Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump's Transition Troubles ..

… and more - like profiteering from the presidency. First, the transition troubles. For a complete expose’ check out the Rachel Maddow show from last (Tuesday) night.

Per Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) last night, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner took revenge on his father’s prosecutor, Chris Christie. (Christie pushed for the maximum jail sentence in a New Jersey trial in which Kushner plead guilty to “tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations.”) Christie was fired from his post as head to the transition team and replaced by Mike Pence who then delayed signing paperwork so the the transition could legally proceed. Christie’s other transition team members, including ex-Congressman Mike Rogers were fired as part of Kushner’s purge. (Reporting from the NY Times.)

Trump’s bench is shallow and getting shallower.

Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official who had criticized Mr. Trump during the campaign but said after his election that he would keep an open mind about advising him, said Tuesday on Twitter that he had changed his opinion. After speaking to the transition team, he wrote, he had “changed my recommendation: stay away.”

He added: “They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.” (Scriber: think "sore loser syndrome.)

Mr. Cohen, a conservative Republican who served under President George W. Bush, said Trump transition officials had excoriated him after he offered some names of people who might serve in the new administration, but only if they felt departments were led by credible people.

"They think of these jobs as lollipops,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.

Some of the early transition difficulties may reflect the fact that Mr. Trump, who has no governing experience or Washington network and campaigned as an agent of change, does not have a long list of establishment figures from the Bush era to tap. His allies suggested that might ultimately prove positive for Mr. Trump if he was able to assemble a functioning team that would bring new perspectives to his administration.

Prominent donors to Mr. Trump were also having little success in recruiting people for rank-and-file posts in his administration.

Teams throughout the federal government that have prepared briefing materials and reports for the incoming president’s team are on standby, waiting to begin passing the information to counterparts on Mr. Trump’s staff.

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials at key agencies including the Justice and Defense Departments said they had received no contact from the president-elect’s team.

Perhaps all will be well. If Trump cannot find qualified experts with experience, he can get his kids to serve. However the Washington Post considers various scenarios, with most running afoul of the US Code. For example:

Limitations on employing relatives in the federal government are laid out in 5 U.S.C. 3110, which states that a public official may not “appoint, employ, advance, or advocate for” relatives in “the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control.”

That would seem to preclude Trump from hiring family members for any job in the federal government. But, of course, there are exceptions — particularly if the president-elect wants to push the legal envelope.

… most likely of all is Trump’s option of keeping family members close by, treating them as advisers and informally involving them in presidential business. It’s hard to imagine Trump’s children won’t be frequent guests at the White House. If they’re in the building, there’s little to prevent them from joining the action, even if they’re running the Trump Organization at the same time.

There are few ways to stop this outcome.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, charged with monitoring nepotism and other offenses at the federal level, might find it hard to claim jurisdiction over the president. The courts, an obvious limiting authority, might call a president’s personnel practices a “political question” and decline to weigh in.

As Rudolph W. Giuliani told CNN over the weekend: “You do realize that those laws don’t apply to the president, right?”

Maybe. But the law applies to the kids. The arrogance of these people is jaw-dropping.

And about that “blind trust”? Forget about that. The kids are assuming control over the Trump business empire and that is a yuuuge conflict of interest with opportunities for Trump to milk the presidency for profit. That has already started with Melania’s jewelry line hawked (well, mentioned) on the transition web site.

Obama offers advice but seems pessimistic about the transition

Brian Beutler of the New Republic shares his take-always from Obama’s Monday press conference, Obama Is Warning America About Trump’s Presidency. Are You Listening? Beutler has got a great graphic.

Obama kept returning to three basic themes: that Trump will be given every opportunity to succeed, thanks to the tutelage Obama and his team will be providing, and the fact Trump won’t be inheriting massive crises—which should give him the kind of running room Obama never enjoyed; that the work of a presidency is ceaseless, and much of it highly detail-oriented; and finally that Trump’s grasp of what he’s been elected to do is at best remedial.

Obama may be subtly trying to communicate to the Trump transition team that they need to make massive strides, and quickly, or they will be, in Obama’s words, “swamped.” But his expectation that Trump and his entourage will get their act together is clearly very low.

“The most important point I made,” Obama told reporters at the White House, referring to his conversation last week with Trump, “was that how you staff—particularly your chief of staff, your national security adviser, your White House counsel, how you set up a process and a system to surface information, generate options for a president, understanding that ultimately the president is going to be the final decision maker, that that’s something that’s going to have to be attended to right away.”

This was all accurate, but it was a way of saying that Trump is the first president in living memory not to have even passing knowledge of how a White House operation runs.

Reading comprehension and patience only scratch the surface of difficulties Trump will face. “I think there will be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects them,” Obama added, “because when you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial, it has less impact than it does when you’re president of the United States. Everybody around the world is paying attention, markets moves. National security issues require a level of precision in order to make sure you don’t make mistakes. I think he recognizes that this is different.”

Trump may or may not need someone to set up a filing system for him, but he’ll need people to do his reading, and to keep him from making shit up or reflexively attacking his enemies in public. The consequences of failing to outsource these tasks to people with better temperament won’t be a disorganized workspace, but crashing markets and accidental wars.

Obama’s warning to Trump, and everyone who stands to suffer for his errors, is that living in a rhetorical fantasy will backfire on a president. “Regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up,” Obama said. “And those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality—he will find shaken up pretty quick, because reality has a way of asserting itself.”

Should Trump respond to such shakeups by transgressing governing norms, where he once transgressed campaigning norms, Obama warned that he would find himself in the midst of scandal or crime. (Scriber: you don’t have to wait for it - it’s already happening. Check out Rachel Maddow’s show from Tuesday night.)

“One of the things you discover about being president is that there are all these rules and norms and laws and you’ve got to pay attention to them,” Obama said, as if the president-elect weren’t a 70-year-old person with a fancy education. “The people who work for you are also subject to those rules and norms. And that’s a piece of advice that I gave to the incoming president.”

Because of the unique and awkward position he finds himself in, Obama can’t trash the incoming president or sow panic about the country’s coming stewardship. But it isn’t normal for an outgoing president to have to tell the incoming one he should follow the law, and that aspects of his temperament might get him into an economic crisis or a war or a massive corruption scandal. It’s certainly not normal for him to warn the public about it, however subtly, either.

We’ve become accustomed to some very high standards of behavior, and complacent—or even frustrated—with a slow, steady improvement upon the status quo Obama inherited eight years ago. This is Obama’s only way of preparing us for some abrupt and ugly reversals. We ought to listen very closely.

Profiteering from the Presidency?

The official Trump web site is here at which, according to Rachel Maddow and Politico.com contained blatant ads for Trump’s businesses. Much of the language noted by these sources was subsequently excised. But it still leaves the impression that the Trumps, Donald and Melania, stand to benefit from a government web site paid for by the taxpayer.

Obama spoke. Was Trump listening? Are we?

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