There are the foreign and domestic political guests who seek to feather his nest by staying at his D.C. hotel; his decision to keep the hotel (despite a lease specifying no government official could benefit from it); his daughter’s receipt of trademarks from China as she dabbles in foreign policy; his son-in-law’s multifaceted conflicts; getting regular patronage at another property via the Air Force routing its planes to Scotland; and handing Mar-a-Lago members power over Veterans Affairs. One wonders what the total value of his self-enrichment might amount to. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has the nerve to say there is no difference between government employees staying at a Marriott or at the president’s properties.
We should not be surprised that Trump has hired a slew of officials who themselves engaged in self-dealing (e.g. Scott Pruitt, FEMA). The fish rots from the head. The serial ethical violations by Kellyanne Conway and her contempt for the Hatch Act underscore that corruption is celebrated rather than prevented. Hey, if Trump uses his office to enrich himself, why not use her position to engage in partisan politics at the taxpayers’ expense, right?
Trump’s corruption is so obvious and endemic that it should rank high up on any list of impeachable acts the House might draw up. It is essential to set a standard for conduct not only for the president but also for the entire executive branch that statutorily is supposed to abide by much more exacting rules. How do you persuade a mid-level manager not to send his secretary to pick up dry cleaning when the president himself is using the Oval Office as his piggy bank?
Whether by impeachment or election, Trump will be gone at some point (soon, we pray), but the residue of slimy dealings, norm-breaking, greed and shameless self-dealing will remain. Top-to-bottom IG investigations will be needed throughout the executive branch, and rule-breaking employees must be dismissed. The Office of Government Ethics must be beefed up and given investigative powers and penalties increased ($1,000 per Hatch Act violation?). All federal employees must fully divest of holdings, and failure to do so should come with severe penalties. (Looking at you, Wilbur Ross.) The president and vice president should be subject to the same rules as the rest of the executive branch, and senior officials must release tax returns.
The next president must bring about a complete change of culture. Trump-style corruption is representative of a failed dictatorship, not a great democracy.