In the days leading up to Trump’s inauguration, Fusion is highlighting some of the issues most important to our readers and what to do to prepare for the incoming administration. Today we’re addressing—dun dun dun—political corruption.
What Trump has been up to:
To paraphrase writer Lauren Chanel Allen, Donald Trump has been one serial abuser of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. While he promised to disentangle his businesses from his presidency, evidence of that remains to be seen.
After all, who could forget the fiasco (and the $25 million settlement) that was Trump University? And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As the campaign wound down, Trump channeled approximately $3 million in campaign cash toward his own businesses. His foundation also admitted to the IRS that it had broken federal regulations by using their clients’ money to act in the foundation’s best interests, and not that of their clients. New York officials are also investigating the charity to see if Trump personally benefited from it. Trump’s insistence on splitting his time between the White House and Trump Tower means the federal government (aka we, the people) and the city of New York will fork out extra cash for increased security. Oh, and the Secret Service (paid courtesy of your tax dollars) may have to sign rent checks to—you guessed it—Trump himself in order to protect him. Foreign diplomats say they’ll be staying at Trump hotels as an “easy, friendly gesture” to the president-elect. But even Trump’s promise that he would donate that foreign money to the treasury raises more questions than it answers. And those are just a couple ways Trump stands to make money from the presidency.
But perhaps most troubling is the nepotism and conflicts of interest that Trump is inviting into the White House. Trump has said he will leave his businesses to his sons in a “blind trust”—except, that’s not what a blind trust is. At all. Ivanka’s role in her father’s day-to-day dealings remains nebulous, but she has already served as close adviser and surrogate on the campaign and has even sat in on high-level meetings with foreign leaders. She recently stepped away from her businesses, leaving the door open for her to get further involved in shaping her father's agenda. Trump has also tapped his son-in-law Jared Kushner to serve as a senior adviser—all of which may defy nepotism laws. Members of Trump’s transition team, who are charged with staffing various government agencies, also carry a number of potential conflicts of interest because of their previous lobbying efforts. And interestingly enough, quite a few members of Trump’s inner circle have ties to Russia—including his proposed Secretary of State. Maybe that’s why the GOP felt it necessary to try and gut an independent congressional ethics panel?
Who’s answering the call:
One of the most prominent politicians calling attention to Trump’s dealings is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Democratic Congresswoman Katherine Clark has proposed a “Presidential Accountability Act,” which would require both the president and vice president to “place their assets in a certified blind trust” or fully disclose any decisions regarding their personal finances to the public and a congressional ethics committee.
But while Democrats are expected to back the bill, it will need Republican support in order to pass. Which is where you come in.
How you can help:
Pressure, pressure, pressure. To ensure that Trump doesn’t trample safeguards like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or entangle his assets with the Office of the Presidency, citizens need to pressure lawmakers to check Trump. This means contacting your local representative, but you can also reach out to others in party leadership, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Mid-term elections are also coming up next year, giving the American public a prime opportunity to restore checks and balances to our government. SwingLeft is helping turn the tide in Congress by focusing on turning key swing districts toward leaders with more progressive agendas. Find the swing district closest to you by visiting their site.
Make sure you support organizations doing the important work of uncovering Trump’s business dealings. The Washington Post covered his foundation extensively during the campaign, and BuzzFeed recently started a crowd-sourced “TrumpWorld” database, which takes a deep dive into all of the president-elect’s connections.
Barring a political scandal even bigger than the ones we’ve already seen from Trump, we shouldn’t count on a Republican-led Congress to bring impeachment proceedings against the president. Which means the American public galvanizing—and making clear they won’t tolerate a corrupt presidency that doesn’t serve them—is the only path forward.
Reading list/resource links:
- Mapping TrumpWorld (Buzzfeed)
- Donald Trump’s Scandals (The Atlantic)
- Trump’s cabinet pick invested in a company, then introduced a bill to help it (CNN)
- For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be. (The Washington Post)
- How Donald Trump will retrofit midtown Manhattan as a presidential getaway (The Washington Post)
- What can young lawyers do to fight corruption now that Trump is president? (Global Corruption blog)
- Bill to ensure president-elect discloses conflicts of interest (Rep. Katherine Clark)
- Will the government fight Trump’s corruption? (The Week)
- Who is my representative?
- Elizabeth Warren
- Katherine Clark
Up next on How to Survive Trump’s America: Come back tomorrow to find out how to save affordable health care under a Trump presidency.