Thursday, February 13, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to shake down public officials, in public.

Last week, Trump froze the state of New York out from participation in the federal Global Entry program. Officially, the move was intended to punish New York for refusing to share its DMV database with the Customs and Border Patrol agency and for passing laws to allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers' licenses. (There is no legal requirement that New York share its database, and noncitizens cannot use drivers' licenses as proof of citizenship.) 

But today, just before Trump met New York governor Andrew Cuomo, he offered a quid pro quo on Twitter: call off your investigations and lawsuits against me, and I'll stop punishing New York citizens.

It's illegal for a federal official to take government actions based whether or not they receive favorable treatment. It's also illegal to bribe or extort a public official.

Trump is extremely vulnerable to prosecution by New York state officials, since most of his known or suspected crimes—including his documented tax evasion, his Trump University scam, his illegal fake charity, and his use of his New York-based businesses as an illegal campaign pass-through to conceal hush money paid to his mistresses—took place in their jurisdiction.

"Fredo" is a reference to Fredo Corleone, a bumbling character in the Godfather movies. Gov. Cuomo's brother Chris Cuomo, a CNN host, took offense at being called that name, much to Trump's delight. Trump has spent much of his life trying to impress real-life organized crime figures. He frequently deploys mob-movie language in real-life. Trump himself has been compared to Fredo—who, like Trump, likes to brag about how smart he thinks he is—many times.

Why should I care about this?

  • Illegal and corrupt actions done in broad daylight are still illegal and corrupt.
  • Presidents with so much criminal exposure that they need to do things like this should probably resign to focus on their legal defense.
  • This is why mob bosses make bad role models.
  • No matter how hard he tries to be, the president is not above the law.