WASHINGTON — Welcome to the United States of Trump, LLC.
Some applaud President-elect Donald Trump’s boast at his press conference Wednesday that he was offered $2 billion from a “very, very, very amazing man” in Dubai just last weekend and turned it down when he didn’t have to.
Oops! Yes, he did. The emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution says the president may not profit from foreigners because of his job.
But, look, you say, Trump has given up control of his huge business, a really, really great business, where his name is its most valuable attribute, by putting it all into a trust he won’t touch. He will only know what’s happening by reading about it in the newspapers.
Nope. He has given his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and an ethics officer, paid by the Trumps, complete control. After his eight years in office (he assumes he will be re-elected), if they haven’t done a good job, he will tell them they are fired when he reassumes control of the business.
He will not sell his company. He is not putting it in a blind trust. It will continue to do deals domestically. He will know whether his actions as president will benefit the business he intends to run when he leaves office.
Do we know the extent of his business? We do not. Because he refuses to release his tax returns, we have no idea of his dealings, at home or abroad, or how much he is worth.
Technically, he is correct that he doesn’t have to avoid domestic conflicts of interest. But why, if he truly cares about the American people, is he putting himself in a position that constantly will showcase such conflicts? He says such freedom (to have conflicts) “is a nice thing.”
At Trump’s first news conference in 166 days, it was all about Trump. He dodged a lot of questions. He boasted. He insisted intelligence reports that Russia has blackmail-quality information about his financial and personal behavior are reminiscent of Nazi Germany. But he finally gave reluctant credence to the intelligence community’s insistence that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election by distributing information hacked from U.S. computers.
Does the incoming president trust the nation’s intelligence agencies? No. He has spent the time since the election disparaging and undermining the nation’s intelligence-gathering apparatus.
Look, you say, give the man a chance so we can see what he can do.
We have some idea.
He vows to repeal the health care insurance law that has provided coverage to more than 20 million Americans but still has no plan to replace it.
He temporarily saved 730 Carrier jobs in Indiana by giving the company taxpayer dollars.
He has nominated to be secretary of state a big-oil man who is friends with Vladimir Putin, a dictator who invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, ordered the murders of thousands of Syrian women and children, and kills political opponents and journalists who dare to report his atrocities.
He has nominated as attorney general a man who was turned down by the Senate to be a federal judge on grounds he was too racist, a man who tried to put people in jail for alleged violations of voting laws the courts said were nonsense, a man who wants to fill the prisons with people addicted to drugs, a man who wants to deport immigrant families here for years, a man who opposes key aspects of voting rights laws and legal rights for LGBT Americans, a man who is being rewarded for his loyalty in being the first (and, for months, only) senator to endorse Trump.
He has nominated a woman to run the Department of Education who wants to gut public schools and privatize education, turning it over to profit-making companies.
Trump likes people who flatter and admire him. He does not respect kindness or truth. He respects the power of money and powerful people. He refuses to act with dignity and impartiality. Now he will have the full power and might of the United States at his beck and call.
Welcome to a reality TV show era of scandals, controversy and lawsuits over ethics. Welcome to a country that acts like a corporation benefitting most those who run it.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.