It shouldn’t. His less-than-ethical approach to money is central to both how he thinks and exactly what’s wrong with his presidency. Trump and his family have almost certainly used his office, not simply for political advantage, but for financial gain, too.
Lucky for us, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine is still on the case. On Wednesday morning, his office filed a lawsuit against the Trump Organization, Trump’s inaugural committee and the Trump International Hotel in Washington. His claims: first, that the Trump Organization and the hotel charged outrageous prices for the inaugural committee’s rental of a ballroom; second, that the inaugural committee paid a seriously inflated bill — “grossly overpaying” in the words of the lawsuit — despite the fact that other, less expensive but equally luxurious options were available; and third, that this was done despite the knowledge that the prices quoted by the Trump International Hotel were not in line — by hundreds of thousands of dollars — with the rates being charged by other comparable hotels during the period in question.
Overall, the inaugural committee paid more than $1 million to the hotel, according to the lawsuit. It ran up this tab in part by agreeing to pay $175,000 to rent a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel for part of the Friday Trump was inaugurated. To give some idea of how absurd this was, the Trump International Hotel charged the Prayer Breakfast a mere $5,000 for use of the same ballroom earlier in the day.
And who received and apparently ignored the warnings that the Trump Organization and family were gunning for trouble when the facts came out? None other than Ivanka Trump, the lawsuit claims, who apparently blew off warnings from others on the inaugural committee that this sort of greed wasn’t just unseemly, it was likely to attract unwanted attention. (As the cliche goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization called the lawsuit a “PR stunt,” while the inaugural committee said in a statement to The Post that it “operated in compliance with the law and this suit is without merit.” A Trump Hotels spokesperson similarly denied anything inappropriate happened, claiming the legal filing “reeks of politics.” Okay. But if it’s true, this sort of stuff is completely illegal. When people give money to a charity — and yes, the Trump inaugural committee was a charity (hold the laughter) — they have a legally enforceable right to expect that money is used responsibly and not to line someone’s pockets. That’s true even when it’s Trump’s inaugural committee and even when the corporations and individuals giving money are likely attempting to curry favor with a notoriously venal man about to be president of the United States.
This is as predictable a scandal as they come. Trump let us know who he was while campaigning. He was a greedy businessman who lacked any observable values — unless we consider his own ego and bottom line as such. No one should be able to say they are surprised by Racine’s lawsuit.
A billionaire who felt impelled to sell financially desperate Americans on the snake oil that was Trump University would be exactly the sort of person who will go on to see nothing wrong with making a buck on his own inauguration. Similarly, a man who borrows so much money that the banks need to make a deal with him when he announces he can’t pay it back is exactly the sort of man who will get on the phone with the president of Ukraine and attempt to shake him down in a “perfect phone call.”
It’s all connected, because it all stems from the same place of bottomless ego and greed. The only thing that will put an end to it is Trump’s removal from office either by impeachment or the ballot box. Until that day, we’ll need to settle for civil lawsuits such as Racine’s.