Now we know the out­ra­geous scale of the Trumps’ White House div­i­dend

The Guardian Australia - - Opinion - Jill Abram­son

I’m feel­ing nos­tal­gic for Hil­lary’s Gold­man Sachs speak­ing fees. Re­mem­ber when we got our eth­i­cal knick­ers in a twist over Clin­ton’s $225,000 (£170,000) Wall Street speeches? Those wor­ries seem pos­i­tively quaint when com­pared with what’s hap­pen­ing now. At least Bill and Hil­lary put off their of­fen­sive buck­rak­ing un­til af­ter they had left pub­lic of­fice. The Trump fam­ily shows no such re­straint. Why wait? Don­ald, Ivanka and Jared are get­ting theirs while serv­ing in the White House. And, as with much scan­dalous be­hav­iour in Wash­ing­ton these days, they in­sist their be­hav­iour is per­fectly ac­cept­able.

All three are still con­nected to the highly prof­itable com­pa­nies they op­er­ated in New York be­fore Trump’s elec­tion in 2016. Since their ar­rival in Wash­ing­ton, the pres­i­dent and Ja­vanka have been reap­ing prof­its from the var­i­ous fam­ily busi­nesses in tan­dem with their pub­lic ser­vice, while cyn­i­cally pre­tend­ing they have sus­pended their wheel­ing and deal­ing. But the pres­i­dent still mon­i­tors who stays at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel down the street from the White House; Ivanka is still win­ning trade­marks for her cloth­ing line in the no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to pen­e­trate Chi­nese mar­ket; and Jared Kush­ner took in more money from his fam­ily real estate em­pire in 2017, the first year of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, than he did the pre­vi­ous year.

This week, Kush­ner’s new fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure records were re­leased, show­ing the con­sid­er­able rise in his as­sets. Their value ranged be­tween $179m and $735m, up from a range of $137m to $609m the pre­vi­ous year. (White House of­fi­cials are re­quired to re­port their as­sets in broad ranges). For Jared, it was a very good year, in­deed.

Just last month came the happy news that Ivanka’s brand had won seven ad­di­tional Chi­nese patents for items rang­ing from cush­ions to books. The new patents were is­sued at the same time that her fa­ther vowed to save ZTE, a ma­jor Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany, from go­ing bust – a rare and sur­pris­ing move for a pres­i­dent who is a for­eign trade hard­liner. The New York Times noted: “Even as Mr Trump con­tends with Beijing on is­sues like se­cu­rity and trade, his fam­ily and the com­pany that bears his name are try­ing to make money off their brand in China’s flush and po­ten­tially promis­ing mar­ket.”

Then there is the pres­i­dent him­self. His Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel is do­ing brisk busi­ness, its lobby al­ways full of White House favour-seek­ers, its pricey rooms of­ten filled with in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives and lob­by­ists. The ho­tel is si­phon­ing busi­ness from other lo­cal ho­tels and con­ven­tion cen­tres, ac­cord­ing to the Dis­trict of Columbia and the state of Mary­land, which have both filed law­suits. They charge that Trump’s prof­its from the ho­tel vi­o­late the US con­sti­tu­tion’s anti-cor­rup­tion clauses. The Jus­tice depart­ment, un­sur­pris­ingly, has de­fended the pres­i­dent’s con­tin­u­ing role as a hote­lier, but a fed­eral judge on Monday sharply crit­i­cised the depart­ment’s le­gal rea­son­ing. The case is prob­a­bly head­ing for the US supreme court.

All of this money-grub­bing com­ports with ev­ery­thing we know about the Trump fam­ily, whose ad­dic­tion to lux­ury and wealth is al­ways on con­spic­u­ous dis­play, whether on real­ity tele­vi­sion or on the world stage. David Brooks, the New York Times colum­nist, re­cently summed up the “Trumpian world-view” writ­ing, “Trump takes ev­ery re­la­tion­ship that has his­tor­i­cally been based on af­fec­tion, loy­alty, trust and rec­i­proc­ity and turned it into a re­la­tion­ship based on com­pe­ti­tion, self-in­ter­est, sus­pi­cion and ef­forts to es­tab­lish dom­i­nance.” Mainly, Brooks was talk­ing about the G-7 de­ba­cle but his words ap­ply per­fectly to the fam­ily’s self-in­ter­est and flout­ing of eth­i­cal rules that have gov­erned Wash­ing­ton for cen­turies. The Trump fam­ily’s eth­i­cal tin ear is hardly sur­pris­ing, but their greed is dis­gust­ing none­the­less. The ad­min­is­tra­tion and its Repub­li­can lack­eys blew a hole in the deficit with an enor­mous tax cut and now they are try­ing to tax al­most all the pro­grammes that help the poor and el­derly get by. The false ra­tio­nale: to bring down the deficit.

De­spite the supreme court up­hold­ing Oba­macare, the Jus­tice depart­ment pledged its sup­port for a rad­i­cal rightwing law­suit try­ing, once again, to gut the law’s pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. Mean­while, Ben Car­son’s ten­ure at the depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Development has been marked by Dick­en­sian cru­elty. He has pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to in­crease by 20% the monthly rent that the most im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies pay for pub­lic hous­ing. He has also called for elim­i­nat­ing the child­care and med­i­cal de­duc­tions that poor fam­i­lies in pub­lic hous­ing can sub­tract from their rent. Other Trump cab­i­net of­fi­cials gra­tu­itously milk tax­pay­ers for items such as first-class travel, while gut­ting con­sumer fi­nan­cial pro­tec­tion.

Here is a mod­est pro­posal: Ivanka and Jared should con­sider con­tribut­ing a por­tion of their gains from sweet­heart real estate deals and Chi­nese favours to help re­store funds for the few pro­grammes that still con­trib­ute to the health and wel­fare of Amer­i­cans in need.

It was only two years ago that we were fret­ting over the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion tak­ing for­eign money, Hil­lary’s paid speeches, and that pri­vate email server. Look­ing back, it seems like a golden pe­riod.

• Jill Abram­son is a Guardian US colum­nist

Pho­to­graph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Jared Kush­ner and his wife Ivanka Trump. ‘This week, Kush­ner’s new fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure records were re­leased … Their value ranged be­tween $179m and $735m.’

Pho­to­graph: Alex Brandon/AP

.The Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton DC.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.