Friday, November 03, 2017
Donald Trump: Swamp King
While we all fulminate over ancient history, Trump is living large on his yacht as it motors all over the swamp like it owns the place. This story in Newsweek about Trump's blatant corruption in office seems almost quaint but it's certainly worth paying attention to:
[A]s the presidential inauguration approached, anticipation bubbled through the sulfurous nexus of Capitol Hill politicians, special interest groups and their K Street lobbyists, the media, the establishment and just about everyone else who had dismissed Trump and his slogans as a publicity stunt. There was now a question, rather urgently in need of an answer: Was he serious about all that “swamp” stuff?
Not really, revealed former House Speaker and loyal Trump supporter Newt Gingrich, admitting to NPR on December 21 that “drain the swamp” was never a genuine promise. “I'm told he now just disclaims that,” Gingrich said a month before Trump was to assume the Oval Office. “He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore.”Someone from Trump Tower must have placed an angry call, because the former speaker soon tweeted that he’d overstated the case. But that didn’t kill the story. That same day, Politico wondered if “drain the swamp” would be Trump’s “first broken promise.” It cited the access-peddling lobbying firm of Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey R. Lewandowski, as well as the consulting firm with troubling foreign ties run by his incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. “Trump and his allies have engaged in some of the same practices they accused Hillary Clinton of exploiting and vowed to change,” Politico wrote.Now, a year after the election—and more than a year after Trump first made that pledge to the American people—many observers believe the swamp has grown into a sinkhole that threatens to swallow the entire Trump administration. The number of White House officials currently facing questions, lawsuits or investigation is astonishing: Trump, being sued for violating the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution by running his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.; Paul J. Manafort, the second Trump campaign manager, indicted on money laundering charges in late October; Flynn, for undisclosed lobbying work done on behalf of the Turkish government; son-in-law and consigliere Jared Kushner, for failing to disclose $1 billion in loans tied to his real-estate company; and at least six Cabinet heads being investigated for or asked about exorbitant travel expenses, security details or business dealings.
An allegation of corruption is, of course, not proof that corruption took place, but when has the American body politic ever awaited certitude before passing judgment? “The most corrupt presidency and administration we’ve ever had,” says Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who authored a book titled Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.To supporters of the president, charges of corruption are being leveled with undue zeal by anti-Trump forces that will say or do anything to thwart the president’s agenda and lead to his removal from office. “President Trump came to Washington to drain the swamp and is following through on his promises,” White House deputy press secretary Raj S. Shah told me, citing Trump’s executive order on ethics, the elevation to deputy status of ethics lawyers in the White House counsel’s office and “unprecedented steps to rein in waste of taxpayer funds.”Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, the publisher of conservative outlet Newsmax, laughed off the suggestion that Trump would enter public service to enrich himself, as critics have suggested. At the same time, he added, "I don't think it's like they wake up in the morning and say, 'How can we drain the swamp today?'"
Ruddy thinks Trump can only do so much to fulfill his promise on ethics. "At the end of the day, the swamp rules," he told me, referencing the enormous class of unelected technocrats that will outlast Trump's presidency, as well as all the ones that come after.But according to the presidential historian Robert Dallek, no American leader has acted with more unadulterated self-interest as Trump. Dallek says that in terms of outright corruption, Trump is worse than both Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding, presidents who oversaw the most flagrant instances of graft in American political history. Grant’s stellar reputation as a Civil War general is tarnished in part by the Whiskey Ring scandal, in which Treasury Department officials stole taxes from alcohol distillers; members of Harding’s administration plundered oil reserves in Teapot Dome, a rock outcropping in Wyoming that has lent its name to the most notorious example of government corruption in American political history. In both cases, the fault of the president was in his lack of oversight. As far as Dallek is concerned, something more nefarious is at work in the White House of Donald Trump.“What makes this different,” Dallek says, “is that the president can’t seem to speak the truth about a host of things.” Trump isn’t just allowing corruption, in Dallek’s view, but encouraging it. "The fish rots from the head," he reminds.
Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, puts the matter even more bluntly: "I've never seen anything like this."
There's more. It's astonishing considering that he's even now accusing his former rival of bullshit corruption conspiracies and the media is still eating it up.
When all is said and done and Trump is out of office, the Democrats will be accused of corruption and authoritarian "jack-booted thug" behavior by the Republicans and they'll be left sputtering "but, but ... Donald Trump.." and it won't make a bit of difference.
Nonetheless, it's good to document the atrocities. Someone will want to study all this someday.
digby 11/03/2017 03:30:00 PM