The Washington Post
My rule of thumb for months now has been to not think of the Trump White House as a presidency, but to think of it as a crime family like “The Godfather” and President Donald Trump as a mob boss.
I don’t say it lightly. When the words issued from my lips on MSNBC a few months ago, I hesitated in that way we used to do when we talked about once-taboo subjects, like being gay or cancer. But now that Trump has waxed fluent in the language of La Cosa Nostra, I feel liberated to let ‘er rip.
During an interview with Fox News, Trump said several things that only a mob boss has been known to say or care about. Reacting to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and “fixer” who pleaded guilty last week to eight federal crimes, Trump decried Cohen’s change in loyalty. “I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers,” Trump said. “Everything is wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail, and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go.”
So much talk about “flipping” and “flippers,” not to mention railing against a “RAT” a few days ago. All of this is oh so rich with irony now that federal prosecutors have granted immunity to Trump friend David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer, and Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
And speaking of loyalty, the president remains miffed at what he perceives as the disloyalty of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from involvement in special counsel Robert Mueller III’s probe into Trump’s presidential campaign. “You know the only reason I gave him the job,” the president said, “because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter.” He’s still asking, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
Those things and so much more Trump said in that Fox News interview bring me back to my rule of thumb: If you’re still viewing Trump through a presidential prism, you’re bound to be disappointed. He is not driven by the norms and customs revered and jealously guarded by most of his predecessors (cough, Nixon).
No, the Queens-born builder is driven by a noxious mix of ambition, aggrievement, egomania and a strong sense of mafia ethics, as The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman has spelled out in detail.
A president wouldn’t fire the FBI director over an investigation of his election campaign. But a mob boss would. A president wouldn’t belittle his attorney general and bemoan his lack of loyalty. But a mob boss would. A president wouldn’t strip national security clearances from his critics. But a mob boss would. A president would not surround himself with grifters and other characters who have no business being in the White House. But a mob boss couldn’t have it any other way. Trump even gave West Wing jobs to his daughter and son-in-law, who has his own real estate empire to worry about. You’ve seen the “Godfather” movies. A loyalty-dependent mob boss must have family close by.
From the moment he announced his candidacy, Trump made it clear that he couldn’t care less about the institution of the presidency.
If you’re still waiting for him to act presidential, then have fun wallowing in the misery that comes with that fruitless exercise. But when you view Trump through the mafia prism, every in-the-moment action and every middle-of-the-night tweet makes a whole lot more sense.
Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Post editorial board, writes for the PostPartisan blog and is host of the “Cape Up” podcast.