Trump is Innocent of the Crime of Liberalism

This is a post I didn’t desire to write but felt compelled to do so. It’s the same topic of another recent post, Trump Family And Elite Corruption. When I shared that other one with a Donald Trump voter, albeit reluctant in their not actually liking Trump, they dismissed the information as underwhelming and unconvincing, even as they admitted to only having barely looked at any of the linked pieces that were shared. So, having confirmed what they already believed without any need to look at any possible information that might disconfirm by bringing doubt, they concluded this was further proof of the liberal bias of media that unfairly attacked Trump. Fake news!

It was amazing how quickly this reasonably intelligent and highly educated person returned to this rhetorical framing of a default narrative. This comes from someone who has otherwise admitted that Trump is corrupt and so that wasn’t even a point of disagreement. Yet the response to Trump being a swamp creature is that the media is liberal, as if the accusation of being liberal is worse than being morally depraved. Sure, Trump is bad, as this person would acknowledge, but… the media is liberal! Hang them! Hang them all! Liberalism is the one unforgiveable sin, against which all else pales in comparison. Trump may be an authoritarian demagogue and narcissistic social dominator, but at least he is not a liberal. This must be that infamous lesser-evil voting I’ve heard so much about it.

Some of the links in that earlier post were just describing the allegations and investigations. Others were detailing the evidence upon which cases were being made. So, I’m not sure which articles this person read or skimmed. But if they actually wanted to know, they would have to do more than a cursory look at a few pieces among many. In covering the specifics, there has been a fair amount of investigatve reporting, such as the CREW report and a Buzzfeed piece, SECRET MONEY: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers. For even greater detail, a number of book-length exposés have been published: Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, David Enrich’s Dark Towers, James D. Zirin’s Plaintiff in Chief, Timothy K. Kuhner Tyranny of Greed, etc. One could easily argue that Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president in American history, certainly the most brazenly and shamelessly corrupt, although the competition is steep.

From the articles originally listed, here is one example that is similar to the Ukranian One allegation that the political right latched onto against Clinton: Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit. The evidence in both cases is about the same, and yet Clinton got hit much harder in the news media by claims of scandal than did Trump in this case. So, bias obviously can go both directions, depending. Biased media aside, the article shows the commonality across the aisle about what big biz means in this context with Putin having his hands in everything. But I still consider such accusations to be weak, no matter which side asserts them. That isn’t the kind of thing that really interests me, although I think it’s important to demonstrate how the Trump family is not particularly different than the Clinton family.

More damning and dangerous, to my mind, is the everyday corruption of profiteering and legalized bribery (Donald Trump has turned the White House into a bribe factory), which is the kind of thing I found so egregious with the Clintons. Still, in many ways, it’s much more blatant with Trump, as the Clintons at least went to the effort of maintaining formal legality and respectability by filtering money through their foundation. Trump, instead, treats almost everything openly as a business deal to be made, even admitting conflicts of interest and admitting that they influence him. From ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office (reporting on the CREW report):

  • “55 members of Congress have made 78 visits to Trump’s resort properties.”
  • “Cabinet members have patronized Trump properties and attended events with special interests or wealthy political donors at least 30 times.”
  • “Foreign government-tied entities have held 13 events at Trump properties, and at least 134 foreign officials have visited one of Trump’s properties—violations of U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.”
  • “Special interest groups have sponsored 117 events at Trump properties since he took office.”

Plus, there is the open cronyism that pervaded the Trump administration: “The report details several specific examples of favors given to officials and associates who visit Trump’s properties. Patrons of the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida have been offered chances to “shadow rule” government agencies, while other members have been nominated to ambassadorships.” Not small stuff, by any means, and all documented. Here is some details from the CREW report itself:

“Late last year, CREW discovered that one of Trump’s companies applied for two trademarks in Argentina for “real estate affairs” and building construction, suggesting that plans for a Trump Tower Buenos Aires might be moving forward. These were the first trademarks that Trump has applied for in the country since his election.A closer look showed that the timing of the applications closely coincided with Trump administration action on tariffs in Argentina. After the trademark opposition period ended, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and a few other Latin American countries. Soon after the application was granted Trump reinstated the tariffs, defending his actions on Twitter by claiming that Argentina had manipulated their currency.

“Trump’s international conflicts of interest span the globe to Indonesia, where the daughter of one of his business partners has assumed a high ranking role in the Indonesian government, thus directly linking Trump’s business to a foreign government. Angela Tanoesoedibjo was appointed in October to a position which gives her power over tourism in the country. Tanoesoedibjo’s father owns and operates one of Indonesia’s largest real estate conglomerates, MNC Group, which is building two Trump-branded developments in the country. In one meeting between government officials and her father’s Trump-connected company, an official brought up a property MNC Group is developing that will have Trump-branded aspects.”

There are other examples like that. Consider the many business dealings Donald Trump has had with the Saudis, including royal family and including ties to Saudi investors going back decades: “Trump has been paid tens of millions by Saudi investors and its government through a variety of business deals” (Trump said he has ‘no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.’ But his businesses have made millions from the Saudi government, and the crown prince gave his New York City hotel a huge boost.). As president, he made sure the Saudi government got a generous arms deal, including nuclear weapons — a deal, by the way, that was lobbied by a Trump fundraiser. Also, Saudi lobbyist became a Trump appointee. Then there is the massive amount of money that Trump himself ackowledges was given to him — President Trump has a massive conflict of interest on Saudi Arabia:

“Crucially, though, he and his businesses have continued to benefit substantially from Saudi customers, including the government of Saudi Arabia. Press reports have indicated that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently paid for rooms and meals at the Trump hotels in Washington and Chicago. In 2017, Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. The kingdom itself paid $4.5 million in 2001 to purchase a floor of Trump World Tower and continues to pay tens of thousands in annual common charges to Trump businesses for that property (the total of which could be up to $5.7 million since 2001, according to one estimate). In the past year, as bookings fell overall, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported a significant uptick in bookings from Saudi Arabia. And a major factor in a recent increase in revenue for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan was that Saudis accompanying the crown prince during a recent visit stayed there, as The Washington Post has reported.

“Trump said at a campaign rally in 2015 about Saudi Arabia: “I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” What’s notable about that statement is not just the president’s description of his significant business ties to Saudi Arabia but his stark admission that he is inclined to look favorably on those who give him business.”

It’s not just one country that we’re talking about, according to Forbes which isn’t eactly a left-wing rag or communist propaganda (Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight). A bank majority-owned by the Chinese government was renting space at Trump Tower for more than an estimated 2 million a year. Between domestic and foreign companies, along with payments from foreign governments, Trump has received hundreds of millions of dollars during his presidency — $175 million a year from tenants alone. And the company payments are legally protected as anonymous. Some of his tenants have done business with or been under investigation by the government. The whole situation screams out for the Emoluments Clause (Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses), which was created for this precise reason (Trump faces avalanche of conflict-of-interest troubles):

“No president has ever held a fortune that spans the globe. He has licensed his name to buildings in far-flung countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. Some are allies, some are ruled by autocratic dictatorships and some are at odds with American interests. Further, he owes hundreds of millions of dollars each to the government-owned Bank of China and the privately owned Deutsche Bank. The Trump Organization has plans to continue to expand the company around the globe during its namesake’s presidential administration.Not only do these foreign holdings, debts and future deals present imminent conflicts of interest for American foreign policy, but they also create an immediate constitutional concern. The U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause states that no government official shall receive favorable payment from a foreign government, foreign government-owned company or foreign official without the consent of Congress. It is, in essence, an anti-bribery clause preventing foreign corruption.”

This isn’t being blown out of proportion. This level of conflicts of interest is unprecedented in the American presidency. It’s not only Trump himself but those he surounds himself with, such as General Michael Flynn and Thomas Barrack who had their own conflicts of interest (skim the first few pages of the following report: Whistleblowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration’s Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia, Interim Staff Report Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives). There is also the extent of corporate cronyism and regulatory capture at a level probably never before seen, at least not at this level of crudeness and shamelessness (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). Also, reporting on this hasn’t been limited to just a few media sources and plenty of articles detail the examples and evidence, far from being wild conspiracy theories and loose accusations. Here is a small selection and really look at the powerful case being made: 

Exposing Trump’s Deals (Global Witness), A Handy List of Donald Trump’s Biggest Conflicts of Interest (Times), Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts (Bloomberg), 100+ Examples Of Donald Trump’s Corruption (Rantt Media), Trump’s Interests vs. America’s, Dubai Edition (The Atlantic), Trump’s global business empire raises concerns about foreign influence (Chicago Tribune), When Dirty Russian-Connected Money Saved Trump’s Ass and His Ensuing Business Disasters Helped Destroy the Global and American Economies (Real Context News), Trump’s Dangerous, Unprecedented, and Unconstitutional Conflicts of Interest – Center for American Progress (The Center for American Progress), 

Saudi Arabia Paid Washington Lobbyist to Book 500 Rooms in Trump’s D.C. Hotel Shortly After 2016 Election (Slate), Trump’s Conflict-of-Interest Problem Didn’t End With the Doral Debacle (Mother Jones), “I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.” (Politifact), Did we betray the Kurds for Trump Towers? (NJ), Trump Business Deals In Southeast Asia Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns (NPR), Jared Kushner and the Qatar blockade: Conflict of interest? (Salon), A DONALD TRUMP APPOINTEE — ALSO A SAUDI GOVERNMENT LOBBYIST — IS REASSESSING HIS ROLES (The Center for Public Integrity), Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest (Sunlight Foundaton), 

In some ways, this is worse legalized bribery than seen among the Clinton dynasty. Some of these actions easily could be argued do cross the line of legality, not that they’re likely to ever be prosecuted. Legality aside, they are swampy corruption galore. Among the most corrupt presidents history, Trump has to be one of the top going by the available evidence of what we know so far. It’s not like anyone has ever mistaken him as a good person. He has a long history as a criminally corrupt businessman (Five times law enforcers could have arrested Donald Trump but didn’t), from cheating contractors to tax evasion schemes to bribery (Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say), but there is also a dark history of working with organized crime, including multiple incidents of suspected money laundering. It defies credibility to think that he wouldn’t bring this corruption with him into the White House. 

The money laundering accusations and suspicions are among the most worrying. They demonstrate the global connections between plutocracy, political power, and organized crime. The highly unusual financial transactions have implicated Donald Trump many years before he decided to run for president. And it hasn’t only been a concern in the US. Foreign governments and banks have looked into potential money laundering that involved Trump and his family. It doesn’t prove money laundering did happen. But these cases have kept coming up over a long period of time, far from being limited to the reporting of American liberal media. 

The money at stake is not small, as shown by looking to our northern neighbor: “The most recent estimates of the dirty money flowing through the area’s casinos and real estate put the totals in the billions of Canadian dollars (Why Trump should be worried about Vancouver’s new crackdown on money laundering). It’s literally at least a hundred times worse in the United states. “The US Treasury estimates that $300bn is laundered annually in America. This is probably a fraction of the true number. Worse, the US government has no idea who controls the companies that channel the money because America lacks a corporate central registry” (How money laundering is poisoning American democracy). That is the total laundering, not only that of Trump and his cronies. He is just one scummy moral reprobate among many. Among the plutocrats, he is closer to the rule than an exception.

If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It WorksWhat is Money Laundering and Why Has Donald Trump Been Linked to It?Is Donald Trump’s casino empire linked to money laundering? Past financial crimes may be the president’s biggest problemThe Kleptocrats’ Money-Laundering Middleman Who Did Deals With TrumpA Russian Mobster Built Trump SoHo Into Putin’s Money Laundering RacketThe Trump Family Moves Cash Around Like Money-Laundering Drug CartelsHow the Trumps kept their hands clean while taking criminals’ moneyTrump Taj Mahal Settles Over Anti-Money-Laundering ViolationsMueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money TrailU.S. House confirms it is conducting “major” money laundering investigation involving President TrumpWhy has Congress stalled on investigating money laundering allegations at Trump properties?Can Trump Organization Executives Be Prosecuted for Money Laundering?Do Trump’s Taxes Show He’s a Failure, a Cheat, or a Criminal?Trump’s Tax Returns Are a Scandal for the President—and for America,

A Trump hotel in Panama reportedly was responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug moneyTrump’s Panama tower used for money laundering, reports sayTrump’s Luxury Condo: a Congolese State AffairMessy web of Trump ties in Turkish mogul’s money-laundering caseA Kazakh dirty-money suit threatens to reach Trump’s business worldCalls to Probe Trump-Guiliani Money Laundering SchemeTrump OK’d business partner with alleged Iran laundering tiesDeutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner AccountsThe journalist who revealed the secrets of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche BankDid Deutsche Bank Sweep Possible Money Laundering By Trump Under The Rug?Deutsche Bank employees say leaders dismissed concerns about suspicious Trump transactionsUS probes Trump money laundering through Irish golf courseFinance Journalist: Trump’s Scotland Resort Isn’t a Golf Business, But a ‘Money Disappearing Business’Did Trump launder money through his Scottish golf clubs? Top official demands investigationTrump wealth order probe urged over Scottish golf resortsScotland inches closer to investigating Trump for money launderingScottish Leader Says Trump Should Face ‘Accountability’ In Turnberry Probe

For certain, these are not isolated cases, as the Trump family going back generations has had a well-documented history of legally and ethically questionable activities. As has been pointed out, Donald Trump originally got his earliest inheritance as part of one of a tax evasion scheme that could have been prosecuted at the time, if New York City had not been so corrupt. Some of the federal, state, and local investigations into Trump are surely false or invalid, maybe some being straight-up partisanship, but it would be naive to dismiss them all in this manner (Tracking 30 Investigations Related to Trump). Even ignoring those, one has to consider all the foreign investigations as well. Scandal, financial and otherwise, has followed Donald Trump his whole life and has plagued the Trump family since before he was born.

A recent example has to do with the notorious Deutsche Bank. “The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here”” (Why Did Deutsche Bank Keep Lending to Donald Trump?  — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast). This is a well established pattern. After his financial troubles in the 1990s, no US bank would go near him. And ever since, his finaces have been heavily tied in with Russians who were willing to loan him money, invest in his projects, start real-estate partnerships, and purchase of Trump condos  (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business). 

That happened to be the same period of the rise of Putin’s control of Russia, along with the rise of a Putin-supported oligarchy that had money to throw around. Trump’s branding empire was built on this Russian money. “Of course, Trump’s shady dealings aren’t exclusively with Russians. He’s eclectic that way. He’s made deals with Kazakh money launderers, with corrupt businesses in India and with a shady casino operator hoping to expand his operation in Vietnam. Nor is real estate the only realm where Trump has been involved with potential money laundering. In 2015, federal authorities fined the already-bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal $10 million for violations of anti-money-laundering laws” (Trump’s Dirty Money). Let us say Trump made sure to diversify his portfolio.

The specific case that drew public attention was when “anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank had flagged “suspicious activity” on the accounts of both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017” (DID DEUTSCHE BANK SWEEP POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING BY TRUMP UNDER THE RUG?). It should have been reported to the Amercan authorities, but that bank has had close long-term financial ties with the Trump family and decded to not report it (Deutsche Bank says money-laundering reports not waived for Trump), even though it was part of a pattern. The year before, in 2015, several transactions had been flagged when “money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals,” according to anti-money-laundering specialist Tammy McFadden who reviewed the information while working there and advised it be sent to the government. Instead, a management team that had close associations with Kushner intervened by bypassing normal procedures and decided to shut down any further inquiry.

By the way, investing in property has long been a favored way of laundering money, as well as for legalized bribery when paying above actual value, the latter also being alleged when a Russian oligarch paid $100 in buying a $40 million property from Trump in 2008 during the real estate bust. “According to BuzzFeed News, one-fifth of all Trump-branded condos sold in the U.S. since the 1980s were handled in cash transactions that allowed buyers to use shell companies to obscure their finances and identities — a type of exchange that the Treasury Department considers “an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities”” (Deutsche Bank Flagged Trump and Kushner for Potential Money Laundering: Report). Much of Trump’s money from foreign sources, including Putin-related oligarchs and organized crime, comes through over-priced condos and the rental of space such as in Trump Tower —- Trump’s Russian Laundromat:

“But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

“It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.”

Look at Trump’s financial history these past few decades, as various members of the Trump family have admitted to most of their money coming from Russia (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business):

“All this history helps put into context some recent developments in the investigations by Mueller and the Southern District of New York, which have focused on supposed Trump collusion or conspiracy with the Russians. It may have seemed odd at first that during the presidential campaign the people in Trump’s orbit—including Trump’s son, daughter, and son-in-law—were contacted by at least 14 Russians, according to information emerging from the federal investigations. Or that in November 2015, according to a sentencing memo published recently, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was approached by a Russian who offered “political synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russia (adding that a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”).  

“But in fact at least some of these encounters appear to have sprung from business contacts Trump had developed over nearly two decades.

“According to Trump’s former real-estate partner and other sources who are familiar with the internal workings of the Trump Organization, his post-’90s revival may have really begun in the early 2000s with the Bayrock Group, which rented offices two floors down from Trump’s in Trump Tower. Bayrock was run by two investors who would help to change Trump’s trajectory: Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official who drew on seemingly bottomless sources of money from the former Soviet republic; and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who had pleaded guilty in the 1990s to a huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia. […]

“By the time he ran for president, Trump had been enmeshed in this mysterious overseas flow of capital—which various investigators believe could have included money launderers from Russia and former Soviet republics who bought up dozens of his condos—for a decade and a half. And Felix Sater was pitching Cohen on a Moscow deal as recently as mid-2016—as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, according to a sentencing memo recently unveiled by the Mueller probe. […]

“In a 2016 interview with ABC News, Trump did allow that he’d done one Russian deal. “The primary thing I did with Russia, I bought a house in Palm Beach at a bankruptcy,” Trump said. “I bought it for about $40 million. I sold it for $100 million to a Russian.” That 2008 sale of a six-acre Palm Beach estate to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is also reportedly being reviewed by Mueller’s team. At the time, Trump claimed that he was able to flip the house for such a high price in only four years because of renovations. But so huge was the differential in price—especially since by the time Trump sold the property to Rybolovlev in 2008, real-estate prices were plummeting in the financial crisis—that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, has asked for an investigation into the sale.

““That deal delivered so much cash to Trump, it almost has to be seen as a campaign contribution, or the purchase of Donald Trump,” said D’Antonio. Earlier this year the buyer, Rybolovlev, appeared on a U.S. Treasury Department unclassified list of Russian oligarchs, or influential politicians and business professionals who are considered close to Putin.

“Even Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have admitted that Russians supplied the Trump Organization much of its capital needs.

“In September 2008, at the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in New York, the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said: “In terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” In 2014, his younger brother Eric—also an executive in the Trump Organization—told a well-known sports writer, James Dodson, after the latter asked him where the organization was getting the money to buy up so many golf courses: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” (In 2017, after the Mueller investigation began, Eric Trump denied making the comment.)”

I know how many feel about the Mueller probe, as even some left-wingers like Jimmy Dore have considered it partisan political theater. But there are questions that need to be answered, issues that need to be investigated — there is overwhelming evidence of multiple networks of powerful figures that have access to large sums of money to fund a variety of agendas and organizations (Following the Money: Trump and Russia-Linked Transactions From the Campaign to the Presidential Inauguration – Center for American Progress). And as I keep pointing out, there really was something fishy going on with political insiders, including Trump associate Paul Manafort, working with one of Putin’s many proxies. To be fair, the brother of one of the top DNC insiders was working with Manafort, but I already covered that issue elsewhere.

Also, keep in mind that Manafort had been doing business with Trump in the year before the campaign and had been meddling in Eastern Europe for at least a decade. And like Trump, Manafort has been caught up in financial questions involving the Deutsche Bank. There are also questions that never have been answered: “Trump actively pursued a major real estate deal in Moscow while he was campaigning for president. He worked closely with a career criminal on the Trump SoHo Hotel project before he even ran for president, a development funded in part with lots of murky money from eastern Europe” (Mueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money Trail). Mueller, for fear of blowback, never pursued this line of investigation, although maybe he should have or else another investigator, but Congress also backed off. 

Those issues are not insignificant, especially in the context of decades of Trump’s ties to Putin along with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia, the latter two working directly under Putin’s power (Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal.). The Trump family has long been into shady business practices and business partners. In our cycicism, we shouldn’t take that so lightly. It’s not only that this kind of behavior is morally wrong and anti-democratic, whether or not legally prosecutable, but that it has become normalized. It corrupts not only goverment for it, more importantly, corrupts all of American society. And, of course, it’s bipartisan — How money laundering is poisoning American democracy:

“Donald Trump is the public face of a problem that extends into the heart of America’s system. It spans Democrats and Republicans, New York and Washington, the public and private sectors. It is a curse that dare not speak its name in the 2020 election.

“It is easy to guess why Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, goes light on it. Mr Biden helped to turn Delaware, his home state, into the most popular domicile for anonymously-owned companies. Without those, The Trump Organization would have garnered far fewer of the investors that bought its condominiums. In one of Mr Trump’s towers in Florida, more than 80 per cent of its units are owned by shell companies. The US has 10 times more shell companies than the next 41 jurisdictions combined, according to the World Bank.

“To be sure, unlike Mr Trump’s alleged transgressions, Mr Biden’s are legal. But it is “legal graft” that has seeped into all corners of US politics — and society beyond. Mr Biden has done as much as any US public figure to put such practices on the statute books. […] There used to be a bright red line between America and the world’s kleptocracies. Now they are symbiotically linked.”

Even so, there are some laws already in place to investigate and prosecute many such potential crimes, if there was political will to do so. It’s certainly not for a lack of evidence in justifying further investigation, and we don’t need to prove any specific allegation beforehand since that is the purpose of an investigation. This is quite concerning to see such corruption, to say the least. It was bad enough when he was merely a sleazy businessman, but it’s downrght demoralizing to see it continue thrughout his administration (Donald Trump, Russian Oligarchs, And A Trail Of Money Laundering).

Like the Bushes and Clintons, the Trumps have all been powerful figures in the main parties for many decades. Trump was associating with the likes of Paul Manafort going back to the 1980s. Also, the Trumps and Clintons are longtime cronies and close family friends. The whole Trump clan is swampy and the same is true of many brought in by the administration. Yet like the Clintons there almost always is plausible deniability and teams of lawyers, not that it makes corruption better when it outwardly follows the letter of the law or when it is so well hidden that it can’t be proven illegal or else when those in power have such legal protection that they are for all practical purposes beyond the prosecutory reach of the law — The Self-Dealing Administration:

“In May of 2018, China awarded Mr. Trump’s golden child, Ivanka, seven trademarks for her now-defunct lifestyle brand, right around the same time her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going belly up. Ivanka’s office said there was no special treatment involved.

“What’s good for the Trump family is, apparently, also good for the family of Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and their business interests. In May 2017, Mr. Kushner’s sister played up her brother’s position as senior adviser to the president when pitching some of Kushner Companies’ real estate developments to prospective Chinese investors through a federal program that provides fast-track visas to wealthy foreign investors. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told them. The company denied any impropriety.

“Also in 2017, both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, made large loans to Kushner Companies after White House meetings between Mr. Kushner and top executives from those firms. The involved parties insisted that the loans had nothing to do with Mr. Kushner’s position — that, in fact, his family’s business had not even come up in the discussions. The $184 million loan from Apollo came through in November. The next month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into Apollo. While there was no indication that the two episodes were related, the timing was a tad unseemly. […]

“In politics, as in life, the fish rots from the head. And many members of the administration seem to have embraced the first family’s ethical flexibility. Among the top officials to depart under allegations of self-dealing or other misuse of taxpayer money were the secretary of the interior, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of veterans affairs. Impressively, Wilbur Ross remains the commerce secretary, despite reports of multiple sketchy financial dealings.

“Forget Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. Mr. Trump will be remembered for assembling a world-class Team of Grifters.

“The Trump campaign world presents its own opportunities for self-enrichment. Before being ousted as campaign manager this summer, Brad Parscale had been facing scrutiny both for the campaign’s profligate spending and for the lavish lifestyle he had adopted since joining Team Trump. Following Mr. Parscale’s demotion, the campaign began an audit of spending during his tenure, according to Business Insider. (The campaign has denied that Mr. Parscale is being targeted by the review.)

“Mr. Parscale features prominently in recent allegations that the Trump re-election effort has been violating campaign finance laws. In late July, a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign and a related fund-raising committee of masking $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump family members by funneling the payments through companies run by Mr. Parscale and others formed by the campaign’s lawyers. Among the outlays in question are fat salaries for Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, and Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign has denied any wrongdoing.”

One can take that information as one will. It’s not easy to draw any specific conclusion about it in legal terms. Obviously, Trump is a bad hombre. But did he cross the line into proveable and prosecutable criminality during the past four years? All that can be said for absolutely certain is that, if all of this overwhelming corruption is not illegal, it should be. But put this in context, Trump is not the only politician and plutocrat who should be in prison. Still, justice has to begin somewhere and there is no time like the present. Not that I have any faith that justice will be served. At the very least, it would be satisfying to finally have public acknowledgement of the injustice itself. I’d settle for a truth commission that let the guilty go free if it forced truth to the surface and forced the corruption out of of the government. Punishment of the guilty would simply be a nice added benefit.

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