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Trump’s gigantic conflict of interest nobody cares about

Trump's gigantic conflict of interest nobody cares about

by digby

I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that Trump called his rival in 2016 "Crooked Hillary" because she supposedly took contributions to a charitable foundation from people who had issues before the Secretary of State (not true, of course) and he is getting away with stuff like this:

The largest American office of China's largest bank sits on the 20th floor of Trump Tower, six levels below the desk where Donald Trump built an empire and wrested a presidency. It's hard to get a glimpse inside. There do not appear to be any public photos of the office, the bank doesn't welcome visitors, and a man guards the elevators downstairs--one of the perks of forking over an estimated $2 million a year for the space.

Trump Tower officially lists the tenant as the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, but make no mistake who's paying the rent: the Chinese government, which owns a majority of the company. And while the landlord is technically the Trump Organization, make no mistake who's cashing those millions: the president of the United States, who has placed day-to-day management with his sons but retains 100% ownership. This lease expires in October 2019, according to a debt prospectus obtained by Forbes. So if you assume that the Trumps want to keep this lucrative tenant, then Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. could well be negotiating right now over how many millions the Chinese government will pay the sitting president. Unless he has already taken care of it: In September 2015 then-candidate Trump boasted to Forbes that he had "just renewed" the lease, around the time he was gearing up his campaign.

It's a conflict of interest unprecedented in American history
. But hardly unanticipated. The Founding Fathers specifically built this contingency into the Constitution through the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting gifts, titles or "emoluments" from foreign governments. In Federalist 75, Alexander Hamilton framed the threat thus: "An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth." Scholars have been debating what exactly constitutes an "emolument" since the moment Trump won the election, and nearly 200 congressional Democrats sued the president over possible violations in June. Much of the yammering in this area surrounds Trump's hotels, especially the one in Washington, D.C., which has billed $268,000 in hotel rooms and catering to the Saudi government, and his international licensing deals, which allow foreign tycoons and hucksters, many with connections to their local governments, to pay the Trump Organization more than $5 million a year in order to profit from the president's name in far-flung locales.

But that's all small potatoes. The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously. Federal laws, drafted without envisioning a real estate billionaire as president, require Trump to publicly disclose the shell companies he owns--but not the hundreds of businesses pouring money into them or even the extent of the money involved.


Maybe you think Trump has too much integrity to do anything as president that would benefit his tenants who pay him millions of dollars a year. That's certainly what all the people in Bizarroworld think. But if you have any suspicion that Trump might not be a guy who understands or cares about the idea of using his office for profit, this would seem to be a problem.

Here's my favorite thing about all this. Nothing will be done about Trump's massive corruption. He will be allowed to use his office for his family's enrichment throughout his term and that will be that. There will, however, be a major crackdown going forward. And Democrats will bear the brunt of it as Republicans energetically use the weapon they refused to wield against Trump against their rivals. And Democrats, perpetually afraid of being accused of hypocrisy, will join them

All Democrats had better be aware that even they are the cleanest candidates in history, it won't be enough to stave off the onslaught.

Just a little warning of what's to come.

In the meantime, contemplate just how malignant Trump's open corruption really is. He brags about it. Nobody cares.