We haven’t written in awhile because of holidays, work travel, etc. The events of the last four weeks have created a target-rich environment, though, complete with new appointments to high office by President-elect Donald J. Trump, Trump’s childish refusal to acknowledge that his bestie Vladimir Putin helped him win the election, and his casually terrifying idea of dismantling U.S. intelligence services that gather information vital to protecting American national security.
Anyone who reads the news with any level of critical thinking knows that Trump is a liar. He lies about everything. All of his lies tend to make Trump look better and his enemies look worse. One of his lies that started in the last month of the general election campaign is that the new Trump administration will “drain the swamp” of corruption and cronyism in Washington. The line “drain the swamp” became a daily staple of Trump rally speeches and he created a Twitter hashtag (#DrainTheSwamp) to show how serious he is. All of Trump’s serious statements come via Twitter. Trump is incapable of articulating any idea that takes more than 140 characters to type.
Before we talk about how Trump’s Team Dumpster Fire is likely the most corruptible group of billionaires and millionaires in the history of American politics, we note first that “drain the swamp” is an inappropriate metaphor for getting rid of corruption in government. A swamp is a natural habitat, often threatened by real estate and oil companies that want to either drain them or drill for oil under them. Alligators and crocodiles are not crooked, nor do they scheme to use their offices to line their pockets with cash. They are ancient species at the top of the food chain in a rich and varied natural environment.
Draining the swamp does not sound like getting rid of political fatcats. It sounds more like the first step in developing a subdivision in south Florida.
So what does Trump mean when he says “drain the swamp”? Here’s what his press release of October 18, 2016 says:
There is another major announcement I am going to make today as part of our pledge to drain the swamp in Washington. If I am elected President, I will push for a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.
Decades of failure in Washington, and decades of special interest dealing, must come to an end. We have to break the cycle of corruption, and we have to give new voices a chance to go into government service. The time for Congressional term limits has arrived.
If we let the Clinton Cartel run this government, history will record that 2017 was the year America lost its independence.
We will not let that happen.
It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.
That is why I am proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.
The press release then describes Trump’s “reforms,” which include placing strict limits on the ability of former legislators and executive branch officers to engage in lobbying, all of which sound pretty reasonable.
But when you look at what politicians are all about, you should always look first at what they do rather than what they say.
What has Trump done so far?
Trump enters office with a global business enterprise that includes hundreds of legal entities he owns or controls. His real estate holdings are in countries around the world, countries with which as president Trump will have many dealings representing the interests of the United States. Many worry that Trump is more likely to deal with those countries in a way that benefits his businesses instead of America.
Trump has not divested himself of all of these holdings, as every other modern president has done. He has not proposed placing his assets in a blind trust, as presidents customarily do. Rather, he has proposed that his adult children will run the businesses.
That will not get rid of his conflicts of interest. At all.
We don’t even know what all of Trump’s conflicts of interest are, because he steadfastly refuses to release his tax returns, a stance unprecedented for any modern president.
It’s none of our business, he says. But it is.
Let’s not forget the evidence that Trump has unseemly ties with Russia, a nation that seeks to destabilize NATO and reduce America’s influence in the world. BuzzFeed published (unwisely) a full hit memo allegedly compiled by a retired British intelligence officer that suggests that Russia may have information that would, to put it mildly, compromise Trump, who unfailingly praises Putin at every opportunity and rejects the conclusion drawn by all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin deliberately used hacked information to increase Trump’s odds of being elected. (Who would have ever thought that the phrase “golden showers” would enter into the national discourse about a U.S. president?).
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who will likely have a key role in the administration, has been in business negotiations on behalf of his family real estate business, with a highly secretive Chinese company. China, of course, is a key American competitor.
Another conflict of interest.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, has lied to senators about his investments and his lobbying activities on behalf of his company Exxon Mobil.
Another conflict of interest, and more lies.
Most of the Trump cabinet picks have failed to submit required financial information for vetting, yet the Republican-controlled Senate seems intent on pressing forward with confirmations without knowing the extent of the nominees’ financial entanglements. Five of the 14 nominees have set forth how they plan to divest investments that could raise ethical concerns.
The rest have not.
And today Trump will be inaugurated as the 45 U.S. president.
Never in our three decades watching politics have we seen a proposed cabinet full of billionaires and multi-millionaires with so many conflicts of interest, nor a president who flatly refuses to divest his holdings or disclose his tax returns.
Drain the swamp, my ass. This cabinet is poised to be the most corrupt and corruptible in the history of our nation.
The Potomac River is set to become a flaming toxic stream of lawsuits, indictments, investigations, impeachments, and convictions.
Welcome to Trump’s America.