Because it is part of human nature to tell and listen to stories and to learn from them, fables have always been around.
Fables are the stories repeated over and over in a culture or society for the pleasures of telling and hearing them, and for the moral or practical instruction they can offer. They have accurately been described as “fictions that point to truths.”
Here’s a truth, straight from the fable-horse’s mouth, Aesop himself: “You are known by the company you keep.”
That this is a truth is widely accepted by professionals in policing and defending national security. This is in part why Donald Trump pops up so frequently in intelligence files of local and state police agencies, the FBI, and, since he went global in the 1980s, the CIA and NSA. It’s the company he keeps.
Take two examples: Paul Manafort and Felix Sater.
Manafort’s career has been about connecting politicians to reliable funding from right-wing contributors and getting them positive media coverage. He did this for Trump and for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. He also did this for far more reprehensible people abroad like the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Mobuto Sese Seko, the President-for-Life of The Congo and Angolan guerilla leader Jonas Savimbi.
No wonder Viktor Yanukovych, Putin’s puppet in Ukraine, spent millions of dollars buying Manafort’s services.
Now I ask you, if you ran the FBI, CIA, or NSA, isn’t Manafort just the kind of guy you’d keep files on, if for no other reason, for the company he keeps? Not to mention the potentially dangerous connections he makes between the world’s worst people and America’s most rich and powerful.
Then, there’s this: the money Manafort gets from these jobs tends to disappear into foreign banks or shell corporations meant to keep it hidden.
Now, to Felix Sater, a kind of Russian mirror image of Manafort, a fixer whose life has also been all about linking up his associates. Those connections are the reason he’s not in jail doing long hard time for a $40 million stock fraud he committed with several Russian organized crime figures. His willingness to turn FBI informant, and his putto use his knowledge of the Putin-era underworld bought him his freedom. Which he has continued used to use to advance the interests of Donald Trump and his Russian or Ukrainian clients.
Can we agree, Felix Sater is also someone who merits monitoring by the defenders of American law, order and domestic security?
This is exactly the kind of company Donald Trump has always chosen to keep: mobsters, fixers and their friends. It is, one must add, exactly the company, on a much more parochial scale, that his father consistently kept. Fred Trump made his millions building apartments, public and private, in Brooklyn and Queens. At the time, both boroughs were completely dominated by Democratic Party politicians who were themselves dominated by the bosses of NYC’s organized crime.
Father Trump did this by rubbing elbows and greasing palms of corrupt city and party officials and mob bigwigs and their dependents who ran almost all the labor unions from which he hired workers. Like Father; like son.
Trump’s empire and its remarkable survival of 6 bankruptcies has always depended on his ties to other con-men, politicians and more strong-armed criminal types. When his habit of going bust and busting his creditors first (to keep The Donald great) finally cost him his NYC big-bank credit, he had to turn Deutsche Bank.
Clang! Deutsche Bank has long been on the radar screens of every law enforcement and intelligence agency responsible for fiscal rule of law. That intersection put Trump’s name in yet another file, and so did his connections to Russian banks and financial institutions believed linked to Russian organized crime, Vladimir Putin or his favorite oligarchs.
The bottom line here is that many of these closely-observed intersections among Trump and his chosen business and social companions have raised a lot of unanswered questions like, “What were these meetings about?” “What was he up to?”
It’s now up to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, his reputation and legacy as much at stake as the national interest, to try to answer these questions. The massive documentation in the files and the availability of most of the people who put it there presents a huge investigative opportunity. Happily, Mueller has the public and political support to give him a budget and staff equal to the task.
Truly, this promises to be President Donald Trump’s worst nightmare: to be judged by the company he keeps and what he does with them.