All of us likely have “that friend.” That friend that we respect a great deal, whom we wish we could spend more time with, but who also exasperates us with their seeming inattention to the news of the day. Frequently that friend will ask us something like this: “What’s so bad about Donald Trump? It seems like everyone’s just going overboard with criticism. Why don’t people give him a chance? It’s so sad.”
This series of articles is intended to be a guide and a resource for answering that deceptively difficult question – it’s not difficult to point to a bad thing, of course, there is an inexhaustible plenitude. What’s difficult is boiling it down to a few major points, providing trustworthy evidence, and stripping it of the hyperbole that puts people on the defensive.
So here goes. What’s so bad about Donald Trump?
Part 2: Corruption
Donald Trump is one of the most corrupt men to ever hold the office of president. That’s all well and good to say, but what does it mean?
Wikipedia defines corruption this way: “In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or
criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a
position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit, or, abuse of entrusted
power for one’s private gain.” That
seems like a good place to start. I would like to present to you a few examples
of pretty clear corrupt action and intent on the part of Mr. Trump, and let you
decide whether they are appropriate for a president to have undertaken.
Trump is unique among presidents for his long record as a real estate developer. But, far from being a qualifying factor in his favor, I would argue that his behavior in the business world displays a brazen sense of dishonesty, outright theft, and self-dealing. For instance, we have the hundreds of allegations by contractors who worked for Trump that he refused to pay them for services rendered. When these parties have attempted to recover the money they were owed, or have publicly criticized Trump, his strategy is often to sue them into silence, because he possesses resources for protracted legal proceedings that his opponents usually do not.
Trump has a long history of lending his name to dubious business ideas. Among the most infamous was Trump University, a series of real estate seminars that advertised “the secrets of success” and personal face time with Trump himself to aspiring real estate investors. After a class action lawsuit alleging false advertising and fraud, a Federal court judge has approved a $25 million settlement in the plaintiffs’ favor. This isn’t even the sole claim of this kind, as another lawsuit alleging similar misdeeds proceeds through the courts presently.
Mr. Trump has been credibly accused of laundering money for foreign criminal interests. What is money laundering? This is when you use a legitimate business or real estate property to accept money gained through criminal means (say, drug dealing) and turn it into a legitimate asset for its owner (say, a condominium). In this case, after Trump has lost billions of dollars in a disastrous casino business venture, he recouped his losses by accepting money from Russian business interests, especially ones that purchased condominium properties in Trump buildings for prices far higher than market value. Suffice it to say, this stinks to high heaven, but Trump has also steadfastly refused to release his tax returns, despite claiming for decades that any credible presidential candidate should do so.
As he was running for the presidency, Trump engaged in illegal payments to keep his sexual affairs quiet. Hush money was paid by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film star Stormy Daniels. After Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, former Playboy Model Karen McDougal was promised $150,000 in cash and to have her journalistic stories published. This money was arranged by National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, which constitutes an illegal campaign contribution under Federal election law.
Since becoming president, Trump has refused to follow the precedent set by prior presidents by placing his business holdings into a blind trust or liquidating them into Federal bonds. Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama had all done so. Why should this matter, you say? Well, if a President has business interests that net him profits in, say, Saudi Arabia or Russia, would that not present a conflict of interest when a presidential administration is creating policy to deal with Saudi or Russian misdeeds? If a president is actively making money from business in a foreign nation, he or she seems less likely to punish that nation. Then, there is the issue of self-dealing within the US government itself. US officials travel and spend our tax dollars on their airfare and accommodations. When the president is the person who owns those accommodations, he profits directly from the business of the US government. Foreign diplomats have already publicly stated that they choose to stay at Trump-owned properties in an explicit attempt to curry his favor and extract favorable policy concessions from his administration.
It is easy to become inured to the torrent of corruption accusations levied against Trump. Surely it’s all exaggerated, you might ask. To that I would simply say this: Donald Trump lost more money from 1985 to 1994 than almost any other taxpayer in the United States – more than $1 billion. Yet, somehow, he came out ahead, paying no income taxes for most of those years.
Would this happen to a normal US citizen who followed all rules and laws, and who did not defraud his fellow citizens for cash or accept money from dubious foreign investors?
There is simply too much smoke here for there to be no fire. Donald Trump is a corrupt person who has used his influence, financial resources, and now his position in the United States government to enrich himself and to conceal his numerous crimes. He is ethically unfit for the presidency, and his being president diminishes the trust that any reasonable US citizen can have in the good faith activity of their government.