U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in front of fast food provided for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Champion Clemson Tigers. (Joshua Roberts)
Opinion writer

It’s safe to say President Trump is not too happy about how things have gone for him personnel-wise over the last few years. As a presidential candidate, he promised that he would assemble a platinum-quality staff, as though Corinthian leather and gold leaf were government bureaucrats.

“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” he said in 2015. “We want top of the line professionals.”

Yet, somehow, it hasn’t worked out that way. In fact, over time, we have learned that in both his business and political life, Trump has been followed by a truly extraordinary collection of grifters and thieves, people who, to paraphrase George Plunkitt, seen their opportunities and took 'em. And there was never an opportunity quite like Trump, at least until you get caught.

That’s the message of documents that were obtained by the New York Times and ABC News, laying out what Trump’s inaugural committee did with the record amounts of money it spent — more than $100 million, twice what Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush spent on their inaugurals, despite the fact that the Trump inaugural included a relatively small number of events. The picture painted by the figures amounts to that unusual combination of greed, ethical vacuum and incompetence that is so characteristically Trumpian.

Just like his business, just like his campaign, and just like his administration, it appears that all kinds of people looked at this Trump enterprise and said “Here’s my chance to fill my pockets.” Here are some of the highlights:

∗ Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a friend of first lady Melania Trump, set up an event-planning company just before the inauguration; her company billed almost $26 million. Though most of that went to subcontractors, she was paid a $1.6 million fee. Veterans of both the Obama and Bush inaugurals called that fee outrageous; it amounted to “roughly one-fourth of what we paid our entire 450-person staff” in 2009, said one Obama staffer.

∗ Trump campaign digital chief Brad Parscale, who will be managing the president’s reelection campaign, was paid more than $2 million to use his online wizardry to drum up a crowd for the inauguration. You’ll remember how that worked out.

∗ The Trump International Hotel billed the inaugural committee $1.5 million, in addition to making unspecified amounts from guests who made their own reservations.

∗ “One couple working for Winston-Wolkoff billed the inauguration $1,835 in room service charges [at the Trump International] over three days.”

∗ The committee spent $6.4 million on empty hotel rooms after guests arranged their own accommodations.

∗ Another party planner hired by Winston Wolkoff, David Monn, billed the committee $3.7 million. From the New York Times report: “Mr. Monn spent $924,000 on seven-foot-high wreaths, moss-covered obelisks, flowers and other decorations to dress up Union Station. Makeup was provided for 20 staff members at a cost of $500 per person. For the dinner at the auditorium, table menus, table numbers and place cards, including an on-site calligrapher to correct last-minute mistakes, amounted to $91 per guest.”

For some reason, the makeup is the line item that strikes me as the most extravagant, but what do I know.

You might ask, who cares? So a bunch of corporations and rich people decided to give Trump their money — they should have known what would happen to it. This whole practice of having the super wealthy and special interests rain money on the newly elected president for a bunch of parties is where the problem lies.

Which is true enough. But it’s still an excellent representation of the kind of people and practices that Donald Trump attracts. When you elect someone such as him, you not only get his personal corruption, but in the bargain you get the kind of people he surrounds himself with, a corruption multiplier.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Obama, a man of obviously high personal integrity, not only didn’t have any scandals, but suffered no significant scandals of graft and corruption among his underlings. With Trump, on the other hand, they’re everywhere, as befits a man who lies in the way the rest of us ingest oxygen, keeps his tax returns secret, doesn’t pay his bills, and spent years running one con after another on gullible victims.

And it runs in both directions. So Michael Cohen looks at Trump and says, “That’s the guy I want to get next to,” and when Trump meets Cohen he says, “This kid is aces; I’m bringing him into my inner circle.” (Those aren’t actual quotes.) The same thing happened, in one form or another, with the many others around Trump who have either pleaded guilty to crimes or been engulfed in scandal: Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke.

All were in one way or another trying to get their hands on as much cash and perks as they could, and they saw Trump as a vehicle to do that, while he saw them as his kind of folks. When we learn that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney seems to have skipped out on a $1.4 million loan, we realize why Trump likes him enough to have given him three jobs (and counting).

So the orgy of ludicrous inaugural spending tells us as much or more about the people Trump attracts than it does about Trump himself. And here’s another reason why this is important: It’s going to keep happening. Do you think you’ve seen the last scandal coming out of Trump’s administration or his businesses? Oh dear, no. He’s got at least two more years. There’s much, much more to come.