Donald Trump listened skeptically as Daniel Sullivan, his labor consultant, bragged about connections to New York’s underworld. Sullivan told Trump he was tight not only with leaders of unions, some of them fronts for the mob, but also with the FBI. In 1981, he walked into Trump’s Manhattan office with two men in suits. They were FBI agents, and they wanted to talk to Trump about organized crime, the Washington Post reports. Trump welcomed them in. The meeting came at a pivotal time in Trump’s career, when he was trying to establish himself as a Manhattan developer and Atlantic City casino operator. Trump deepened his interactions with Sullivan, who turned out to be an FBI informant, and cultivated a friendship with one of the FBI agents, a young investigator named Walt Stowe.
The story “tells people he’s a tough, tough, tough businessman,” said Stowe, long retired from the FBI. “New York was so totally corrupt and so controlled by the mob in the ’80s that in order to be a successful businessman, you had to have some way to work that world.” During his run for the White House, Trump has maintained that he always operated aboveboard as a real estate developer and casino operator, at a time when corruption and organized crime were rampant in New York and Atlantic City. The details of Trump’s relationships with Sullivan and Stowe show that he worked with men with underworld connections to further and protect his business interests.