Mike Konczal did that and it's very, very important to hear what Trump was actually promising. We will be arguing about all the things that horrible woman did wrong, but if what Konczal gleans from Trump's promises is true, the lessons Democrats are taking from all this aren't going to solve the problem.
I’ve started to rewatch Trump rallies from the month before he was elected President. I’ve seen some of them before, but that was always with the presumption he was unlikely to win; now I watch them trying to figure out how he did it, and how the Democrats can rebuild their economic message out of this mess. There’s the virulent ethnic nationalism, but there’s also a way of approaching the economy that sabotages where Democrats are, even when they are strong.
There was a time I assumed if the Democrats “moved left” they could win over the working class, even those who don’t usually vote. Now, spending time thinking about agendas and messaging, I realize that this move is far more complicated than simply getting past neoliberalism. With Trump at the helm of the conservative movement for the foreseeable future, it’ll be even harder.
Watching Trump with fresh eyes shows that we need to think clearer about how our policy forces people to concede to changing social norms, how to convey the rich as the problem, how to have clear messaging, how to deal with trade, and how to deal with wages and power. I don’t have the answers, certainly not here and now; but getting the questions right is the first step.
Get Back, Way Back, to Work
Trump talked about jobs. All the time. This gets lost in the coverage, which focused on the inflammatory scandals. Watch:
“When I win on November 8th, I am going to bring back your jobs. The long nightmare of jobs leaving Michigan will be coming to an end. We will make Michigan the economic envy of the world once again. The political class in Washington has betrayed you. They’ve uprooted your jobs, and your communities, and shipped your wealth all over the world. They put new skyscrapers up in Beijing while your factories in Michigan crumbled. I will end the theft of American prosperity. I will fight for every last Michigan job.” -Donald Trump, Michigan, October 31st, 2016
It’s the first and most consistent thing he discusses. It’s implied it is a specific kind of job, a white, male, bread-winning manufacturing job. He doesn’t discuss “the economy” and how it could work for all, he doesn’t talk about inequality, he doesn’t talk about automation and service work; he makes it clear you will have a high-paying manufacturing job when he is President.
So what? Much of the Democratic platform is based on pushing through the fact that this political economy was anachronistic decades ago. As Daniel Rodgers writes, “Many of the economic planks in the Democratic Party program were not pitched” for Trump voters, who sensed the platform reflected that “that the culture wars had finally come home.” Family leave, child allowances, and universal pre-K acknowledge that we need to look beyond male breadwinners as the core economic unit. Fight for $15 is about turning service work into a decent, secure, working-class life. Efforts to try and disentangle commodities like health-care and retirement from employment run into the hope that employment would be sufficient to provide them. Voters won’t want to hear this.
2. Not Eating the Rich
Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.
21st Century Populism?
It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.
Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.” The WWC doesn’t encounter rich people, but “professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money.”
Now even if the WWC doesn’t resent the rich, Trump is likely to push it as far as it can go with a plutocratic administration. But there’s a reason his appointments aren’t sounding alarm bells right away, and it’s this logic. The media messed this up, assuming random vindictive statements amounted to policy, or not understanding how his tax plan worked, instead of seeing this consistent, deeper message.
We’ll need to do better putting populist energy against the bosses and owners. The mechanical, bloodless algebra of Piketty and income statistics probably won’t be enough by itself. We need a story of owners and investment to go with it. We need to talk about monopoly power, especially as Trump doesn’t take it up. Meanwhile we should feel out our own case against professionals. Tying professionals to commodification, the people who get in the way of needed goods (especially with whatever TrumpCare ends up looking like), might be a way to go there.
3. Policy, Policy Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink
Trump and his team were a mess on campaign discipline. But when it comes to the economic platform in his speeches he remained disciplined and clear: he’s going to crush undocumented workers, roll back globalization, and cut taxes and regulations in DC. He has catch-phrases and symbols for each (the wall, rip up trade deals, drain the swamp), and it’s easy for his (white) voters to see how those line up with a better economic situation for themselves. As I’ve emphasized, this is what policy is, and Trump was fantastic at it.
What were Clinton’s three things to benefit workers? There was policy everywhere, but none of it clear for voters. An infrastructure deal, though would that even happen and didn’t Obama already try that? Anyway, Trump promised to do it twice as big. After that it wasn’t clear what was a priority.
Stuff that actually got to worker’s lives was technocratic and vague. “Short-termism” instead of the idea that bosses would rather give money to shareholders than invest. “Shadow banking” instead of Wells Fargo ripping you off and the CFPB stopped it. I use these terms — they are purposefully confusing because they need to mimic the nomenclature of microeconomics — but I’m not running a political campaign.
The sheer volume of it blurred out potentially useful items. When a really important fact sheet on fighting monopoly power was released, it got a paragraph 4,000 words into one speech (“As president, I will appoint tough, independent authorities to strengthen anti-trust enforcement and really scrutinize mergers and acquisitions, so the big don’t keep getting bigger and bigger”). It disappeared into a list of all the polices ever, rather than a clear statement of what was to be done. We need to remember a narrative of what has happened to workers and how we are going to fix it is more important than covering every potential base.
Trump is unapologetically against trade that harms American workers. I would have assumed he was fighting a straw man here, but one thing I’ve learned is how a certain class of liberals don’t approach job loss from trade with a regrettable sense of the trade-offs, but instead a more cutting sense that Americans don’t have any claim on the jobs that go away anyway. It’s all for the best, in the long-run.
The brilliant economist David Card gave me a useful point here during an interview: the divide among economists on trade is driven by the fact that labor economists study the real effects of unemployment on real people, where trade and macroeconomists treat people as just another commodity. (One of the people who broke the consensus on the effects of trade with China was David Autor, a leading labor economist. I had assumed from the literature the effects weren’t large enough before his writing.)
Can you store some humans along with the oil you keep at sea?
I’d phrase it this way: are people just like a barrel of oil? In the abstract models of trade economists, commodities like oil will always get sold at some price, they will get to where they need to get to do so, and they’re largely indifferent on the process. Even when commodity markets are off, oil can sit in tankers floating in the ocean waiting out price moves, and it makes no difference to the oil.
Oil doesn’t experience unemployment as the most traumatic thing that can happen to it. Oil moves magically to new opportunities, unlike people who don’t often move at all. A barrel of oil doesn’t beat their kids, abuse drugs, commit suicide, or experiencing declining life expectancy from being battered around in the global marketplace. But people do, and they have, the consequences persist and last, and now they’ve made their voices heard. It’s the the dark side of Polanyi’s warning against viewing human being as commodities.
For the life of me I don’t know why President Obama spent the summer of 2016 fighting hard for TPP when it was clear it was hurting Hillary Clinton, making her promise to pause trade deals not credible, and giving Trump live ammo. But he did. I don’t know if Trump or the people around him will be smart enough to use trade to split workers away from the Democrats much harder than they have, or if Democrats can come up with a better answer on trade and industrial policy that what they’ve done. But this is a live issue.
5. Taxes and Transfers and Places and Power
Trump also never mentions poverty. And while he talks a lot about reducing taxes, he never talks about increasing transfers, redistribution, or access to core goods. He talks about wages, full stop. He also talks about places. Dying towns that need revitalizing.
Democratic policy centers on poverty and transfers. There are a lot of reasons for this. Obviously, people in poverty are worse off than others, and there’s philosophical reasons to want a market system that allows for inequality as long as it benefits the worst-off in society.
But another reason is that you can measure this. I’m part of a group that wants to focus on getting wages up (the ugly term “predistribution”, but no longer using antagonistic term “pity-charity liberalism”) as a distinct yet complementary program to redistribution and also something that builds broader power for people. One obstacle I hit is that while getting wages up is a hazy and complicated process, redistribution can be done and measured with clinical precision.
It can also be taken away with that same precision. “Post-tax-and-transfer” inequality, the thing everyone was cheering as the way forward, is going to be a major causality in the next four years, probably the next 8 months even, conceptually as a Trump administration doesn’t think that way at all, and practically as the conservatives destroy transfers and progressive taxation. Getting a clearer strategy and narrative around pushing wages up, and getting a fuller agenda around places left behind, needs to be centered more than it is.
There are a lot of reasons Clinton lost. There was some made-up wishful thinking in retrospect: her unfavorables were “priced-in”, I heard, which isn’t a thing. What I haven’t seen an answer for is that for all the money and tech, they didn’t know their blue wall was much less safe from the people on the ground than the polling numbers in Brooklyn HQ would see. Something broke down there and it’s urgent to understand why.
But even without that loss there would have been a need to reboot. As Ezekiel Kweku writes in an excellent article, “The lesson we should draw from Clinton’s loss is not that white supremacy is unbeatable at the polls, but that it’s not going to beat itself…If the Democratic Party would like to keep more Donald Trumps from winning in the future, they are going to have to take the extraordinary step of doing politics.” Politics is informed by analysis and policy, and though it is clear we need policy to move beyond neoliberalism, that is only the first step. The journey to find this new path is just beginning.
I need to think a little bit more about this but I do agree that nationalism was a gigantic motivator for these folks. And,b y the way, it always has been. These are always the people who scream USA, USA! in crowds. Trump just repackaged it for economic purposes. But it comes from the same place it always comes from --- and he'll be able to call upon it when he decides to start his war.
And I do have to wonder if anyone other than Trump would be allowed to get away with such vagueness about policy. It's easy to see how well it worked for him. But I think he's sui generis and any Democrat trying his approach would be skewered by the press. But there are things to be learned from what he did right and I'm seeing very few people looking at this systematically from that perspective. This is helpful in trying to understand how he managed to defy all expectations.
As Rome burned, reporters from the Roman Times, the Empire Press, and the Daily Praetorian were on the scene live to bring coverage of Emperor Nero's musical stylings.
Donald Trump's team has led the press by the nose for over a year and they are not about to stop now. Several networks brought live coverage of Trump's "victory" rally in Cincinnati last night. (So little time for the rookie public servant to get up to speed on running a nation of over 300 million, but he has time for his adulation fix.) With its coverage, the press all but hangs banners in the arena. Even to save themselves, they cannot look away.
The left had best give up any notion that, as they say on the right, America will "wake up" and admit what is happening. These people don't admit mistakes; they double down on them. Admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness and to be avoided. Correcting them? That's even harder. Granted, the Republican Party wrote up a postmortem on its 2012 loss. But Republicans promptly ignored it. The question now is can Democrats learn new tricks?
Those of us who agree with the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed are poorly equipped to resist Trump. Those of us who agree that governments exist to secure “certain unalienable Rights” are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs.
We have brought a sheet of parchment and a set of abstract principles to a knife fight. We’re going to get cut.
That’s because believers in liberal democracy — people who believe generally that the theory laid out in the Declaration’s preamble is correct — must constantly fight a two-front war. We must defend the structures of liberal democracy while working within those structures to grasp the levers of power and use them to achieve just ends.
But Donald Trump — and the Republican Party generally, with its tactics of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and political litigation — threatens liberal democracy on both fronts. Trump is a paradox within democracy, a leader elected in a constitutionally legitimate process who seeks to undermine the Constitution itself.
To declare him illegitimate is to shake the foundations of the American system, but to fail to do so is to risk leveling those foundations to the ground.
Millhiser offers no way out of that paradox (and I have none this morning). But he does suggest this:
Similarly, every American should read Yale History Professor and Holocaust scholar Timothy Snyder’s “20-point guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency.” Among his most important words of advice are “do not obey in advance,” to be wary if the Trump regime attempts to use a terrorist attack or similar tragedy to consolidate its power, and to adhere — especially if you are a lawyer, judge, government worker or other individual who may be called upon to shepherd Trump’s goals into fruition — to professional ethics.
If liberal democracy survives these next four years, then liberals must confront the fact that our current system of government has failed. We cannot have a system that makes a president out of the guy who came in second in the presidential election twice in sixteen years, or that allows lawmakers to suppress the vote of their opponents’ supporters, or that allows those same lawmakers to effectively choose who gets to vote for them, or that allows the minority party to sabotage a president’s entire agenda and then campaign on the fact that nothing gets done, or that places the entirety of American democracy at the mercy of a political court.
The fight at hand is not between Republicans and Democrats. Both parties have lost their way; the former having descended into madness. The fight at hand is between economic royalists and small-d democrats. It appears for the moment that the royalists again have the upper hand.
Before retelling at length the story of his November 8 win last night, the Man Who Would Be Emperor made a stab at speaking of reconciliation and bringing the country together. The boisterous crowd went quiet:
We condemn bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms. We denounce all of the hatred and we forcefully reject the language of exclusion and separation. We're going to come together. We have no choice. We have to. And it's better. It's better.
If I'm not mistaken, there were a few gasps and perhaps even a heckle. Such words feel unnatural coming from Trump's puckered lips. They drew no applause from followers raised on red meat. Soon Trump was back to "braggadocious" form, retelling his story of election triumph and attacking the press and anybody who has done him wrong. In the press pen, the cameras kept rolling.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.
On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.
Please. Stop. Please. Let me wake up. Please.
And for those of you who need a little extra help understanding why this is, as Teri Garr memorably said in Young Frankenstein, a nacht-mare, let Steve Benen explain it to you:
Tensions between India and Pakistan have intensified, which leaves the United States in an awkward position. The Obama administration has made a concerted effort to strengthen U.S./India ties, while also delicately maintaining financial support for Pakistan.
Note, however, that President Obama is the first American president to ever visit India twice during his term, while Obama has not set foot in Pakistan.
Trump, who probably isn’t aware of the diplomatic balancing act, apparently signaled to Sharif a very different U.S. posture towards Pakistan – up to and including a presidential visit to the country.
If Trump does go to Pakistan, it risks alienating Indian allies. If Trump doesn’t visit after telling Sharif he would, it will further complicate an already difficult Pakistani relationship. And I can’t wait to hear what this means: “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.”
Electing a president who doesn’t know what he’s doing carries real consequences.
And for those of you young'uns who think this might be normal… No. It's not normal. It's not even close to normal. This is like hiring the bully who used to torment girls in in your 3rd grade homeroom to perform a kidney transplant. No, the scope is wrong. it's closer to hiring that bully to perform 6 billion simultaneous brain surgeries.
It looks like two things made the difference in the 2016 presidential race: whether you think the country is generally going to hell in a handbasket and the personalities of the two candidates.
The November Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted one week after the 2016 presidential election, finds health care played a limited role in voters’ 2016 election decisions, with larger shares of voters saying the biggest factor in their vote was the direction of the country (31 percent), Donald Trump’s personal characteristics (15 percent), jobs and the economy (15 percent), or Hillary Clinton’s personal characteristics (12 percent), than who say the same about health care (8 percent).
I'm going to guess that everything now depends on the economy imporving enough for trump to take credit and some empty gestures on his part.
Democrats had better start recruiting a candidate from outside the political realm and preferable one not from show business because only GOP iconoclasts can com from the entertainment field lest they be seen as Barbra Streisand squishes. I'm thinking athletics would be the right fit, one who can relate to the "working class" while also being super rich and famous and successful. Somebody like Tom Brady, only a Democrat. (Actually that's not really necessary but would be nice.) After all, it clearly doesn't even matter if he has a brain in his head or knows anything at all about politics so why should we have a president who is a member of the party or has any political philosophy at all?
Start looking for our next leader people. A "change agent" who will make sure the Real Americans feel like they're the most important people in the whole wide world.
When George W. Bush assembled his first Cabinet in 2001, news reports dubbed them a team of millionaires, and government watchdogs questioned whether they were out of touch with most Americans’ problems. Combined, that group had an inflation-adjusted net worth of about $250 million — which is roughly one-tenth the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone.
Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago. Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.
He will say that he's hired the smartest people for the job. And they are obviously the smartest because they're the richest! His voters will agree. And they think that if we let the rich guys run the country they'll all be rich too!
These are not people who hate the rich. If they did they sure wouldn't have voted for Donald Trump. They hate "other" people. And they like Trump because he hates them too!
CNN’s Alysin Camerota sat down with several long-time Trump supporters for a focus group-style interview on Thursday’s “New Day” and pressed them for their thoughts on the president-elect’s transition and postelection performance.
Each of the participants, with whom Camerota has spoken with before on CNN, praised Trump’s performance so far.
“How do you feel about the ‘white nationalist movement,’ the alt-right, some Neo-Nazi salutes that we’ve seen? What are we to make of what feels like a groundswell of that with the Steve Bannon-Breitbart connection,” Camerota asked the group after one participant claimed that the people “that Trump has appointed or nominated have all been top of the class, number one in their field, extremely talented, great leaders on their own.”
Former Democratic state legislator and co-chair of the New Hampshire-based Women for Trump Paula Johnson jumped in to defend Trump: “That’s been around forever,” Johnson pushed back against Camerota’s questioning. “You know, if you keep reporting on it, it’s going to grow like a cancer. If you forget about it then it’s probably going to go away.” Using a favorite rhetorical device of the former reality-TV star: media bashing,” she added, “The media has to harp on everything. And it’s wrong.”
Johnson continued that many anti-Trump voters had little room to complain if they failed to vote in the election. “Voting is a privilege in this country,” Johnson said, before adding, “and you need to be legal, not like California where three million illegals voted.”
A confused Camerota asked Johson, “Where are you getting your information?”
“From the media!” Johnson insisted. “Some of them were CNN, I believe.”
“CNN said that 3 million illegal people voted in California?” an incredulous Camerota asked.
Johnson then decided to source her false report directly to President Obama.
“I think there was a good amount because the president told people that they could vote,” Johnson claimed. “They said, ‘The president said I could vote. I’m here illegally.’”
To her credit, Camerota kept up the line of questioning while seemingly holding back laughter.
“Did you hear President Obama said that illegal people could vote?” asked Camerota, to which nearly all the participants nodded their heads and replied, “Yes.”
“Tell me, where?” Camerota demanded.
At that point, another Trump voter directed Camerota to, “Google it. You could find it on Facebook.”
So she did.
Camerota, a former long-time Fox News host, was then forced to read a recent Mediate headline to the group that read, “Fox deceptively edits Obama interview to falsely claim he told illegal immigrants to vote.”
The Trump voters were apparently referring to Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney’s false claim that the president “appears to encourage illegals to vote, and he promises no repercussions if they do.”
While the above clip is clearly deceptively edited to conflate undocumented immigrants with all Latino voters in the U.S., Fox Business Network not only failed to make that distinction but falsely implied such a distinction was never even made. In fact, Fox Business Network left out the portion of Obama’s comments in which he explicitly stated that undocumented immigrants do not have the legal right to vote.
Still, Trump voters remained wedded to the fake news nearly a month after the election.
“You as you sit here today think that millions of illegal people voted in this country and you believe that there was widespread voting abuse? In the millions of people?” a clearly exasperated Camerota continued to challenge the Trump voters.
“California allows it,” Johnson said.
“They do not allow illegals — you mean voter fraud, California allows?” asked a dumbfounded Camerota.
“I believe there was voter fraud in this country,” she insisted, remaining steadfast to her false belief.
I don't know which members of the non-college educated white Trump voters Democrats can peel off to win but it's not going to be easy.
From the looks of it, Donald Trump plans to staff his administration with every plutocrat and retired general he’s ever met. So far he’s named billionaire Betsy DeVos, billionaire Wilbur Ross, along with multimillionaires Elaine Chao, Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price. He has interviewed the vastly wealthy Mitt Romney and is reportedly considering Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs. It’s clear that whatever Trump may have said that sounded like economic populism during the campaign is unlikely to be translated into policy in his administration.
Bloomberg reported that Wall Street couldn’t be more thrilled, quoting hedge-fund manager Whitney Tilson happily agreeing that Trump’s voters might be upset that their man is surrounding himself with billionaires and bankers:
I can take glee in that — I think Donald Trump conned them. I worried that he was going to do crazy things that would blow the system up. So the fact that he’s appointing people from within the system is a good thing.
Basically, it looks like Trump is going to deliver Wall Street’s wish list and leave the “populism” to people like Jeff Sessions and Kris Kobach, who are designated to bring the “law and order” to communities of immigrants and people of color. Surprise.
Despite the fact that Trump routinely disparaged the military leadership on the trail, saying often that he knew far more than they do about everything, Trump is actually a military fanboy. (He is not, as often erroneously described in the press, a “history buff.” He does not read.) As often as he has insulted the current brass for being “stupid” he would evoke the memory of World War II-era generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, who seem to be the only two he’s ever heard of. It’s clear that he has a deep fondness for “tough” military leaders of the kind he’s seen in the movies.
Currently, he’s said to be considering former generals David Petraeus, James “Mad Dog” Mattis and John Kelly, along with Admiral Mike Rogers for high-level jobs in the administration. As this Washington Post article by Phillip Carter and Loren DeJonge Schulman spells out in some detail, this is unusual and frankly unnerving. But none of them are as unnerving as the former general who has been tapped to serve as Trump’s national security adviser, his close associate Michael Flynn.
Flynn’s recent descent into extremism and his unfitness for this particular job have been well documented, but every day seems to bring new revelations of just how unhinged he really is. For instance, it came to my attention that in the days just before the election, Flynn was talking to the media about Hillary Clinton’s alleged association with pedophilia, which means that he’s enmeshed in the deepest reaches of the right-wing fake-news fever swamps. That reference could only be to #Pizzagate, which involved the bizarre and spurious claims that Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of the back of a pizza parlor in Washington.
It also turns out that Steve Bannon isn’t the only close Trump associate with connections to the white nationalist “alt-right.” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that a week after the election Flynn was praising Breitbart’s odious racist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos:
Speaking to a gathering of young conservatives at Trump’s Washington hotel, Flynn said, “I was with Dinesh D’Souza last night, and the other, for the young audience here, for the young ones here, I mentioned it to a couple of you, I was also with Milo Yiannopoulos … See, a lot of people in here won’t know who he is. I tag him on Twitter, you know, because he’s a phenomenal individual, and I’m mentioning him tonight because he spoke alongside of me last night to another group of folks.”
It’s known that Flynn travels on the far edge of the conspiratorial extreme of neoconservative thinking, having recently written a book called “The Field of Flight” with Michael Ledeen, a longtime proponent of the idea that the U.S. faces an existential threat from … well, pretty much everyone. (Ledeen famously speculated that even Germany and France were in cahoots with al-Qaida when they failed to back the U.S. invasion of Iraq.)
Flynn and Ledeen are heavily influenced by the late Laurent Murawiec, a French-American neocon ideologue who wrote a book they hail as a “masterpiece” called “The Mind of Jihad.” Murawiec apparently found a web of connections between radical Islamism, Bolshevism and and the Nazis that Ledeen and Flynn find convincing. Among other things, Murawiec was associated for many years with Lyndon LaRouche, one of the fringiest political figures in American life. Curious about Flynn’s views of China and North Korea, about which he has said very little, the New York Times consulted “The Field of Flight” for clues as to his thinking. This is what they found:
In the introduction, [Flynn] wrote that radical Islamists “are not alone, and are allied with countries and groups who, though not religious fanatics, share their hatred of the West, particularly the United States and Israel.” The introduction continued, “Those allies include North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela.”
The general expanded on his definition of the anti-Western alliance: “The war is on. We face a working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. We are under attack, not only from nation-states directly, but also from Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS and countless other terrorist groups.”
“Suffice to say, the same sort of cooperation binds together jihadis, Communists and garden-variety tyrants,” he added.
The technical term for that absurd and paranoid worldview is “nutty as a fruitcake.” And what’s more frightening is that the man Flynn will now be working for can fit his own knowledge of world affairs in a shotglass.
As national security adviser, Flynn will be the last man in the room with this totally unprepared president when he makes the most important foreign policy and national security decisions. In an administration already filled with terrifying prospects in almost every regard, this is the one that sends chills down my spine.
President-elect Donald Trump won the news cycle again with his deal with Carrier. Or rather, with Indiana's Carrier deal. As Rachel Maddow speculated last night, that is why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is still Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. He wasn't going to step down to focus on the Trump transition before giving the state a parting gift: $700,000 a year in state taxpayer-funded incentives to Carrier (United Technologies) to go with promises from Trump of a reduction in the corporate tax rate.
If incentives deals — what Republicans during Democratic administrations derisively call "picking winners and losers" — are what Trump calls sticking it to the fat cats, American business is in for a fur-lined tough time. When Trump shouted at manufacturers threatening to move offshore, "you're going to pay a damn tax," you thought he meant a higher one. Caveat emptor.
And subsidies were probably not the biggest factor in Carrier’s decision. Once we do find out what Pence offered, the terms will likely not save Carrier the $65 million that a move would have.
Instead, the deal may have important immaterial benefits. It puts United Technologies in the good graces of the administration, which may be key to its future business. About ten percent of the company’s $56 billion in revenue comes from the federal government, especially military contracts. The implication that Trump made some kind of backroom threat in Naptown over Defense Department contracts is worrisome, but for the moment, unfounded. For now let’s just say that Carrier has an interest in keeping Trump happy.
Still, what happened in Indiana represents exactly the problem, not the solution, in America’s approach to corporate negotiation. There is literallyanother factory across town from Carrier waiting for the same kind of attention. It’s not good that the geography of large offices and factories is a function of public money doled out by cities, states and in Washington. It’s been a great boon to companies with the size and flexibility to uproot or locate their operations at will, or at least make a convincing threat they’ll do so. And a big loss for the rest of us.
Six days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the federal government finalized a key step toward a tax subsidy worth as much as $32 million for a company that is owned by Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and two of his sons.
That company owns Trump’s luxury Washington, DC, hotel, located in a taxpayer-owned historic landmark known as the Old Post Office Building, which Trump leases from the federal government. The hotel has become emblematic of Trump’s many potential conflicts of interest, because when he becomes president he will effectively be both landlord and tenant.
The latest step toward the massive tax credit, which has not been previously reported, puts that conflict in sharp relief.
On Nov. 14, the National Park Service, which oversees “Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits” with the IRS, finalized the second phase of a three-step process.
Technically, it approved an amendment to Trump’s previous plans for the rehabilitation of the building. With that done, the Trump family company that leases the hotel, the Trump Old Post Office LLC, has to go through just one more phase to get the tax credit worth 20% of the rehabilitation project.
“This is a classic or textbook example of a conflict of interest,” said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University School of Law. “The decision-maker here, the National Park Service, works for the party that stands to benefit from a favorable decision.”
The right wingers are all saying this doesn't mean anything because he's a businesman. They seem to think that makes sense.
Ross and Ricketts are both right wing billionaire plutocrats. Mnuchin is a right wing multi-millionaire plutocrat from Goldman Sachs.
Trump "saved" a thousand jobs. These guys will all make sure all workers don't get too uppity --- and the profits will flow up, not down.
SWuckers born every minute digby 11/30/2016 03:30:00 PM
Remedial presidenting for dummies
This is hard to believe. But I do believe it:
When he met with Trump last week, Gingrich says, "He commented, 'This is really a bigger job than I thought.' Which is good. He should think that." As president, Gingrich went on, "you have war and peace, you have enormous powers ... and it all comes down to the Oval Office and it all comes down to you."
I sure am glad he has a lot of experienced hands around him guiding him through this. Like ... Reince Preibus, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. Well, he does have Tom DeLay's ethics lawyer so there's that.
Even George W. Bush knew how big a job it was. He'd spent his life around politics. And he was a callow fool nonetheless. This is something else again.
Surprise! The Republicans no longer care about conflict of interest
I wrote about their strangely passive approach to the dumpster fire that is Donald Trump's business dealings for Salon today:
When last we heard from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the House of Representatives’ own Samuel Sewell (Salem’s famous witch hunter), he was declaring that just because Hillary Clinton had lost the election, her troubles were not over as far as he was concerned. He was undoubtedly disappointed that he was unable to pursue the impeachment hearings he’d been planning for several months. But Chaffetz gamely carried on and announced that he had every intention of continuing his investigation into her allegedly nefarious emails and conflicts of interest when she was secretary of state. On the day after the election, the Utah congressman told the press.
It would be totally remiss of us to dismiss [the email investigation] because she’s not going to be president. I still have a duty and obligation to get to the truth about one of the largest breaches of security at the State Department. Tens of thousands of documents still have not been turned over to Congress.
He complained about the current State Department being unwilling to cooperate and said that he believed the “Trump administration would be cooperative in getting these floodgates to open as they should.”
These investigations were to happen concurrently with the special prosecutor Trump had promised, and at the time Chaffetz had every reason to believe that Trump would follow through. Since then the president-elect has told the New York Times that Clinton had suffered enough and he didn’t want to “hurt her,” but without closing the door on further action should it become necessary.
Trump’s informal adviser Newt Gingrich has apparently told him that a president should not foreclose his Department of Justice from pursuing crimes as it sees fit, and Fox News’ Greg Jarrett has wondered why Clinton had squandered her “get out of jail free card” by allowing her lawyers to observe the Wisconsin recount process (which Trump’s lawyers are doing as well.) He wrote:
Clinton’s decision to embrace a challenge to Trump’s election is both confounding and inexplicable. Why would she chance angering the very individual who holds her fate in his hands? It’s like an inmate taunting a jailer. You’d have to be obtuse to do it.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also hinted broadly that Trump’s “magnanimous” attitude is contingent on Clinton not saying anything that might anger him.
But this is the president-elect’s position right now and I would say he has been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when for whatever reason her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70-plus electoral votes that he beat her by.
It looks as though this threat will hang over Clinton’s head for a long time to come.
This all seems rather strange, doesn’t it? There are much bigger fish to fry these days. Indeed, there is a Great White Whale out there by the name of Donald Trump, a man with so many conflicts of interest and potential national security transgressions it would be a full-time job for any congressional oversight committee just to find out what and where they all are.
The Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff asked House majority leader Kevin McCarthy about the growing clamor for congressional oversight of incoming Trump administration. McCarthy seemed to have heard very little about Trump’s issues and had no grasp of the details. But he seems to have had an epiphany about using investigations for political purposes. He told McAuliff:
I think for too long, some of these rules have been used that way, and I think it’s been a bad thing, and it’s harmed the ability for people all to work together.
You’ll recall that McCarthy lost his bid for the speakership when he went on TV and said:
When you look at poll numbers of Hillary Clinton, they have dropped. Unfavorables pretty high, because people say they don’t trust her. They don’t trust her because of what they found out about the server and everything else. Would you ever have found that out had you not gathered the information from the Benghazi Select Committee?
But what about Chaffetz, the man whose supposed commitment to the principle of congressional oversight led him to declare that he would chase Hillary Clinton to the ends of the earth? Surely a man of such integrity would never let partisanship interfere with his sacred duty to hold the powerful to account?
Well, it seems he isn’t up on the details of the current controversy either. When Chaffetz was asked about it by HuffPo’s Matt Fuller, he conflated the issue of the Secret Service paying to rent space in Trump Tower with the news that foreign dignitaries are already trying to curry favor with Trump by spending big money at his new D.C. hotel. He said he thought there was ample precedent for all this, which came as a surprise to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings, who said, “He’s operating 111 companies in 18 countries. Come on!”
And that’s what we know about. His domestic conflicts, along with those of his children and his son-in-law are massive as well. Jason Chaffetz, relentless email stalker and enforcer of proper national security practices is remarkably relaxed about Donald Trump’s overwhelmingly complicated ethical problems. Why, if you didn’t know better you might think that all of his pretentious grandstanding over the years was nothing more than political posturing.
There has never been a President more in need of oversight than the one who will be inaugurated in January. This train-wreck of an administration could only be helped by adults in his own party taking their responsibilities seriously and trying to keep it from running off the rails. From the looks of it, they have all decided to play dumb and behave as if what Trump and his entourage are doing is no big deal. It’s a very big deal indeed. Congressional Republicans are doing their new president, and our country, no favors by concluding that they no longer have a job to do.
-- The emerging Republican stratagem is to create some “transition period,” as McCarthy calls it, setting a firm date on which the law would expire. That would then create a metaphorical cliff that the country would go over unless Congress acts. With the prospect of 20 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, the R’s bet that the D’s will cave and accept something they don’t like rather than nothing at all. As McCarthy put it, “Once it’s repealed, why wouldn’t they be willing to vote for a replacement? Right? You have no other options.”
-- This might be a brilliant stroke. Or, if history is a guide, it could fail spectacularly. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, says his caucus won’t budge and pledges resistance. Democrats feel like Republicans never worked with them during the past eight years, and there is heavy pressure from the left flank of Schumer’s caucus to replicate Mitch McConnell’s strategy of obstruction now that they’re going into the wilderness. It’s a dangerous cycle that could set up an epic game of chicken.
-- Something to ponder: Which eight Democratic senators would actually vote for a replacement to Obamacare? McCarthy thinks incumbents up for reelection in 2018 in red states like Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Missouri will play ball and push their colleagues to do the same. He also thinks Schumer will be temperamentally more willing to cut a deal than Harry Reid would have been, despite whatever he is saying in public.
-- Another wrinkle: There is not Republican consensus on what a full replacement package should look like. There was much discussion when it looked like the Supreme Court would undercut the foundation of Obamacare with the decision in King vs. Burwell about what fixes conservatives could get behind. But the justices sided with the government, so the issue never came to a head. “It’s not easy,” McCarthy acknowledged. “I’ve sat around the room trying to come up with the replacement plan.”
-- To be sure, Tom Price has introduced his own legislation to replace the ACA four times, and in 2015, the House Budget Committee chairman was the chief sponsor of the only ACA-repeal bill to ever reach the White House. The president vetoed it, of course. And it is important to note that the Price alternative is quite partisan and leave no real room for negotiation with Democrats. If Republicans use it as an opening bid, the best case scenario is that the other side reads it as an unserious joke. The worst case scenario is that they take it as an insulting slap and then refuse to even come to the table.
-- McCarthy believes there is close to universal support among Republican lawmakers for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and to let children stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 (which does not actually cost insurers all that much). Trump endorsed both elements during the post-election “60 Minutes” sit-down.
-- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who has jurisdiction over federal health care programs, now says it will take up to three years to repeal the Affordable Care Act – a timeline that would guarantee the law is once again a marquee issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections. “We know that to correct it is going to take time,” the Utah senator told Kelsey Snell yesterday afternoon. “I don’t see any reason for anybody to be too upset about it.”
-- Wise Republicans are trying to get out front of what they see as inevitable voter backlash if they run roughshod with reconciliation, without trying to win Democratic buy-in (or at least making a show of trying to). “There will be a multiyear transition into the replacement,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a separate conversation with Kelsey. “This is a failed piece of legislation and it is coming apart at the seams, but it is going to take us a while to make that transition from the repeal to actually replacing it.”
-- Wisconsin is a telling example because it is the home state of both the Speaker of the House and the incoming White House chief of staff. About a quarter of a million people there are enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges, and another 143,000 childless adults are enrolled in Medicaid because of the 2010 law. "We believe that the transition should be a reasonable time, whether it's a year, a year-and-a-half or two years," Scott Walker, the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
What this article elides, of course, is that the Republicans have no alternative and if they simply repeal everything but the ban on pre-existing conditions and 26 year olds and add in some tax incentives, the whole market will fall apart and people will die.
Democrats should resist every step of the way. But they won't. It's not in their nature to fight back after a loss. They truly believe that the country is more conservative than it is because of the people with whom they associate.
Trump is dragging out the suspense on the secretary of state pick like a reality show. And I guess that's what his presidency really is. With nukes. And cops. Last night he had dinner with Mitt Romney and Reince at a very upscale eatery where they ate Pepe the Frog for appetizers. (I'm actually not kidding. They had frogs legs.)
Anyway, as we anxiously await the finale, here's a reminder of Romney's foreign trip in 2012. It didn't go well. But one wouldn't expect it to. After all, his main foreign policy experience was hosting the Olympics in Utah and doing Mormon missionary work in Paris during the Vietnam War.
It's a big country. Everybody wants a piece of it. Big pieces of legislation are like that. Everybody wants something. A lot of money rides on who gets what and who pays for it. Sam Stein, Ryan Grim, and Matt Fuller at Huffington Post offer an exhaustive (exhausting?) stroll through the machinations behind the 21st Century Cures Act. As with the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers have to buy off Big Pharma if they want to pass the parts that may actually help people. They write:
... It’s as if the fire department had to pay off the arsonist to get permission to put out a fire.
Lawmakers have been left with a Hobson’s choice: The bill would make billions of dollars available for medical research. It would fund lofty goals, such as precision medicine, a White House initiative to map the human brain and Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot.” It would save lives. But it would also undermine regulations that patient advocacy groups say are essential for making sure medical and drug research is conducted ethically and safely — meaning it could cost lives, too.
Sausage-making at its finest. Funding VP Joe Biden's cancer moonshot is perhaps the biggest carrot, Stein et al. explain, but not the only one. There is the EUREKA Initiative [Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration]. (Please shoot me now.) EUREKA "directs the NIH to establish a competition for innovative work to combat serious biomedical diseases." And there are other promising-sounding projects. Of course, there is a "but" coming:
But assembling a broad, bipartisan coalition often requires including ethically suspect giveaways. And this bill has those, too. The REGROW [Reliable and Effective Growth for Regenerative Health Options that Improve Wellness] Act, introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is one of many stray pieces of legislation sewn into the 21st Century Cures Act to help it gain support.
The bill would speed up the delivery of adult stem cell therapies to patients. But it would do that by allowing those therapies to go to market before they’re definitively proved to be safe and effective.
No worries. However, Zoë Carpenter writing about the Cures Act at The Nation recalls a fast-tracked contraceptive device released in 2002 called Essure. Another of those troublesome buts:
But it turned out that the device was neither as safe nor as effective as expected: as many as one in 10 women who used Essure got pregnant, thousands reported injuries or other serious complications, and a few died.
So what if stem cell patients grow an ear on their foreheads before the recalls? Just so long as the stock goes up.
Including "lobbyist and donor-backed measures" like REGROW is how business gets done on Capitol Hill, HuffPost continues:
The bill’s supporters are making concessions to Republicans, too. Late Tuesday night, Republicans pulled a bipartisan provision ― authored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) ― promoting evidence-based prevention services to help keep more children out of foster care after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) demanded it be stripped out.
The bill had passed the House unanimously in June when it came up for a standalone vote, and it’s backed by more than 500 child welfare groups. But Republican leaders backed down Tuesday after Burr, along with Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Dan Coats (Ind.), pressed McConnell and Ryan to remove it from the larger Cures Act.
Your guess is as good as mine why they object to keeping children out of foster care. But follow the money.
Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's pick to be national security adviser, praised controversial alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos one week after the election as "phenomenal" and one of the bravest people he's met.
Yiannopoulos, Breitbart's tech editor, has developed a following by antagonizing progressives through his controversial statements and stunts. He set up a scholarship fund solely for white men, compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan, and said that the United States has "a Muslim problem." He was permanently banned from Twitter earlier this year for inciting racist and sexist attacks on "Ghostbusters" actor Leslie Jones.
Speaking to a gathering of young conservatives at Trump's Washington hotel, Flynn said, "I was with Dinesh D'Souza last night, and the other, for the young audience here, for the young ones here, I mentioned it to a couple of you, I was also with Milo Yiannopoulos," Flynn said at the Young America's Foundation conference. "See, a lot of people in here won't know who he is. I tag him on Twitter, you know, because he's phenomenal individual, and I'm mentioning him tonight because he spoke alongside of me last night to another group of folks."
"He's definitely, he's one of the most different, one of the most brave people that I've ever met. We have different views on different things, but he is deeply, deeply conservative in his views about this country," the retired Army lieutenant general added. "So he is going around this country at the undergraduates, at our colleges and our universities and he fighting for you, for all of the people in here."
The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: “No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom...”
The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an “elected official of the Government of the United States.”
How much ya wanna bet Trump will take the time --- between tweets and Victory Tours --- to sign a quick quit-claim over to his offspring and we'll all pretend that means something?
I would think he'd "renegotiate" it but I don't think he has time to make one of those really great deals before he is in violation. So, just turn it over to Ivanka and the boys and we're all good.
Infowars.com, the website operated by conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones, lashed out at Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, for calling on President-elect Donald Trump not to appear on Jones’ show because Jones has pushed conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy.
Lafferty has been outspoken in calling for President-elect Trump not to appear on Jones’ radio program. Before he was elected, Trump praised Jones as having an “amazing” reputation, and Jones said that after Trump’s victory, he called Jones to promise to appear on his show in the near future.
In a November 16 open letter to Trump, Lafferty wrote, “radio host Alex Jones has fanned the flames of a hateful conspiracy theory claiming that the shooting that took my mother never happened. It’s unthinkable. It’s unacceptable. I’m asking you to denounce it immediately and cut ties with Alex Jones and anyone who subscribes to these dangerous ideas.”
Indeed, it is well documented that in the wake of the 2012 shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead, Jones repeatedly suggested that the shooting was a “hoax” that never happened. Jones has reacted to Lafferty’s letter by lying about his past statements while simultaneously doubling down on his conspiratorial claims about the attack.
Shroyer addressed Lafferty directly in his video, which was posted to Alex Jones’ YouTube channel. He said, “I just have this message to you. Why wouldn't you want a good guy on the scene with a gun when a bad guy comes? I’m just missing this logic. Don't you understand that if your mother had a pistol or a firearm she could have prevented her death? A good person with a gun could have stopped a bad person with a gun and saved lives. Why does this logic escape you?”
Steve Bannon says he hates elites so, you know, he's cool. He wants to put some bad rich guys in jail even (although probably not all the ones that he and Trump are putting in the cabinet or the ones who donated or the ones who Jared Kushner is involved with or any of Trump's other business partners.) But the bad ones. You know. The ones they don't like.
Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.
“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”
Here's another guy who has similar beliefs, at least about genetic superiority:
These guys really believe this stuff. It's not a pose. And their followers believe it too.
By the way, the great populist hero of the late 19th century, William Jennings Bryan, was a big eugenics fan too.
The news media finally seems to have caught up to the notion that Donald Trump’s international business dealings might just create a bit of a conflict of interest as president of the United States. The New York Times published an investigation over the Thanksgiving weekend into some of Trump’s business partners around the world and how they see his election as a “yuge” opportunity to make a lot of money by partnering with the president-elect’s “brand” — the profits from which his family will undoubtedly share. At this point, it appears Trump has no intention of doing anything more than superficially distancing himself from the business and pretending that’s a “blind trust.”
In his interview with the Times last week, Trump explained that he had thought he would have to “do something” and had since been told that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” immediately evoking memories of Richard Nixon’s famous quote: “If the president does it, it’s not illegal.” It’s a very similar notion. The idea is that the president’s job is so unique that normal rules and laws do not apply. The full quote is even more incoherent:
As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world . . .
Now, according to the law, see, I figured there’s something where you put something in this massive trust and there’s also — nothing is written. In other words, in theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent, sign checks on my business, which I am phasing out of very rapidly, you know, I sign checks, I’m the old-fashioned type . . . But in theory I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly. And there’s never been a case like this where somebody’s had, like, if you look at other people of wealth, they didn’t have this kind of asset and this kind of wealth, frankly. It’s just a different thing.
But there is no — I assumed that you’d have to set up some type of trust or whatever and, you know. And I was actually a little bit surprised to see it. So in theory I don’t have to do anything. But I would like to do something. I would like to try and formalize something, because I don’t care about my business.
Trump seems to have been told that the presidency is unique and therefore not subject to conflict-of-interest laws, and also that he is unique because he’s so vastly wealthy he is not subject to conflicts of interest. In any case, it’s worth reading the entire transcript to see just how much over his head he really is.
President Obama tried to warn Trump that he needed to find a White House counsel who would give him strong, unbiased advice and help him navigate these treacherous ethical waters. Trump clearly didn’t listen. In fact he went out of his way to name as his chief counsel one of the most notorious lawyers in Washington, Don McGahn, the man best known as the ethics lawyer to corrupt former House whip Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, a man who pretty much filled the swamp Trump promised to drain. As one of the architects of the “K Street Project,” which strong-armed lobbyists into only hiring Republicans if they wanted to do business with the government, DeLay and McGahn were instrumental in institutionalizing GOP self-dealing and corruption during the Bush years.
DeLay had Texas tear up its 2000 redistricting plan after Republicans won the majority in 2002, and McGahn defended him when DeLay was tried for illegally funneling campaign cash into a PAC to help Republicans win. (He lost the case, but it was reversed on appeal.) Of course, McGahn had also been the lawyer who advised him the scheme was legal in the first place.
The idea that this man is going to give Trump guidance on how to deal with conflicts of interest in an ethical manner is laughable. His career has been spent counseling his clients on how to do the opposite. Like Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, it’s yet another example of Trump hiring the worst person in America for the job. It’s almost as if he’s trolling America, just messing with our heads for the fun of it. And like nearly all forms of trolling it’s not funny at all.