Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, April 1st, 2017.

Grifters in Paradise

Trump Maladministration

The New York Times writes of Jared and Ivanka Kushner:

…the financial disclosure report released late Friday for Mr. Kushner, which shows that he and his wife still benefit financially from a real estate and investment empire worth as much as $740 million, makes clear that this most powerful Washington couple is walking on perilous legal and ethical ground, according to several prominent experts on the subject.

Unlike Mr. Trump, who is exempt from conflict of interest laws, both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump — who took a formal White House position this past week — are forbidden under federal criminal and civil law to take any action that might benefit their particular financial holdings.

Jamie Gorelick, who served as deputy attorney general at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration and is now advising Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump on government ethics issues, said that the couple could continue to hold on to so many of their assets because most of the value is tied up in buildings.

“The real estate assets that Kushner is holding on to are unlikely to pose the kinds of conflicts that would trigger the need to divest,” Ms. Gorelick, a partner at WilmerHale, the law firm, said in a statement on Friday. “The remaining conflicts, from a practical perspective, are pretty narrow and very manageable.”

But real estate projects like the Kushner Companies’ deals have become a magnet for opaque foreign money — often from parts of the world that present thorny policy questions, such as China, where Mr. Kushner’s company has actively sought investors, as well as the Middle East and Russia. As part of his exceptionally broad portfolio in the White House, Mr. Kushner has been a crucial figure in arranging the visit of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, on Thursday in Florida.

Dahlia Lithwick reports other criticism of the Trunps:

This week, the grown-up is H. Scott Wallace, co-chair of the Wallace Global Fund, which promotes sustainable investments and until very recently, received legal counsel from the same firm that helped Donald Trump “separate” from his business interests before assuming the presidency. In a letter explaining his decision to fire that law firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Wallace leaves no doubt that the “the ethical carnage” sanctioned by the firm’s lawyers is not tolerable, or normal, or even minimally defensible.

The letter—addressed to the firm’s chair Jami McKeon and first reported by Politico—expressly calls out the firm’s representation of Donald Trump and the legal advice given by Morgan Lewis partner Sherri Dillon. Dillon is the lawyer who stood next to piles of presumably empty manila folders and the president at a Jan. 11 press conference to defend Trump’s decision not to place his business in a blind trust, but instead to set up a trust managed by his sons, of which he still maintains full ownership, allowing him to profit from his presidency.

Wallace wrote that the firm “empowers and even encourages impeachable offenses and undetectable financial conflicts of interest by America’s highest official.”

The letter then catalogs in detail the myriad ways in which Trump’s continuing conflicts of interest and self-dealing violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause and characterizes Dillon’s solution as “an illusion of protection against the President using his office for personal gain.” It goes on to detail corruption-related developments since that January press conference, ranging from the granting of 38 trademarks to Trump by China, his D.C. hotels courting foreign business away from other venues, and the doubling of initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago.

You’ve got to admit, though, the Kushner/Trumps are pulling off the biggest grift in history. I’ll give them that.

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