Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trump is Not a Generic Republican: Corruption

I intend to post on this subject a lot, so it is fair to ask, do I consider corruption to be Donald Trump's capital flaw?  And in the end, the answer has to be that Trump doesn't have a capital flaw.  He has so many of them and they are so severe that naming any one of them as the capital flaw is pointless.

At the same time, it is one that I intend to emphasize a lot because it formed so large a part of Trump's appeal.  He was the heroic outsider fighting corruption in Washington, as represented by Hillary Clinton, who sent classified e-mails on a private server and went unpunished, engaged in foundation activities that created at least the appearance of impropriety, and deleted e-mails to conceal her nefarious activities.  He bragged that he was immune to corruption because he was rich enough to fund his own campaign and wasn't dependent on donors.  Even now, he insists that he is going to drain the swamp.

So it is important to emphasize that Trump is corrupt in a narrower and more pernicious way than any other President in our history, indeed, than ever seemed possible before.  Trump gives no evidence of having any concept of the public good apart from his private interests.

Consider:  When asked how as a businessman with so many holdings he would avoid conflict of interest, Trump said he would turn his business empire over to his children to manage.  Plenty of people have pointed out why that is far from adequate.  And that was before he invited his children to serve on his transition team.  Even assuming they take over the business and tell him nothing about its doings, they will give their father advice.  Could their business interest shape that advice even if they don't tell their father about it?

Furthermore, while nepotism rules forbid Trump from allowing any of his children to hold formal posts in his Administration, Trump apparently intends to give his son-in-law,  Jared Kushner, some sort of role in the White House.  Does anyone seriously believe that Kushner can work in the White House while his wife manages Trump Enterprises and that he will never once know what his wife is doing on the business side?

And for anyone else wanting further evidence that Trump has no concept of the public good apart from his own business advancement, consider the following before he has even been sworn in:

Advertised his properties on his transition website.

Asked his appointees to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Seen foreign diplomats flock to his hotels, and handed out brochures about his other properties.

Invited his daughter, who will be running his business empire, to a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Met with his business partners from India.

Saw bureaucratic obstacles to his building permit in Argentina disappear three days after he spoke to the Argentine President. (Both men deny that the subject was ever raised, but some things can go without saying).

For more about potential conflicts of interest, see here and here.

When asked about the possibility of conflicts of interest, Trump simply said that there were no laws on the President and conflicts of interest, so anything goes.

Oh, well, Trump might say, the real problem with Hillary Clinton was not that she was corrupt, but that her sending State Department e-mails on a private server endangered national security.  Hillary was, in the most charitable reading, "extremely careless."  For anyone relieved at the thought of our national security depending on Donald Trump's carefulness, keep in mind that before even being sworn in he has talked to foreign leaders on an unsecured line, chosen a National Security Adviser who installed an unauthorized internet connection and disclosed classified information without authorization, and is considering a new Secretary of State on probation for sharing classified information.  I never thought that entrusting our national security to Donald Trump's carefulness was a good idea.

And so on and so forth.  But don't worry.  There will be plenty more to say about Trump and corruption.

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