Emeritus Professor Gregg Barak, is co-founder of the Journal of White Collar & Corporate Crime. Barak is also a three-time award-winning author and editor of books on crime, justice, media, violence, criminal law, corporate law, homelessness, and human rights.
His book, Criminology on Trump, is available for pre-order here.
Read more in Research Features.
Hello and welcome to ResearchPod! Thank you for listening and joining us today.
Criminology on Trump is an investigation of the world’s most successful political and criminal outlaw, Donald J Trump. Emeritus professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Eastern Michigan University, Gregg Barak, has undertaken a unique analysis of Trumps’s background and business ventures using criminological research methods and frameworks to examine Donald Trump’s history of crime and social impunity. The crimes of this infamous entrepreneur have only recently begun to surface, but Barak shows that the accusations of sexual assault, tax evasion, money laundering, non-payment of employees, racketeering, and obstruction of justice have been accumulating for decades.
Donald J Trump has been given many names throughout his rise to infamy. According to Professor Gregg Barak’s criminological analysis of Trump’s lifetime of criminality, the most suitable label would be the Houdini of White-Collar Crime. Barak’s research explains how Trump as a con artist, cunning racketeer, and master gaslighter, used the Trump Organization as a legitimate front for criminal activities for more than four decades. Trump’s entry into the White House was an opportunity to pursue his lust for power and wealth and to orchestrate a kleptocracy.
Barak’s research has been published in his latest book: Criminology on Trump. In this work, he demonstrates that rather than being irrational, unhinged, or crazy, Trump’s background and business ventures from a framework of criminological analysis, show him to be none other than a calculating and compulsive liar.
The Trump family wealth began in the 1890s when Donald’s grandfather, Frederick Trump, amassed a fortune when he founded a restaurant-hotel-brothel in British Columbia and a restaurant and hotel in Yukon County, Canada. Money trickled down the family line until Fred, Senior, Donald’s father and maternal grandmother founded E Trump & Son in 1923, which was taken over by Donald Trump in 1971.
Lucky for Donald, he had already accumulated many millions of dollars of inheritance before he started his own business ventures – many of which would go bankrupt. To be exact, Donald Trump has had over 20 businesses go bankrupt, and Trump golf courses have lost more than $315 million over the last two decades.
To illuminate Trump’s failure to create structurally sound and profitable businesses, Barak says that even before Trump’s father died, ‘conventional banking or lending institutions had stopped doing business with Donald, and that Trump had become dependent on the underground economy, money laundering, and syndicated criminals for raising venture capital.’
Donald Trump’s relationship with crime is increasingly obvious when a closer look is taken at the financial performance of his businesses. Barak says that an analysis of his financial records reveals that he used his intelligence and deceit to operate a criminal enterprise.
The parallels between Donald Trump and famous mobsters like Bugsy Siegel and John ‘Teflon Don’ Gotti are not a coincidence, according to Barak’s analysis. Instead, they exhibit the ability for a powerful, albeit maniacal, businessman to exert influence over other people’s behaviour. Symbolically feared for his ruthlessness as a businessman, Trump not only embodies characteristics of famous American mob bosses – authority, charisma, corruption, intelligence, and persuasion – but he has done business with numerous organised crime figures.
According to Distinguished Criminology Professor Henry Pontell of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Barak uses ‘a broad criminological perspective that draws on issues central to white-collar and elite offending’ providing an importantly ‘deep and novel analysis of Donald Trump’s behaviours before, during, and after his presidency.’
Anyone who was not following Donald Trump’s rise to political infamy likely believes that his presidency came out of the blue. Although Trump had never held any political office before he became president of the United States, he had been eyeing the Oval Office for several decades.
Professor Steve Tombs of the Open University, UK, says that this ’scholarly, rigorous, and meticulously researched book’ informed by criminology, political economy, and psychology reveals a ‘forensic’ and ‘terrifying analysis’ of Trump.
In documenting Trump’s repeated attempts to usurp the ultimate position of power, Barak says that in 2000, Trump ran his first bid for presidency under the Reform Party, but quickly realised that trying to become a US president under a third party had little to no chance for success. Returning to Trump Tower, he continued to pursue a career in television in the hopes of gaining America’s adoration with his devilish charm.
Trump ran for president a second time in 2012, hoping that the American people would take him seriously but there was a great deal of speculation of his motives for gaining control of the White House. In the end, Trump dropped out of the 2012 race because his Celebrity Apprentice show provided a greater pay out than a lost bid for the US presidency.
In 2016, Trump’s ambition to rise to political power started to become a reality when he launched his campaign for this ultimate position of power. Although he was initially met with great scepticism and low ratings, Trump managed to stir reactionary America into a frenzy of nationalism, white supremacy, and organised violence. Despite his incredible wealth, Donald Trump never used a dime to pay for his political campaign. Instead, Trump used campaign funds to pay for the use of his Boeing 757, his smaller jet, his helicopter, his Trump Tower office space, and several other Trump Organization services.
White-collar crime and governmental corruption reached new heights during Trump’s four years as US President. Shady business deals with Ukraine, China, and Russia, hundreds of millions of dollars speculated to be held in offshore accounts, trillion-dollar tax cuts to the wealthy, and racketeering scams were all used to benefit Trump himself, those in his cabinet, and the ultra-wealthy billionaires of the US while continuing to fool Trump’s Republican supporters into believing that they benefit from his schemes, as well.
Barak’s analysis expertly uncovers the depth of political corruption during Donald Trump’s four years in office. This astute analysis shows that Trump pardoned significantly less prisoned offenders during his presidency in comparison to the last five presidents before him. Rather, he favoured giving pardons to lobbyists that helped him secure his position or influenced foreign political relationships.
Trump’s pardon considerations were auctioned off to people willing to pay the price of their freedom: starting at bids of 50,000 US dollars. There are several noted accounts of lobbyists paying $100,000 and all the way up to 750,000 US dollars to a variety of lobbying firms that supported Donald Trump’s political party.
According to Barak, the folks that were personally pardoned by Trump lobbied ‘the United States illegally and regularly on behalf of foreign interests such as the convicted and pardoned Paul Manafort and the indicted Tom Barrack. Neither were ever registered as lobbyists or publicly advertised their lobbying services. Not only were their transactions with Trump “off the books” but they also were clearly in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, 1938.’
Paying huge sums of money towards Donald Trump’s political empire not only could get someone out of prison, but it even landed one man a place on Trump’s trust fund board for the Library of Congress. He was only one of many of Trump’s lobbyists to land a government position.
Trump’s incitement of political insurgency and the orchestrated assault on Capitol Hill is likely the greatest display of Trump’s power. In his attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, masses of Trump supporters and allies stormed the Capitol building with weapons and firearms. While the rest of the world watched on live television, many believed that this would be the final straw and an opportunity to end Trump’s political career once and for all. Alas, the Republican-held Congress once again denied, downplayed, and excused the behaviours of the ex-Commander-in-Chief and Trump so far has slithered away with complete amnesty.
Criminology on Trump delivers a razor-sharp criminological analysis of the dark and illegal activities that Donald Trump pursued to obtain social and political power in the United States. It shows how he used his position to perpetuate his own criminal agenda, and finally, the lengths that he would go to keep the power that he spent decades socially constructing.
That’s all for this episode – thanks for listening, and stay subscribed to Research Pod for more of the latest science. See you again soon.