All the President’s Men… and Women

“When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” – Richard Nixon

“The law’s totally on my side… the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”          – Donald Trump

(I couldn't fit them all in!)

(I couldn’t fit them all in!)

Well, I made it through the wilderness of Lent, and refrained from writing about President Trump until last Friday. However, in reviewing events of the last 7 weeks, I can’t think of another president in the past 40 years who has had more controversy swirling around him than Trump. Let’s take a look at his people.

Sean Spicer, press secretary –

From the moment Spicer stepped onto the podium for his first press briefing, it’s been one misstatement after another, beginning with this angry declaration:

“the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

The most recent Spicer gem came during Passover:

Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

While his apology appears sincere, Spicer is over his head beginning with his shameful lack of basic history.

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor –

After lying to Vice-President Mike Pence about phone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Flynn “resigned,” (W.H. speak for fired). However, it wasn’t long after, that U.S. intelligence confirmed that Flynn was discussing the sanctions placed on Russia by Obama before Trump took office.

A National Security Advisor and he’s ignorant that U.S. intelligence is, more-than-likely, listening to a phone conversation with a Russian?

Investigation regarding further Russian links is on-going.

Carter Page, former Campaign Advisor –

According to Vanity Fair “Page admitted that he was indeed in communication with Russian spies, who was revealed, in sealed FBI documents, to have been a top recruiting target. (Page insisted in a subsequent interview that he ‘didn’t want to be a spy.’) Days later, The Washington Post reported that the F.B.I. had obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Page.”

Investigation regarding further Russian links is on-going.

Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney General –

First Sessions tells Senate colleagues, in confirmation hearings, that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” Then The Washington Post reported that Sessions “spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador. …

“One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”

While Sessions doesn’t remember the details of the conversation, he has recused himself from DOJ’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Steve Bannon, president’s Chief Strategist (“on the bubble”?) –

An unapologetic, one-man, controversy machine and former head of Breitbart News.

“The Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, described Mr Bannon as ‘a man who presided over the premier website of the alt-right – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.’ ”

Bannon’s ideology can be summarized from a 2013 conversation with Daily Beast writer Ronald Radosh:

“I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Paul Manafort, former Trump Campaign Chair –

Manafort oversaw the campaign through the final Republican primaries and the beginning of the general election. He “resigned” when it was learned about his consultancy work for ousted Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych.

“The Associated Press, or AP, reported confirmation that Paul Manafort’s business received two payments listed in the ‘Black Ledger,’ a handwritten list of off-the-book disbursements made by a Russia-supporting political party in Ukraine,” while he was Trump’s campaign chair.

“Though Manafort denied the validity of the ledger, bank records obtained by the AP reportedly show designated payments totaling no less than $1.2 million align with deposits into an account belonging to his firm.”

Investigation regarding further Russian links is on-going.

Roger Stone, former Trump Advisor –

Admitted to communicating with Guccifer 2.0, a group of Russian hackers who claimed responsibility for leaking stolen documents from the Democratic National Committee.

Investigation regarding further Russian links is on-going.

Kellyanne Conway, current Counselor to the President –

Forget the clear ethics violation of promoting the Trump brand, (“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff…” Conway said in an interview on Fox & Friends), Conway has been summarily downgraded by most media for her “alternative facts” statement and numerous falsehoods on behalf of the president.

Ivanka Trump, current Assistant to the President –

In a CBS interview (Apr. 5), with Gayle King, Trump explained that in her role, “I’m holding myself to that highest ethical standard.”

Moments later, in the same interview, Trump described how she was handling her business.

“I have no involvement with any of that,” Trump said. “So I put it into a trust. I have independent trustees…”

King: But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?”

Trump: They are. … But they’re completely independent. And I’m transparent about that.

You may be transparent about it, but the trustees are not independent if they are related to you.

But that’s not the only conflict of interest. Britain’s Independent (Mar. 31), writes about Ms. Trump’s conflict regarding nepotism.

“ ‘She’s working for free,’ Trump spokesman Jason Miller explained. “She’s volunteering her time and effort for the good of the country. Everybody from the White House counsel to the (Department of Justice) has said that this doesn’t violate any sort of nepotism rules.’ ”

“[Former ethics advisor] Norman Eisen said both the Obama and George W Bush administrations included the White House in its interpretation of the 1967 federal nepotism law that says no public official, from the President stretching down to a low-level manager at a federal agency, may employ or promote someone who is related to them.

“However,” the Independent continues, “Mr. Trump appears to have found a loophole. The law states any appointee found to have violated the law is ‘not entitled to pay’ by the federal government, which appears to provide the opportunity for Mr. Trump to employ his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Kushner, who is also an unpaid government employee, to relinquish paychecks while still having a role in the Trump administration.

“Mr. Eisen said: ‘For decades the Justice Department held “yes” the nepotism statue applies to the White House. President Trump got an opinion from the Justice Department that the nepotism statute doesn’t apply to his White House. We don’t agree with that opinion.’ ”

The purpose of the anti-nepotism law – passed after the Kennedy administration – is to prevent undue influence by family members. The fact that Ivanka Trump is able to skate by because she is “volunteering” is just plain ridiculous and contrary to her own statement about “holding myself to that highest ethical standard.”

And this is just the short list. Additional Trump administration officials face more conflicts.

As The New York Times notes (Apr. 15), “Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the nominee to lead the F.D.A., received more than $350,000 in payments in 2014 and 2015 from nearly a dozen different pharmaceutical companies. …

Chad Wolf is the chief of staff for the T.S.A. He spent years lobbying to secure funding for the T.S.A. to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a screening device his agency is now testing. …

Michael Catanzaro serves as the top White House energy adviser. Until late last year, he was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility. …

Shahira Knight,” The Times continues, who sits on the White House National Economic Council, “is a special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy. Her previous job also involved retirement policy — but as a lobbyist for Fidelity, one of the nation’s largest fund managers and providers of retirement products.”

While President Trump said he wants to “drain the swamp” and bar politicians from becoming lobbyists for five years, none of his intent to curb deep influence seems to apply to the people he’s hiring for his own administration.

With an avalanche of clear conflicts, alt-right influences, family influences, not to mention the president’s own lack of transparency from back taxes to White House visitor logs, the Trump administration is making Nixon, et al, look like choir boys.

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1 comment… add one

  • Dr. David Inman April 18, 2017, 11:11 am

    Your comment about our president and more controversy surrounding him is interesting.

    President Trump is an outsider and the establishment does not like him. For instance the picture of him — signing a boys hat and claiming he threw the hat even though he did give it to the boy — very misleading and most media outlets have not apologized. The media loved Obama and hardly ever questioned him or his staff.

    Of course these people aren’t perfect but every president has had questionable staff members. Judge Gorsuch was a great addition to supreme court. The stock market is great, H. R. McMaster, “Mad Dog” Mattis and others are positives.

    Do I agree with everything and everyone involved with our president? No but I’m not giving up on him after only 88 days. Thanks Jim for your blog.

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