Finally, some real evidence of electoral fraud. After weeks of claims and court dismissals, Donald Trump at last has solid evidence that this is a country where elected officials can pick up a phone and try to fix the results, and that, as the mobsters used to say, the fish rots from the head. Unfortunately for Trump, he’s the one on the line — and the hook. Call him The Codfather.
The leaked recording of Trump trying to strong-arm Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger confirms that The Godfather movies aren’t just an immigrant parable, but also a handbook to how to get on and up in American life. If something’s broken — the political system, for instance — then fix it.
‘There’s nothing wrong with saying that y’know, er…that you’ve recalculated,’ the Don suggests, asking Raffensperger to feel down the back of his peach-colored sofa for some loose votes.
When Raffensperger refuses, the Don warns he’s taking ‘a big risk’. Nice Republican-controlled statehouse you’ve got there: it would be a shame if anything happened to it. Still, it’s nothing personal, just business. Like Don Fanucci, all Don Trump wants to do is ‘wet his beak’: ‘All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.’
When that fails, the Don reminds Raffensperger that they go back — if not to the Old Country, then at least to the old country club.
‘You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.’
‘We believe that we do have an accurate election,’ Raffensperger replies, knowing that the Feds are listening — or will be, because the fink is taping it.
‘No you don’t,’ Trump says, trying to intimidate Raffensperger. ‘No, you don’t. You don’t have one, not even close. You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes. You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offense.’
This is how the racket works: becoming implicated in one kind of crime as a protection against charges of another. Perhaps this is always how Trump worked. It’s certainly how Roy Cohn worked. Few careers confirm the suspicion that the fix is always in better than Cohn’s, whose clients included Sen. Joe McCarthy, the Archdiocese of New York, ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and, in the years when he was building his construction empire in New York, Donald Trump.
‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?’ Trump is said to ask when the pressure is on. The last days of the Trump White House sound more like the last reel of Scarface, when Tony Montana is alone and so out of his head he’ll believe anything: ‘Do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County, ‘cause that’s what the rumor is, and also that Dominion took out machines, that Dominion is really moving fast to get out their machinery?’
The hacks who believe a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ put a contract out on the Clinton family are as shocked by Trump’s claims of a vast left-wing conspiracy as the diners at Umberto’s Clam House were when Joey Gallo got whacked. Because really, there’s nothing to see. We can hear it, of course: like Lois the babysitter in Goodfellas, Trump ignores Jimmy Conway’s advice to never use the phone. But the public has already picked its good guys and bad guys. Everyone knows there’s always an angle, especially in politics.
The gangster affectation always was part of Trump’s appeal, part of his Donny-from-Queens routine. It always was a problem for the stars of the Republican party, the ones he muscled out of the game in 2015. Since then, they’ve acted like the party is a legit operation while quietly begging for favors like Johnny Fontane at the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter. They owe him, but how much?
It’ll be a bigger problem now for the dozen Republican senators who say they’ll refuse to endorse the election result on Wednesday. Not so much for the made man of Trumpism, Josh Hawley, as for Ted Cruz. He never saw a racket he didn’t want to get in on, but he always managed to avoid getting pinched — until now. After this, is Cruz really going to say hello to his little friend Rudy Giuliani?
Raffensperger — or whoever it was that slipped the tape to the Washington Post — just did the Republican families a big favor. They can turn their back on Trump now — or go down with the Don.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.