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“Already Waist-Deep In Stench”: The Most Corrupt Candidate Ever Is Donald Trump

Before his message was overshadowed by a scandal about his use of a white-supremacist image — a mistake that could happen to any candidate, really, so long as that candidate had inspired a massive following among neo-Nazis — Donald Trump was trying to make a point about Hillary Clinton’s corruption. She is the “most corrupt candidate ever,” he claims. Corruption is indeed a plausible line of attack against Clinton — or, at least, it would be, if the opposing candidate was anybody other than Donald Trump, who may actually be the most corrupt presidential candidate ever.

It should be conceded that the evidence against Clinton is fairly damning. After Bill Clinton left the presidency, the former First Couple intermingled career and personal interests in ways that, at minimum, exposed them to a high risk of contamination. The Clinton Foundation was not only a charitable endeavor but a vehicle for Bill Clinton to enjoy the comforts and exercise the quasi-official power of an active figure on the world stage. Donors to the foundation included many of the same businesses and individuals who paid the Clintons for private speeches, and who had an interest in cultivating close ties with a secretary of State and potential future president. Some of those figures had business interests that aligned with Russian strategic goals rather than American ones. The Clintons failed to promptly disclose all of their foundation donors and, on at least one occasion, appointed an apparently unqualified donor to a State Department board.

The evidence of Clinton corruption is circumstantial rather than direct. If they wanted to stay above reproach, they could have rigorously disclosed every dollar that passed through their personal and professional accounts, and made it plain that neither donating to their foundation nor hiring them for speeches would purchase any special treatment whatsoever — indeed, they bent over backward to demonstrate that they could not be bought. Instead, they profited from the ambiguity.

The case against Hillary Clinton is that her administration might be corrupted around the margins — in its minor appointments or pardons and in the relative ease in which some donors get their calls returned — but that the basic contours of her administration would be a continuation of the non-corrupt center-left program of the Obama administration. The case against Trump is qualitatively different. Trump is flamboyantly corrupt in ways that run to the very core of his identity and prospective governing choices.

This is all the more remarkable given that Trump’s complete lack of experience in public office ought to provide him with the opportunity, which most novice candidates have, for a clean-slate résumé. Instead, he is already waist-deep in stench. Trump has not merely intermingled campaigning with his business interests; the two are one and the same. His entire political career seems to be an outgrowth of his efforts to build his personal brand, which Trump has endlessly used the campaign as a platform to promote. He has devoted speeches to attacking the judge in the fraud suit against his “university,” instructed surrogates to do the same, and promised to relaunch the enterprise if elected. He celebrated the Brexit vote, which drove down the value of the pound, as helpful for driving visitors to his Scottish golf course. This sort of behavior is not an appearance of a conflict of interest but the definition of one.

Trump appears to be genuinely unaware, even at the conceptual level, that his business interests might complicate his ability to govern in the public interest. During the primary, when a debate moderator asked if he would put his holdings in a blind trust, Trump comically replied that he would, while defining a “blind trust” to mean his children would run his business for him, which is the opposite of a blind trust. Even if Trump wanted to distance himself from his business interests, the nature of his holdings would make it virtually impossible, as The Wall Street Journal explains today. A traditionally rich person could place their wealth in third-party hands without knowing what they were invested in; Trump’s business is his personal brand, making divestment impossible. “Trump’s empire would pose unprecedented conflicts of interest due to the size of its holdings, privately held nature of the family-run business, and concentration in one industry,” Richard Painter, the Bush administration’s ethics lawyer, tells the Journal.

Trump’s entire business career reeks, beginning with his early associations with organized crime and proceeding through a career of swindling. “No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks,” reports David Cay Johnston. Trump is not merely comfortable doing business with criminals and thugs — his habits of manipulating bankruptcy laws and swindling his partners have left him reliant upon, let us say, unconventional sources of investment, many of whom are the scum of the Earth. Franklin Foer lays out impressive circumstantial evidence that Trump may well be a puppet of Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump shares a web of financial ties that help explain their shared worldview. Whatever we might think of Clinton, we can be confident she is not controlled by the Kremlin. And the failures of disclosure or record-keeping in her operations pale beside Trump’s defiant refusal to disclose his tax returns.

It is altogether fair to condemn Clinton as a corrupt practitioner of the Washington cash-for-access culture. She and her husband are careless, susceptible to greed — normal politicians, in other words. Trump is the figure whose corruption stands out on a historic scale, and the notion that disdain for corruption would supply a rationale to elect him is nothing short of bizarre.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 5, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Organized Crime | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Yet Another Fraudulent Operation”: Move Over, ‘Trump U,’ The New Scandal Is The ‘Trump Institute’

The scandal surrounding “Trump University” is already an albatross for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The entire enterprise has been accused of being a con job, ripping off “students” who trusted the developer’s name.

But as it turns out, there’s a new, related controversy surrounding the “Trump Institute,” which is something else. The New York Times reports today that the Republican candidate “lent his name, and his credibility” to this seminar business, which offered Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies” for up to $2,000.

The truth was something else altogether.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial – one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.

All things considered, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) referred to Trump as a “con man,” the senator may have been on to to something.

Consider the revelations from recent weeks:

* Those who ran “Trump University” have faced credible allegations of stuffing their own pockets by preying on the vulnerable, selling unsuspecting students snake oil at indefensible prices and through misleading claims.

* Trump has boasted at great length about the millions of dollars he’s given away through charitable donations – though many of these donations don’t appear to exist and many of the promises he made publicly went unfulfilled.

* A considerable chunk of Trump’s campaign fundraising went to Trump corporate products and services, giving rise to a new word for the political lexicon: “scampaign.”

* And now the “Trump Institute” is facing allegations of being yet another fraudulent operation, complete with bogus claims, shady characters, and “the theft of intellectual property at the venture’s heart.”

The Timesreport added:

The institute was another example of the Trump brand’s being accused of luring vulnerable customers with false promises of profit and success. Others, besides Trump University, include multilevel marketing ventures that sold vitamins and telecommunications services, and a vanity publisher that faced hundreds of consumer complaints.

Mr. Trump’s infomercial performance suggested he was closely overseeing the Trump Institute. “People are loving it,” he said in the program, titled “The Donald Trump Way to Wealth” and staged like a talk show in front of a wildly enthusiastic audience. “People are really doing well with it, and they’re loving it.” His name, picture and aphorisms like “I am the American Dream, supersized version” were all over the course materials.

Yet while he owned 93 percent of Trump University, the Trump Institute was owned and operated by Irene and Mike Milin, a couple who had been marketing get-rich-quick courses since the 1980s.

I realize, of course, that there are many voters who trust Donald J. Trump’s word. I’m less clear on why.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump Institute | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The First Of Many”: Sen. Mark Kirk ‘Un-Endorses’ Donald Trump

The Associated Press‘ congressional correspondent Erica Werner tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Senator Mark Kirk, in the middle of a fierce re-election fight in Illinois against congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.

First un-endorsement — Sen. Mark Kirk. “I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President.”

— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) June 7, 2016

On his own Twitter page, Kirk confirmed that he would not be supporting Trump, who as the GOP’s presidential nominee is the leader of the Republican Party:

Given my military experience, Donald Trump does not have the temperament to command our military or our nuclear arsenal.

— Mark Kirk (@MarkKirk) June 7, 2016

Yesterday, Duckworth blasted Kirk for his refusal to distance himself from Trump after the presumptive nominee’s racist attacks against federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over two class action lawsuits by former students at Trump University.

“Trump’s statements are outrageous. They are un-American and they are dangerous. They betray the weaknesses of a man who is fundamentally unsuited for the office of the presidency,” Duckworth told about 200 people, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A month ago, Kirk said that Trump’s candidacy would be “a net benefit” for his Senate re-election, referencing the large numbers of Republican primary voters he was bringing out to polls. He said at that time that he would endorse the Republican nominee for president, but that he was confident voters would be able to separate his candidacy from Trump’s

“These days I’m probably the best-positioned Republican to weather the institution of Trumpism because I have been voting pro-gay rights and against the gun lobby and solidly pro-choice,” Kirk said in the CNN interview at the time.

Read Kirk’s full statement to the press on his un-endorsement below:

“I have spent my life building bridges and tearing down barriers–not building walls. That’s why I find Donald Trump’s belief that an American-born judge of Mexican descent is incapable of fairly presiding over his case is not only dead wrong, it is un-American.

“As the Presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled. While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.

“It is absolutely essential that we are guided by a commander-in-chief with a responsible and proper temperament, discretion and judgment. Our President must be fit to command the most powerful military the world has ever seen, including an arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons. After much consideration, I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world.”

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 7, 2016

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Voters, Mark Kirk, Tammy Duckworth | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Presidential Candidate Who Is Mentally Unhinged”: What’s Going On In The Republican Party Right Now Is Shocking

Would it surprise you to hear that Donald Trump said something shocking yesterday? Probably not. But here’s the latest. On a conference call with supporters, someone asked the presumptive Republican nominee about a memo issued by his campaign staff asking surrogates to stop talking about the Trump University lawsuit. Here was his response:

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said…

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”…

A clearly irritated Trump told his supporters to attack journalists who ask questions about the lawsuit and his comments about the judge.

“The people asking the questions—those are the racists,” Trump said. “I would go at ’em.”

It couldn’t be any clearer that Republicans are about to nominate a presidential candidate who is mentally unhinged. He blasts his own campaign staff (meager as it is) as stupid and suggests that reporters who questions his racist statements are – by definition – racist.

Anyone who has been paying attention has known this about Donald Trump for a long time. And so the more interesting question is about how Republican leaders are reacting. We saw last week how Paul Ryan donned the cloak of denial by claiming that Trump’s racism came out of left field. The ever-crass Mitch McConnell summed it up with: “I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House.” Perhaps the most unhinged response to an unhinged candidate came from Mike Huckabee. In reference to the Republican establishment’s concerns about Trump, he said this:

“And they’re getting what they justly deserve, they’re getting spanked,” he continued. “And they need to be happy they’re only getting spanked and not executed, because there is seething rage out in the country for those who have fought to help some of these guys get elected, and they get there and they surrender to Obama and people are sick of it. And I think that’s why we’ve seen the spirit of this election, and frankly Donald Trump gives me great comfort. I tell people, ‘I don’t have any hesitation going out there and genuinely supporting Donald Trump.’”

In a time when Republicans weren’t so busy defending a candidate like Trump, suggesting that their party’s leadership should be grateful for getting spanked rather than executed would qualify as a completely outrageous statement. But such are the days of Republicans in the era of Donald Trump.

Beyond that, we are actually witnessing things like Senate Republicans having to reassure our global allies that – if elected – Trump wouldn’t actually do what he’s said he would do, and other leaders attempting to assure voters in this country that constitutional limits (including the possibility of impeachment) would halt his authoritarian tendencies.

I say all of this because it is important that we retain our shock at these events. It is bad enough that in about a month the Republicans are set to formally nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. But it is even more dangerous if we begin to normalize this as political discourse. Explaining away racism as acceptable in an attempt to win, talk of executing politicians, and authoritarian tendencies are simply unacceptable in a democratic republic. So let’s be honest…that is exactly what is happening in the Republican Party right now.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 7, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalists, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NeverTrump’s White Knight Refuses The Call”: This Movement Has Suffered Its Last Gasp

Last week Bill Kristol tweeted that he had found a candidate to rescue the Republican establishment from Donald Trump. After a childish Twitter feud between Kristol and Trump, reports surfaced that Kristol’s knight in shining armor was none other than high-powered and well-connected but relatively unknown GOP lawyer David French.

After a some widespread and quiet derision, Mr. French has decided not to run after all–but before launching several jabs at Donald Trump:

Donald Trump also lies habitually (sometimes minute by minute), and changes position based on his moods. In one breath he claims to support working men and women, and then with the next breath he threatens to destroy our economy through trade wars or by playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States. He believes an American judge — a man born in Indiana who spent months hiding from drug cartels after they’d put a “hit” on him – can’t rule on a case involving Trump University because the judge’s parents emigrated from Mexico. His supporters believe it demonstrates “strength” when he mocks the disabled and bullies women. He has attracted an online racist following that viciously attacks his opponents and their families — including my wife and youngest daughter.

Given this reality, it would be tempting to say that when it comes to confronting this national moment, “somebody” stepping up is better than nobody. But somebody is not always better than nobody.

French and Kristol want to leave the door open for yet another independent candidate to run, but it’s difficult to see who would step up to heed the call at this date. Trump is consolidating GOP establishment support, and any independent conservative candidate would lose badly–only further demonstrating to the corporate Romney-Kristol-Rubio wing of the party how few loyal voters they actually have. Meanwhile, Trump’s rabid following would blame such a candidate for his general election defeat, putting themselves and their families in danger of their personal safety. I just don’t see it happening.

Try as it might to survive and stay relevant, it appears the Never Trump movement has suffered its last gasp.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 5, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Bill Kristol, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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