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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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