Friday, November 25, 2016

President Donald J. Profit - Will Trump get away with his conflicts of interest ?

Trump’s conflicts of interest may be front-and-center for his presidency for the years to come. All signs point to this brazenness: Donald Trump thinks he can get away with anything. And he may be right. reported by Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line).

It’s becoming clearer with each passing day of this presidential transition that like so much of what he said during the campaign, Donald Trump’s promise to separate himself from his business during his presidency was simply a lie. The convenient fiction that Trump offered up is that his children would run the corporation on his behalf as a “blind trust,” which is like referring to a plate of steamed kale as a “hamburger.”

Now, as Trump works to monetize the presidency for his own financial gain like some post-Soviet kleptocrat, we have to look back to the campaign to understand why he’s doing this.

There’s a simple explanation: Donald Trump thinks he can get away with anything.

And it is obvious. In a matter of days, he’s invited his daughter Ivanka, who will be leading the Trump Organization, to sit in on a meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan. He held a meeting with Indian businessmen developing a Trump-branded apartment complex. He had his Washington hotel encourage foreign diplomats to stay there while they’re in the nation’s capital. He pressed British party leader Nigel Farage to fight against a proposed wind farm Trump believes mars the view from a golf course he owns in Scotland.

In response to criticism of these actions, Trump tweeted:

Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!

This made it clear that he sees no problem with having ongoing business interests in foreign countries as president, and if it becomes an issue he will simply blame the media.

So who will stop Trump’s use of high office for personal enrichment?

… Republicans in Congress sure aren’t going to be investigating his conflicts of interest. Democrats have no institutional power to do so. The performance of the most of the news media (with some important exceptions) when it comes to holding Trump accountable has been less than encouraging.

So who’s going to stop him?

Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a letter consigned by Congressman Elijah Cummings, “urged federal regulators to investigate if Trump was already using his public position for private gain.” reports Elizabeth Warren calls for an investigation into Donald Trump’s global conflicts of interest.

They ask:

To what extent have Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest affected his presidential transition? What is the impact and potential impact of his refusal to set up a qualified blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest?

Has Mr. Trump conducted Trump Organization business during the transition? Is there transparency with regard to his activity with his business interests? Have his conflicts potentially affected the policy positions of his new Administration?

Have his family members maintained appropriate distance between the business of the Trump Organization and the presidential transition?

Has the Trump transition used taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively? Have funds from the transition or associated with the transition (such as reimbursements from the Secret Service) gone to companies owned by Mr. Trump? If so, how much was the total amount paid to Mr. Trump’s business entities? Have the payments been fair and reasonable?

This is but a first step - building public pressure applied to Congress. Check out the article for where this will head and for the entire text of the Warren/Cummings letter.

What Can Be Done About Trump’s Conflicts of Interest? That’s Up to Congress. reports However, His business entanglements are unprecedented, but there’s little to hold him accountable.. Moreover, he has gotten away with just about everything - with impunity writes Brian Beutler at the New Republic.

Through luck and graft and privilege, Trump has gotten away with an incredible amount of chicanery in his life. If people behave ethically, whether out of genuine moral uprightness or the pragmatic desire to escape punishment, they exhibit self-control and an awareness of and respect for the rules. If people don’t particularly care about these things, they risk catastrophic consequences, but higher up the income scale, it becomes easier to escape penalty, and more tempting to let ethics slip further. Impunity serves as a magnet for bad people, and erodes the mental habits that make decent-but-flawed individuals behave ethically, creating a breeding ground for vice.

Trump has inhabited such an environment his entire life. Having suffered no serious repercussions for any of his misdeeds, it is unsurprising that he gives little thought to how his actions affect other people. We can explain all of Trump’s transgressions with this single formative fact. And the most alarming thing about it is the way his air of impunity allows attendant failures–greed, incompetence, cruelty–to feed upon one another.

If Trump seems to be winging it through the early days of the transition, unperturbed by the potential for horror, this is why.

He can’t (or makes no effort to) distinguish between bumbling and purposefulness; ethics and corruption; normal and abnormal behavior—because these distinctions have never been a lasting source of value to him.

He has always acted with impunity and continues to do so.

The $25 million settlement of the Trump U law suit is a case in point. The dollar amount is chump change to a billionaire and, anyway, is a tax write-off. Plus the settlement allowed him to escape a judgement of wrong-doing. Thus he got away with scamming those folks who put their life-savings at his disposal.

The remaining question is whether Congress will rein in President Profit. If they do not, no one else will.

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