By Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2021 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
Democracy has a way of smiting those who flout its tenets, especially those who seek its destruction. Thus is the famous fabulist and mobster of Mar-a-Lago finally “woke,” as it is said by the young, to what for him is an unpalatable new reality: The United States of America is not a nation of The Donald, by The Donald, and for The Donald.
I speak here, of course, of Donald John Trump, whose recently failed presidency was a felonious burlesque, at best. Or as his politically corrupt attorney general Bill Barr explained in an Atlantic magazine interview, “It was all bullshit.”
Yes, bullshit, all of it. Including articles of faith among the Trumpian cult of sycophants and suckers that their yellow-haired idol won rather than lost the presidential election last November; that he will be somehow “reinstated” to office next month, never mind there being no constitutional mechanism allowing such a return; that his not-one-but-two impeachments—for attempted extortion of the Ukrainian president in the first instance, then fomenting last January’s attempted coup against the federal government in the second—were shabby partisan attacks; that Joe Biden’s presence in the White House constitutes “the crime of the century.”
Oh, and not to forget: The coronavirus pandemic is a “hoax” that has resulted in the agonizing deaths of more than six hundred thousand Americans who failed to heed Dear Leader’s advice in April of last year to drink bleach as a prophylactic against the disease.
Oh, again: Dancing Donald is the leading man of America’s ongoing fandango with fascism. As we are reminded by Mehdi Hasan, political analyst for MSNBC News—
“We’ve seen Trump refuse to accept the results of a free and fair election, and then to incite a fascist mob to attack the Capitol. And now, the fascist revelations keep coming…According to a new book, Donald Trump called on his armed forces to crack skulls and ‘beat the fuck’ out of racial justice protesters. Last summer, he reportedly said, ‘Just shoot them’…[A]ccording to another new book, Trump…wanted to send American citizens infected with covid-19 to Guantánamo Bay—to a literal prison camp.
“When I said Trump was guilty of fascism…I was accused of overstatement. … [G]iven what we’re now reading and seeing, maybe the f-word in relation to Trump was an understatement.”
Meanwhile at Mar-a-Lago—the once stately 1920s-era mansion along Florida’s Palm Beach gold coast, Trumpatized since 1985 as a glitzy hotel and banquet hall for oligarchs, authoritarian potentates from abroad, corporate grifters and golfers, pusillanimous pols, and women with long legs and short résumés—Mr. Barr’s profane sentiment has had considerable effect on his former boss: The Donald’s face has gone from spray-on orange to an honest red shade of rage. To paraphrase from King Lear’s soliloquy, scripted by William Shakespeare, How sharper than a serpent’s tooth a toady’s rare burst of plainspoken truth.
As if apostasy from one of Mr. Trump’s foremost lackeys were not enough, his once impressive gang of grovelers and flatterers shrinks by the day; even the whereabouts of Missus Melania, the Slovenian sphinx, is uncertain. Enter now capital-T trouble from one of the raging squire of Mar-a-Lago’s numerous bêtes noire: mild-mannered Cyrus R. Vance Jr., set to upend the long and felonious burlesque of The Donald’s mediagenic New York-based business empire, if not (yet) the self-proclaimed tycoon personally.
As I write, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is poised to slap down grand jury indictments against The Trump Organization, the namesake racket proudly created and micromanaged by The Donald. According to the New York Times, Mr. Vance will charge the Organization with “extensive and protracted criminal conduct” as regards banking, insurance, and tax fraud.
Coincidentally perhaps, prosecutors back in 1931 scored against a Palm Beach denizen whose home was a stone’s throw from the original Mar-a-Lago. The brutal reign of Alphonse Gabriel Capone (1899-1947), notorious crime boss of America’s Prohibition era who preferred the term “organization” to describe his widespread bootlegging enterprise, came to a classical end: not with a bang, but with a whimper. Never mind the countless murders and assorted atrocities he committed, or inspired his loyal thugs to commit, Al “Scarface” Capone was convicted on five counts of tax evasion, fined a mere $50,000 (€42,000) and sentenced to eleven years in prison—eight of which he served before dying from syphilis. (Thanks to advances in penicillin therapy, Donald Trump may not expire in like fashion.)
Mr. Vance’s prosecution is likely to expand exponentially, assuming he succeeds in recruiting coöperative witnesses to criminal acts among Trump cohorts; for instance, Matty Calamari, bodyguard-cum-Organization exec with a moniker that might have been written in Hollywood.
Following Mr. Vance, yet more capital-T trouble is in store from another Trump bête noire: Letitia James, the quite ambitious Attorney General of New York, affectionately known in the state capital of Albany as “Tish.”
In December 2019, Ms. James’ office collected $2 million (€1.68 million) as settlement of a fraud claim against The Trump Foundation, a namesake charity she shuttered. Additionally, Ms. James saw to it that Mr. Trump and his spawn—brothers Eric and Don Jr. and daughter Ivanka, she of the vocal fry—are forever banned from associating themselves with a New York charitable agency. Earlier, her office collected $25 million (€ 21.18 million) as settlement in claims of fraud against the now defunct Trump University, purveyor of what “campus” brochures termed The Donald’s “secrets to success.”
The mobster of Mar-a-Lago is currently lawyered up with famed criminal defense counselor Ron Fischetti. Mr. Fischetti’s many marquee clients have included Brooklyn mafia boss Vinny Badalamenti, whose 2012 extortion charge was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on something called “non-violent collection of an illegal debt”; the Russian gangster Michael Zemlyansky, perpetrator of the largest no-fault insurance fraud in American history ($275 million, or €231.10 million); and disgraced former Brooklyn police officer Chuck Schwarz, who served five years in a federal penitentiary on a charge related to a 1997 precinct stationhouse sodomy assault on Haitian immigrant Abner Luima, carried out by white cops with a broom handle.
Donald Trump’s ideal attorney would be someone in the malevolent mold of Hans Frank (1900-1946), who famously said of his Number One most admired client, “I have no conscience, Adolf Hitler is my conscience.”
Because politics often involves strange bedfellows, Mr. Trump’s current performance on his national tour of personal grievance, anti-democratic nonsense, support for gun fanaticism, revenge ideation, racist voter suppression laws—and of course, the Big Lie that has propelled deadly violence—harks back to 1979 and the Iranian revolution. A time when the chant “Death to America” was first voiced, an anti-American slogan recently shouted within the halls of the Baharestan in Tehran.
The Donald may continue inspiring the fascist fandango of which I speak, but Americans like Cy Vance and Tish James beg to cut in on the revanchist rhumba.
“Wait!” Ms. James might say, or so I like to imagine. “May I have this dance?”
Upon which, she waltzes The Donald off to the Big House.
—NOTE: If not for the intervention of Dame Democracy, Mr. Trump might have relied on legal service at this critical juncture from his hapless consigliere, Rudolph W.L. “Rudy” Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York City. Prior to his mayoral turn, Mr. Giuliani was a headline-grabbing federal prosecutor famous for securing more than four thousand gangland convictions, among which were those of Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Carmine “The Snake” Persico. Besides also being famous for his hair dye melting during a press conference full of injudicious fibs, Rudy Giuliani is famously devoted to Donald Trump, who nevertheless refused to pay legal fees submitted by his mouthpiece during the months following the Capitol insurrection. In those month, the ex-mayor/ex-prosecutor propagated the Big Lie—namely that The Donald was the rightful victor “by a landslide” in last year’s “rigged” presidential contest.
That Mr. Giuliani told the big, easily proved lie in open court earned him suspension of his New York law license, pending disbarment altogether.
My grandfather’s name was Benjamin Gedney. As a boy, I spent summers with him at the small house he built with his own hands in upstate Highland, New York. There, he would dispense advice and observations on all matters of the world, great and small. I was his eager listener.
Papa Ben admired many men and women in his lifetime—Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, especially Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926), founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World—and mocked many others. When he spotted old coots lazing on a bench in the village square, he would say to me, “Look there, Tommy—a gaggle of fresh air inspectors.”
He mocked himself. A man who repurposed his cigar butts as chewing tobacco, Ben once told me, “Never take up smoking, lad, it’s a nasty habit.” To which I naturally asked, “So why do you smoke, Papa?” His answer: “I got a habit of being nasty, kid.”
My great-grandfather would scorn Donald J. Trump—as nasty a man as ever lived. An unhealthful oleaginous lump of a sedentary man, badly dressed and freshly seventy-five years old. As a masterful curator of Irish curses, all of which he considered “lovely,” I often imagine Papa scorning The Donald with a lovely curse of his own invention—
“May his obituary be written in weasel piss.”
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag