A spokesman for Donald Trump has declined to comment on whether the former president has any ties to a notorious Philadelphia mobster. This comes after the former president was photographed with Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino at a Trump-owned golf club.
“President Trump takes countless photos with people,” the Trump spokesperson said after the photo made its way online. The photo shows Trump between Merlino and another unidentified man, with all of them making a “thumbs-up” gesture.
The Mobster in Question
“Skinny Joey” Merlino was reportedly once “a leader of a violent crew on his way up to being boss of an organized crime operation active in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.”
Merlino was convicted on racketeering charges in 2001 and imprisoned for ten years. In 2018, Merlino was locked up for another two years after pleading guilty to a gambling charge.
Birds of the Same Feather?
However, Merlino and Trump seem to have more in common than golf. They also share “an aversion to cooperating witnesses who ‘flip’ to help federal investigators.”
Trump aired his opinion clearly in 2018, when his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who went to jail on campaign finance charges and for lying to Congress, began to cooperate with investigators looking into Trump’s links to Russia.
“It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal. It’s not a fair thing, but that’s why he did it. He made a very good deal.” Trump said in 2018. That same year, after being sentenced to prison, Merlino said: “President Trump was right. They need to outlaw the flippers.”
In a 2013 interview with CBS News, Trump was asked explicitly if he had “ever knowingly done business with organized crime.”
His answer was somewhat vague, “You know, growing up in New York and doing business in New York, I would say there might have been one of those characters along the way, but generally speaking I like to stay away from that group. I have met on occasion a few of those people. They happen to be very nice people,” adding, “You just don’t want to owe them money. Don’t owe them money.”
Although it is unknown whether Trump knows Merlino, the photograph of himself and the notorious criminal together is not a good look as the former president looks to ramp up his 2024 presidential campaign.