David Cay Johnston's It's Even Worse Than You Think: What The Trump Administration Is Doing To America (2018) is in reality part two of The Making of Donald Trump (2016), an excellent book. As he predicted in The Making of Donald Trump, he offers proof that "the Trump presidency is about Trump. Period. Full stop." And Johnston offers proof throughout by examples. Trump himself say so all the time, but because he mixes it in with lines about how he loves everyone and what a terrific job he will do, millions of Americans believe he is at one with them even though he is not even at one with himself. But listen skeptically and carefully and it becomes clear that Trump boasts that his term in office is all about him, about how great he is, about how large the crowds are, about his negotiating skills, about is authority to start a nuclear war, as he pledged on the campaign trail that he would. Trump is desperate for others to fill the void inside himself. He has a sad need for attention and, preferably public adoration.
Johnston posits that questions of corruption and foreign influence are on the front burner today because of the extensive business holdings of Donald Trump and his actions encouraging foreign powers, lobbyist, and other favor seekers to spend money at his Washington hotel and other properties.
Lawsuits accusing Trump of violating the constitution's emoluments clause have been filed by attorneys general from sixteen states and by 196 senators and representatives, Democrats all; a bipartisan ethics watchdog organization called Citizens for Responsibility and ethics in Washing ton, or CREW; and a growing list of business owners who compete with trump hotels and restaurants.
Their lawsuits and public statements describe calculated, willfully blind violations of the anti-corruption emoluments clauses Trump's lawyers, both his private counsel and Justice Department lawyers representing him as president, all contend there is nothing going on, and even if there was, the Constitution provides no pathway for these aggrieved parties to press their case in any court. Trump's lawyers say the plaintiffs lack standing, meaning they have no right under the law to bring a case enforcing the Constitution. Trump's position is that the plaintiffs cannot show they have suffered any personal or direct harm.
In modern America emolument is a hoary word few people have ever used in conversation. Trump's private and Justice Department lawyers narrowly define emolument. In other words, anything short of a flat-out bribe is legal, just so long as the transaction is run through one of the more than five hundred companies owned by the president. That is the official line at the United states Justice Department.
Filling the four thousand positions a new president is authorized to fill is a daunting task even for the best prepared candidates. Donald Trump said he did not expect to win and thus it was no surprise that he did not have an operation under way to identify the best talent along with places for those loyalists who had helped him become president.
But even a year after the election, the Trump administration has left many jobs vacant. Trump has the slowest rate of appointments of any modern president. And as time passes he is not catching up with those who came before him, but falling further behind.
After more than seven months in office Trump had nominated on 36 of 188 ambassadors. The failure to promptly fill these positions, and many others, raised more than the issue of Trump's lackadaisical approach to governing ignoring basic duties while he spent hours watching television to learn what was being said about him. His neglect also rout into question whether he was violating his oath to "faithfully execute" the duties of his office as Article II. Section 2 of the American Constitution clearly states.
Is John Kelly's Time Up As Chief Of Staff?
February 11, 2018
In this Nov. 29, 2017 file photo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, walks with White House staff secretary Rob Porter to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
With guest host Jane Clayson.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is facing blowback again, this time after standing by a top aide, Rob Porter, accused of domestic violence. The aide is now gone, but not after significant controversy. Is it time for John Kelly to go?
Chris Whipple, author of the New York Times best-seller "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency." (@ccwhip)
From The Reading List:
Washington Post:‘Very Turbulent’: Trump And White House Consumed With Turmoil Amid ... — "The White House was engulfed in chaos Friday as officials scrambled to contain the fallout from its management of domestic violence allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, even as President Trump lavished praise on the now-departed senior aide and suggested he may be innocent."
Vanity Fair:Beyond Disbelief: John Kelly’s Defense of Rob Porter Roils the West... — "Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me."
Chief of Staff John Kelly is under fire for his handling of abuse allegations levied against a former top aide. It’s not the first time the Marine Corps general has drawn criticism in recent weeks. He called some of the Dreamers lazy and reportedly derailed a bipartisan immigration deal. Some say his days are numbered. Others says, the president needs him. This hour, On Point: the future of John Kelly and a White House in chaos. --Jane Clayson
Another big reason for the slowness in filling important posts is Trump's mercurial nature and how it creates unnecessary problems. Instead of thoughtful, even calculated, official actions, Trump's volatile emotions often drive his decisions. So does whatever he hear from the last person he spoke to? So one of the first things General Kelly did as White House chief of staff was to control who sees the president and what papers they put in front of him.
At first Chris Christie led the team developing names for four thousand positions a president controls, ranging from cabinet members to ceremonial posts. Then trump dumped Christie, who was tarnished by scandals including one over political retribution that sent two of his closest aides to prison.
Trump assigned the task to VP-elect Mike Pence, who started the process anew witless than ten weeks to go before they took office. Pence has said he was not aware of doubts about the loyalty and integrity of General Michael Flynn, trump's choice for national security adviser, even though the transition term received written memos about him and Obama warned Trump about Flynn.
Trump took no responsibility for the delays. He blamed the Democrats tweeting "Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! want approvals. There were three factual problems with that tweet. One was that the Senate can only confirm people who are nominated and trump was not putting forth names promptly or even at a steady pace. Second, Republicans controlled the Senate and were approving some nominees even before their ethics and other paperwork was completed. Third, every person Trump nominated was approved by the Senate.
The Psychological Forces Behind A Cultural Reckoning: Understanding #MeToo
Nearly a quarter century ago, a group of women accused a prominent playwright of sexual misconduct. A Boston newspaper published allegations of sexual harassment, unwanted touching and forced kissing. For the most part, the complaints went nowhere.
In 2017, more women came forward with accusations. This time, everybody listened.
On this episode of Hidden Brain, we explore the story through the lens of social science and ask, "Why Now?"
What has changed in our minds and in our culture so that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are being taken so much more seriously than they were in prior decades?
A note for listeners: This story includes descriptions of sexual harassment and assault. It may not be suitable for all listeners.
Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter@hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.
Administrations come and go, but the diplomatic interests of the United States endure. Diplomatic missions can leave important marks that last for decades and they can also roil relations with countries, creating lasting enmity.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door project, which tracks people who come from industry to government and then return, said the trump administration was adept at getting around Senate confirmation hearings.
"They are appointing a lot of what are called special government employees," Hauser said. "They can put someone on the payroll for not more than 130 days. That way they don't have to go through a Senate confirmation process, which the person might not survive. It's a way of getting around oversight by the Congress and journalists because who pays attention to a short-term employee?"
Hauser pointed to the example of Keith Noreika. He was made Acting Comptroller of the Currency. When his temporary assignment ran out, the Trump administration left him in place.
Hauser and others said, are much weaker ethics rules under Trump. Walter Shaub quit as director of the Office of Government ethics after a series of clashes with the administration, which wanted to keep financial matters of its appointees hush-hush, waivers granted to people who owned stock in companies they would be regulating could keep their shares, and other policies that Shaub considered offensive to honest and open government. They were also, he said, unlike those of any presidents in the previous four decades at least.
Shaub called trump's eyes-wide-open blind trust, in which his sons would run his businesses and tell their dad about profits, "wholly inadequate" because "that's not how a blind trust works. There's not supposed to be any information at all."
After resigning in disgust in July, Shaub told the British newspaper The Guardian, "The fact that we're having to ask questions about whether he's intentionally using the presidency for profit is bad enough because the appearance itself undermines confidence in government."
Trump's conduct "risks people starting to refer to us as a kleptocracy. That's a term people throw around fairly freely when they're talking about Russia, fairly or unfairly, and we run the risk of getting branded the same way. America really should stand for more than that."