Friday, December 14, 2018


So now we're talking about the inaugural:
... President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee ... paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.

During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

If the Trump hotel charged more than the going rate for the venues, it could violate tax law....

“The fact that the inaugural committee did business with the Trump Organization raises huge ethical questions about the potential for undue enrichment,” said Marcus Owens, the former head of the division of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees nonprofits.
The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office ... is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions....

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.
This seems ... corrupt. And illegal. But as I regularly say, President Trump will probably weather all scandals until his poll numbers start to drop from the levels where they've been for months; they're holding steady despite a wave of recent revelations. Trump's supporters don't think he's a saint and have factored a certain amount of corruption and immorality into their assessment of him from the beginning. Is there any reason to believe any of them will start wavering now?

The Stormy Daniels/Karen MacDougal payoffs were never likely to upset them. They've known from the beginning that Trump is a horndog, and the notion that rich horndogs pay money to conceal infidelities probably gives them a secret thrill -- oooh, this is how the superrich live! I know that campaign finance laws were violated, but our campaign finance laws make absolutely no sense to average Americans -- when you can give millions anonymously to a super PAC but only $2700 directly to a candidate, don't expect ordinary citizens to even try comprehending campaign finance logic. The payoffs should be the subject of one article of impeachment, but they won't turn anyone pro-Trumpers against him.

This is a bit more likely to upset them. It's self-dealing and palm-greasing. Ordinary people can understand that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it will strike most Americans as worse than the usual level of corruption (even though it is). The idea that a president shouldn't make money from being in office ought to be a core element in our sense of how America works, but it isn't. And the inaugural isn't one of the patriotic ceremonies we cherish. If Trump were to skim profits off a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, then maybe the national conscience would be shocked. But inaugural corruption doesn't rise to that level.

I think at some point Trump will have to be held accountable, even though there won't be a single Republican willing to remove him from office until his poll numbers drop further. I still hope public opinion will change -- but I doubt this will have much effect.

No comments: