Amid Ukraine Controversy Video Resurfaces of Donald Trump Calling Mafia 'Very Nice People,' 'Just Don't Want To Owe Them Money'

Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that President Donald Trump had acted like a mob boss, comparing the commander-in-chief's July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president to a "classic mafia-like shakedown."

Now, a video has resurfaced showing Trump saying he's met Mafia figures who were "very nice people."

"Have you ever knowingly done business with what I like to call organized crime?" David Letterman asked Trump in 2013 when the future president appeared on CBS's The Late Show.

"I've really tried to stay away from them as much as possible," Trump responds. "You know, growing up in New York and doing business in New York, I would say there might have been one of those characters along the way, but generally speaking I like to stay away from that group."

He goes on, qualifying his earlier comments, "I have met on occasion a few of those people. They happen to be very nice people. You just don't want to owe them money. Don't owe them money."

Questions have swirled about Trump's potential dealings with the Mafia since he emerged as the potential Republican presidential nominee in the 2016 race. The mafia was heavily involved in New York's construction industry when Trump was building his brand. Politifact noted that, at the time, La Cosa Nostra controlled concrete, and organized crime groups were enmeshed in labor unions in New York.

The Washington Post reported in 2015 that Trump worked with companies controlled by the mob, though it noted that working in the real estate industry at the time necessitated such interactions.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz also raised questions about Trump's connections to the mafia.

"There have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the mafia," Cruz said in February 2016. "Maybe his taxes show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported."

Despite his prior claim that he is "the cleanest guy there is," ample ink has been spilled tracing Trump's possible ties to the Mafia and the shady figures he likely interacted with while constructing his business empire.

Trump's characterization of the Mafia also isn't entirely surprising, given the praise he has heaped on authoritarian and populist leaders while serving as president. He has regularly drawn backlash for offering kind comments about figures with tainted human rights records, like North Korea's Kim Jong Un, to whom Trump has referred as a "real leader." He has also offered laudatory comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a campaign of extrajudicial killing of alleged drug dealers and users.

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President Donald Trump gives pauses to answer a reporter's question about a whistleblower as he leaves the Oval Office on September 30. A video clip of Trump calling Mafia members "very nice people" recently resurfaced. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Amid Ukraine Controversy Video Resurfaces of Donald Trump Calling Mafia 'Very Nice People,' 'Just Don't Want To Owe Them Money' | News