Politico reports that many House Democrats are expressing skittishness when it comes to looking into the allegedly illegal behavior of President Trump’s family members. The reason: They believe any targeting of Trump’s children or their families, no matter the reason, will increase voter sympathy for the president.
Au contraire. There is no better sign of how things have gone wrong for the country of 2019 than the prominence of Trump’s family members in our body politic and business life. Calling the Trump clan to account is a necessary step in making things right.
We can start with son Donald Trump Jr., who has already testified in sessions closed to the public and press about his role in the 2016 presidential campaign. If he could sign a check to repay then-presidential lawyer Michael Cohen for the money he allegedly advanced to get Stormy Daniels to stay quiet in the weeks before the 2016 election about her affair with his father, surely he’s up for the task of explaining to the American people exactly what he thought he was purchasing.
Donald Jr. and sister Ivanka, who is now a White House adviser, were also involved in the plans to open a Trump branded hotel in Moscow — a scheme, we now know, that continued on well into Trump’s campaign for president. Ivanka is more than happy to stand in front of the cameras or meet with members of Congress when it comes to shilling for a tax-reform package that likely will net her millions of dollars over the course of her lifetime. She’s eager to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and sit in at a Group of 20 meeting in Europe. Surely a congressional committee wouldn’t be too much for her to handle.
And then there is Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband. President Trump overruled senior intelligence government officials — along with senior administration staff, including then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — to grant his son-in-law the highest level of security clearance. While we don’t know why Kushner received an initial thumbs down, we do know representatives of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, China and Mexico all thought him naive and open to outside influence. We also know Kushner is tight with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and that Kushner refused to permit officials at the American Embassy in Riyadh to attend meetings he held last week.
There’s more: For example, remember when the Kushner Companies received millions of dollars in loans from a private equity firm and Citibank shortly after company officials met with Jared, who claims he no longer plays a role in the family business? But you are likely getting the idea. It’s extremely unlikely that asking this ethically challenged clan to account for their behavior will arouse the sympathies of suburban swing voters. If anything, it likely will do the opposite.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Kushner’s main claim to fame besides marrying into the Trump clan was almost torpedoing his family real estate empire by purchasing an elderly showcase office building on New York’s Fifth Avenue at the top of the real estate market. Meanwhile, the Trump children have accomplished little that didn’t depend on the name Trump. All this will become clear the more they are forced to publicly explain their actions.
To be clear, Democrats are not proposing forgoing all interest in the family, rather simply turning them over to federal and state prosecutors. But this is not enough. Presidential nepotism and possible illegal behavior cannot and should not be played down. As a society, we look askance at inherited privilege and getting jobs based on blood relations vs. abilities for a reason. Even in the best of circumstances — and we’re far away from that — it eats away at the norms of our democratic republic and its ideal of equal opportunity for all. It’s only right for Trump’s family members to learn that with privilege is supposed to come responsibility and consequences. A congressional investigation is a good place to start.