Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era
NEW YORK – 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 funnelling 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.
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 Tribune, NBC 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.
Given that Reagan heavily courted the evangelical right and promoted “family values” as president, the close ties between not only himself, but his inner circle, with Cohn may seem odd. However, Reagan, like Cohn, had deep ties to the same organized-crime factions that were among Cohn’s clients and affiliates of the same Mafia figures close to Cohn’s own mentor, Lewis Rosenstiel (see Part I).
Not unlike Cohn, Reagan’s own mentor, Lew Wasserman, had close ties to the mob. Wasserman, the long-time president of MCA and the well-known Hollywood mogul, is known for not only making Reagan’s film and television career, but also supporting his successful push to become president of the Screen Actors Guild, which later launched Reagan’s political career. In addition, MCA was a major financier of Reagan’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1966 and, not long after Reagan became president, his administration controversially shut down a massive Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into MCA’s ties to organized crime.
According to Shawn Swords, a documentary filmmaker who explored Reagan’s ties to MCA in Wages of Spin II: Bring Down That Wall:
“Ronald Reagan was an opportunist. His whole career was guided by MCA — by Wasserman and [MCA founder] Jules Stein, who bragged that Reagan was malleable, that they could do what they wanted with him…That thing about Reagan being tough on [organized] crime — that’s a fallacy.”
Swords’ characterization of this relationship is supported by an unnamed Hollywood source cited in a declassified DOJ document, who called Reagan “a complete slave of MCA who would do their bidding on anything.”
What elements of organized crime were connected to Wasserman? As a young man, Lew Wasserman joined the Mayfield Road Gang, which was run by Moe Dalitz, a close friend of Meyer Lansky who, per the FBI, was a powerful figure in Lansky’s criminal enterprise, second only to Lansky himself among members of the Jewish mob.
Lew Wasserman would later marry Edith Beckerman, whose father was Dalitz’s lawyer. Wasserman’s closest friend and lawyer, Sidney Korshak, also had close ties to Dalitz and once partnered with Lansky in the Acapulco Towers Hotel. Notably, the magazine New West stated in 1976 that Korshak was the “logical successor to Meyer Lansky.” Korshak, as a lawyer, fit a niche similar to Roy Cohn and gained a reputation as the bridge between organized crime and respectable society.
In addition, the DOJ probe into MCA that the Reagan administration quashed was reportedly spurred after the Justice Department learned that an influential member of the Gambino crime family, Salvatore Pisello, was doing business with the massive entertainment company. At that time, the boss of the Gambino crime family, Paul Castellano, was a client of Roy Cohn.
Cohn, Murdoch and the Contras
Though Cohn’s influence in the Reagan administration and his friendship with the Reagan family and their inner circle has been acknowledged, less well-known is how Cohn aided the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts that were part of the larger scandal known as Iran-Contra.
Cohn, whose influence over the press has already been detailed, forged close ties with the director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, even hosting a luncheon in Wick’s honor that was widely attended by influential figures in the conservative press, as well as senators and representatives. Soon after, then-CIA Director and Cohn friend William Casey was spearheading an extensive PR campaign aimed at shoring up public support for Reagan’s Latin American policies, including support of the Contra paramilitaries.
This domestic propaganda effort was technically illegal and required that the CIA outsource the job to the private sector to minimize the risk of fall-out. As Robert Parry reported in 2015, Wick took the lead in obtaining private funding for the effort and, just a few days after Wick promised to find private support, Cohn brought his close friend, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, to the White House.
Parry later noted that, after this meeting, “documents released during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and later from the Reagan Library indicate that Murdoch was soon viewed as a source for the private funding” for the propaganda campaign.
After that initial meeting, Murdoch became the top media ally of this Casey-directed propaganda effort, and also became increasingly close to the Reagan White House. Murdoch, as a consequence, benefited greatly from Reagan’s policies and his friendship with the administration, which allowed Murdoch to increase his U.S. media holdings and to create the Fox Broadcasting Corporation in 1987.
“The man in the black tuxedo”
Roy Cohn was not the only one close to the Reagan administration who was simultaneously running sexual blackmail operations that abused and exploited children. In fact, there were several figures, all of whom shared direct connections to CIA Director William Casey and other close friends and confidants of Cohn.
One of these individuals was Robert Keith Gray, the former chairman and CEO of the powerful Washington-based public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, which 60 Minutes once called “an unelected shadow government” due to its influence in the capitol. According to the Washington Post, Gray himself was “one of the most sought-after lobbyists in Washington” and a Post reporter once called him “a kind of legend in this town, …the man in the black tuxedo with snow-white hair and a smile like a diamond.”
Yet, Gray was much more than a powerful PR executive.
Gray, who had previously been a close adviser to both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, was a very successful Republican fundraiser who “collects money in six-figure globs,” according to a 1974 report in the Washingtonian. He first came into close contact with what would become Ronald Reagan’s inner circle during Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign and later as deputy director of communications during Reagan’s campaign in 1980. The latter position would see him work directly under William Casey, who later became CIA director.
Gray would go on to co-chair Reagan’s Inauguration Committee and afterwards would return to the PR business, taking on several clients including Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and hedge fund manager Marc Rich. Both Khashoggi and Rich will be discussed more in detail in Part III of this report — particularly Rich, who was an asset of Israeli intelligence outfit Mossad, and whose later criminal pardon by Bill Clinton was largely orchestrated by members of the Mega Group like Michael Steinhardt and Israeli politicians like Ehud Barak.
The connection between Gray and Casey is particulary telling, as it was later revealed by former Nebraska state senator-turned-investigator John DeCamp that Gray was a specialist in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Cohn and Gray were likely to have known each other well, as during Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign Casey — then Gray’s boss — was calling Roy Cohn “every day,” according to Cohn’s former switchboard operator Christine Seymour.
Gray was a known associate of CIA agent and Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Wilson, having served in the 1970s on the board of Consultants International, an organization that Wilson had founded and that the CIA used as a front company. Though Gray attempted to distance himself from Wilson after the latter was caught illegally selling weapons to Libya in 1983, a Navy review of Wilson’s intelligence career, unearthed by journalist Peter Maas, stated that Gray described Wilson as a man of “unqualified trust” and that Gray and Wilson had been in professional contact “two or three times a month” as early as 1963.
Though Wilson’s main specialty was front companies used to covertly ship and smuggle goods on behalf of U.S. intelligence, he also ran sexual blackmail operations for the CIA, particularly around the time of the Watergate scandal, according to his former partner and fellow agent at the CIA, Frank Terpil.
Terpil later told author and investigative journalist Jim Hougan:
“Historically, one of Wilson’s Agency jobs was to subvert members of both houses [of Congress] by any means necessary…. Certain people could be easily coerced by living out their sexual fantasy in the flesh…. A remembrance of these occasions [was] permanently recorded via selected cameras…. The technicians in charge of filming … [were] TSD [Technical Services Division of the CIA]. The unwitting porno stars advanced in their political careers, some of [whom] may still be in office.”
According to Terpil, Wilson ran his operation out of the George Town Club, owned by lobbyist and Korean intelligence asset Tongsun Park. According to the Washington Post, Park set up the club on behalf of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency “as a primary means in an illegal effort to influence U.S. politicians and officials.” The president of the George Town Club at the time of Wilson’s alleged activities at the site was Robert Keith Gray.
DeCamp later reported that Wilson’s activities were a spin-off of the same sexual blackmail operation in which Cohn became involved during the McCarthy era with Lewis Rosenstiel and J. Edgar Hoover.
Father Ritter and his favored youths
The operation allegedly ran by Gray and Wilson was not the only sexual blackmail operation connected to Cohn’s network or to influential American politicians of the era. Another pedophile network that was connected to a close associate of former President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s was run as an affiliate of the Catholic charity Covenant House, which was founded and run by Father Bruce Ritter.
In 1968, Ritter asked his superior — Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York — for permission to take homeless teenagers, boys and girls, into his home in Manhattan. As was noted in Part I of this series, Spellman was accused of pedophilia and ordained known pedophiles while serving as the highest-ranking Catholic priest in the United States. Spellman was also a close associate, client and friend of Roy Cohn, as well as of his law partner Tom Bolan, and Spellman was alleged to have been seen at least one of Cohn’s “blackmail parties.” In addition, Spellman’s nephew, Ned Spellman, worked for Roy Cohn, according to LIFE magazine.
Ritter, like Spellman and other priests who served under Spellman, was eventually accused of having sexual relationships with many of the underaged boys he had taken in, and of spending Covenant House funds on lavish gifts and payments to the vulnerable teenagers he exploited.
One of Ritter’s victims, Darryl Bassile, wrote an open letter to him a year after the priest’s preying on teenage boys was exposed by the press: “You were wrong for inflicting your desires on a 14-year-old . . . I know that someday you will stand before the one who judges all of us and at that time there will be no more denial, just the truth.”
Notably, when Ritter’s activities at Covenant House were exposed in 1989 by the New York Post, Charles M. Sennott, the Post reporter who wrote the story, would later state that “the secular powers more than the archdiocese or the Franciscans protected him [Ritter].” Sennott’s report was attacked viciously by columnists in other New York media outlets, powerful politicians including then-Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, as well as by Cardinal Spellman’s successor, Cardinal John O’Connor.
The likely reason these “secular powers” came to the aid of the embattled Ritter, who was never charged for having sexual relationships with minors and was merely forced to resign from his post, is that Covenant House and Ritter himself were deeply tied to Robert Macauley, Bush Sr.’s roommate at Yale and a long-time friend of the Bush family. Macauley was described by the New York Times as “instrumental” to Covenant House fundraising after he joined its board in 1985 and brought on several “other wealthy or well-connected people,” including former government officials and investment bankers.
Macauley’s organization, the AmeriCares Foundation, which was later accused of funneling money to the Contras in Central America, was one of the main sources of funding of Covenant House. One of the members of AmeriCares advisory board was William E. Simon, former U.S. secretary of the treasury under the Nixon and Ford administrations, who also ran the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund, which sent aid to the Contras.
AmeriCares was also known to work directly with U.S. intelligence. As the Hartford Courant noted in 1991: “Knowledgeable former federal officials, many with backgrounds in intelligence work, help AmeriCares maneuver in delicate international political environments.”
Furthermore, Ritter was known to have visited Macauley’s Connecticut estate and served as Vice President of AmeriCares until he was forced to resign from Covenant House. Notably, George H.W. Bush’s brother, Prescott, was also on the AmeriCares advisory board. After George H.W. Bush died last year, AmeriCares stated that he had been “instrumental in founding the health-focused relief and development organization.”
Years before Ritter was outed as a pedophile who preyed on the disadvantaged and vulnerable teenagers who sought refuge at his charity, Covenant House was praised heavily by President Ronald Reagan, even earning a mention in his 1984 State of the Union address, which called Ritter one of the country’s “unsung heroes.” From 1985 to 1989, Covenant House’s operating budget grew from $27 million to $90 million and its board came to include powerful individuals including top executives at IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank and Bear Stearns.
It was during this time that Covenant House grew into an international organization, opening branches in several countries, including Canada, Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. Its first branch in Central America was opened in Guatemala and was headed by Roberto Alejos Arzu, a CIA asset whose plantation was used to train the troops used in the CIA’s failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba. Alejos Arzu was also an associate of the former U.S.-backed dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, and a member of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic order to which former CIA Director William Casey and Roy Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan also belonged. Alejos Arzu also worked for AmeriCares and was tied to several Central American paramilitary groups.
Intelligence community sources cited by DeCamp assert that the Alejos Arzu-led branch of Covenant House procured children for a pedophile ring based in the United States. Years later, Mi Casa, another U.S.-run charity in Guatemala that George H.W. Bush had personally toured with his wife Barbara in 1994, was accused of rampant pedophilia and child abuse.
The downfall of “Washington’s Jay Gatsby”
After having left his job as an ABC News correspondent in the 1980s, Craig Spence found success as a prominent conservative Washington lobbyist. Spence would soon find his fortunes shift dramatically when, in June 1989, it was revealed that he had been pimping out children to the power elite in the nation’s capital throughout the 1980s in apartments that were bugged with video and audio recording equipment. Much like Jeffrey Epstein, who ran a similar operation, Spence was often likened to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, wealthy figure from the well-known Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.
A 1982 New York Times article written about Spence said that his “personal phone book and party guest lists constitute a ‘Who’s Who’ in Congress, Government and journalism” and stated that Spence was “hired by his clients as much for whom he knows as what he knows.” Spence was also known to throw lavish parties, which the Times described as “glitter[ed] with notables, from ambassadors to television stars, from senators to senior State Department officials.” Roy Cohn, William Casey and Roy Cohn’s journalist friend William Safire were just some of the other attendees at Spence’s festivities.
“According to Mr. Spence,” the Times article continues, “Richard Nixon is a friend. So is [former Attorney General under Nixon] John Mitchell. [CBS journalist] Eric Sevareid is termed ‘an old, dear friend.’ Senator John Glenn is ‘a good friend’ and Peter Ustinov [British actor and journalist] is ‘an old, old friend.’” Notably, Ustinov wrote for The European newspaper soon after it was founded in 1990 by Robert Maxwell, the father of Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and a known Mossad agent.
It was revealed just seven years after the Times’ published its doting profile of Spence that his “glittery parties for key officials of the Reagan and Bush administrations, media stars and top military officers” had been bugged in order “to compromise guests.” According to the explosive report published by the Washington Times, Spence was linked to a “homosexual prostuition ring” whose clients included “government officials, locally based U.S. military officers, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, congressional aides, media representatives and other professionals.” Spence also offered cocaine to his guests as another means of acquiring blackmail.
According to the report, Spence’s home “was bugged and had a secret two-way mirror, and … he attempted to ensnare visitors into compromising sexual encounters that he could then use as leverage.” One man who spoke to the Washington Times said that Spence sent a limousine to his home, which took him to a party where “several young men tried to become friendly with him.” According to DeCamp, Spence was known to offer young children for sex to attendees at his blackmail parties, along with illegal drugs like cocaine.
Several other sources, including a Reagan White House official and an Air Force sergeant who had attended Spence-hosted parties, confirmed that Spence’s house was filled with recording equipment, which he regularly used to spy on and record guests, and his house also included a two-way mirror that he used for eavesdropping.
The report also documented Spence’s connections to U.S. intelligence, particularly the CIA. According to the Washington Times report, Spence “often boasted that he was working for the CIA and on one occasion said he was going to disappear for awhile ‘because he had an important CIA assignment.’” He was also quite paranoid about his alleged work for the agency, as he expressed concern “that the CIA might ‘doublecross him’ and kill him instead and then make it look like a suicide.” Not long after the Washington Times report on his activities was published, Spence was found dead in the Boston Ritz Carlton and his death was quickly ruled a suicide.
The Washington Times report also offers a clue as to what Spence may have done for the CIA, as it cited sources that had claimed that Spence had spoken of smuggling cocaine into the U.S. from El Salvador, an operation that he claimed had involved U.S. military personnel. Given the timing of these comments from Spence, Spence’s powerful connections, and the CIA’s involvement in the exchange of cocaine for weapons in the Iran Contra scandal, his comments may have been much more than just boasts intended to impress his party guests.
One of the most critical parts of the scandal surrounding Spence, however, was the fact that he had been able to enter the White House late at night during the George H.W. Bush administration with young men whom the Washington Times described as “call boys.”
Spence later stated that his contacts within the White House, which allowed him and his “call boys” access, were “top level” officials and he specifically singled out George H.W. Bush’s then-National Security Advisor Donald Gregg. Gregg had worked at the CIA since 1951 before he resigned in 1982 to become National Security Advisor to Bush, who was then vice president. Prior to resigning from his post at the CIA, Gregg had worked directly under William Casey and, in the late 1970s, alongside a young William Barr in stonewalling the congressional Pike Committee and Church Committee, which investigated the CIA beginning in 1975. Among the things that they were tasked with investigating were the CIA’s “love traps,” or sexual blackmail operations used to lure foreign diplomats to bugged apartments, complete with recording equipment and two-way mirrors.
Barr would later become Bush’s Attorney General, rising to that post yet again under Trump. Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA. Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.
Donald Gregg is also connected to Roy Cohn’s “influence machine” through his daughter’s marriage to Christopher Buckley, the son of conservative journalist William Buckley, close confidant and friend of both Roy Cohn and Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
The Washington Times reports on Spence’s child sex ring also reveal his close ties to none other than the ubiquitous Roy Cohn. One of the Times’ sources for its first story on the scandal alleged that he had attended a birthday party for Roy Cohn that Spence had hosted at his home and that CIA Director William Casey was also in attendance. Spence was also said in the report to often brag about his social companions and regularly mentioned Cohn and claimed to have hosted Cohn at his house on occasions other than the aforementioned birthday party.
“Bodies by God”
The revelation of Craig Spence’s “call boy ring” soon led to the discovery of the infamous Franklin child sex abuse and ritual murder scandal. That sordid operation was run out of Omaha, Nebraska by Larry King, a prominent local Republican activist and lobbyist who ran the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union until it was shut down by federal authorities.
Buried in a May 1989 article in the Omaha World Herald’s probe into King’s Credit Union and sex ring, is a telling revelation: “In the 61/2 months since federal authorities closed Franklin, rumors have persisted that money from the credit union somehow found its way to the Nicaraguan contra rebels.”
The possibility that King’s fraudulent credit union was covertly funding the Contras was supported by subsequent reporting by the Houston Post’s Pete Brewton, who discovered that the CIA, in conjunction with organized crime, had secretly borrowed money from various savings and loans (S&L) institutions to fund covert operations. One of those S&Ls had Neil Bush, George H.W. Bush’s son, on its board and it had done business with King’s organization.
Another link between King and the Iran Contra team is the fact that King had co-founded and subsequently donated over $25,000 to an organization affiliated with the Reagan administration, Citizens for America, which sponsored speaking trips for Lt. Col. Oliver North and Contra leaders. The director of Citizens for America at the time was David Carmen, who simultaneously ran a public relations firm with the former head of covert operations at the Casey-led CIA, his father Gerald, who had also been appointed by Reagan to head the General Services Administration and to a subsequent ambassadorship.
One of the investigative journalists who researched the Craig Spence ring later told DeCamp that Spence’s ring was connected to King:
“The way we discovered Larry King and his Nebraska-based call boy ring, was by looking through the credit card chits of Spence’s ring, where we found King’s name.”
It was later revealed that King and Spence were essentially business partners as their child trafficking rings were operated under a larger group that was nicknamed “Bodies by God.”
Exactly how many groups operated under this umbrella group, “Bodies by God,” is unknown. Yet, what is known is that the rings run by both King and Spence were connected to each other and both were also connected to prominent officials in the Reagan and subsequent George H.W. Bush administrations, including officials with ties to the CIA and Roy Cohn and his network.
Indeed Spence, just months before his alleged suicide in the Boston Ritz Carlton, had hinted to Washington Times reporters Michael Hedges and Jerry Seper, who had originally broken the story, that they had merely scratched the surface of something much darker:
“All this stuff you’ve uncovered [involving call boys, bribery and the White House tours], to be honest with you, is insignificant compared to other things I’ve done. But I’m not going to tell you those things, and somehow the world will carry on.”
It also worth noting the role of the FBI in all of this, particularly in the Franklin child sex abuse scandal. Indeed, Larry King’s child sex abuse ring was quickly and aggressively covered up by the FBI, which used a variety of under-handed tactics to bury the reality of King’s sordid operation. Here, it is important to recall the key role former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover played in similar sexual blackmail operations that abused children (See Part I) and the close relationship between Hoover, Roy Cohn and Lewis Rosenstiel, who later employed Hoover’s former right-hand man at the FBI, Louis Nichols.
Years later, documents released by the FBI would show that Epstein became an FBI informant in 2008, when Robert Mueller was the Bureau’s director, in exchange for immunity from then-pending federal charges, a deal that fell through with Epstein’s recent arrest on new federal charges. In addition, former FBI Director Louis Freeh would be hired by Alan Dershowitz, who is accused of raping girls at Epstein’s homes and was once a character witness for Roy Cohn, to intimidate Epstein’s victims. As previously mentioned, Freeh’s past appointment as a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York was orchestrated by Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
Thus, the FBI’s cover-up of the Franklin case is just one example of the Bureau’s long-standing practice of protecting these pedophile rings when they involve members of the American political elite and provide the Bureau with a steady supply of blackmail. It also makes it worth questioning the impartiality of one of the main prosecutors in the Jeffrey Epstein case, Maurene Comey, who is the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey.
The rot at the top
While there were several sexual trafficking operations connected to both Roy Cohn and the halls of power under the Reagan administration, in a matter of months after Cohn’s death it appears that another individual became a central figure in the powerful network that Cohn had cultivated.
That individual, Jeffrey Epstein, would be recruited, after his firing from the Dalton School, by Alan “Ace” Greenberg, a close friend of Cohn, to work at Bear Stearns. After leaving Bear Stearns and working as an alleged financial “bounty hunter” for clients that are said to have included the Iran-Contra-linked arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, Epstein would come into contact with Leslie Wexner, a billionaire close to the Meyer Lansky-linked Bronfman family, who himself was tied to members of organized crime syndicates once represented by Cohn.
The same year that Wexner would begin his decades-long association with Epstein, another Cohn friend with ties to the Reagan White House and the Trump family, Ronald Lauder, would provide Epstein with an Austrian passport containing Epstein’s picture but a false name.
Lauder, Wexner and the Bronfmans are members of an elite organization known as the Mega Group, which also includes other Meyer Lansky-connected “philanthropists” like hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. While Epstein shares considerable overlap with the network described in this report and Part I of this series, he is also deeply connected to the Mega Group as well as its associates, including Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell.
Part III of this series will focus on the Mega Group and its ties to the network that has been described in Parts I and II. In addition, the role of the state of Israel, the Mossad, and several global pro-Israel lobby organizations will also be discussed in relation to this network of sexual blackmail operations and Jeffrey Epstein.
It is here that the full breadth of the Epstein scandal comes into view. It is a criminal and unconscionable blackmail operation that has been run by influential figures, hidden in plain sight, for over half a century, exploiting and destroying the lives of untold numbers of children in the process. Over the years, it has grown many branches and spread well beyond the United States, as seen by the activity of Covenant House in Latin America and Epstein’s own international effort to recruit more girls to be abused and exploited.
All of this has taken place with the full knowledge and blessing of top figures in the world of “philanthropy” and in the U.S. government and intelligence communities, with great influence over several presidential administrations, particularly since the rise of Ronald Reagan and continuing through to Donald Trump.
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case
Despite his “sweetheart” deal and having seemingly evaded justice, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested earlier this month on federal charges for sex trafficking minors. Epstein’s arrest has again brought increased media attention to many of his famous friends, the current president among them.
Many questions have since been asked about how much Epstein’s famous friends knew of his activities and exactly what Epstein was up to. The latter arguably received the most attention after it was reported that Alex Acosta — who arranged Epstein’s “sweetheart” deal in 2008 and who recently resigned as Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary following Epstein’s arrest — claimed that the mysterious billionaire had worked for “intelligence.”
Other investigations have made it increasingly clear that Epstein was running a blackmail operation, as he had bugged the venues — whether at his New York mansion or Caribbean island getaway — with microphones and cameras to record the salacious interactions that transpired between his guests and the underage girls that Epstein exploited. Epstein appeared to have stored much of that blackmail in a safe on his private island.
Claims of Epstein’s links and his involvement in a sophisticated, well-funded sexual blackmail operation have, surprisingly, spurred few media outlets to examine the history of intelligence agencies both in the U.S. and abroad conducting similar sexual blackmail operations, many of which also involved underage prostitutes.
In the U.S. alone, the CIA operated numerous sexual blackmail operations throughout the country, employing prostitutes to target foreign diplomats in what the Washington Post once nicknamed the CIA’s “love traps.” If one goes even farther back into the U.S. historical record it becomes apparent that these tactics and their use against powerful political and influential figures significantly predate the CIA and even its precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In fact, they were pioneered years earlier by none other than the American Mafia.
In the course of this investigation, MintPress discovered that a handful of figures who were influential in American organized crime during and after Prohibition were directly engaged in sexual blackmail operations that they used for their own, often dark, purposes.
In Part I of this exclusive investigation, MintPress will examine how a mob-linked businessman with deep ties to notorious gangster Meyer Lansky developed close ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) while also running a sexual blackmail operation for decades, which later became a covert part of the anti-communist crusade of the 1950s led by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), himself known throughout Washington for having a habit of drunkenly groping underage teenaged girls.
Yet, it would be one of McCarthy’s closest aides who would take over the ring in later years, trafficking minors and expanding this sexual blackmail operation at the same time he expanded his own political influence, putting him in close contact with prominent figures including former President Ronald Reagan and a man who would later become president, Donald Trump.
As will be revealed in Part II, after this figure’s death, the blackmail operation continued under various successors in different cities and there is strong evidence that Jeffrey Epstein became one of them.
Samuel Bronfman and the Mob
The Prohibition Era in the United States is often used as an example of how banning recreational substances not only increases their popularity but also causes a boom in criminal activity. Indeed, it was Prohibition that greatly increased the strength of the American Mafia, as the top crime lords of the day grew rich through the clandestine trade and sale of alcohol in addition to gambling and other activities.
It is through the bootlegging trade of the 1920s and the early 1930s that this story begins, as it brought together key figures whose successors and affiliates would eventually create a series of blackmail and sex trafficking rings that would give rise to the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, the “Lolita Express” and “Orgy Island.”
Samuel Bronfman never planned to become a major producer of liquor but true to his family’s last name, which means “brandy man” in Yiddish, he eventually began distributing alcohol as an extension of his family’s hotel business. During Canada’s Prohibition period, which was briefer than and preceded that of its southern neighbour, the Bronfman family business used loopholes to skirt the law and find technically legal ways to sell alcohol in the hotels and stores the family-owned. The family relied on its connections with members of the American Mafia to illegally smuggle alcohol from the United States.
Soon after Prohibition ended in Canada, it began in the United States and, by the time the flow of illegal alcohol had turned the other way, the Bronfmans – whose business ventures were then being led by Sam Bronfman and his brothers — were relatively late to an already flourishing bootlegging trade.
“We were late starters in the two most lucrative markets – on the high seas and across the Detroit River. What came out of the border trade in Saskatchewan was insignificant by comparison,” Bronfman once told Canadian journalist Terence Robertson, who was then writing a biography of Bronfman. Nonetheless, “this was when we started to make our real money,” Bronfman recounted. Robertson’s biography on Bronfman was never published, as he died under mysterious circumstances soon after warning his colleagues that he had uncovered unsavoury information about the Bronfman family.
Key to Bronfman’s success during American Prohibition were the ties his family had cultivated with organized crime during Canada’s Prohibition, ties that led many prominent members of the mob in the United States to favour Bronfman as a business partner. Bronfman liquor was purchased in massive quantities by many crime lords who still live on in American legend, including Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Moe Dalitz, Abner “Longy” Zwillman and Meyer Lansky.
Most of Bronfman’s mob associates during Prohibition were members of what became known as the National Crime Syndicate, which a 1950s Senate investigative body known as the Kefauver Committee described as a confederation dominated by Italian-American and Jewish-American mobs. During that investigation, some of the biggest names in the American Mafia named Bronfman as a central figure in their bootlegging operations. The widow of notorious American mob boss Meyer Lansky even recounted how Bronfman had thrown lavish dinner parties for her husband.
Years later, Samuel Bronfman’s children and grandchildren, their family’s ties to the criminal underworld intact, would go on to associate closely with Leslie Wexner, allegedly the source of much of Epstein’s mysterious wealth, and other mob-linked “philanthropists,” and some would even manage their own sexual blackmail operations, including the recently busted blackmail-based “sex cult” NXIVM. The later generations of the Bronfman family, particularly Samuel Bronfman’s sons Edgar and Charles, will be discussed in greater detail in Part II of this report.
Lewis Rosenstiel’s dark secret
Crucial to Bronfman’s Prohibition-era bootlegging operations were two middlemen, one of whom was Lewis “Lew” Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel got his start working at his uncle’s distillery in Kentucky before Prohibition. Once the law banning alcohol was in force, Rosenstiel created the Schenley Products Company, which would later become one of the largest liquor companies in North America.
Though he was a high school drop-out and not particularly well-connected socially at the time, Rosenstiel happened to have a “chance” meeting with Winston Churchill in 1922 while on vacation in the French Riviera. According to the New York Times, Churchill “advised him [Rosenstiel] to prepare for the return of liquor sales in the United States.” Rosenstiel somehow managed to secure the funding of the elite and respected Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers to finance his purchase of shuttered distilleries.
Officially, Rosenstiel is said to have built his company and wealth after Prohibition, by following Churchill’s advice to prepare for Repeal. However, he was clearly involved in bootlegging operations and was even indicted for bootlegging in 1929, though he evaded conviction. Like Bronfman, Rosenstiel was close to organized crime, particularly members of the mostly Jewish-American and Italian-American mob alliance known as the National Crime Syndicate.
Subsequent New York state legislative investigations would allege that Rosenstiel “was part of a ‘consortium’ with underworld figures that bought liquor in Canada [from Samuel Bronfman]”, whose other members were “Meyer Lansky, the reputed organized crime leader; Joseph Fusco, an associate of late Chicago gangster Al Capone and Joseph Linsey, a Boston man Mr. Kelly [the congressional investigator testifying] identified as a convicted bootlegger.” Rosenstiel’s relationship with these men, particularly Lansky, would continue long after Prohibition and Samuel Bronfman, for his part, would also maintain his mob ties.
In addition to his friends in the mob, Rosenstiel also cultivated close ties with the FBI, developing a close relationship with longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and making Hoover’s right-hand man and longtime assistant at the FBI, Louis Nichols, the Vice President of his Schenley empire in 1957.
Despite their similar backgrounds as bootlegger barons turned “respectable” businessmen, Bronfman’s and Rosenstiel’s personalities were drastically different and their relationship was complicated, at best. One example of the dissimilarities between North America’s top liquor barons was how they treated their staff. Bronfman was not necessarily known for being a cruel boss, whereas Rosenstiel was known for his erratic and “monstrous” behaviour towards employees as well as his unusual practice of bugging his offices in order to hear what employees said about him when he wasn’t present.
Such differences between Bronfman and Rosenstiel were also reflected in their personal lives. While Bronfman married only once and was loyal to his wife, Rosenstiel was married five times and was known for his relatively closeted bisexual antics, a part of his life that was well-known to many of his close associates and employees.
Though for years there were only hints to this other side of the controversial businessman, details emerged years later during a divorce proceeding brought by Rosenstiel’s fourth wife, Susan Kaufman, that would back the claims. Kaufman alleged that Rosenstiel hosted extravagant parties that included “boy prostitutes” that her husband had hired “for the enjoyment” of certain guests, which included important government officials and prominent figures in America’s criminal underworld. Kaufman would later make the same claims under oath during the hearing of the New York’s State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime in the early 1970s.
Not only did Rosenstiel organize these parties, but he also made sure that their venues were bugged with microphones that recorded the antics of his high-profile guests. Those audio recordings, Kaufman alleged, were then kept for the purpose of blackmail. Though Kaufman’s claims are shocking, her testimony was deemed credible and held in high regard by the former chief counsel of the Crime Committee, New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, and committee investigator William Gallinaro and aspects of her testimony were later corroborated by two separate witnesses who were unknown to Kaufman.
These “blackmail parties” offer a window into an operation that would later become more sophisticated and grow dramatically in the 1950s under Rosenstiel’s “field commander” (a nickname given by Rosenstiel to an individual to be named shortly in this report). Many of the people connected to Rosenstiel’s “field commander” during the 70s and 80s have again found their names in the press following the recent arrest of Jeffrey Epstein.
The “Untouchable” Mobster
Bronfman and Rosenstiel became legendary in the North American liquor business, in part due to their fight for supremacy in the industry, which the New York Times described as often erupting “into bitter personal and corporate battles.” Despite their duelling in the corporate world, the one thing that united the two businessmen more than anything else was their close connection to American organized crime, particularly renowned mobster Meyer Lansky.
Lansky is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history of American organized crime and is notable for being the only famous mobster rising to notoriety in the 1920s who managed to die an old man and never serve a day in jail.
Lansky’s long life and ability to avoid prison time was largely the result of his close relationships to powerful businessmen like Bronfman and Rosenstiel (among many others), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. intelligence community, as well as his role in establishing several blackmail and extortion rings that helped him keep the law at arm’s length. Indeed, when Lansky was finally charged with a crime in the 1970s, it was the Internal Revenue Service that brought the charges, not the FBI, and he was charged with and acquitted of tax evasion.
Lansky was remarkably close to both Bronfman and Rosenstiel. Bronfman regularly threw “lavish dinner parties” in Lansky’s honour both during and after Prohibition. These parties were remembered fondly by Lansky’s wife, and Lansky, in turn, did favors for Bronfman, ranging from exclusive protection of his shipments during Prohibition to getting him tickets to coveted “fight of the century” boxing matches.
Rosenstiel also threw regular dinner parties honouring Lansky. Susan Kaufman, Rosenstiel’s ex-wife, claimed to have taken numerous pictures of her ex-husband and Lansky socializing and partying together, photos that were also seen by Mary Nichols of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, Lansky, per Kaufman’s recollection, was one of the individuals that Rosenstiel sought to protect from legal scrutiny as part of his child prostitution and blackmail ring targeting high-ranking officials, and he was overheard saying that if the government “ever brings pressure against Lansky or any of us, we’ll use this [a specific recording taken at one of the ‘parties’] as blackmail.”
Lansky was known to address Rosenstiel as “Supreme Commander,” a title that would later be used to refer to Rosenstiel by another individual deeply connected to the mob and sexual blackmail operations, previously referred to in this report as Rosenstiel’s “Field Commander.”
Lansky also had close ties to the CIA and U.S. military intelligence. During World War II, Lansky — along with his associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — worked with Naval intelligence in what was codenamed “Operation Underworld,” an operation the existence of which the government denied for over 40 years.
Journalist and noted chronicler of CIA covert activities, Douglas Valentine, noted in his book The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World that the government’s cooperation with the Mafia during World War II led to its expansion after the war and set the stage for its future collaboration with U.S. intelligence.
According to Valentine:
Top government officials were also aware that the government’s Faustian pact with the Mafia during World War II had allowed the hoods to insinuate themselves into mainstream America. In return for services rendered during the war, Mafia bosses were protected from prosecution for dozens of unsolved murders. […]
The Mafia was a huge problem in 1951 [when the Kefauver Committee was convened], equivalent to terrorism today. But it was also a protected branch of the CIA, which was co-opting criminal organizations around the world and using them in its secret war against the Soviets and Red Chinese. The Mafia had collaborated with Uncle Sam and had emerged from World War II energized and empowered. They controlled cities across the country.”
Indeed, not long after its creation, the CIA forged ties with Lansky at the behest of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton. The CIA would later turn to the Lansky-linked mob in the early 1960s as part of its consistently fruitless quest to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, showing that the CIA maintained its contacts with Lansky-controlled elements of the Mafia long after the initial meeting with Lansky took place.
The CIA also had close connections to associates of Lansky, such as Edward Moss, who did public relations work for Lansky and was said to be of “interest” to the CIA by the agency’s then-inspector general J.S. Earman. Harry “Happy” Meltzer was also another Lansky associate that was a CIA asset and the CIA asked Meltzer to join an assassination team in December 1960.
In addition to the CIA, Lansky was also connected to a foreign intelligence agency through Tibor Rosenbaum, an arms procurer and high-ranking official in Israel’s Mossad, whose bank – the International Credit Bank of Geneva – laundered much of Lansky’s ill-gotten gains and recycled them into legitimate American businesses.
Journalist Ed Reid, author of the Virginia Hill biography The Mistress and the Mafia, wrote that Lansky was attempting to entrap powerful people through sexual blackmail as far back as 1939. Reid contends that Lansky sent Ms Hill to Mexico, where his West Coast connections had established a drug ring that later involved the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, to seduce numerous “top politicians, army officers, diplomats and police officials.”
Eventually, Lansky was credited with obtaining compromising photos of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sometime in the 1940s, which showed “Hoover in some kind of gay situation”, according to a former Lansky associate, who also said that Lansky had often claimed, “I fixed that sonofabitch.” The photos showed Hoover engaged in sexual activity with his long-time friend, FBI Deputy Director Clyde Tolson.
At some point, these photos fell into the hands of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton, who later showed the photos to several other CIA officials, including John Weitz and Gordon Novel. Angleton was in charge of the CIA’s relationship with the FBI and Israel’s Mossad until he left the agency in 1972 and, as was recently mentioned, he was also in contact with Lansky.
Anthony Summers, former BBC journalist and author of Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, has argued that it was not Lansky, but William Donovan, the director of the OSS, who obtained the original photos of Hoover and later shared them with Lansky.
Summers also stated that “To [gangster Frank] Costello and Lansky, the ability to corrupt politicians, policemen and judges was fundamental to Mafia operations. The way they found to deal with Hoover, according to several mob sources, involved his homosexuality.” This anecdote shows that Lanksy and the CIA maintained a covert relationship, which included, among other things, the sharing of blackmail material (i.e., “intelligence”).
It is also possible that Hoover was ensnared by the mob during one of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties,” at which Hoover sometimes found himself in attendance with prominent figures of the Mafia. Hoover was said to have worn women’s clothing at the some of the events and Meyer Lansky’s wife later said that her husband had photos of the former FBI director in drag. Furthermore, Hoover is on record showing an unusual concern in the FBI’s handling of Rosenstiel’s criminal links as early as 1939, the same year that his close associate Lansky was actively orchestrating the sexual blackmail of powerful political figures.
The blackmail acquired on Hoover and the mob’s possession of the evidence has been cited as a major factor in Hoover’s decades-long denial that nationwide networks of organized crime were a serious issue. Hoover asserted that it was a decentralized, local issue and therefore outside of the bureau’s jurisdiction. By the time Hoover finally acknowledged the existence of national organized crime networks in 1963, they were so entrenched in the U.S. establishment that they were untouchable.
Congressional crime consultant Ralph Salerno told Summers in 1993 that Hoover’s willful ignorance of organized crime for most of his career as FBI director “allowed organized crime to grow very strong in economic and political terms, so that it became a much bigger threat to the wellbeing of this country than it would have been if it had been addressed much sooner.”
J. Edgar Hoover: Blackmail Victim?
Most records place the beginning of Hoover’s relationship with Rosenstiel in the 1950s, the same decade when Susan Kaufman reported that Hoover was attending Rosenstiel’s blackmail parties. Rosenstiel’s FBI file, obtained by Anthony Summers, cites the first Rosenstiel meeting as taking place in 1956, though Summers notes that there is evidence that they had met much earlier. After requesting the meeting, Rosenstiel was granted a personal face-to-face with the director in a matter of hours. The FBI file on Rosenstiel also reveals that the liquor baron heavily lobbied Hoover to aid his business interests.
During that time, the salacious details of Hoover’s sex life were already known to the U.S. intelligence community and to the mob, and Hoover was aware that they knew of his closeted sexuality and penchant for women’s clothing. Yet, Hoover apparently seemed to embrace the very type of sexual blackmail operation that had compromised his private life, given that he was seen at many of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties” in the 1950s and 1960s, including at venues such as Rosenstiel’s personal home and later at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. Hoover’s penchant for dressing in drag was also described by two witnesses who were not connected to Susan Kaufman.
Soon after their first “official” meeting, the public relationship between the two men quickly flourished, with Hoover even sending Rosenstiel flowers when he fell ill. Summers reported that, in 1957, Rosenstiel was heard telling Hoover during a meeting, “your wish is my command.” Their relationship remained close and intimate throughout the 1960s and beyond.
Like Rosenstiel, Hoover was well-known for amassing blackmail on friend and foe alike. Hoover’s office contained “secret files” on numerous powerful people in Washington and beyond, files he used to gain favours and protect his status as FBI director for as long as he wished.
Hoover’s own propensity for blackmail suggests that he may have associated with Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation more directly, given he already knew he was compromised and his involvement in the operation would have served as a means of procuring the blackmail he coveted for his own purposes. Indeed, if Hoover was merely being blackmailed and extorted by the Lansky-Rosenstiel connected mob, it is unlikely that he would have been so friendly to Rosenstiel, Lansky and the other mobsters at these gatherings and participated in them with such regularity.
According to journalist and author Burton Hersh, Hoover was also tied to Sherman Kaminsky, who ran a sexual blackmail operation in New York involving young male prostitutes. That operation was busted and investigated in a 1966 extortion probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, though the FBI quickly took over the investigation and photos of Hoover and Kaminsky together soon disappeared from the case file.
Hoover and Rosenstiel’s deep ties would continue to develop over the years, an example of which can be seen in Rosenstiel’s hiring of long-time Hoover aide Louis Nichols as the vice president of his Schenley liquor empire and Rosenstiel’s donation of over $1 million to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, which Nichols also ran at the time.
There is also more than one documented occasion wherein Hoover attempted to use blackmail to protect Rosenstiel and his “field commander,” none other than the infamous Roy Cohn, the other key figure in Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation involving minors.
The Making of a Monster
Decades after his death, Roy Cohn remains a controversial figure in large part because of his close, personal relationship with current U.S. President Donald Trump. Yet reports on Cohn, both in recent and in past years, often miss the mark in their characterization of the man who became closely associated with the Reagan White House, the CIA, the FBI, organized crime and, incidentally, many of the figures who would later surround Jeffrey Epstein.
To understand the true nature of the man, it is essential to examine his rise to power in the early 1950s when, at just 23 years of age, he became a key figure in the high-profile trial of Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and later as the right-hand man of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).
Cohn’s dedication to anti-communist activities in the 1950s is allegedly what first endeared him to J. Edgar Hoover, whom he first met in 1952. During that meeting, as described by Hersh in Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America, Hoover expressed admiration for Cohn’s aggressive and manipulative tactics and told Cohn to “call me directly” whenever he had information worth sharing. From that point on, Cohn and Hoover “traded favours, effusive compliments, gifts and elaborate private dinners. It quickly became ‘Roy’ and ‘Edgar.’” Hersh also describes Hoover as Cohn’s soon to be “consigliere.”
The date and circumstances around Cohn’s introduction to Rosenstiel are harder to come by. It is possible that the connection was made through Roy Cohn’s father, Albert Cohn, a prominent judge and an influential figure in the New York City Democratic Party apparatus then run by Edward Flynn. It was later revealed that the Democratic organization dominated by Flynn and based in the Bronx had long-standing connections to organized crime, including associates of Meyer Lansky.
Regardless of how or when it began, the relationship between Cohn and Rosenstiel was close and was often likened to that of a father and son. They were said to frequently salute each other in public and remained close until Rosenstiel was near death, at which point Cohn attempted to trick his then-barely conscious and senile “friend” and client into naming him the executor and trustee of the liquor magnate’s estate, valued at $75 million (more than $334 million in today’s dollars).
LIFE magazine reported in 1969 that Cohn and Rosenstiel had for years referred to one another as “Field Commander” and “Supreme Commander,” respectively. Media references to these nicknames appear in other articles from the period.
Though LIFE and other outlets had interpreted this as merely an anecdote about the nicknames shared in jest between close friends, the fact that notorious crime lord Meyer Lansky also called Rosenstiel “Supreme Commander” and the fact that Cohn and Rosenstiel would later become intimately involved in the same paedophile sex ring suggests that there may have been more to these “nicknames.” After all, the mob to which Rosenstiel was connected often used military-themed titles like “soldier” and “lieutenant” to differentiate the rank and importance of its members.
Once he had made his connection with Hoover, Cohn’s star began to rise even higher in Washington. Hoover’s recommendation of Cohn would become the deciding factor in his appointment as Sen. McCarthy’s general counsel over Robert Kennedy, a rival and bitter enemy of Cohn’s.
Though Cohn was ruthless and seemingly untouchable as McCarthy’s counsel and helped the senator destroy many careers during both the red and lavender scares, his antics in relation to his work on the committee would eventually lead to his downfall after he attempted to blackmail the Army in return for preferential treatment for committee consultant and Cohn’s rumoured lover, David Schine.
After he was forced to leave McCarthy’s side due to the scandal, Cohn returned to New York to live with his mother and practice law. A few years later New York Judge David Peck, a long-time associate of former CIA Director Alan Dulles, orchestrated Cohn’s hire to the New York law firm Saxe, Bacon and O’Shea — which would later become Saxe, Bacon and Bolan after Tom Bolan, a friend of Cohn’s, became a partner in the firm. Upon his hire, Cohn brought the firm a slew of Mafia-linked clients, including high-ranking members of the Gambino crime family, the Genovese crime family and, of course, Lewis Rosenstiel.
What happened in Suite 233?
The connections Roy Cohn built during the 1950s made him a well-known public figure and translated into great political influence that peaked during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Yet, as Cohn built his public image, he was also developing a dark private life, which would come to be dominated by the same blackmail paedophile racket that appears to have first begun with Lewis Rosenstiel.
One of the “blackmail parties” Susan Kaufman attended with her then-husband Lewis Rosenstiel was hosted by Cohn in 1958 at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, suite 233. Kaufman described Cohn’s suite as a “beautiful suite…all done in light blue.” She described being introduced to Hoover, who was in drag, by Cohn, who told her that Hoover’s name was “Mary” in a fit of barely concealed laughter. Kaufman testified that young boys were present and Kaufman claimed that Cohn, Hoover and her ex-husband engaged in sexual activity with these minors.
New York attorney John Klotz, tasked with investigating Cohn for a case well after Kaufman’s testimony, also found evidence of the “blue suite” at the Plaza Hotel and its role in a sex extortion ring after combing through local government documents and information gathered by private detectives. Klotz later told journalist and author Burton Hersh what he had learned:
Roy Cohn was providing protection. There were a bunch of pedophiles involved. That’s where Cohn got his power from — blackmail.”
Perhaps the most damning confirmation of Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 comes from statements made by Cohn himself to former NYPD detective and ex-head of the department’s Human-Trafficking and Vice-Related Crimes Division, James Rothstein. Rothstein later told John DeCamp — a former Nebraska state senator who investigated a government-connected child sex ring based in Omaha — among other investigators, that Cohn had admitted to being part of a sexual blackmail operation targeting politicians with child prostitutes during a sit-down interview with the former detective.
Rothstein told DeCamp the following about Cohn:
Cohn’s job was to run the little boys. Say you had an admiral, a general, a congressman, who did not want to go along with the program. Cohn’s job was to set them up, then they would go along. Cohn told me that himself.”
Rothstein later told Paul David Collins, a former journalist turned researcher, that Cohn had also identified this sexual blackmail operation as being part of the anti-communist crusade of the time.
The fact that Cohn, per Rothstein’s recollection, stated that the child-sex blackmail ring was part of the government-sponsored anti-communist crusade suggests that elements of the government, including Hoover’s FBI, may have been connected at a much broader level than Hoover’s own personal involvement, as the FBI closely coordinated with McCarthy and Cohn for much of the red scare.
It is also worth noting that among Hoover’s many “secret” blackmail files was a sizeable dossier on Senator McCarthy, the contents of which strongly suggested that the senator himself was interested in underage girls. According to journalist and author David Talbot, Hoover’s file on McCarthy was “filled with disturbing stories about McCarthy’s habit of drunkenly groping young girls’ breasts and buttocks. The stories were so widespread that they became ‘common knowledge’ in the capital, according to one FBI chronicler.”
Talbot, in his book The Devil’s Chessboard, also cites Walter Trohan, Washington Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune, as having personally witnessed McCarthy’s habit of molesting young women. “He just couldn’t keep his hands off young girls,” Trohan would later say. “Why the Communist opposition didn’t plant a minor on him and raise the cry of statutory rape, I don’t know.” Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that those “planting” minors on their political foes were McCarthy’s allies and close associates, not his enemies.
The question that necessarily arises from revelations regarding Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 is who else was Cohn “protecting” and servicing with underage prostitutes? One of them could very well have been one of Cohn’s close friends and clients, Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York, who was said to have been present at some of these parties Cohn hosted at the Plaza Hotel.
Spellman — one of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church in North America, who was sometimes referred to as “America’s Pope” — was accused of not only condoning pedophilia in the Catholic church and ordaining known pedophiles including Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick, but also engaging in it himself to such an extent that many New York area priests widely referred to him as “Mary.” Furthermore, J. Edgar Hoover was said to have a file detailing the cardinal’s sex life, suggesting Spellman’s involvement in the ring and paedophile protection racket in which Cohn and Hoover were personally involved.
People close to Cohn often remarked that he was frequently surrounded by groups of young boys, but seemed to think nothing of it. Similar off-handed comments about Epstein’s penchant for minors were made by those close to him prior to his arrest.
Controversial Republican political operative and “dirty trickster,” Roger Stone — who, like Donald Trump, was also a protégé of Cohn — said the following about Cohn’s sex life during an interview with The New Yorker in 2008:
Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.” (emphasis added)
Compare this quote from Stone to what Donald Trump, who was also close to Cohn, would later say about Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he was also closely associated:
I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” (emphasis added)
Though it is unknown how long the sex ring at the Plaza Hotel continued, and whether it continued after Cohn’s death from AIDS in 1986, it is worth noting that Donald Trump purchased the Plaza Hotel in 1988. It would later be reported and confirmed by then-attendees that Trump “used to host parties in suites at the Plaza Hotel when he owned it, where young women and girls were introduced to older, richer men” and “illegal drugs and young women were passed around and used.”
Andy Lucchesi, a male model who had helped organize some of these Plaza Hotel parties for Trump, said the following when asked about the age of the women present: “A lot of girls, 14, look 24. That’s as juicy as I can get. I never asked how old they were; I just partook. I did partake in activities that would be controversial, too.”
The Roy Cohn Machine
Roy Cohn was only at the beginning of his career when he waded his way into the underground sexual blackmail ring apparently led by Lewis Rosenstiel. Indeed, when Cohn first met Hoover, he was only 23 years old. Over the next three decades or so, before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1986 at the age of 56, Cohn built a well-oiled machine, largely through his close friendships with some of the country’s most influential figures.
Among Cohn’s friends were top media personalities like Barbara Walters, former CIA directors, Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy, media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman, numerous celebrities, prominent lawyers like Alan Dershowitz, top figures in the Catholic Church and leading Jewish organizations like B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress. Many of the same names that surrounded Cohn until death in the late 1980s would later come to surround Jeffrey Epstein, with their names later appearing in Epstein’s now-infamous “little black book”.
While President Trump is clearly connected to both Epstein and Cohn, Cohn’s network also extends to former President Bill Clinton, whose friend and longtime political advisor, Richard “Dirty Dick” Morris, was Cohn’s cousin and close associate. Morris was also close to Clinton’s former communications director, George Stephanopoulos, who is also associated with Jeffrey Epstein.
Yet, these were only Cohn’s connections to respectable members of the establishment. He was also known for his deep connections to the mob and gained prominence largely for his ability to connect key figures in the criminal underworld to respected influential figures acceptable to the public sphere. Ultimately, as New York attorney John Klotz stated, Cohn’s most powerful tool was blackmail, which he used against friend and foe, gangster or public official alike. How much of that blackmail he acquired through his sexual blackmail operation will likely never be known.
As Part II of this exclusive investigation will reveal, Cohn and Epstein, and the sexual blackmail operations they ran share many things in common, including not only many of the same famous friends and patrons, but also connections to intelligence agencies and consortiums of mob-linked businessmen, the modern-day equivalents of Samuel Bronfman and Lewis Rosenstiel who have since rebranded as “philanthropists.”
Part II will also reveal that Cohn’s operation was known to have successors, as revealed by a series of scandals in the early 1990s that have since been swept under the rug. The significant amount of overlap between Epstein’s and Cohn’s covert activities in sexual blackmail and their ties to many of the same powerful individuals and circles of influence strongly suggest that Epstein was one of Cohn’s successors.
As will be shown in the final instalment of this report, Epstein is only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime, making it a racket truly too big to fail.
Feature photo | A composite image shows from left to right, Lewis Rosenstiel, Jeffrey Epstein, and Roy Cohn. Graphic | Emma Fiala
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
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