Trump-Russia: Cover-up worse than the crime?
As a young California reporter, I covered the criminal trial of storied Mafia boss Joe Bonanno. In his heyday, the Sicilian-born Bonanno ruled the New York crime family that bore his name. By 1980, he was a courtly 75-year-old grandfather living in semi-retirement in the West. I found his prosecution troubling.
The New York tabloids liked to call him “Joe Bananas,” which implied he was unhinged, but that was all wrong. He dressed well, spoke carefully, and was discreet in business, which is why he stayed out of prison. Because he had helped negotiate an end to a gangland war in the 1930s, his rival mob bosses allowed him to walk away from the life they’d chosen. The U.S. government made no such accommodation.
In the late 1970s, he lived in Tucson, Ariz., and managed business interests in California. Although he’d never been convicted of any crime more serious than a labor infraction at a factory he owned, when Bonanno tried to buy a string of Central Valley car dealerships, the feds assumed he was laundering money.
Donald Trump may or may not have been an original “target” of James Comey’s Russia investigation, but Joe Bonanno was in the bureau’s cross-hairs. They put a wire on a Bonanno friend and placed him in Joe’s home, tapped Bonanno’s phones, braced his associates, and even rifled through his garbage. For more than a year, they pursued their quarry with zeal — and came up empty.
Finally, the old man cracked. He instructed his sons, who were the target of a parallel FBI investigation, to toss old financial records and told others to clam up before the grand jury. Just like that, the feds slapped conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges against him. They convicted him, too, which struck some people as poetic justice given his history […]