Trump is a minor character in the 1988 book City for Sale chronicling New York City corruption under Mayor Ed Koch, but his limited appearances are revealing. Even back then, Trump had close advisors who had conflicts of interest. In the late 1970s, Trump was seeking his first Manhattan real estate deal by converting an aged 42d Street hotel into what would become the Grand Hyatt. Trump turned for assistance to lawyer Roy Cohn, who had first gained national publicity as an aide to Joe McCarthy during the height of “McCarthyism.” Cohn approached Stanley Friedman, a deputy mayor under Abe Beame, the mayor before Koch. Friedman was also the Democratic political leader of the Bronx. Cohn promised Friedman a partnership in Cohn’s firm at the end of Beame’s tenure, which Friedman accepted. Friedman then “frantically forced city bureaucrats to tie together all the loose ends of a package for Cohn client Donald Trump’s renovation of the old Commodore Hotel on 42d Street.” Tax abatements had not previously been granted real estate projects unless financing for the deal was in place, but Trump got an unprecedented forty-two-year tax abatement to convert the Commodore into the Grand Hyatt without having first secured financing. This gave “Trump the largest tax write-off in city history.” In addition, Trump got a permit for the new hotel’s Garden Room to overhang 42d Street. “Trump, largely because of the success of this deal, would become one of Cohn and Friedman’s prize clients.”
Of course, many have noticed the irony when Trump, who had Roy Cohn as lawyer and mentor, labeling the Mueller investigation as “McCarthyism.” Trump’s recent invective, however, had a Koch parallel from thirty years ago. Daily News reporter Marcia Kramer started breaking seamy stories about Bess Myerson, Koch’s friend (who had been Miss America) and a commissioner in Koch’s administration, Andy Capasso, who was Myerson’s lover, and Judge Hortense Gabel, who was judicially involved with Capasso’s messy divorce. When Kramer reported that Myerson had befriended Gabel’s troubled daughter and hired the daughter for a city position while the mother was making rulings favorable to Capasso, Koch labeled the stories “McCarthyism.” Kramer labored on because she “understood Koch well enough to interpret his lashing out with invective like ‘McCarthyism’ to mean that she had struck a nerve and was on the right track.”
The reporter had to feel a certain justification the next year when the U.S. Attorney indicted Myerson, Capasso, and Gabel. Newfield and Barrett state, “The basic facts outlined by the indictment were in the stories published by the Daily News in May and June 1986, which the mayor had deplored as ‘McCarthyism’.” Oh, and who was that U.S. Attorney? The present mouthpiece for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani was not only aware of Trump back then but also of some of the future president’s shady deals. During Koch’s three terms as mayor, Giuliani’s office indicted Stanley Friedman, and Rudy personally tried the case. Friedman took the stand, and in what turned out to be a blistering cross-examination, Giuliani started by asking Friedman “about the excessive hotel tax abatement package he’d put together for Donald Trump, and his subsequent representation of Trump.” Although I can’t be sure, I doubt that Trump and Giuliani swap stories about their interactions with Friedman, who was convicted of getting kickbacks for rigging contracts with New York City and spent four years in prison. (Friedman appealed unsuccessfully. His appellate lawyer—Alan Dershowitz.)
But I do wonder if Giuliani ever wants to say something to the president about normal, or at least Rudy’s, prosecutorial tactics. As I write this, Trump and Fox news are trying to dismiss anything said by Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer until recently, because Cohen has admitted to lying. Meanwhile, Cohen and others the president is trying to denigrate are hoping to get reduced sentences for crimes they have admitted by giving information to the prosecutor. In perhaps every trial described in City for Sale that was prosecuted by Giuliani’s office, the prosecution presented witnesses who both were proven liars and who hoped to get reduced sentences for their cooperation. But my guess is that Rudy never mentions such inconvenient facts to Donald. And when complaints come that the FBI or Mueller have used abusive investigative techniques, I doubt that Giuliani says, “Oh, that’s nothing. Remember the Stanley Friedman trial? Remember that I bugged the defense attorney Tom Puccio even though he was my friend and a former prosecutor. Now that was hardball!” (Eavesdropping revealed nothing untoward on Puccio’s part.)
Concluded December 21)