Trump’s Liabilities

Jonathan Chait has a much-derided piece up at New York that says Trump’s corruption, not the Russia scandal, is his real political liability. I tend to agree with Steve M that Trump’s evident corruption alone isn’t going to separate Trump from his base, and probably not from most right-leaning voters. To them, “drain the swamp” never meant a return to clean government, but kicking out leftists and Democrats.

That Trump is easily the most corrupt POTUS ever to sit in the White House is, to me, beyond dispute. Most of the big, splashy scandals touching previous presidential administrations, such as Teapot Dome, did not involve the presidents themselves. Watergate was an exception. And Trump makes Nixon look almost honest. Do read Joy Crane and Nick Tabor, “501 Days in Swampland,” on a comprehensive list of Trump’s self-dealing so far, that we know of.  And, seriously, Teapot Dome looks like just a regular day at the office for anyone in the Trump cabinet.

And, of course, Trump supporters will just say “What about Crooked Hillary?” And that atones for all sins.

No, the corruptions alone will not cause Trump’s approval ratings to go even lower. “Getting” what’s going on requires taking in explanations that are too complex to fit on a bumper  sticker, which pretty much guarantees that they won’t make the teevee news. And most Americans won’t hear about it.

However, that doesn’t mean Trump is exempt from ruin. For example, what if Trump’s corruption went on trial?

A federal judge Wednesday allowed Maryland and the District of Columbia to proceed with their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting unconstitutional gifts from foreign interests, but limited the case to the president’s involvement with the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte’s ruling dismissed other sections of the lawsuit that raised concerns about the impact of foreign gifts to the president from Trump Organization properties outside of Washington.

Maryland and D.C. accuse the president of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bans the president and other federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments as well as U.S. states. Specifically, they allege nearby businesses have been subjected to increased competition as a result of the foreign traffic to the Trump Hotel.

Media coverage of this trial could cause media to cover a small portion of Trump’s corruption as evidence dripped out day by day. It’s the drip, drip, drip of scandal that wears down administrations. Jennifer Rubin writes,

If Maryland and the District are successful, Trump may be ordered to do something he has so far avoided and which spineless Republicans have refused to demand — namely, disclose what his businesses receive from foreign governments, and either permanently jettison his ties to those operations or reject payments and other things of value from foreign governments (e.g. trademarks in China). Congress could of course choose to approve Trump’s receipt of his emoluments, but House and Senate Republicans — who like the rest of us don’t actually know what Trump’s businesses receive from what sources — have been loath to do that.

Moreover, if a Democratic Congress is elected, it can choose explicitly to disallow Trump’s receipt of foreign emoluments, setting up a possible constitutional clash. If either Congress or a court holds that Trump must give up certain parts of his operations (or segregate any monies and other valuable offerings from foreign governments), he may finally need to decide whether the presidency is worth giving up parts of his financial empire. Moreover, before a final decision on his retention of foreign emoluments, either Congress or litigants (in one of three cases currently ongoing) could demand a raft of financial records exposing for the first time Trump’s finances, including his tax returns.

There are some ifs in there, but there is potential for real damage.

But Trump has other liabilities. The stock market is taking another tumble today on news that China is retaliating in Trump’s trade war and after Trump’s bizarre bad-mouthing of Amazon. A friend of mine who understands markets better than I do pointed out that from November 9th of 2016 to January 26 of 2018, the Dow Jones Industrial average climbed roughly 8,500 points, or about 47 percent, to an all-time high of about 26,616. But then, “with his revolving-door cabinet, protectionist stance, incipient trade war, and constant barrage of attacking tweets (Amazon his latest target), the Dow has been in free-fall, currently at about 23,600, giving up 3,000 points since the all-time high (that is, giving back 35% of its total gains since Election Day) and firmly in correction territory.”

My friend thinks the market will slide further, and if it does its going to piss off the investor class. (Update: See “The Stock Market Is Having its Worst Second Quarter Since the Great Depression” at Fortune.)

As far as the Mueller investigation is concerned, I don’t expect any real fireworks before Paul Manafort goes on trial in July. As it is, right now if you stopped the average American on the street and asked who Paul Manafort is, most probably couldn’t tell you. Mueller is still making connections between Manafort/the Trump campaign and Russia, but most Americans haven’t heard the details. Trial coverage could change that. And if the July trial doesn’t do the trick, Manafort is set for another trial in September. Just as mid-term campaigns are heating up.

The fact that Trump is too stupid to keep his ass covered is a factor here, too. We learned today that Trump floated an invitation for Putin to visit Washington, which was completely not brilliant for somebody who needs to prove he’s not in Putin’s pocket.

Right now, most Republicans in Congress are standing by Trump, but if Republicans lose the House as is currently being predicted in many quarters, that could change. Will they want him at the top of the ticket in 2020? Some of them might decide that playing Howard Baker and impeaching Trump’s ass would be the noble, selfless — and politically smart — next step.

So yeah, the blimp has some leaks. It’s not going to stay afloat forever.

14 thoughts on “Trump’s Liabilities

  1. What has to happen for it to become criminal?

     Or is the SNL analysis correct as the faux-Lester-Holt asked, "Nothing Matters?"

  2. Trump better tread lightly with his antagonism of the Chinese. They have the ability to commit to a brutal economic trade war against the United States if they so desire. If trump overplays his strongman posturing our economy will take a major hit that won't play well for Trump. Aside from that if they decide to guarantee the safety and security of North Korea from any military action from the United States they will effectively neuter Trump as being a paper tiger. It's one thing being the mighty Oz intimidating people from behind the curtain, but once that curtain is drawn back to expose the toothless lion, Trump is going to have a hard time trying to maintain his facade.

     The world will be a little closer to seeing/ understanding what a fraudulent bag of shit Trump is.

    And I'll bet my bottom dollar that Mueller already has Trump's tax returns and has gleaned them with a fine tooth comb. My hope and my suspicion is that Mueller insures that Trump can't escape justice. I don't believe Mueller will leave any of Trump's wrong doings to the possibility of a judgment that isn't grounded in the law. He's gonna circumvent the GOP's give us Barabbas crowd.

  3. I'm convinced Trump is on the twin horns of a dilemma. He wants to convince Americans he's not Putin's puppet while he reassures Putin that he actually is. (What Putin has on Trump is more serious than hookers, I think.) IMO, the second horn is the reason behind the proposed WH summit with Putin.

    Re my opinion what Putin has. The only thing that will put a rich man behind bars is stealing from another rich man.

  4. Swami,

    Concerning messing with China, they won't prove that tRUMP's a paper tiger, but a paper dragon.

    • Nah, Trump isn’t any kind of dragon. To the Chinese, dragons represent creativity and enlightenment as well as power. Ain’t nothin’ dragon-like about Trump.

  5. First, his breaking the "Emuluments Clause" daily – if not hourly – is proof of the lie that he's "like a really, really rich guy." 

    He's still the "really greedy, greedy guy" he descibed himself as when on the campaign trail, when he lied and said in that instead, as POTUS, he'll be 'a really, really greedy not for himself, but for America.'

    But despite all of the evidence, I think his base will shake that off as "fake news!"

    What I think would really make his base rethink their love for, and veneration of, their Dear Leader," is the news that he had sex with a minority female.

    If a black or brown woman can provide valid physical evidence of an affair with tRUMP – a long one, or even a one-night stand – his bigoted base might be motivated to take another look at their beloved "Hair Fury."

    They might think, "So, you tell us how bad 'Sp*cs' and 'N*ggers' are, and how much you hate them, but you gladly 'boff' them?  Uhm…  I hate them, but I'd never 'boff' 'em!  What the f*ck is wrong with this picture?!? (Women in the base might think, 'It's bad enough having sex with all of these white bimbo's, but with 'Sp*cks' and 'N*ggers'?  No way!'). *

    Sure, tRUMP will scream about fake news and fake pictures, and a lot of his bsse will believe him. 

    But how many of them won't?

    The only genius thing tRUMP came up with, was making his "Fake News" response a meme after any news or talk critical of tRUMP, or that challenged his intelligence. 

    *And if there's any evidence of a gay affair, it's "LIGHTS OUT!!!!!"

  6. Gulag – sorry, but in that world (Trumpland) it's OK for white guys to screw non-white women (I've heard "they'll f— your eyes out").  The thing that ignites the murderous fury of American racists is when a black guy screws "their" white women. 

    Male sexual insecurity is a huge psychological factor behind racism in the USA.

    But I agree, hard (oops) evidence of Trump "swinging the other way" would make 'em all cross-eyed.

  7. OT – Digby has a post "Selling America for Parts Revisited" It's brilliant. I have a tendency to rail about all these separate issues but if Trump actually has any ideology, this article describes it. They are purely offended that the government can spend so much money on programs which don't make billions for business.


    Elkern took the words right out of my mouth.  I would only add that white racist women would not be too happy about their guys taking up with black women.  Or maybe they would just excuse them as "just being men".  I agree with Maha that there is nothing dragonlike about Trump but I also do not like insulting tigers.  They are my favorite big cat.  Trump is more like a rat or a cockroach or what Swami calls him.

  9. "or what Swami calls him"

    You mean a big bag of shit? I know it seems a bit juvenile to use that terminology, but it is the most succinct and comprehensive description that  can give the listener a true sense of the substance that composes Donald J. Trump. I suppose I could describe him as an empty suit or a flim flam man, or even a vacuous soul, but even at that it would fall short in addressing his multiple character defects. He's a black hole of narcissism and insecurity. So for those reasons calling him a big bag of shit is the only terminology that will suffice.

  10. I agree with Elkern.  Gay sex would be unacceptable to his base.  Probably also submissive, wearing-a-diaper-style sex.  And, if it turns out he's paid for abortions, much of his base would most likely refuse to give another mulligan.  

    Financial corruption may, however, be the basis for his downfall in one sense.  If any investigation reveals that he is not "really, really, rich," but is no more than yet another con man with a negative net worth (up to his eyeballs in debt to the Russian mob) most of his base will begin to forget that they ever supported him.    

  11. Swami:  I do not consider it juvenile at all.  I sometimes have thoughts that I would rather not have like if Trump had to undergo surgery for some reason when they cut him open everyone in the OR would get sick because of the stench. 

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