Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Opinion The question of Trump’s corruption should be front and center. (Jennifer Rubin, WaPo, January 9, 2024)

Update: TRUMP carried Republican caucus in Iowa and Republican primary in New Hampshire. 

As President Jimmy Carter said it best,"I see no reason why bigshot crooks should go free, and the poor ones go to jail."  Incisive column by Jennifer Rubin from The Washington Post:

Opinion The question of Trump’s corruption should be front and center

The Trump International Hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW in D.C. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post) 
5 min
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Last week, House Democrats on the Committee on Oversight and Accountability released a bombshell report revealing the extent of President Donald Trump’s alleged corruption. “White House for Sale: How Princes, Prime Ministers, and Premiers Paid Off President Trump” documents “more than $7.8 million in payments from foreign states and their leaders, including some of the world’s most unsavory regimes.” And that is just what the committee was able to find.

The extent of Trump’s financial haul is astounding. “President Trump’s businesses received, at a minimum, $7.8 million in foreign payments from at least 20 countries during his presidency. These included payments from foreign governments and foreign government-owned or -controlled entities to properties owned by Donald Trump.” (This doesn’t include the millions of dollars pocketed by his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, while they were in the White House.)

The identity of these foreign countries should raise legitimate national security concerns. Countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Albania and Kosovo “spent — often lavishly — on apartments and hotel stays at Donald Trump’s properties personally enriching President Trump while he made foreign policy decisions connected to their policy agendas with far-reaching ramifications for the United States.” This is precisely the sort of conduct that gravely concerned the framers of the Constitution.

One would expect such a gobsmacking report — indicative of the extent of four-times-indicted Trump’s alleged unconstitutional behavior (violating the emoluments clause, the report argues) and personal corruption — would have gotten extensive coverage. One would think it would spur reporters to question Republicans about their failure to stand up to Trump or their willingness to rein him in should he return to office. It did not.

We hardly need further proof that Trump aspires to be an authoritarian freed from the constraints of the Constitution. History tells us that authoritarians traditionally use power for personal gain, leading to a culture of personal corruption. Trump, who seems to want to join the club of corrupt despots such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, certainly fits the mold.

Trump’s money grab “threatened to obliterate a critical and defining principle of American democracy — namely, the strict separation of a president’s personal financial interests from those of the nation,” the report explains. “In establishing the presidency, the Framers emphasized that the President was not a term-limited king but a public servant whose duty was to serve the common good rather than personal financial interests.” It continues: “The U.S. Constitution emphatically and unambiguously rejected the monarchical system, requiring our elected chief executive to use the office solely to advance the interests of the American people, rather than their own personal financial and business interests.”

Previous presidents took their oaths seriously and declined to use the office as their personal piggy bank. “No other president had ever come close before to trying a rip-off like this simply based on vacuuming up foreign government money, which was the cardinal presidential offense and betrayal in the eyes of the Founders — an offense and betrayal made all the more striking here by the offender’s repeated laughable proclamations of ‘America First!’” the report says.

Republican leaders in Congress allowed this by refusing to exercise oversight and enforce the constitutional prohibition on receipt of foreign money. House Republicans such as then-Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) looked the other way. Trump and his allies’ stalled emoluments litigation, allowing him to depart office without ever facing legal consequences for his conduct or revealing the extent of his foreign gains. Republicans — who refused to remove him for other high crimes and misdemeanors — were never going to stop him.

Going forward, however, Congress can and should set up a barricade against foreign corruption. The report recommends “adopting a new legislative disclosure regime to help Congress obtain the information it needs to perform its assigned constitutional function of evaluating — and either approving or rejecting — the acceptance of foreign government emoluments by the president and other federal officials.” It also suggests a specific procedure for presidents and other officials “to seek Congress’s permission when they receive and want to retain such emoluments,” as is constitutionally required. Enforcing the emoluments clause acts as basic political hygiene for a democracy designed to prevent the president from using the office for personal gain and keeping foreign corruption at bay.

If Congress dutifully enforces the emoluments clause, preventing other grifters from using the Oval Office for personal gain, we might have fewer grifters running for office. If Trump had been told in 2016 that he had to cease operating his business and refuse money from foreign governments, would he have even run for office?

But let’s get real: Republicans are too busy launching a baseless impeachment investigation against President Biden in the absence of any evidence he took a dime of foreign money to be concerned with a needed structural reform. The notion that they would set up an effective check to be used against the presidential candidate who the report indicates actually took foreign money while president is almost laughable. Sadly, we know the Republican leadership in Congress will not fulfill the most basic functions of governance: enforcing the Constitution and preventing foreign interference.

The willingness of many congressional Republicans to enable Trump and his family to make millions while serving in public office reaffirms that those lawmakers have become servants of a master incapable of curtailing egregious behavior. (Former Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming bluntly told a crowd in New Hampshire on Friday, “It breaks my heart that a culture of corruption has overtaken Republicans in the Congress.”) Trump probably thinks he can act with impunity for good reason: Many congressional Republicans have proved unable to uphold their oaths when it requires standing up to him.

Opinion by 
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. She is the author of “Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump” and is host of the podcast Jen Rubin's "Green Room." Twitter

1 comment:

Ted said...

We tried to warn everyone but people just had to have a crook in the Whitehouse to burn it all down. These people are a disgrace and in general intellectually disabled without values.