Trump campaign denies he knew convicted mob boss he posed with in photo

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Less than three months after he was seen dining with antisemitic rapper Kanye West and notorious white nationalist Nick Fuentes, former president Donald Trump has been photographed with a convicted mob boss who spent more than a decade in prison on racketeering charges.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a photograph it obtained of Mr Trump, clad in dark pants, a white golf shirt and his signature “Make America Great Again” headgear, standing between two men at his Florida golf club.

According to the Inquirer, one of the men who posed with the twice-impeached ex-president is Joseph Merlino, a convicted felon who ran the Philadelphia mob in the 1990s, when Mr Trump was best known as a New York real estate developer and Atlantic City, New Jersey casino proprietor.

After a federal judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison on extortion, bookmaking and receiving stolen property following a 2001 trial, Merlino did his time and decamped to Florida following his release.

Although he had claimed to have retired from a life of crime, Merlino found himself back in the dock in 2016, when he was arrested on another racketeering indictment and tried in a New York federal court.

Following a mistrial on racketeering, fraud and illegal gambling charges, he pleaded guilty to illegal gambling and received a two-year prison sentence.

Merlino is known to be a supporter of the ex-president’s, despite widely debunked claims that he’d been paid to fix the 2020 election in Joe Biden’s favour.

At the time, an attorney for the mob boss told Fox News his client was “a Trumper” who, like Mr Trump, was “against cooperating witnesses and against making uncorroborated deals with snitches”.

A spokesperson for the ex-president told the Inquirer that Mr Trump “takes countless photos with people” and said his presence in a photograph with a person does not mean he knows the person.