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President Trump’s Unprecedented Conflicts of Interest

trump-hotel-dc

During the 2016 campaign, there was rightly a lot of attention given to the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in the Clinton Foundation. We had the unprecedented situation of a former President of the United States raising massive amounts of money from major business interests and foreign governments while his wife was alternately a United States Senator, presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Secretary of State, and presumptive next President. While there was never any proof of quid pro quo, the appearance of impropriety was unacceptable. Ultimately, Bill Clinton pledged that he would step down from the Foundation and that it would stop taking foreign money if Hillary Clinton were elected. Given that this compromise simply incentivized those wishing to curry favor to hurry up and donate large amounts, some of us thought it was insufficient.

As in 2008, the presumptions about Hillary Clinton’s political future proved incorrect. Donald Trump surprised us all and won the election. And we’re now left with a set of conflicts of interests much larger and less indirect than posed by the Clinton Foundation. Trump, of course, is a business magnate and the company that bears his name—and thus Trump himself—is set to benefit bigly from his new station. Indeed, it’s happening already.

The New York Times reports on just one major instance:

President-elect Donald J. Trump met in the last week in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex south of Mumbai, raising new questions about how he will separate his business dealings from the work of the government once he is in the White House.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump described the meeting as a courtesy call by the three Indian real estate executives, who flew from India to congratulate Mr. Trump on his election victory. In a picture posted on Twitter, all four men are smiling and giving a thumbs-up.

“It was not a formal meeting of any kind,” Breanna Butler, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said when asked about the meeting on Saturday.

One of the businessmen, Sagar Chordia, posted photographs on Facebook on Wednesday showing that he also met with Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump. Mr. Trump’s children are helping to run his businesses as they play a part in the presidential transition.

Ms. Butler and Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, declined to comment when asked on Saturday if the meeting with the Trump family members included any discussion of Trump businesses in India or expanding that business.

The three Indian executives — Sagar Chordia, Atul Chordia, and Kalpesh Mehta — have been quoted in Indian newspapers, including The Economic Times, as saying they have discussed expanding their partnership with the Trump Organization now that Mr. Trump is president-elect.

Sagar Chordia did not respond to a request for a telephone interview. But in a series of text messages with The New York Times early Sunday, he confirmed that the meeting with Mr. Trump and members of his family had taken place, and that an article written about it in the Indian newspaper, which reported that one of his partners said they had discussed the desire to expand the deals with the Trump family, was accurate.

Washington ethics lawyers said that a meeting with Indian real estate partners, regardless of what was discussed, raised conflict of interest questions for Mr. Trump, who could be perceived as using the presidency to advance his business interests.

“There may be people for whom this looks O.K.,” said Robert L. Walker, the former chief counsel of the Senate Ethics Committee, who advises corporations and members of Congress on government ethics issues. “But for a large part of the American public, it is not going to be O.K. His role as president-elect should dictate that someone else handles business matters.”

WaPo notes a pettier but still obvious case:

About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.

The event for the diplomatic community, held one week after the election, was in the Lincoln Library, a junior ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and velvet drapes that is also available for rent.

Some attendees won raffle prizes — among them overnight stays at other Trump properties around the world — allowing them to become better acquainted with the business holdings of the new commander in chief.

“The place was packed,” said Lynn Van Fleit, founder of the nonprofit Diplomacy Matters Institute, which organizes programs for foreign diplomats and government officials. She said much of the discussion among Washington-based diplomats is over “how are we going to build ties with the new administration.”

Back when many expected Trump to lose the election, speculation was rife that business would suffer at the hotels, condos and golf courses that bear his name. Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president.

Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.

To many of the guests at the reception Tuesday, accepting an invitation to tour the $212 million hotel and check out the $20,000-a-night, 6,300-square-foot “town house” suite seemed like a good idea. They spoke admiringly about the renovation and left with a goody bag of chocolates and a brochure. It listed the choices of accommodations and meeting rooms and expounded on the location’s “striking prominence” at historical moments such as the Inauguration Day parade.

“Believe me, all the delegations will go there,” said one Middle Eastern diplomat who recently toured the hotel and booked an overseas visitor. The diplomat said many stayed away from the hotel before the election for fear of a “Clinton backlash,” but that now it’s the place to be seen.

In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.

Oh, it gets better. That hotel near the White House? Trump is leasing the space from an agency he is about to head.

In 2013, the General Services Administration leased Washington’s historic Post Office Pavilion to the Trump Organization for $180 million. Before his inauguration on Jan. 20, the GSA must terminate the Organization’s lease. The 60-year deal presents unprecedented and intolerable conflicts of interest. Swift action by GSA is necessary to protect the integrity of the federal government contracting process.

The federal procurement system has a 200-year record of transparency and integrity. As part of the protection of the contracting process from corruption, federal contracting regulations mandate that“government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach … to avoid … even the appearance of a conflict of interest in Government-contractor relationships.”

The regulations are often quite specific. One example is the government’s longstanding prohibition on entering into contracts with federal employees. The prohibition extends to any “business concern or other organization owned or substantially owned or controlled by one or more Government employees.” The policy is designed to avoid any conflict of interest “that might arise between the employees’ interests and their Government duties, and to avoid the appearance of favoritism or preferential treatment.”

The Trump Organization’s lease with GSA includes similar language, stating that ”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.”

Oddly, it’s quite possible that none of this is technically illegal. Most of our conflict of interest laws specifically exclude the president.

Because of the constant stream of scandals and outrageous statements during the campaign, we somehow glossed over this issue. It was inconceivable that someone merely running for president would sell off his namesake company. But few, certainly not me, asked what he would do with it were he to win. Perhaps it’s because we never thought it was possible that he would.

Regardless, the only conceivable solution here is complete divestiture. The idea that having his children run the company as a “blind trust” is simply laughable. By definition, if you know what assets you own, it’s not blind. And the notion that Trump wouldn’t talk about business and/or public policy with his children is similarly absurd.

We can’t have a sitting president getting rich off of his office while he’s still in it. Nor can we have even the speculation that the President of the United States is strong-arming foreign leaders or otherwise shaping public policy to benefit his private company. That’s the stuff of banana republics.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. mike shupp says:

    Get used to it, James. Sorry, but think of it as the new normal.

    Better yet, reread your Livy and Tacitus and Plutarch, and contemplate the transformation of the Roman Republic into an empire. That’s the example our Founding Fathers kept before them as they crafted our government; it’s what we should focus on as our government and worldly influence sinks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  2. Mikey says:

    Oddly, it’s quite possible that none of this is technically illegal. Most of our conflict of interest laws specifically exclude the president.

    It’s possible some of it is flatly unconstitutional, a violation of the Emoluments Clause.

    I doubt Trump could explain what that is if his life depended on it, of course (“is that in Article 12 somewhere?”) but if he’s not careful it could end up getting him impeached.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. Jen says:

    we somehow glossed over this issue.

    Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek had a number of long, in-depth pieces that detailed the problems this could cause to surface. People chose to ignore it.

    We can’t have a sitting president getting rich off of his office while he’s still in it.

    I think that horse has left the barn.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

  4. Mikey says:

    Something we’ve been distracted from by the kerfuffle over Pence at a play: Trump agreeing to settle the Trump U fraud case for a hefty $25 million.

    If you ask Kellyanne Conway, a settlement like that is a de facto admission of guilt…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: Linked above but not specifically called out in my analysis: The Emoluments Clause almost certainly doesn’t apply to the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, or Federal judges.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    Something we’ve been distracted from by the kerfuffle over Pence at a play: Trump agreeing to settle the Trump U fraud case for a hefty $25 million.

    The Democrats should hold a hearing or twelve about that. Hell, make it 20 series of hearings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  7. CSK says:

    Maybe he’ll put the presidency in a blind trust and go about his business.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. Mikey says:

    @Jen: Eichenwald’s done incredible work.

    Last night he had a series of tweets explaining that Trump’s big financial interests in India are already destabilizing the tenuous balance between that nation and Pakistan, both of which have nukes.

    This is, simply put, a dangerous thing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  9. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: See what I get for not following the links? LOL…thanks.

    Do you think it might still raise the appearance of impropriety? Not that that’s probably impeachable, but still, as I commented above Trump’s financial interests in India are already destabilizing that region:

    https://twitter.com/kurteichenwald/status/800132565533278208

    That didnt take long. Pakistan now saying India’s “no 1st use” nuke policy ‘ambiguous’ as Trump flaunts $ ties to politically-tied Indians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Pch101: The minority party can’t hold hearings. The majority party isn’t going to hold hearings. Nor, frankly, am I sure what the hearings would be about. Trump, acting as a private citizen, has settled a lawsuit with no admission of wrongdoing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: The appearance of impropriety is simply unavoidable at this point. Do I think the Republican majority will do anything about it at this juncture? No. Might they use it as leverage against him? I hope so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  12. Pch101 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sure they can. The Democrats can find a hall for a series of events, invite the media and yammer on about whatever they want.

    The whole point is to put on a show. (Surely we’ve become accustomed to that.) Guerrilla tactics are in order here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  13. C. Clavin says:

    It’s even simpler than all of the above.
    Trump is bilking us, the taxpayers, for millions.
    And there is not a damn thing we can do about it.
    Republicans have brought dark days upon the Republic.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-15/how-trump-can-make-money-off-the-secret-service

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  14. Jen says:

    Republicans will keep Trump around as long as he toes the line on rubber-stamping their agenda. If he falls out of line, they’ll impeach him on any one (or all) of his myriad conflict of interest issues post-haste and work with Pence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    It crossed my mind that Trump started the Hamilton/Pence Tweetstorm to distract from the fact that he’s going to have to cough up $25 million, and that of course it’s an admission of guilt.

    Then again, he’ll start a Tweetstorm about anything. There’s a report in The Hill today that Trump is “very concerned” he might not be able to use his smartphone in the White House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  16. @James:

    We can’t have a sitting president getting rich off of his office while he’s still in it. Nor can we have even the speculation that the President of the United States is strong-arming foreign leaders or otherwise shaping public policy to benefit his private company. That’s the stuff of banana republics.

    The problem is we will have a sitting president getting rich off of his office while he’s still in it.. And I think we have to assume that the President of the United States is strong-arming foreign leaders or otherwise shaping public policy to benefit his private company.

    Of the various reasons that I think there is some cause for concern, even upset, beyond the normal “my side lost” kind of thing regarding Trump’s win is that Trump represents a truly significant deviation from the standards we expect from a president. This is going to be a seriously problematic four years in a variety of ways.

    At a minimum we now have our own version of Silvio Berlusconi in office.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 1

  17. Jen says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: All of that and more, since we really don’t know the depths of the conflicts of interest because he was allowed to get away with never releasing his tax returns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    Exactly. You’re not after a legal determination. You’re after the stink, so you keep lobbing poo knowing that at least some of it will stick. This guy shows up already smelly to begin with, so it’s easier to add to the smell.

    Republicans will, of course, miss the blatant hypocrisy inherent in their complaining about it. Apparently they expect us all to hold hands and sing kumbahyah. :roll:

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  19. James Pearce says:

    Well, they wanted a businessman in the White House…

    The question is will they still want that after Trump?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  20. I live in Brazil, and Trump is too much even for Brazilian Standards(And that says a lot). A Lot of what he is doing would be illegal under Brazilian Law(Like hiring his relatives). The United States should be better than Brazil or countries in Central America.

    Banana Republics are better than THIS.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  21. CSK says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    It is actually illegal for him to hire his relatives.

    But that’s not to say they won’t remain his closest advisors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Slugger says:

    @mike shupp: Livy and Plutarch? We’ll be reaching for Petronius soon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @CSK:

    It is actually illegal for him to hire his relatives.

    Sure it is.
    But who’s going to stop him?
    Nobody. Do you really think a Republican Congress is going to care one bit? When they are busy dismantling the social safety net and shoveling tax breaks to the rich and eliminating regulations?
    Into the darkness we go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  24. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    There’s a report in The Hill today that Trump is “very concerned” he might not be able to use his smartphone in the White House.

    He’ll push for it and they’ll let him and he’ll talk classified on it and the Republicans won’t care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  25. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    The Democrats can find a hall for a series of events, invite the media and yammer on about whatever they want.

    For this to happen, we’ll need new Democrats. As a party, the Dems are lazy, complacent, and ineffectual.

    They had plenty of opportunities this year to make some last progress, but they had other priorities. I mean, Scalia died back in February and his replacement was nominated in March, but it seems like Democrats just gave up on filling that seat until Hillary won.

    That bluff was certainly called, eh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  26. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Well, we know Trump won’t dismantle Obamacare till Jared and Josh Kushner get their $47.5 million bailout.

    @Mikey:

    On the other hand, they might use it to impeach him, which may be the plan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Then again, he’ll start a Tweetstorm about anything.

    Which is just an added bonus for us.

    I know this guy. He’s going to have a great deal of difficulty adapting – I should say that he will be completely unable to adapt – to an environment where the expectation is that every word that he utters, every statement that he makes will have been vetted beforehand. I’m not sure that there is a position in the world which is legitimately more constrained by layer upon layer of controls than the presidency. That’s anathema to a self-promoter like Trump.

    Trump, by virtue of his very nature, is going to chafe at that and act out. We’ll have impromptu remarks, and hot mics, and Twitterstorms (assuming they don’t just take it away from him entirely) – all of which serve up a banquet of opportunities to attack him to our advantage.

    Bait which he will take every. single. time. The guy is the definition of reactionary. Tweak his nose and he’ll respond out of emotion. He can’t stop himself. Our job is to keep the pressure on, non-stop and unrelenting, in order to force errors.

    They’ve selected a quarterback who folds under pressure. How do you handle that?

    You blitz all f’king night …

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 1

  28. Modulo Myself says:

    Of all the things to focus on this is one of the worst. Trump voters aren’t going to care, and the voters/non-voters who can be persuaded to put serious pressure on the fascists and neo-confederates now in charge of this country will (I’m guessing) not make much of a distinction between enriching oneself as President and enriching oneself after you were President.

    America is a very corrupt country. It was built on real estate scams, lawsuits, genocide, and slavery. Also lying. In this case, the establishment lies and makes a government of a bunch of dudes from Harvard and Yale switching from Goldman Sachs to the Treasury Department a thing of pure disinterest.Trump’s worse, much worse, but so what? Is the principle different? I’m not so sure.

    This lie is one of the things the few reachable Trump voters and some Democrats are pissed off about, because they are sure that Washington and New York are lining their pockets at their expense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  29. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Yep. And the thing is, this is what his devotees love about him–the fact that he reacts with an outburst of psychotic fury to every slight, real or imagined. It proves (to them, anyway) that he’s tough, you know, and doesn’t take any sh!t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Modulo Myself says:

    @CSK:

    I actually think it’s more aspirational. Everything about him is aspirational. He’s the guy whose ass you kiss and you sort of want to be.

    When the real nonsense begins and we have to ‘deal’ with ‘disrespect’ by wondering if there are ways to stop it (just a healthy debate, mind you), the people leading the charge are all going to be under the aspirational spell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. SenyorDave says:

    @CSK: It has taken me a long time to understand this. His fans don’t care about competence, knowledge or even morals. They care about poking liberals.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  32. James Pearce says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    They’ve selected a quarterback who folds under pressure. How do you handle that?

    You blitz all f’king night …

    Great metaphor, but we’re not blitzing. We’re playing prevent and the offense just got a fresh set of downs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Pearce:

    We’re playing prevent and the offense just got a fresh set of downs.

    Which is why we lose – we’re still possessed of the notion that it’s more important to be fair than it is to win at any cost.

    If you don’t get elected, you can’t govern, so we had better wise up – fast – and go on the offensive.

    Sherman style …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  34. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Pearce:

    Yes. I would much rather save Medicare, keep America and Israel from attacking Iran, push back on the Justice Department going nuts with voting rights and basic liberties, etc. than keep his dumb awful kids from running a ‘blind trust’ which pours money and White House silver into his pockets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. CSK says:

    @SenyorDave: ”

    “Burn it all down” is their battle cry. But in this case, it’s like the Jacobins picking Louis XVI to lead them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  36. SenyorDave says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Which is why we lose – we’re still possessed of the notion that it’s more important to be fair than it is to win at any cost.

    I started wondering near the very end of this campaign if Clinton should just make sh!t up and see how that plays. But I am convinced that the media will always fact check Dems to a degree and never fact check the GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  37. Modulo Myself says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    But there’s nothing true about Donald Trump that isn’t also an unfair and damning statement about him. And the public knows all of it. For whatever reason, it was not enough.

    Offense is needed. But just citing how terrible he is not working.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  38. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    But just citing how terrible he is not working.

    Understood. The point wasn’t to point at him and say “eww”. It was that we need to force the man into making errors – the bigger the better. They can ignore us holding our noses. They can’t ignore failure, or better yet, disaster.

    Think of the fun involved when Trump and House Republicans find themselves at war with each other (and that is not a matter of if, but when …), and we’re standing on the sidelines calling him a coward who’s afraid to stand up to Congress. You beat this man by getting him to beat himself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  39. CSK says:

    Okay, I’m officially giving myself the Prescience Prize.

    Trump has now embarked on a Twitter war with Saturday Night Live. He’s demanding equal time because he claims they made fun of him last night, and candidates deserve equal time.

    Apparently no one has informed him he won.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  40. Pch101 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Apparently they expect us all to hold hands and sing kumbahyah.

    Well, the Republicans have a point. The Democrats behave like wimps.

    That is one reason why I am not a Democrat. I can’t respect that tolerance for failure or the unwillingness to fight fire with fire. A lot of Democrats would rather wring their hands than clench their fists, so it’s no surprise that the bullies bully them.

    Even after all this, a lot of them still don’t get it. What’s it going to take?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. SenyorDave says:

    @Modulo Myself: That’s what I don’t get. Trump being a proven con man (Trump U), sexual predator (he admitted it), thief (he stole from his own charity) is something a lot of people just don’t care that much about). Without Comey’s last minute statement, I think she wins, not because of her but because enough people saw him as completely unqualified. But ultimately, he was seen as more honest! Donald Trump is more honest than Bernie Madoff; I’m having trouble coming up with another name other than Madoff.

    I wonder if this has changed a lot of things about American elections in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  42. CSK says:

    @SenyorDave:

    It’s not that most Trumpkins don’t care that Trump is a liar, crook, predator, and con man, it’s that they don’t believe (or claim not to believe) that any of these things are true. No, the accusations about predation, etc., are all lies made up by the lamestream media, which is in the pay of the DNC and the Clintons.

    The average Trumpkin is, however, perfectly happy with the fact that Trump is a buffoon/oaf/ignoramus, because that make’s him a real American and “just like them.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. Pch101 says:

    @SenyorDave:

    The Democrats are too subtle. A lot of voters have difficulty with ambiguity — they need clear, blunt, concise statements.

    So don’t just say that Trump is “unqualified” or “dangerous”. Denounce him a scumbug, a piece of filth, human garbage, the lowest of the low, or whatever.

    Don’t try to get voters to fear the bad candidate, which inspires a flight response (i.e. apathy, despair, and the failure to vote.). Try instead to get voters to DESPISE that candidate, which means that they are looking for blood and want to attack (i.e. vote and get their friends to vote their way.)

    The GOP have figured out this bit of niche marketing pretty well. They don’t oppose Democrats, they get their base to HATE them.

    This pitch doesn’t have to persuade everyone, but just enough people to tip enough states to win. Democrats need turnout in order to win, and the problem in 2016 was that there wasn’t quite enough of it.

    And yes, I am sad that it has come to this, but the time to stop it is when one is in power and can make those changes stick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    That is one reason why I am not a Democrat. I can’t respect that tolerance for failure or the unwillingness to fight fire with fire. A lot of Democrats would rather wring their hands than clench their fists, so it’s no surprise that the bullies bully them.

    Bingo …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Modulo Myself says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I have a friend whose mother is a beautician and whose father is a blue-collar laborer. But she went to Princeton, is gay, and is very liberal. Also, she’s a practicing Catholic.

    In the world of Trump’s America, she’s more elite than someone who went to University of Georgia on their parent’s dime, pledged the same frat that his father did, partied for five years, and emerged with a degree in business and a job through a friend of his father’s. These are the people Hillary Clinton thought would not see through some of the BS. But they didn’t because they need it to survive.

    The bottom line is that for a majority of white America, not A and A are the exact same things. Are you doing better than someone else? You deserve it. Could they be considered to be doing better than you? There’s a conspiracy going on, foks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. JKB says:

    This looks like something that would have been a real matter for an independent press to delve into in the months and months before the election. Oh, but that’s right, the in-the-bad-for-Hillary press couldn’t bring this up without highlighting Hillary’s actual selling of her office. Darn.

    And the DC post office post is amusingly overwrought. The lease has been signed sealed and delivered long ago, and at a time when Trump was in a contentious dispute with the current holder of the White House. And given the investment in the refurbishment of the building, I really doubt much of the lease is up for renegotiation in the next 5-10 years. If the lease payments go up they are probably tied to inflation/interest rates, which I guess Trump as President might be able to influence since those are things Democrats have worked hard since the New Deal to put under administration “control”. This wasn’t some office space lease with the government as landlord, it was a property lease with total operational control transferred with only real property ownership remaining with the government and external structural and facade restrictions.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 15

  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JKB:

    The terms of the lease itself prevent any elected official from benefiting from it. By getting himself elected, Trump has voided the lease. At a minimum, his choices are disconnect himself from his company or sell the lease.

    Beyond that, his firm is currently pursuing a federal tax credit related to the possessory interest problem he’s facing with DC. The conflict of interest problems here are massive.

    What did I tell you about trying to play lawyer?

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  48. Gustopher says:

    Given that Trump managed to run casinos into bankruptcy, I’m not willing to concede that he will be successful at using the office of the Presidency to line his pockets.

    He will try, of course. And he has massive conflicts of interest, of course. And he is completely unaware of what a blind trust is, of course.

    But actually successfully converting that to money?

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  49. Argon says:

    Hmm… Orders of magnitude of lesser crap and allegations led Republicans to hold years of Congressional hearings, waste millions of dollars and call for the impeachment of a potential Democrat President before the election. And yet Trump’s real conflicts of interest, loss of cases for defrauding people and evidence of mixing political with personal monetary interest don’t seem to be producing any plans to investigate further.

    Got it. Let’s Make America Great Again, circa 1880-1920. GOP: “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

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  50. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Your comment about the UGA frat boy who gets a job through his father’s friend interested me, because in his world, he’s the elite of the elite. He may not be a big deal on the world stage, or even a small deal, but in Georgia, he’s a very big deal. And in his eyes and the eyes of those in his circle, the Georgia world is the only world that counts.

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  51. James Pearce says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    we’re still possessed of the notion that it’s more important to be fair than it is to win at any cost.

    When they go low, we go high. (And completely miss the tackle.)

    If we go the Shermanesque route, will there be the will to not only burn Atlanta to the ground but also to make sure that the Atlantans, even the virtuous ones, flee in abject terror? I dunno. Lefties seem like they’d rather be seen being virtuous and ineffectual than the other way around.

    @Pch101:

    So don’t just say that Trump is “unqualified” or “dangerous”. Denounce him a scumbug, a piece of filth, human garbage, the lowest of the low, or whatever.

    Isn’t that what the Clinton campaign just attempted with disastrous results? If an approach doesn’t work, then we should try something else.

    Not one of his supporters will be convinced by calling Trump a scumbag. “Oh yeah?” they’ll say, “Well, at least he’s our scumbag.” The right is not that concerned about appearing righteous whereas the appearance of righteousness seems to be the primary preoccupation of the left. “Can’t you see,” they say as the Romans pound the nails into their hands and feet, “that I’m the most righteous man who ever lived?”

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  52. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Not one of his supporters will be convinced by calling Trump a scumbag

    Who cares what the GOP base thinks? Where did I even imply that the goal was to convert them?

    No, the point is to agitate Democrats and the left. Instead of cowering in the corner, the Democratic base needs to taste blood and want to brawl.

    “Deplorables” is the sort of stuff that people say in women studies classes, not in boxing rings. That is not an effective insult because it doesn’t stoke passions. Looking down at stupid people is fun, but it doesn’t bolster turnout.

    And in any case, that energy should be devoted to attacking the candidates, not the opposing voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  53. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “Given that Trump managed to run casinos into bankruptcy, I’m not willing to concede that he will be successful at using the office of the Presidency to line his pockets.”

    The casinos went bankrupt. The investors lost their shirts. Trump walked away with millions.

    Oh, yeah, he’ll do just fine for himself.

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  54. CSK says:

    @wr:

    Quite true. The money Trump has made he’s made by shafting others. And he appears to enjoy particularly screwing small contractors–“the little people” he’s allegedly championing. Really, it’s enough to turn a jackal’s stomach.

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  55. dxq says:

    Bill Clinton uses his star power to raise lots of money for charity and “the appearance of impropriety was unacceptable.”

    I can understand that. Especially if you’ve been trained for decades to hate the Clintons.

    But when Trump’s using the presidency to make billion-dollar deals for himself while having lots of hidden transactions with unknown russians, while the GOP congress refuses to investigate out of fear of either what it will find or possibly deadly retribution, it’s going to seem real goddam quaint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  56. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    No, the point is to agitate Democrats and the left.

    My point is they’re already agitated, so we need to go to the next step.

    No, the point is to agitate Democrats and the left. Instead of cowering in the corner, the Democratic base needs to taste blood and want to brawl.

    I hear ya, and I agree.

    But then I see these bloodless, conciliatory half-measures — take the Hamilton controversy for a recent example– that are, well, rather lame. And yet look at all the lefties patting themselves on the back for being so brave and respectful. “We called him ‘sir!'” they say. We “led with love,” they say.

    Yeah, well I’m not impressed. Mike Pence walked out of the theater and someone in his camp asked him, “So what did they say to you?”

    Pence’s response probably went something like this: “I don’t know, but they were real nice about it.”

    It’s funny: The left prefers “peaceful” protest because it’s the most righteous, and lefties would rather be righteous victims than complicated heroes. The right prefers “peaceful” protest because it’s easier to subvert. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the right is absolutely terrified of a left that stands up for itself.

    I bet we can get to vote for gun control if we replaced every protest sign with a rifle. But again, the left prefers victimhood..it’s all they know.

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  57. Terrye Cravens says:

    Any reasonable person would worry about the undue pressures and the inherent risk of favoritism that the government might show to such a well-connected contractor.

    I think that in today’s America reasonable people are in short supply.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  58. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Which is why we lose – we’re still possessed of the notion that it’s more important to be fair than it is to win at any cost.

    If you don’t get elected, you can’t govern, so we had better wise up – fast – and go on the offensive.

    I hear Robert Creamer has some time on his hands right now, and he has a very impressive resume for this kind of thing.

    The same for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazile. They’re not the most competent monkey-wrenchers, but they’ve got the enthusiasm and right ideological credentials…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  59. Matt says:

    @Gustopher: Well he did pocket a lot of money while running those casinos into the ground….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  60. wr says:

    @James Pearce: Man, you’re full of big talk.

    What are you actually doing besides being morally superior to both sides?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  61. wr says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable: You forgot to mention Saul Alinsky.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  62. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    You’re worried. You should be.

    Get to work, Sunshine. Those pizzas aren’t going to deliver themselves :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  63. Jen says:

    @JKB:

    This looks like something that would have been a real matter for an independent press to delve into in the months and months before the election.

    Like, back in September?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  64. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: Leverage against him? To accomplish what? In what way has he shown any inclinations to be anything other than an Uber Republican?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  65. @Gustopher:

    Given that Trump managed to run casinos into bankruptcy, I’m not willing to concede that he will be successful at using the office of the Presidency to line his pockets.

    The most incompetent business owners are the most willing to use government connections to make a profit. That’s another thing that resembles bananas republics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  66. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Considering that his main business is selling his name, I’m not sure that profiting is as big a hurdle as you imagine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  67. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    What are you actually doing besides being morally superior to both sides?

    Morally superior? Yeah, I don’t know about that…

    I’m advocating a results-oriented approach that is not very interested in maintaining a “morally superior” pose. Did you miss the references to Sherman earlier? Context, friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  68. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    We can’t have a sitting president getting rich off of his office while he’s still in it. Nor can we have even the speculation that the President of the United States is strong-arming foreign leaders or otherwise shaping public policy to benefit his private company. That’s the stuff of banana republics.

    That’s sort of what we’ve been trying to warn you about for quite some time. Trump is obsessed with where he sits on the Fortune 400 food chain. Do you really think that it has never crossed his mind that he might leverage the Presidency into the title of world’s richest man for himself?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  69. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Pence’s response probably went something like this: “I don’t know, but they were real nice about it.”

    It doesn’t matter what Pence thought. What matters is whether it inspired Democrats and liberals to keep resisting and to raise the stakes.

    Some of the resistance should be nasty, but not all of it needs to be.

    I would like to see more liberal commentators recycle Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails” monologue into anti-Trump diatribes as the inauguration approaches. And a Democrat in Congress needs to redirect Joe Wilson’s “you lie!” routine toward Trump once he is in office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  70. Gustopher says:

    I would rather have a President who is corrupt as can be but governs well, than a pure-as-driven-snow President that governs poorly.

    We seem to have found the worst combination of the two.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  71. dxq says:

    In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.

    “Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat.

    WAPO

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  72. dxq says:

    When Donald Trump said “Chinese people say ‘We Want Deal!!'” he really had his brain cookin’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  73. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    We seem to have found the worst combination of the two.

    Indeed. Warren G. Harding, come on down …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  74. C. Clavin says:

    Matthew Yglesias put this best:

    He’s paying fraud fines and collecting bribes — and distracting you with Hamilton tweets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  75. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Nor, frankly, am I sure what the hearings would be about.

    Haven’t Republicans solidly established precedent that hearings don’t have to be about anything?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  76. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    And the public knows all of it.

    No, they don’t. Two thirds of the public pay no attention at all. Of the remaining third, half are Trump supporters convinced that any reporting on corruption or craziness is made up or exaggerated by the MSM as part of their plot to get Trump.

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  77. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    It doesn’t matter what Pence thought. What matters is whether it inspired Democrats and liberals to keep resisting and to raise the stakes.

    I’d prioritize this in the complete reverse. It does matter what Pence thought: he’s the VP, a heart beat away from the presidency.

    To the contrary, it doesn’t matter whether Democrats and liberals are “inspired.” There’s work to be done, and you have to get up in the morning, trudge your ass to the job site and do it, whether you’re “inspired” or not.

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  78. dmichael says:

    @James Joyner: The link you provided contains a reference to another opinion from a law professor saying exactly the opposite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  79. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    If you think that Mike Pence is going to become a liberal gay activist because of a few protestors, then you are remarkably naive. At most, he will issue some polite statements (as he already has), and continue to be the same Mike Pence that we all know and loathe.

    If you have ever managed a group of people, then you should know that “It’s your job to be inspired, like it or not” is not an effective morale booster. They need to be stirred up and to have reasons to feel motivated.

    The idea is to create enough friction that it gets more difficult for Trump to get away with being Trump, for Pence to get away with being Pence and Republicans to get away with being Republicans. Their hearts and minds won’t be changed but it may be possible to slow them down and derail them.

    The GOP has figured this out when it comes to dealing with Democrats, so the blueprint is already laid out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  80. wr says:

    @James Pearce: Well, I assume you’re not talking about literally burning down Atlanta, which is majority Democratic, or just about, by now. You keep holliering for ACTION!!! but you don’t actually say what actions should be taken. If you’re going to keep shouting “All you guys are doing it wrong, you have to do it my way!!!” at some point you have to actually say what your way entails.

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  81. dmichael says:

    I realize that this issue may have been left behind, but the NY Times has an article on the constitutional issue that explains it in more detail: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/politics/donald-trump-conflict-of-interest.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  82. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    You keep holliering for ACTION!!! but you don’t actually say what actions should be taken.

    Well, one thing I would do is recognize that out of all the ways to get things done, protest is the slowest, least effective way to do it.

    I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the DPL protesters, but I’m also wondering why they chose MLK as their model instead of Cochise. I’ve seen a lot of stuff on Twitter about how the protesters are getting shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with high-pressure hoses, and I’m like…if the protesters had rifles, the authorities would be taking cover, not spraying them with freezing water. I mean, you don’t actually have to fire your weapon. Just carry it as a deterrent. Remember how the Bundys were hosed down with water cannons?

    Yeah, me neither.

    And if your issue is low-stakes enough that oppositional violence isn’t necessary or justified, then you can negotiate for a compromise or even cooperate for a better outcome. Give yourself a chance to win, instead of guaranteeing a loss.

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  83. Jeff Trochelman says:

    @SenyorDave:

    My God ! how did I wind up here. Sophomoric prattle from a group of cry babies. The man
    isn’t even in office and all you can do is complain. Give it a rest. Of course, I voted for Trump.
    Why ? He isn’t a politician and that is a damn good starting point.

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  84. Matt says:

    @Jeff Trochelman: Yeah that worked so well in the past….

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