Monday, October 19, 2020

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming

OCT. 21 - West Virginia
OCT. 24 - Florida and New York
OCT. 26 - Maryland
OCT. 27 - Washington, D.C.
OCT. 29 - Oklahoma

What did Donald Trump do today?

He "joked" about using the presidency to shake down businesses for money.

Trump started the 2020 race with a huge money advantage over any potential challenger. But now, when it matters most, it's positively cash-poor, and that's already affecting the campaign as aides make triage decisions about where Trump can still afford to compete. Earlier in the summer, Trump half-heartedly suggested he'd self-fund his campaign with $100 million he clearly doesn't have, but nothing ever came of it.

Clearly stung by the comparison with the Biden campaign's record-setting donations, Trump brought the subject up at a rally. He seemed to be trying to argue that, if he wanted to, he could be an effective fundraiser for his own re-election campaign—if he forced businesses to pay him bribes.

So when the press says … and we’re raising a lot of money, we’re raising a lot of small money, a lot of 61, 62 [sic]. No Republican’s ever done that. But when I started calling, I would be the greatest fundraiser in history. Don’t forget. I’m not bad at that stuff anyway, and I’m president. So I call some guy at the head of Exxon, I called ahead of Exxon, I don’t know, I’ll use a company. “Hi, how you doing? How’s the energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits. Huh? Okay.”

But I call the head of Exxon, I say, “I’d love you to send me $25 million for the campaign.” “Absolutely sir. Why didn’t you ask? Would you like some more?” And if I make the call, now people make the call, it’s different. But if I made that call, I will hit a home run every single call. I would raise a billion dollars in one day, if I wanted to, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do it.

It's hard to count how many abuse of power laws this would break, but the main federal bribery statute makes it a crime for a public official to even indirectly suggest that he is open to corruptly selling his office. The reason for this is that corruption scandals tend to do more damage by degrading Americans' faith in government than they do from the actual corrupt act. 

Normalizing it—even by making a Trump-style "joke" about it—is dangerous to democracy where citizens are expected to put their faith in one another, rather than a strongman-style leader. That's why making Americans think that their government is corrupt and untrustworthy is one of the main goals of the ongoing Russian disinformation campaign.)

Exxon—which did give Trump $500,000 for his inauguration, which is now itself under a corruption investigation—was forced to clarify that Trump never shook them down.

That said, Trump is describing almost exactly what he was impeached for: using the presidency to try to force someone to give him something he personally needed. He's also done the same thing, in plain view, with the state of New York, in an attempt to force prosecutors there to drop their investigations of him. He's also been on the supply side of corruption: his failed "Trump Tower Moscow" project included a $50 million bribe for Vladimir Putin himself, in the form of a free ultra-luxury penthouse.

How is this a bad thing?

  • The government of the people of the United States of America is not supposed to be for sale.