Big Griftin’

Donald Trump, Jr., left, and his brother Eric pose for photographers after attending the opening of the Trump SoHo New York, Friday, April 9, 2010. The 46 story hotel condominium has 391 units. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Donald Trump, Jr., left, and his brother Eric pose for photographers after attending the opening of the Trump SoHo New York, Friday, April 9, 2010. The 46 story hotel condominium has 391 units. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
December 21, 2016 12:59 p.m.
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In the six weeks since Donald Trump’s surprise election we’ve already seen numerous grifts, shakedowns and efforts at various levels of completion to monetize the US Presidency – all this in advance of Donald Trump’s actually becoming President. But this unfolding story of the Trump’s sons “Opening Day” fundraiser seems significant to me in a way that goes beyond the money involved or precise details. It somehow brings the whole story together. It captures a point I’ve been trying to make in recent weeks. The language and taxomony of “conflicts of interest” and conventional government ethics are simply not up to the challenge of understanding the Trumps let alone protecting the republic from them.

This little episode captures it all: There are no conflicts. This is the plan. The conceptual framework of ‘conflicts of interest’ are guardrails meant to keep people who are not fundamentally corrupt from slipping into corruption. They lose any force or explanatory power they might have when you apply them to people using the presidency as a business model, the ultimate corporate ‘synergy’. Bernie Madoff wouldn’t have been kept out of trouble by a better securities compliance or ethics lawyer. It was a criminal enterprise. They had those people. They didn’t let those people see the real action.

Let’s review the issue here.

The Trump sons and two longtime pals stand up a one-off ‘nonprofit’ to hold a fundraiser the day after the inauguration to sell access to the Trump Family. Nominally, the cause is ‘conservation’. But they hadn’t even figured out an explanation of what they were going to do with the money. The putative charity which stood to benefit said it hadn’t decided whether it wanted to be involved. So much for that.

Once the operation was publicized, the Trumps said the proposals were not finalized and the planners behind the event hadn’t gotten approval from the Trump sons. But the Trump sons were listed on the incorporation papers of the nonprofit! The EventBrite ticket page listed Don and Eric as the event organizers! In other words, the Trump boys weren’t ill-used by people trading on their name. They were the people! It’s their nonprofit. They were organizing the event! It’s the standard hang the organizers out to dry approach; but they’re the organizers. The blame shifting, under the bus throwing is a just a chain reaction of nonsense.

We know how the Trumps handle their charities. And this isn’t even something six months into the administration. It is difficult to quite capture not just the brazenness of this idea but how totally the Trump boys were caught in the act. The Trump Family is basically already at the “Who Are You Going to Believe? Me or Your Lying Eyes” stage and we’re not even out of the Transition yet.

Drop the idea of thinking the Trumps need a better framework, better advice or anything else. This is the plan. Crooked nonprofits are just part of it. The real action will be turbocharging the family business with the juice of the American presidency. The sooner you realize that, the better you’ll understand what’s going on.

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