Trump Capitalism: Monetizing the Presidency

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 8, 2017

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Promotes the Opening of His New Hotel in Washington, D.C.  with Family Less than Two Weeks Before the 2016 Presidential Election

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Promotes the Opening of His New Hotel in Washington, D.C. with Family Less than Two Weeks Before the 2016 Presidential Election

President Trump’s firing of top law enforcement officials now covers a broad spectrum. In addition to FBI Director James Comey, Trump fired the Acting Attorney General of the U.S. Justice Department, Sally Yates, as well as Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York where most major Wall Street criminal investigations take place. All of these individuals were involved in investigations of Trump associates’ involvement with Russia. Now, Trump is sending signals that his current U.S. Attorney General at the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, may be next in line for sacking.

Comey’s written testimony that was released yesterday in preparation for his appearance today before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee completes the picture of a President who believes that the Federal government’s law enforcement apparatus can be re-engineered into his own Praetorian Guard, complete with taking loyalty oaths to serve the President and to do his bidding in dropping criminal investigations.

The media’s focus on the Russian investigation has over shadowed the simple truth of what is going on here. Donald Trump’s life has been defined by one paramount goal: making deals for personal enrichment. At 70 years of age, this man is not going to change his stripes — as he and his family have proven time and time again since he prevailed in the November election.

The first clue came on October 26, 2016 – less than two weeks before the Presidential election. Presidential candidate Trump utilized his taxpayer-funded Secret Service contingent to oversee a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his new Trump International Hotel which was opening at the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., just two blocks from the White House. Among his 300 invited guests was Senator Jeff Sessions, the man he would later name to head the U.S. Justice Department.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, captured the event perfectly with this statement: “With the exception of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the most coveted piece of real estate in Washington, D.C.”

That Trump thumbs his nose at the rule of law when it comes to his own personal enrichment is suggested in his refusal to follow the norms of blind trusts for his business holdings. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Elijah Cummings wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in November as follows:

“Several weeks ago, the general counsel for the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen, explained that Mr. Trump will transfer management of the Trump Organization to his adult children, who will run the company ‘through a blind trust.’ But claims that Mr. Trump’s will set up a ‘blind’ trust do not appear to be consistent with the meaning of that term or with legal requirements that apply to such trusts. A qualified blind trust, which must be approved by the Office of Government Ethics, would allow Mr. Trump to forgo reporting the details of some assets in his financial disclosures. The Ethics in Government Act explicitly prohibits Mr. Trump’s children from managing such a trust. The Act requires that, ‘Any officer or employee of a trustee or other entity who is involved in the management or control of the trust of a qualified trust’ not be ‘a relative of any interested party.’ To date, there has been no information released to the public indicating that Mr. Trump has prepared a blind trust.”

In the same letter, Warren and Cummings also alerted the GAO that there were media reports that during a call from Argentinean President Mauricio Mauri to congratulate Trump on his victory shortly after the election, Trump made a request of Mauri to “deal” with permit issues on a Buenos Aires office building project in which Trump and Argentinean partners were involved. The same letter also indicated that Trump had charged the Secret Service $1.6 million for flights on his own airline during his election campaign.

Then there was the gag-worthy lawsuit that provided a window into how Melania Trump viewed her opportunities as the First Lady of America. The First Lady sued the Daily Mail newspaper for defamation after her husband was inaugurated. In the lawsuit, she described in detail her money-making opportunities as First Lady:

“Plaintiff’s brand, and licensing, marketing and endorsement opportunities caused by the publication of Mail Online’s defamatory article, is multiple millions of dollars. Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.”

Last month, the New York Times reported that the family of the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a Senior Adviser to the President (who is himself a person of interest in the Russian investigation) was using ties to Trump to promote their own real estate deal in China. The Times’ reporters wrote:

“Mr. Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, was criticized after mentioning her brother’s White House connections when she visited China this month to promote the New Jersey development. Ms. Meyer later apologized, saying it was not her intention to use her brother’s ties to the Trump administration to lure investors.

“But the family’s Chinese representatives have repeatedly invoked Mr. Trump’s name as a selling point.”

In Donald Trump’s 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” bylined with Tony Schwartz, Trump says the following about his management style: “I play it very loose.”

That was Trump’s option in running his own real estate company. It’s not his option in complying with the laws of the highest office in America.

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