The House should seriously consider shifting the focus from the Mueller report and Trump’s attempts to short circuit the Russia investigation to the overarching issue of this presidency: His unparalleled corruption. The Mueller report will come into play, but as an example of a particular form of corruption. This is easy to understand and undermines the entire premise of Trump’s outsider campaign by focusing on how he uses the presidency to enrich himself and serve his personal needs.
The enrichment schemes multiply and become more nauseating by the day: The attorney general’s planned $30,000 party at Trump’s hotel in Washington (the lease for which should have been voided), the vice president’s family trip to Trump’s Irish resort, the largess from foreign leaders and domestic politicians staying at Trump properties, the alleged diversion of Air Force flights to benefit Trump’s Scottish property and the invitation to hold the next Group of Seven meeting at his Doral property. The legal definition of “emoluments” hardly matters; this is out and out corruption, much of it out in the open, and all stemming from the original sins of refusing to release his taxes and to divest from his properties. (The corruption extends to his children making use of their positions to make money.)
These incidents amount to a betrayal of his oath, which obligates him to act in the interests of the American people, not his own bottom line. One need not prove a crime here although the racket does smack of pay-to-play bribery on heretofore unbelievable scale.
The corruption at issue also entails the misuse of government agencies and employees to lie and protect him politically. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has contributed two items: misrepresenting the purpose of the citizenship census question to Congress and the courts and, as the New York Times reports, threatening “to fire top employees at the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts last Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”
In this category, we have everything from enlistment of the Park Service to cover his lie about the inauguration crowd size to imploring others to lie about his hush-money payment to an adult film star, his demands to fire the special prosecutor and the reasons for firing then-FBI Director James Comey (here’s where the Mueller report comes into play). The lies are bad enough but corrupting the instruments of government to lie and mislead the American people rises to a new level of abuse of power.
The reasons for proceeding in this fashion are three-fold.
First, the recent revelations are fresh in voters’ minds, easy to explain and inexcusable. This will require public support and framing the issues in this way certainly helps the public grasp what is so terribly wrong with Trump’s conduct.
Second, no Republican can defend the grifting. To date they’ve ignored it or said inanely that voters knew about all this when they elected him. However, forcing Senate Republicans to exonerate him of self-dealing may push them to the outer limits of their patience and instinct for self-preservation.
Third, this issue plays wells on a bipartisan basis and does not force Republicans to admit they elected a Russian toady or a racist; Trump betrayed them by in effect stealing from them. Not all Republicans will be swayed. Most of them will not. But some will, and it is an issue that will embarrass elected Republicans should they choose to defend him.
And finally, this goes to the heart of Trump’s phony populism, the lie on which his presidency — and banana republics, more generally — is built upon. He is not the voice of the people, nor are critics enemies of the people; he’s a greedy operator who has taken his talents in bilking people out of their money (e.g., Trump University) to the White House. Discrediting the notion that Trump or the Republicans who defend him have the interests of the people in mind (also evident in policies such as a tax cut for the rich, tariffs that hurt farmers, taking away health care, etc.) is critical to not only beating Trump but also discrediting Trumpism.