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“If You Keep Fucking With Mr. Trump We Know Where You Live”

Trump’s casino business went bankrupt, and then a lawyer representing investors told police he got a menacing call from a man who said “we’re going to your house for your wife and kids” if he didn’t stop “fucking with Mr. Trump.” The FBI determined the call came from a phone booth across the street from the theater where Trump was appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Originally posted on
Updated on

When Donald Trump’s casino business went bankrupt in 2009, a lawyer whose clients stood to lose more than a billion dollars told police and the FBI that he got a menacing phone call from a man with a thick New York accent who threatened his family.

“My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids,” the caller said, according to the account that the attorney, Kristopher Hansen, gave to the Holmdel police department in New Jersey. Hansen speculated that the caller was Trump’s bodyguard.

According to FBI case notes, the phone call to Hansen was made at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2009, from a New York City telephone booth located across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Trump was a guest that day on The Late Show With David Letterman. Three former employees of the show told BuzzFeed News that guests were asked to arrive in advance of the 4:30 taping, though accounts differ on just how far in advance.

The incident, which has never before been made public, came at a time when Trump's signature mix of celebrity glamor and ruthless business tactics was on stark display. The implosion of his flagship casino company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, left many investors and contractors empty-handed. But Trump walked away from the wreckage, gilding his public image and largely denying responsibility. “I wasn’t involved at all in management,” Trump told Letterman. Trump had been chairman of the board until five days earlier, and his daughter Ivanka had also been on the board.

After receiving the phone call, Hansen, a high-profile bankruptcy lawyer with the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in Manhattan, was so fearful that the Holmdel Township Police Department sent a squad car to monitor his home periodically for three days.

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Hansen also reported the phone call to the FBI’s Newark field office, and an FBI special agent came to Hansen’s home and interviewed him. Hansen told the agent that he and a coworker were on a train headed back to New York City from Camden, New Jersey, where they had attended a bankruptcy hearing for Trump’s casino company. Hansen received the phone call on his work BlackBerry.

Hansen, the agent noted, “transcribed the content of the phone call to a napkin.” He also told a colleague who was with him on the train what the caller had said, and that coworker “transcribed the content of the call to an e-mail” and sent it to Hansen at 2:11 p.m.

The documents originally provided to BuzzFeed News by the FBI withheld the content of that call. But a second, fuller version included these lines:

This is [redacted] Why are you fucking with my boy [redacted] We’ll go to your house [redacted] Stop fucking with [redacted] If there’s an e-mail we go to the house. You laugh, stop laughing fucko you’ve been warned.

It was not clear whether differences between that transcript and the one that appears in the Holmdel police file indicate that there were two different calls or that the officer summarized Hansen's account.

By checking the BlackBerry’s caller ID, the FBI determined that the 26-second call came from a phone number — 212-399-5686 — that belonged to a public pay phone on West 54th Street and Broadway, across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater. Hansen told the special agent that he did not recognize the caller’s voice but said it had a “heavy New York accent.” The FBI agent characterized the incident as “overt” extortion and gave Hansen a “portable recording device” and “directed him to attempt to record any further threatening telephone calls he received.”

Hansen did not respond to more than a dozen emails and phone calls from BuzzFeed News. On a Sunday evening at his large suburban home, he peered out a window next to the front door. When a reporter introduced herself, he walked away waving his hands and saying, “No, no, no.”

The Trump Organization declined to comment on whether it ever employed a bodyguard named Carmine. (Trump’s personal bodyguard for the past 16 years is Keith Schiller. He did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.)

A White House spokesperson also did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment, but Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, emailed a statement: "I am not personally aware of any individual who provided security to Mr. Trump with that name. I am also not aware of any inquiry made by the FBI, or any agency, regarding this matter. Factually, this scenario makes no sense at all. I would describe this as complete and utter nonsense."

BuzzFeed News obtained the police report, which states Hansen’s name, through an open records request. The FBI documents — both the original, heavily redacted versions and the second version, which included the transcript of the phone call — were released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, brought jointly with Ryan Shapiro, an MIT doctoral student. (Go here to read how BuzzFeed News analyzed the documents and pieced together what happened.)

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$1.25 billion

The FBI agent who interviewed Hansen noted that Trump Entertainment Resorts was in default on $1.25 billion in bonds to a group of private investors. Those investors had been trying to negotiate repayment or a new ownership structure with Trump and his casino company, but since November 2008 "negotiations between Trump Entertainment Resorts and the Investor Group have been unsuccessful,” the FBI agent’s notes say.

On another page, the FBI agent wrote: “On or about 2/17/2009," followed by a long redaction, "manipulate the negotiations between Trump Entertainment Resorts and Investor Group.” The beginning of the next sentence remains secret. But it ends with the words: “seek the involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission [redacted].” (The FBI had withheld that section in full prior to releasing the second, fuller set of documents.)

Trump and his daughter Ivanka had resigned from the company’s board less than a week before Hansen received the call. Trump Entertainment Resorts faced the prospect of being pushed into involuntary bankruptcy before the company filed for Chapter 11 protection. News reports at the time said Trump resigned because he was unhappy that the bondholders who were represented by Hansen spurned his offer to buy Trump Entertainment Resorts and take it private. Trump blamed the bondholders for the casino group's financial collapse.

Bo Dietl, a private investigator and former New York City police detective who had worked with Trump on and off since 1985, told the Daily Beast last year that Trump sanctioned threats against his perceived enemies. Dietl cited the intimidation of an attorney representing shareholders in Trump’s casino business as an example. He said Trump “hired me to get to the guy.”

“We kind of deterred that attorney because what we did was we investigated the fact that [the] attorney wasn’t exactly cleaner than the Board of Health, you know what I mean?” Dietl said. “So I went to visit the guy who was trying to fuck Trump, and I says, you know, I think you better think about this. He’s got this, this and the other thing — it was enough to be very bad for that person.”

But Dietl told BuzzFeed News that he didn’t make the call to Hansen.

“Nah, wasn’t me,” Dietl said. “Back in '09, I told Trump to go fuck himself." He added, "Honestly, I was not involved in anything with Donald in '09.”

Five days after the phone call, the FBI agent checked back with Hansen, who told the agent that he hadn’t received any “related” calls. The agent’s notes state that the phone call was “not of a sufficiently threatening nature to be pursued to prosecution,” and there also wasn’t enough evidence “that would prove the content of the telephone call.” So the bureau decided to take “no further action” until “more information is revealed” or Hansen received another threatening phone call.

Other attorneys who represented Trump Entertainment Resorts’ debtors and creditors did not respond to emails and phone calls to find out if they, too, received threats.

Some of the FBI documents pertaining to the call have been tagged with a code indicating that the bureau was withholding information because its investigation into the incident was ongoing. A day after Buzzfeed News asked for confirmation that the investigation was still continuing, the FBI sent a letter saying that use of the code indicating an ongoing investigation had been “inadvertent.”

Another menacing call

The Hansen case was not the first time the FBI investigated a threatening phone call related to Trump and his business dealings.

A similar incident, which has never previously been reported, occurred back in 1982, when Trump was embroiled in a high-profile legal fight to win a $20 million tax abatement for the construction of Trump Tower. The abatement would have greatly reduced or entirely eliminated the taxes Trump had to pay on the new project, but New York City Housing Commissioner Anthony Gliedman declined to grant it, and Trump sued him personally.

On April 20, 1982, according to FBI records, Gliedman called the New York police commissioner, reporting that he had received a call “threatening his life” over the abatement. The caller, the FBI records state, “became very abusive and profane regarding GLIEDMAN’s inability to approve Mr. TRUMP’s request for a tax abatement.” The NYPD put Gliedman on round-the-clock police protection and opened an investigation “to determine the identity of the caller.”

The next day, April 21, Trump himself called the FBI, saying he had received a telephone call from a person “who read about Trump’s tax abatement problem with Commissioner Gliedman.” The caller said that someone — the name is blacked out in the FBI files — “had been ‘shafted’ by Gliedman and for that reason, was going to retaliate.”

Trump told the FBI that the caller phoned him a second time and said he would “kill” Trump “if Mr. Trump told the authorities anything concerning their prior conversation.”

Trump told the FBI that he “harbors no ill feelings towards Gliedman” and that his “dealings with the Commissioner are strictly business.” He also said that he was notifying the FBI because he didn’t know if the caller was a crank or actually intended to carry out his threats. “TRUMP advised he does not wish his motives to be misconstrued,” the FBI report states, “but is merely passing on this information not only for his own safety but for the safety of Commissioner GLIEDMAN.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

A year after Gliedman received the threatening phone call, a State Supreme Court Justice ordered New York City to grant Trump the tax abatement. In 1986, Gliedman resigned as commissioner and went to work for Trump. He died in 2002. ●

UPDATE

This post has been updated to include additional information that the FBI disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought jointly by BuzzFeed News and Ryan Shapiro.


Kendall Taggart and Anthony Cormier contributed to this report.

Other perspectives on this story

Outside Your Bubble is a BuzzFeed News effort to bring you a diversity of thought and opinion from around the internet. If you don’t see your viewpoint represented, contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com. Click here for more on Outside Your Bubble.


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Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in LA. Recipient: IRE 2016 FOI award; Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame. PGP fingerprint 46DB 0712 284B 8C6E 40FF 7A1B D3CD 5720 694B 16F0. Contact this reporter at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com

Contact Jason Leopold at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com.

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