Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Monday, November 21, 2016

The President of the United States Brand

by digby

I wrote about Trump doing business out of the White House for Salon today

One of the odder events of 2016’s very odd presidential campaign was Donald Trump’s pilgrimage to an event held by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey, during the last weeks of the presidential campaign. It’s not as if he made other forms of outreach to small ethnic or religious minorities, and this appearance seemed particularly obscure for a campaign concentrated on big rallies in battleground states.

Well, we may know the primary reason now. It was revealed over the weekend that the president-elect has been holding Trump Organization business meetings during the transition, and one of his meetings was with Indian developers with whom he has some luxury apartment deals cooking in Mumbai. The New York Times reported:

“We will see a tremendous jump in valuation in terms of the second tower,” said Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Mr. Trump’s organization make inroads into the Indian market five years ago. “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”

Somebody close to Trump must understand this isn’t a good look:

Now perhaps people think that simply because Trump has business interests in India, or any of the other countries in which the Trump Organization is involved, that won’t factor into his official decision-making as president. But at least until now our elected officials have been held to a higher standard. They put companies or investments in a blind trust, or sold their businesses and converted their holdings into cash or generic financial investments. The reasons are obvious. Presidents normally strive to be seen as honest by the people who elected them, and also to make it clear to foreign governments that they are not putting their own interests above their country.

Trump has said in the past that he “couldn’t care less” about his business once he’s making America great again, so he will undoubtedly announce at some point that he’s stepping away from his company and letting his children take the reins. As if that made a difference. After this past week, every foreign visitor will know who to talk to about “president-branded” properties: Trump’s kids.

Last week, you’ll recall, he was said to request top-secret clearances for Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. (Trump later denied this, but the word was already out that the kids are in the inner circle.) They were already official members of the transition team, and Kushner is reportedly being considered for an official role in the White House.

Meetings such as the one Ivanka Trump attended with the Japanese prime minister last week would be noteworthy simply for the inappropriateness of such high-level contact without any formal preparation or supervision. But Ivanka is also an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Her presence says clearly to all foreign business interests that she is involved at the highest levels, trusted by her father with both the business of the family and business of the United States.

Just as those pictures of Indian businessmen meeting with Trump and the three Trump scions were published and then withdrawn, so too was the picture of Ivanka at the meeting with the Japanese premier. If one were a a cynic one might even think they meant for them to be seen around the world, which they were, before the family was forced to take this operation behind closed doors.

It was also revealed that people who want to work with Trump both as a businessman and a president are staying at his new Washington hotel, spending money freely in an apparent attempt to curry favor with the new president. This story in the Washington Post sounds like something written about a tinpot dictator in a developing country:

Guests at the Trump hotel have begun parking themselves in the lobby, ordering expensive cocktails, hoping to see one of the Trump family members or the latest Cabinet pick. One foreign official hoped Trump, famous for the personal interest he takes in his businesses, might check the guest logs himself. But several expressed concern that spending thousands of dollars on a Trump property could look like an attempt to buy access or favors.

Trump apparently has no such concerns. He’s been holding his transition meetings at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, in what the New York Times called a “Trump-branded, made-for-television spectacle.” All that’s missing is an 800 number at the bottom of the screen so foreign dignitaries and business interests can make their reservations.

The Trump brand is clearly worth a lot more money than it was worth two weeks ago. It’s now the “President of the United States” brand, and Trump and his family are poised to cash in handsomely along with their foreign partners. There are no laws against a president running his international business from the Oval Office, mainly because nobody ever thought a president would so blatantly use the office for personal gain.

The Times quoted ethics lawyers on the subject, who sounded stunned by what they are seeing: “It is unprecedented in modern history,” said Andrew D. Herman, a lawyer who has represented more than a dozen members of Congress in ethics cases. “But this is the new normal.”

I wrote quite a bit during the campaign about Trump’s obvious conflicts of interest, and was surprised that the press never seemed very interested in the subject, particularly since they reported obsessively on Hillary Clinton’s past association with her family’s global charitable foundation while she served as secretary of state.

Since Trump is making absolutely no effort to hide his intentions, the mainstream media is finally paying some attention to this unprecedented transgression of ethical norms. The problem is there’s nothing to be done about it now, not really. The press can keep the spotlight on apparent efforts to influence other people, but Trump goes his own way and there’s little reason to believe he will recognize that he’s committing an ethical breach of massive proportions. Or that he would care if he did.

We can’t say he didn’t warn us. In 2000, Trump told Fortune, “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” We don’t know how rich Trump really is right now, of course, but we can be pretty sure that he and his family will be a whole lot richer at the end of his term.

Update: I have been apoplectic about this  throughout the campaign especially as I saw the media grinding Clinton to dust over ethics. I knew it would be bad. I had no idea they would be this blatant. But it makes sense. They are putting out the word that the Oval Office is open for business. Promotion is important. They'll take it behind closed doors eventually but the damage will have been done.

Update II: Jesus Christ
For a number of years, Trump and his Argentine partners have been trying to build a major office building in Buenos Aires. The project has been held up by a series of complications tied to financing, importation of building materials and various permitting requirements. 
According to a report out of Argentina, when Argentine President Mauricio Macri called President-Elect Trump to congratulate him on his election, Trump asked Macri to deal with the permitting issues that are currently holding up the project. 
This comes from one of Argentina's most prominent journalists, Jorge Lanata, in a recent TV appearance. Lanata is quoted here in La Nacion, one of Argentina's most prestigious dailies. Said Lanata: “Macri called him. This still hasn’t emerged but Trump asked for them to authorize a building he’s constructing in Buenos Aires, it wasn’t just a geopolitical chat." 
(For Spanish speakers, here's the original Spanish we've translated: "Macri llo llamó. Todavía no se contó pero Trump le pidió que autorizaran un edificio que él está construyendo en Buenos Aires, no fue solo una charla geo política.") 
Separately, Trump's business partner on the project, Felipe Yaryura, was there on election night at the Trump celebration in New York City.
Why aren't we hearing about this in the American press? 
Well, remember, no one knew anything about the visit from Trump's Indian business partners until it appeared in the Indian press either. It seems like this is likely happening on many fronts. It's just being hidden from the American press. We only hear about it when it bubbles to the surface in the countries where Trump is pushing his business deals.