean
Gallup/Getty Images; Jenny Cheng/Business
Insider


  • President Donald Trump denounced his former lawyer
    Michael Cohen for “flipping” on him by making a plea deal with
    prosecutors, and even said flipping should be illegal.
  • Yet Trump himself has cooperated with law enforcement
    at least twice going back to the 1980s.
  • He reportedly testified in a sales tax evasion scheme
    to avoid prosecution, and also offered to place undercover FBI
    agents in his Atlantic City casinos.
  • Former federal prosecutors say Trump railing against
    “flippers” reminds them of language accused criminals
    use.

President Donald Trump decried the his former personal lawyer
Michael Cohen “flipping” on him by pleading guilty to 8 federal
crimes and went as far to say flipping should be “outlawed”,
in a Wednesday interview with Fox News.

But Trump himself has a long history of cooperating with law
enforcement going back to the 1980s.

“I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I have been watching
flippers,” he told “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt in
the interview that aired Thursday.

Cohen struck a deal with federal
prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday to
plead guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and making
illegal corporate and campaign contributions to influence the
2016 election, directly implicating Trump by claiming he
committed those crimes “at the direction” of the candidate.

“If you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go
down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in
all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” Trump
said of Cohen’s plea deal. “And I have seen it many times. I have
had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and
it almost ought to be illegal.”

Yet, on at least two occasions in the 1980s, Trump reportedly
testified to avoid persecution and actively offered to cooperate
with law enforcement to quash criminal activity.

The casino


Trump at the Taj Mahal
President Donald Trump at
hi Taj Mahal casino in New Jersey.

Chaarles Rex Arbogast/AP

As Buzzfeed News reported in January
2017
, Trump offered to “fully cooperate” with the FBI to
monitor potential organized activity in his Atlantic City casinos
as far back as 1981.

An FBI memo from that year
details Trump and his brother Robert raising concerns with the
Bureau about building a casino in the New Jersey gambling hotspot
given reports of widespread mob activity, and discussing plans to
place undercover agents in the casino.

“Trump stated in order to show that he was willing to fully
cooperate with the FBI, he suggested that they use undercover
agents within the casino,” the memo read. “At this point, [an
agent] initiated steps with the Newark office … to begin
planning an undercover proposal concerning the proposed Trump
casino.”

It’s worth noting there is an important distinction between a
defendant making a plea deal in a criminal case and a business
owner offering to work with law enforcement to thwart potential
illegal activity.

The jewelry store


BVLGARI BuLGARI 5th Ave
The
Bulgari store on Fifth Avenue in New York
City.


Google
Maps



In the mid 1980s, Trump was one of several celebrities reportedly
caught up in a sales tax evasion scheme with
luxury Fifth Avenue jewelry boutique Bulgari.

To avoid the hefty New York state and city sales taxes on
high-end jewelry, authorities said customers would order jewelry
to be shipped to a different state without such steep sales
taxes, The New York Times reported in
1985
.

The store would then ship an empty box to an out-of-state address
while customers walked out of the store with the items without
having paid the proper taxes.

Authorities said Trump avoided paying sales tax on about $65,000
worth of jewelry, United Press International
reported in 1986
. Henry Kissinger, Frank Sinatra, and Mary
Tyler Moore were also named in the probe.

When authorities in New York state caught onto the scheme, Trump
reportedly testified against the employees at Bulgari Jewelry in
order to protect himself from criminal prosecution that could
have put his real estate license in jeopardy.

A former state prosecutor told ABC
News
that Trump and other customers helped build the case
against the store. The boutique and two of its executives ended
up pleading guilty to criminal charges, and paid $2 million in fines, The
New York Times reported at the time.

Experts sound the alarm


trump manafort guilty verdict
President
Donald Trump speaks to the news media on the tarmac about the
federal conviction of his former presidential campaign chairman
Paul Manafort as the president arrives for a campaign event in
Charleston, West Virginia on August 21, 2018.

REUTERS/Leah Millis

While Trump may have taken active steps to monitor organized
crime back in the ’80s, former federal prosecutors expressed
alarm at Trump’s more recent comments — even comparing them to
something a mob boss would say.

“This is a really problematic notion to a former prosecutor,”
Elie Honig, a former assistant US attorney, told CNBC. “You know who hates people
who flip? Corrupt CEOs, and leaders of gangs, and leaders of the
mafia, because the way we build cases against leaders of closed,
corrupt criminal organizations is by flipping people up the
chain.”

In response to a Trump tweet slamming Cohen for making a plea
deal, Daniel Goldman, also a former
assistant US attorney, wrote: “As someone who prosecuted the
mafia in New York, I am struck by how similar this language is to
that of a mob boss. Scary.”

And in response to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas saying he had never
heard Trump’s argument that flipping should be illegal, former
federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti responded, “I’ve heard that
argument before — from criminals.”

“The question everyone should be asking right now: What does
Trump have to hide?” Mariotti added. “If you have nothing to
hide, you don’t fear ‘flippers.'”

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