Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era

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by Whitney Webb, MintPress News:

Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the U.S. from the Prohibition Era right up through the Age of Trump.

Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who now sits in jail on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors, has continued to draw media scrutiny in the weeks after his arrest on July 6. Part of the reason for this continued media interest is related to Epstein’s alleged relationship to the intelligence services and new information about the true extent of the sexual blackmail operation Epstein is believed to have run for decades.

As MintPress reported last week, Epstein was able to run this sordid operation for so long precisely because his was only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive operation that began in the 1950s and perhaps even earlier.

Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.

This report, Part II of this series titled “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big To Fail,” will delve into Cohn’s close ties to the Reagan administration, which was also closely tied to the same organized crime network led by the infamous mob figure Meyer Lansky, which was discussed in Part I. Of particular importance is the “Iran Contra” network, a group of Reagan officials and associates who played key roles in the Iran Contra scandal. Though it has remained relatively unknown for years, many key figures in that same network, and several fronts for the CIA that were involved in funneling money to the Central American Contra paramilitaries, were also trafficking minors for their sexual exploitation and use in sexual blackmail rings.

Several of these rings made headlines at one point or another over the years — from the “call boy ring” run by Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, to the Franklin child-sex and murder ring run by Republican operative Larry King, to the scandal that enveloped the Catholic charity Covenant House in the late 1980s.

Yet, as this report will show, all of these rings — and more — were connected to the same network that involved key figures linked to the Reagan White House and linked to Roy Cohn — revealing the true scope of the sordid sexual blackmail operations and sex rings that involved the trafficking of children within the U.S. and even in Central America for their exploitation by dangerous and powerful pedophiles in the United States.

Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the United States from the Prohibition Era right up to the present day and the Age of Trump, a fact made increasingly clear as more and more information comes to light in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case.

 

“Roy could fix anyone in the city”

Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene in 2015, the legacy of his mentor, Roy Cohn – as well as Cohn’s influence on his most famous protege — have begun to garner renewed media attention. Many of the profiles on Cohn following Trump’s rise have focused solely on certain shadowy aspects of Cohn’s history, particularly his association with major figures in New York organized crime, his corrupt dealings, and his eventual disbarment. Some of these portrayals even went so far as to label Cohn as politically impotent. While Cohn was known to deal with a sizable amount of sleaze in his career, such depictions of the man fail to note that he had created an influence machine of unrivaled power that included some of the most prominent people in media and politics as well as a cadre of celebrities.

Cohn was closely associated with numerous celebrities, famous politicians and political operatives. Many of his birthday parties over the years attracted such famous figures such as artist Andy Warhol, fashion designer Calvin Klein, and comedian Joey Adams, as well as notable political figures including former Mayor of New York Abraham Beame and then-Assemblyman from Brooklyn and future Senator Chuck Schumer, among others. In 1979 Margaret Trudeau, mother of current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, attended Cohn’s birthday party, where she famously toppled his custom birthday cake; and of course Donald Trump, who became Cohn’s protege in the mid-1970s, was a frequent fixture at social events held in Cohn’s honor.

The politicians, journalists and celebrities invited to Cohn’s exclusive parties were said to be those who “had open accounts in Cohn’s ‘favor bank,’” his nickname for his unofficial balance sheet of political favors and debts that was surely informed and influenced by his extensive involvement in sexual blackmail operations from the 1950s well into the 1980s.

Many of Cohn’s celebrity friendships were cultivated through his relationship with and frequent appearances at the famous and famously debaucherous New York nightclub Studio 54, which was described by Vanity Fair as “the giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex.” Cohn was the long-time lawyer of the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

Steve Rubell Roy Cohn

Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell and Roy Cohn, left, talk to reporters outside U.S. District Court in Manhattan on, Nov. 2, 1979. Photo | AP

Among Cohn’s closest friends were Barbara Walters, to whom Cohn often referred as his “fiancee” in public, and whom he later introduced to the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, and other high rollers in the Reagan White House. Yet, Walters was just one of Cohn’s powerful friends in the media, a group that also included Abe Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times; William Safire, long-time New York Times columnist and New York Magazine contributor; and George Sokolsky of The New York Herald TribuneNBC and ABC. Sokolsky was a particularly close friend of both Cohn and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose involvement in Cohn’s sexual blackmail operation is described in Part I of this investigative series. Sokolsky ran the American Jewish League Against Communism with Cohn for several years and the organization later named its Medal of Honor after Sokolsky.

Cohn was also the attorney and friend of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and, according to New York Magazine, “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped, item put in, or story exploited, Roy called Murdoch;” and, after Murdoch bought the New York Post, Cohn “wielded the paper as his personal shiv.” According to the late journalist Robert Parry, the friendship between Murdoch and Cohn first began thanks to their mutual support for Israel.

Cohn also leaned on his life-long friend since high school, Si Newhouse Jr., to exert media influence. Newhouse oversaw the media empire that now includes Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and numerous local newspapers throughout the United States, as well as major interests in cable television. New York Magazine also noted that “Cohn used his influence in the early ’80s to secure favors for himself and his Mob clients in Newhouse publications.” In addition to Newhouse, Cohn’s other high school pals, Generoso Pope Jr. and Richard Berlin, later became the owners of the National Enquirer and the Hearst Corporation, respectively. Cohn was also a close friend of another media mogul, Mort Zuckerman, who – along with Rupert Murdoch – would go on to befriend Jeffrey Epstein.

Cohn’s media confidants, like journalist William Buckley of The National Review and Firing Line, often attacked Cohn’s political enemies – particularly long-time Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — in their columns, using Cohn as an anonymous source. Buckley, whom historian George Nash once called “the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure,” received the George Sokolsky medal alongside Cohn’s mob-linked client and “Supreme Commander” Lewis Rosenstiel from the Cohn-run American Jewish League Against Communism in 1966. Buckley later got a heavily discounted $65,000 loan to buy a luxury boat from a bank where Cohn held influence and whose president Cohn had hand picked, according to a 1969 article in LIFE magazine.

Buckley — along with Barbara Walters, Alan Dershowitz and Donald Trump — would later serve as character witnesses for Cohn during his 1986 disbarment hearings and all but Buckley would later draw controversy for their relationships with Jeffrey Epstein.

With connections like this, it’s no wonder that Stanley Friedman — a law partner of Cohn, who was later imprisoned over a kickback and bribery scandal while serving as New York’s deputy mayor — told journalist Marie Brenner in 1980 that “Roy could fix anyone in the city.”

 

Politically ubiquitous and polygamous

Roy Cohn’s “favor bank” and his unique position as a liaison between the criminal underworld, the rich and famous, and top media influencers made him a force to be reckoned with. Yet, it was his political connections to leadership figures in both the Republican and Democratic parties and his close relationship to long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, among other figures, that made him and his dark secret “untouchable” for much of his life. Though most of his political influence was forged in the 1950s, Cohn became even more powerful with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

Even though he nominally maintained his affiliation with the Democratic Party throughout his life, Cohn was a well-known “fixer” for Republican candidates and this is clearly seen in his outsized roles during the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan. It was during the latter that Cohn would meet another of his proteges, Roger Stone, whom he infamously instructed to leave a hefty bribe tucked in a suitcase at the doorstep of the Liberal Party’s headquarters during the 1980 campaign. During this campaign, Cohn would also meet Paul Manafort — an associate of Stone and later Trump’s 2016 campaign manager — and introduce both to Donald Trump.

Cohn’s law partner, Tom Bolan, was also an influential force in the Reagan campaign and later chaired Reagan’s transition team in 1980. Reagan then named Bolan, whom he considered a friend, a director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the government’s development finance institution, and he was also the New York finance co-chairman in the Reagan campaign in both 1980 and 1984. Bolan was also close to others in Cohn’s circle, such as William F. Buckley Jr., Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.

Furthermore, Bolan was instrumental in securing federal judgeships for several individuals who would later become influential, including future FBI Director Louis Freeh. Cohn was also able to get friends of clients appointed as federal judges, including Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry. After Barry was appointed as a federal judge, Trump called Cohn to thank him for pulling strings on his sister’s behalf.

Though Cohn was not given a public position in the Reagan administration, he was not merely a “dirty trickster” who worked in the shadows during the Reagan campaigns. In fact, he worked closely with some of the more visible faces of the campaign, including the then-communications director for Reagan’s 1980 campaign and later CIA director, William Casey. According to Christine Seymour — Cohn’s long-time switchboard operator from the late 1960s up until his death in 1986, who listened in on his calls — Casey and Cohn were close friends and, during the 1980 campaign, Casey “called Roy almost daily.”

Seymour also noted that one of Cohn’s other most frequent phone pals and closest friends was Nancy Reagan and she was also one of his clients. Reagan, whose influence over her husband was well-known, was so close to Cohn that it was largely his death from AIDS that led her to “encourage her husband to seek more funding for AIDS research.”

Prior to Cohn’s death, Nancy and her husband Ronald secured his spot in an exclusive experimental AIDS treatment program, despite the Reagan administration’s well-documented “non-response” to the AIDS crisis of the era. Ronald Reagan was also a friend of Cohn’s and, according to late journalist Robert Parry, “lavished favors on Cohn, including invitations to White House events, personal thank-you notes and friendly birthday wishes” over the course of his presidency.

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