Fact Check

Did Al Capone Demand an Inquiry Into Whether the Justice Department Surveilled His Gang?

The fake Chicago Tribune headline is a play on a real one involving President Donald Trump.

Published May 22, 2018

Notorious mobster Al Capone demanded an inquiry into whether his gang was surveilled or infiltrated by the Department of Justice.

On 20 May 2018, United States President Donald Trump stated in a message posted to social media platform Twitter that he wanted the Department of Justice to investigate whether it "infiltrated or surveilled" his political campaign at the behest of his predecessor:

The president had been fuming on Twitter about mid-May 2018 revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had an informant talking to key members of his presidential campaign and accusing former U.S. President Barack Obama of sending the Justice Department to spy on it for political purposes.

The FBI's activities have culminated into what is now an ongoing Department of Justice investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the election. The investigation has lead to indictments of several key Trump campaign associates, including its former chairman.

The New York Times reported on the tweet with a story headlined, "Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or Surveilled’ His Campaign," which inspired a satirical but fake image purporting to show a headline comparing the DOJ investigation to the one that brought down notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone in 1931:

The image above is not a real copy of the Chicago Tribune and there are a few tells, including the fact that 17 October 1931 was a Saturday, not a Sunday as the paper's masthead in the fake image denotes. The actual headline for the lead story reporting Capone had been convicted of tax evasion read, "U.S. Jury Convicts Capone." That story was published in the 18 October 1931 edition of the Tribune.

Capone was a Chicago gangster who gained influence bootlegging liquor during Prohibition. He was finally convicted on tax fraud charges resulting from an FBI investigation that nabbed him despite a public corruption scheme in which he paid off police and officials that allowed him to operate with relative impunity for years.


Hirschfeld Davis, Julie, and Goldman, Adam. "Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or Surveilled’ His Campaign."   The New York Times 20 May 2018.

Tucker, Neely. "Eliot Ness and Al Capone: The Men, the Myths and the Bad Man in the Dark."   The Washington Post. 18 February 2014.

Costa, Robert, et al. "Secret FBI Source for Russia Investigation Met With Three Trump Advisers During Campaign."   The Washington Post. 18 May 2018.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.