Friday, December 14, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied through a surrogate about his connections to his own inaugural committee.

Yesterday, news broke that federal prosecutors are investigating the vast amounts of money funneled through Trump's inaugural committee. The huge amounts of money that the committee took in—more than twice any previous committee's budget, for a comparatively cheap inauguration—has long been the subject of scrutiny in the press. It now appears likely that the committee, as well as a pro-Trump super PAC run, accepted illegal contributions from foreign governments

In an apparent attempt to insulate Trump from what increasingly looks like influence-peddling if not outright bribery, spokesman Hogan Gidley insisted this morning that Trump had nothing to do with his own inauguration, telling reporters:
[T]he president of the United States has one job at the inauguration. It's to show up, to thank everyone for the service to get him elected, and then also dance with the first lady. He did all of those things. This charge [of financial impropriety] has nothing to do with the president of the United States and it has nothing to do with this administration.
That appears to be a lie. Whether or not Trump's time or influence was bought and sold through the committee, Trump's hotel rooms were—at a substantial profit to Trump. 

A ProPublica/WNYC report released today shows that Ivanka Trump, acting on behalf of the Trump Organization that her father refused to sever his financial links to, sought to charge the committee vastly inflated rates. At least one committee member became alarmed, and begged the Trump Organization to remember that there would eventually be an audit of the charges.

In other words, Ivanka Trump was trying to convert money that was legally restricted to valid inauguration events into profits for her father's business by forcing her father's inauguration committee to pay well above market rates. This would not only be flagrantly unethical, but since the inaugural committee is a non-profit organization, it would be a serious violation of tax laws, something the Trump family knows a lot about.

Why does this matter?

  • It should not be possible to bribe the President of the United States.
  • It's wrong to funnel money for a non-profit organization to your for-profit business.