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FTR #935 The Making of Donald Trump (Top Banana Republic), Part 4

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

making-of-trumpthinkbignkickassIntroduction: In the aftermath of the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency, we are doing something unprecedented in the long history of For The Record. Earlier in 2016, award-winning journalist David Cay Johnston published a very well-written and researched, yet relatively short and compact biography of Donald Trump–The Making of Donald Trump (Melville House [HC]; copyright 2016 by David Cay Johnston; ISBN 978-1-61219-632-9.)

For some weeks, we have been–and will be–reading most of the book into the record, to provide people with a measure against which to evaluate not just “The Donald,” as his first wife Ivana called him, but our society, its institutions and its citizens. We can’t recommend strongly enough that listeners buy this book, read it and use whatever means available to spread the word about it. (We note that neither Mr. Emory nor any of the stations that air this program get money from this book, its publisher or author.)

This fourth installment of the series references the substance of an article that embodies the enormous and fundamental flaw in our political and civic process: a poll shortly before the election found that most of the prospective voters polled felt that Trump was more honest and trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. As our reading of Johnston’s excellent book unfolds, the grotesque, spectacularly fallacious character of this perception will become uncomfortably clear. Donald Trump is currently tracking as the more honest of the two presidential candidates in a poll, although fact-checking of his statements during the campaign have shown he’s lied several times. The latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll reports that 46 percent of likely voters believe he is the more honest and trustworthy candidate, while 38 percent believed it was Hillary Clinton. This marks the biggest gap between the two candidates in five ABC News/Washington Post polls that asked the question, beginning in May.”

The bulk of the program focuses on Trump University, the focal point of several lawsuits, settled by Trump after the election. (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 117-128.)

Mr. Emory feels that, in a sense, the case of Trump University is a microcosm for what America will be under a Trump presidency. ” . . . . The testimony above all comes from a 2012 suit, but two other lawsuits claimed that the whole Trump University enterprise was a fraud–a scam in which the desperate and the gullible paid Trump about $40 million for what turned out to be high-pressure salesmanship. . . .” (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 120–121.)

In a very real sense, Trump’s pitch in a promotional video embodies Trump as a professional, a person and a politician: ” . . . ‘At Trump University, we teach success . . . . That’s what it’s all about–success. It’s going to happen to you. We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific–terrific people, terrific brains, successful. We are going to have the best of the best. These are all people that are handpicked by me.’ . . . . None of those statements were true. . . .” (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 117—118.)

Representative of the operations of this “university” is Trump’s “faculty.” ” . . . . Trump did not even honor his commitment to handpick the faculty. In 2012, when Trump was sued for civil fraud in California, attorney Rachel Jensen read the names of one faculty member after another, displayed photographs of them, and offered video footage of faculty at Trump University ‘live events.’ Trump, who complained that this line of questioning was a waste of time, could not identify a single person. ‘Too many years ago . . . too many years ago . . . it’s ancient history,’ he said. Some of these events had taken place fewer than two years earlier. Again and again and again, Trump testified that he could not remember. . . .” (The Making of Donald Trump,; p. 119.)

An investigation of Trump University in Texas had a revealing political footnote: ” . . . . To the seasoned fraud investigators who compiled the report, the case against Trump seemed ironclad. The investigators concluded with the suggestion that Trump  . . . . be named personally in a civil action suit alleging deceptive trade practices. We know all this because John Owens, who retired in 2011 as chief deputy in the Texas attorney general’s consumer protection unit made the internal report public in 2016. The Texas attorney general’s office, Owens’s former employer, responded with a letter citing six laws Owens may have broken in releasing the report and suggesting his law license might be revoked. . . . Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, took no public action. . . . Abbott has since been elected governor. He endorsed Trump in 2016. . . . In 2013, three years after [assistant Texas attorney general Rick] Berlin failed to persuade Abbott to adopt his recommendation to recover money for Texas consumers, Trump donated $35,000 to Abbott’s campaign for governor. . . .” (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 122-123.)

The Abbott-Trump relationship mirrors the highly suspicious contribution Trump made to the reelection campaign of Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, who dropped the investigation into Trump University in exchange for the “favor.”

As reported during the campaign, Trump’s contribution was made from one of Trump’s charities, which are the focal point of Chapter 16 of Johnston’s book. (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 129-134.)

Enjoying the support of many veterans, according to polls, and, also according to polls, active duty military personnel, Trump attempted to use veterans as campaign props by donating to them in violation of regulations governing charitable donations. (The Making of Donald Trump,; pp. 135-136.)

The program concludes begins and ends with a reading of the poem Be Angry at the Sun by Robinson Jeffers.

“Be Angry at the Sun” by Robinson Jeffers

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante’s feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

 

Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #935 The Making of Donald Trump (Top Banana Republic), Part 4”

  1. Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich has a message for Americans about Trump’s messaging going forward: don’t expect to keep hearing the Trump administration talk about ‘draining the swamp’. Trump has indicating that he’s no longer fond of the term. And as the article below also notes, another reason we probably shouldn’t expect too much talk about ‘draining the swamp’ has to do with the observation that the emerging Trump administration is filled with creatures highly adapted for swamp life (and little else):

    Politico

    Gingrich: Trump backing away from ‘drain the swamp’

    By Louis Nelson

    12/21/16 07:41 AM EST

    President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington of corruption, but now that he’s preparing to move into the White House, Newt Gingrich said the Manhattan real estate mogul is looking to distance himself from that message.

    “I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” the former House Speaker and close Trump adviser said of the “drain the swamp” message in an NPR interview published Wednesday morning. “I’ve noticed on a couple of fronts, like people chanting ‘Lock her up,’ that he’s in a different role now and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps.”

    While Trump made his “drain the swamp” pledge a major part of his campaign message in the final weeks of the presidential race, his transition team was, in its early days after the election, packed with lobbyists for the pharmaceutical, chemical, fossil fuel and tobacco industries. Under pressure, Trump’s team instituted a rigid lobbying ban that prompted some to leave, but the group orchestrating the president-elect’s transition still relies heavily on GOP insiders.

    Trump’s Cabinet and other high-level appointments seem to have deviated somewhat from his “drain the swamp” message. After attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton regularly throughout the campaign for being too close to Wall Street banks, Trump has put three former Goldman Sachs executives in prominent White House positions, including Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and Gary Cohn as the director of the National Economic Council.

    Gingrich also suggested that Trump should quickly find a transparent solution to concerns about conflicts of interest between his presidency and the massive business empire he has pledged to hand over to his kids once he takes office. The former House speaker said putting such complex assets into a blind trust, the arrangement generally promised by presidents, would be “an absurdity” for Trump but that some other “common-sense” arrangement will be necessary.

    “This is not a country that wanders around trusting people with power. This is a country that wants accountability,” Gingrich said. “He has to understand and his family has to understand that there is a public interest which transcends them.”

    As a solution, Gingrich suggested that Trump appoint a panel of experts that would have “total access” to oversee his assets and advise him as to what is appropriate and what is not. That panel could be populated by individuals like former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Gingrich said.

    “Trump’s Cabinet and other high-level appointments seem to have deviated somewhat from his “drain the swamp” message. After attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton regularly throughout the campaign for being too close to Wall Street banks, Trump has put three former Goldman Sachs executives in prominent White House positions, including Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and Gary Cohn as the director of the National Economic Council.

    Well, that would be a pretty valid reason to end all the talk about draining the swamp: because continuing to use that phrase would be incredibly hypocritical. While it’s not quite an example of honest in corruption, dropping the phrase is at least a little less dishonest than before so it’s sort of an improvement. #MAGA. Although note the actual reason Gingrich claimed for Trump dropping the phrase: it wouldn’t be presidential enough:


    “I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” the former House Speaker and close Trump adviser said of the “drain the swamp” message in an NPR interview published Wednesday morning. “I’ve noticed on a couple of fronts, like people chanting ‘Lock her up,’ that he’s in a different role now and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps.”

    LOL! Yeah, Trump is acting really dignified now that he’s president-elect.

    Also note that Gingrich’s advice to Trump for how to deal with the unusual nature of the conflicts of interest created by his global business interests were limited to setting up an advisory council. He other recommendations that, while absurd, probably shouldn’t be seen as all that absurd when you consider the probably of them actually getting put into practice: If Trump wants his children to simultaneously run his businesses while also acting as advisers to his administration there is a simple, and possibly legal, solution. Change the ethics laws. And if that doesn’t go far enough, pardon them:

    Politico

    Gingrich: Congress should change ethics laws for Trump

    By Darren Samuelsohn

    12/19/16 03:43 PM EST

    Newt Gingrich has a take on how Donald Trump can keep from running afoul of U.S. ethics laws: Change the ethics laws.

    Trump is currently grappling with how to sufficiently disentangle himself from his multibillion-dollar business to avoid conflicts of interest with his incoming administration, and the president-elect has already pushed back a promised announcement of an ethics firewall.

    Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and one-time potential running mate for Trump, says Trump should push Congress for legislation that accounts for a billionaire businessman in the White House.

    “We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said Monday during an appearance on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” about the president-elect’s business interests. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”

    And should someone in the Trump administration cross the line, Gingrich has a potential answer for that too.

    “In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” Gingrich said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

    Trump now says he’ll roll out an ethics strategy next month, a plan that — per Trump’s own tweets — will include handing over the management of his real estate and investment portfolio to his two adult sons and a team of longtime executives. But key details of the Trump plan also remain a work in progress, prompting suggestions from outside Trump Tower that range from a complete selling off for all Trump assets to Gingrich’s call for a sweeping review of the country’s ethics laws themselves.

    Gingrich — who says he is not joining Trump’s administration — didn’t provide many details for what a new approach would entail, other than reiterating his support for an outside panel of experts Trump should convene that would regularly monitor how his company and government are operating and “offer warnings if they get too close to the edge.”

    The former Georgia GOP lawmaker did concede Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress can’t ignore the potential ethical challenges facing the president, including the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. government employees from taking payments from foreign governments or the companies they run.

    “It’s a very real problem,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think this is something minor. I think certainly in an age that people are convinced that government corruption is widespread both in the U.S. and around the world, you can’t just shrug and walk off from it.”

    But Gingrich said Trump is on solid political ground as he prepares to take the White House while maintaining ownership of his business. In fact, Gingrich argued that Trump’s résumé and financial history were among the reasons why the Republican won the presidential election.

    “I think there was a general sense that the president had the ability, that this was going to be a billionaire presidency. I don’t think anyone who voted for him was not aware that he was a very, very successful businessman,” he said.

    But it was Gingrich’s suggestion that Trump could sidestep potential problems inside his administration — through his constitutional right to issue pardons — that prompted an incredulous reply from the NPR program’s host and two of her guests.

    “That level of authority strikes me as rather broad and perhaps ought to be in the hands of Congress rather than within his own hands,” said Rehm, who is set to retire at the end of this week after a more than 30-year run.

    “Speaker Gingrich’s statement that wealth trumps the rule of law, basically that’s what he was saying, is jaw-dropping,” added American University government professor James Thurber. “I can’t believe it. He’s a historian. He should also know that we did not want to have a king. A king in this case is somebody with a lot of money who cannot abide by the rule of law.”

    Richard Painter, a former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer, said Gingrich was off on his reading of the Constitution. “If the pardon power allows that, the pardon power allows the president to become a dictator, and even Richard Nixon had the decency to wait for his successor to hand out the pardon that he received for his illegal conduct,” Painter said. “We’re going down a very, very treacherous path if we go with what Speaker Gingrich is saying, what he is suggesting.”

    ““In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” Gingrich said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

    Yes, the Trump clan’s unprecedented planned conflicts of interest are on track to create a whole new fun precedent: Declaring in advance you don’t think current ethics laws allow your administration to be as conflicted as you would prefer and that you will pardon any of those administration members should your planned conflicts create a legal problem. That’s not terrifying or anything.

    So, with that in mind, it’s probably worth noting that Congress passed a law back in 2012 that made insider trading – something the Trump and his family are in perpetual risk of engaging in given Trump’s refusal to sell off his business – is definitely considered illegal for the executive branch members to engage in. In other words, if the conflict of interest laws are actually enforced, those pardons are probably coming sooner than you might expect:

    The Huffington Post

    It’s Clear: Trump Isn’t Exempt From Insider-Trading Ethics Law
    Ethics office confirms the GOP-backed STOCK Act applies to the president and vice president, too.

    Paul Blumenthal
    12/16/2016 12:38 am ET | Updated 5 days ago

    WASHINGTON – When President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20, he will be banned from using nonpublic information for private profit under the 2012 STOCK Act, the Office of Government Ethics said in a letter clarifying the law’s interpretation.

    The letter from OGE Director Walter Shaub released Thursday night expanded on an earlier letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) to make it clear Shaub’s official guidance is that the STOCK Act does apply to the president.

    “The STOCK Act bars the President, the Vice President, and all executive branch employees from: using nonpublic information for private profit; engaging in insider trading; or intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation,” Shaub’s letter reads.

    The guidance further states the STOCK Act prohibits the president and vice president from participating in an initial public offering and participating in any action that could benefit or influence any person with whom they may be negotiating future employment or compensation after leaving office.

    This official guidance was necessary because OGE had not issued the guidance formally declaring how the law applied to the president and vice president, as it was required to in a section of the law. The Huffington Post reported on this oversight Tuesday.

    This law could cause significant problems for Trump, who appears ready to continue to hold a stake in his multibillion-dollar business enterprise. He has hinted that he will hand off control of the company to his two oldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump. If at any time he gives them profitable information that he has learned through his presidential duties and that has not been disclosed to the public, he would be committing a felony.

    In earlier guidance on the STOCK Act, OGE gave examples of what violating the prohibition would look like. The most relevant example for Trump involved an Army Corps of Engineers employee who also belonged to an environmental organization. This person would be banned from giving nonpublic information about the construction of a dam to a member of the environmental organization or to a reporter.

    The STOCK Act was passed with bipartisan support in 2012 amid concerns that members of Congress were using information they had gained in the course of their work to trade stocks – a form of insider trading, essentially. While the legislation initially applied only to members of Congress, Republicans insisted the law apply to the legislative and executive branches. They wanted to make sure that the law covered Democratic President Barack Obama.

    “The STOCK Act was passed with bipartisan support in 2012 amid concerns that members of Congress were using information they had gained in the course of their work to trade stocks – a form of insider trading, essentially. While the legislation initially applied only to members of Congress, Republicans insisted the law apply to the legislative and executive branches. They wanted to make sure that the law covered Democratic President Barack Obama.

    Oh look at that: when congress passed the STOCK Act in 2012, the GOP got the executive branch added to the bill just to make extra sure that the Obama administration officials can’t engage in insider trading. So will the GOP show a similar interest now that we have one of the most conflict-riddled incoming administrations in history? That remains to be seen, especially considering that the route for Congress to go if it does decide to take an interest in a Trump administration’s conflicts of interest is impeachment.

    But there is another route to enforcing conflict of interest rules: The Justice Department can enforce them. Although it probably won’t, since it’s going to be a Trump Justice Department:

    The Huffington Post

    Here’s The Law That Poses The Greatest Threat To Donald Trump
    The Stock Act’s author explains the insider trading law will be extremely difficult for the next president to follow if he keeps his businesses.

    Michael McAuliff
    12/21/2016 07:01 am ET | Updated

    WASHINGTON – By walking onto the inaugural platform outside the Capitol and putting his hand on a Bible on Jan. 20, Donald Trump may be stepping closer to committing a felony than he ever imagined when he launched his unlikely bid to become the nation’s 45th president.

    That’s because Congress passed a law in 2012 called the Stock Act, which explicitly bars the president, members of Congress and senior executive branch officials from using their insider knowledge to make money.

    Obeying the law is not especially difficult for most people. But most people do not have access to the immense amount of secret information that presidents deal with every day. And no presidents before have been billionaires with business holdings spread around the world.

    The law is clear in saying that the president cannot do anything that resembles helping friends, family members or himself to make a profit off of information he gains from doing his job.

    “It’s the same as it applies to the American people,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the lead author of the Stock Act. “You cannot trade on nonpublic information. That is a criminal violation of the law.”

    “The president, the vice president, Cabinet secretaries, all of them have to play by the same rules as every other American,” Gillibrand added. “And that’s what the Stock Act ensures.”

    Indeed, the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, recently declared as much in a letter explaining his official guidance to Congress.

    “The Stock Act bars the President, the Vice President, and all executive branch employees from: using nonpublic information for private profit; engaging in insider trading; or intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation,” the letter says.

    For Trump, it all presents a special problem, especially since he has unprecedented conflicts of interest, has so far decided not to completely divest himself of his businesses and is going to leave control of his business in the hands of his children.

    It means that anything he says to his children or business confidants, or any tips he gives to friends that get turned into profits can get him in trouble. (The video above explains it in more detail.)

    “If you tell people who work for you, or tell people you like or tell your best friend, that’s all insider trading,” Gillibrand said.

    A president has constant exposure to and involvement in market-moving intelligence. And a president with multiple business interests and numerous friends and relatives involved in business could easily improperly mingle those worlds.

    “It’s very difficult. So it’s not surprising that most [senior government officials] put all of their business interests in blind trusts. It’s not surprising that that’s what most presidents have done because it’s really difficult,” Gillibrand said.

    While it may be clear that Trump will be in a precarious position if he keeps his businesses in the family, it is not clear what would happen should he violate the letter of the law. Many legal scholars (including some at the Justice Department) think that since the president runs the executive branch, which includes the Justice Department, he could not be prosecuted by that department.

    But that proposition has never really been tested.

    The only obvious way to check a president who has committed acts that appear to violate federal law is to impeach. How likely such a step would be in a Republican-led Congress is not clear.

    “While it may be clear that Trump will be in a precarious position if he keeps his businesses in the family, it is not clear what would happen should he violate the letter of the law. Many legal scholars (including some at the Justice Department) think that since the president runs the executive branch, which includes the Justice Department, he could not be prosecuted by that department.

    So as we can can, given the low odds of both a real Justice Department investigation or an impeachment by Congress, it’s not actually clear that there’s a real mechanism for any sort of conflict of interest enforcement. At least not with the GOP in control of Congress. So who knows, maybe there won’t be a need for any pardons because there won’t actually be the enforcement of justice. That’s one way to drain the swamp.

    And in other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 21, 2016, 7:57 pm
  2. It begins:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Back to The Auction House

    By Josh Marshall
    Published January 2, 2017, 9:22 PM EDT

    In the latter days of the Bush Administration, the House of Representatives was rocked by a long, slow burn corruption scandal known mainly by the name of Jack Abramoff, a GOP operative whose lobbying operation was at the center of much of it. But there were actually a group of scandals which collectively grew out of the system of technically legal organized corruption that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had built to run and permanently dominate the House with an iron system of money and favors. The first major blow-up was the case of disgraced ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (after whom the Golden Dukes are named), the comically iconic Bush/DeLay Era corruption scandal.. He literally produced a ‘menu’ for things crooked contractors could buy from him and at what cost. There was the Cunningham scandal and various sub-scandals that grew from it; there was the bigger and more wide-ranging Abramoff scandal and various sub-scandals that grew from it. But what really set the stage was something that happened in November 2004, just after President Bush’s reelection and the dawn of the GOP’s ‘permanent majority.’ That was when DeLay, then under indictment in Texas, got the GOP House caucus to push through a rules change (the ‘DeLay Rule‘) to allow an indicted member of the leadership to remain in office.

    Just tonight, at what I suspect is a historically similar moment, we have a replay in the again-GOP-run House.

    Before we get to what happened this evening, a bit more background. When the Democrats took back control of the House in the 2006 wave election, they did so with the rampant corruption of the congressional GOP as one of their major campaign themes. So in the Spring of 2008 they created Office of Congressional Ethics, a congressional oversight office which was independent of the members themselves. The House Ethics Committee is supposed to handle ethics questions. But it’s run by members and was generally as good at sweeping ethics issues under the rug as addressing them. More generously, in an era of intense partisanship, it was often simply un-runnable. In any case, the OCE was able to do a lot of things the Ethics Committee could not. It could look into anything it wanted to. It could issue recommendations to the Ethics Committee.

    This may all seem a bit like inside baseball. But in the world of oversight, it was actually a pretty big step in having someone with some actual power keeping an eye on members.

    Well, tonight in a sort of kick off to the Trump Era, the House GOP Caucus voted to put the OCE back under the authority of the Ethics Committee, which of course has a GOP Chair. Basically that means abolishing the OCE since the whole point of the OCE is that it’s independent of the Committee. One of the sales’ points for this new set up is that it “provide[s] protection [for Members of Congress] against disclosures to the public or other government entities” of the results of any investigations. In other words, if wrongdoing is found the newly-neutered OCE can’t tell anyone. Awesome. They can’t have a press person, issue reports, do anything without the say of the Ethics Committee. In other words, the whole thing is a joke, both the new version of the OCE (now the ““Office of Congressional Complaint Review”) and this whole move. But it’s the Trump Era. Members want to get down to business, get their piece of the action and not have anyone giving them any crap. Just like the big cheese down Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s the Trump Era.

    Now, here’s the good part, as it was with the DeLay Rule, the vote is secret. Why? Because this is a caucus vote, i.e., not an actual congressional vote. Let me digress for a moment and explain just one more bit of detail. With each new Congress the majority puts together a bundle of rules that will govern how the House works during that Congress. Mostly this just puts the old rules back in place. But there are always a few changes. All those rules get bundled into one bill and it’s the first thing or one of the first to get voted on. That bill gets approved on a party line vote, just like the Speaker gets elected. If the caucus votes for it, it’s a sure thing. So even though this was just a secret caucus vote, in effect it is binding as law since all Republicans will vote for it in the official vote.

    Now, the reports from Capitol Hill are that Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy warned against the move. And I don’t doubt that that’s true as far as it goes. As in they said, oh please don’t do this. But c’mon! If the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader really don’t want something to happen, they can stop it. They didn’t. The vote passed 119 to 74.

    This is all part of Ryan’s ‘better way.’

    Well, tonight in a sort of kick off to the Trump Era, the House GOP Caucus voted to put the OCE back under the authority of the Ethics Committee, which of course has a GOP Chair. Basically that means abolishing the OCE since the whole point of the OCE is that it’s independent of the Committee. One of the sales’ points for this new set up is that it “provide[s] protection [for Members of Congress] against disclosures to the public or other government entities” of the results of any investigations. In other words, if wrongdoing is found the newly-neutered OCE can’t tell anyone. Awesome. They can’t have a press person, issue reports, do anything without the say of the Ethics Committee. In other words, the whole thing is a joke, both the new version of the OCE (now the ““Office of Congressional Complaint Review”) and this whole move. But it’s the Trump Era. Members want to get down to business, get their piece of the action and not have anyone giving them any crap. Just like the big cheese down Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s the Trump Era.”

    So the Trump Era is already shaping up to outpace the DeLay/Abramoff Era in the corruption department with the House undoing the fix Congress created as a response to DeLay/Abramoff Era on the first day of the new Congress. They definitely aren’t hiding their intent to loot the hell of the the place, although the individual members of the GOP caucus are actually hiding since the vote was a caucus vote and done in secret. It’s like the GOP is trying to cloak is open corruption under a veil of open secrecy. That should go well.

    And what did Trump have to say about all this? Well, he didn’t have anything to say Monday night when the news broke. But by late in the morning on Tuesday he did have response: Trump doesn’t like this plan. Why? Not because he doesn’t like the idea of gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics. He agrees with the rest of the GOP that the OCE is “unfair”. No, he appeared to mostly disagree with the timing of the move. #DrainTheSwamp:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Trump Says Congress Shouldn’t Prioritize Gutting ‘Unfair’ Ethics Watchdog

    By Esme Cribb
    Published January 3, 2017, 10:22 AM EDT

    President-elect Donald Trump wondered in a pair of tweets posted Tuesday morning if Congress should be focusing on weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics as its “number one act and priority.”

    Trump called the OCE “unfair,” but questioned its prioritization compared to “tax reform, healthcare, and so many other things of far greater importance.”

    With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

    ……..may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

    Speaking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the tweets’ meaning was “pretty simple.”

    “It’s not a question of strengthening or weakening,” he said. “I think it’s a question of priorities and the president’s belief is that with all that this country wants and needs to have happen this really shouldn’t be the priority.”

    Trump called the OCE “unfair,” but questioned its prioritization compared to “tax reform, healthcare, and so many other things of far greater importance.”

    Yes, how about the House GOP prioritize the gutting of healthcare and the tax base first before gutting the House’s ethics oversight. That’s some bold leadership right there. It was such bold leadership that the House GOP actually abandoned its plans afterwards. Or, at least, that’s the narrative that the media latched onto after the GOP abandoned its plans following Trump’s tweets about “priorities”, despite the fact that Trump’s “priorities” tweet followed an evening and morning of voter outrage:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    A Clarifying Lesson

    By Josh Marshall
    Published January 3, 2017, 12:54 PM EDT

    This should be a clarifying lesson: most of the establishment press will reflexively credit Trump for things he has nothing to do with. We’ve seen that with the repeated claims of credit for saving or creating jobs which were usually announced months before. It’s classic Lucy’s football. There’s always news a day or two later about how it’s not true. But they run with it each time. Now we see the same with the House GOP caving and CNN, WaPo, Politico, AP and all the bigs saying they gave in when Trump tweeted his equivocal disapproval. That is pretty clearly not the case.

    This story blew up last night. This morning congressional offices were deluged with constituent calls. And the press coverage was universally negative. Trump was clearly reacting to those realities, not driving them. But when the House GOP announced they were killing the proposal, the bigs said it was Trump’s intervention that did it. It may have mildly added to the momentum. But when the train is already rushing down the hill at 120 miles an hour, it can’t get that much faster.

    Politico at least already seems to have somewhat de-Trumped its story. We’ll see what the others do.

    This story blew up last night. This morning congressional offices were deluged with constituent calls. And the press coverage was universally negative. Trump was clearly reacting to those realities, not driving them. But when the House GOP announced they were killing the proposal, the bigs said it was Trump’s intervention that did it. It may have mildly added to the momentum. But when the train is already rushing down the hill at 120 miles an hour, it can’t get that much faster.”

    Yep, on the night before the very first day of the new Congress, the GOP managed to create a public uproar with an in-your-face move that even Donald ‘Presidents can’t have a conflict of interest‘ Trump had to say something about it. Sp the next day, and in the middle of that public uproar, Trump comments on the poor optics of it. The GOP later retreats in the face of this outcry and Trump gets widely credited in the media with anti-corruption leadership or something. It’s all a reminder that corruption (or gross incompetence) in the reporting of corruption is probably going to one of the key areas of focus in any anti-corruption initiatives during the next four years.

    It’s also a reminder that the GOP is really, really corrupt. Not that we needed the reminder, but it’s always kind of nice when they basically admit it. Think of it as government ‘transparency’ for the Trump Era.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 3, 2017, 4:08 pm

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