Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got served.

Trump's businesses, which he has absolutely refused to put into a blind trust while in office, were served with subpoenas today. They require the Trump Organization, and also a number of government agencies, to turn over documents related to a suit brought by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland. The plaintiffs are suing over Trump's apparent and ongoing violation of the emoluments clause, which prohibits him from accepting favors—in this case, patronage of his D.C. hotel—from domestic or foreign agents.

Coincidentally, the Washington Post today reported on a massive scheme undertaken by the government of Saudi Arabia to buy hundreds of hotel rooms at Washington's Trump International Hotel. The Saudi government engineered a fake lobbying scheme using American military veterans  to run up more than $270,000 in room and alcohol bills just after Trump took office. (The veterans involved were unaware of why they had been asked to do "lobbying" work in luxury hotels until a Congressional staffer asked them, "Are you the veterans that are getting bribed?")

Trump—whose financial ties to Saudi Arabia's ruling elite go back decades—has been a staunch defender of the kingdom's repressive government, even to the point of running interference for them against his own intelligence community. Trump lied publicly when he said that the CIA had not concluded one way or another that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the death of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

The fake lobbying scheme was one of several extremely expensive room-buying binges that the Saudis undertook for no apparent reason at Trump hotels. Other foreign governments have also taken notice of the political advantages to patronizing Trump's businesses—or to helping him build them.

Why should I care about this?

  • The presidency isn't supposed to be for sale.
  • A president who can't be bothered to avoid the appearance of corruption isn't much better than a president who is simply corrupt.