From The Hankyoreh
The United States has long been viewed as a country with a tradition of respect for the rule of law. Political figures were held accountable to the courts and independent bureaucracies enforced rules and regulations. This didn't mean there wasn't any corruption; some level of corruption is unavoidable. But corruption was the exception and for the most part it was kept secret. Unlike many dictatorships, exposure meant the end of corruption. In the Trump presidency, this longer appears to be the case.
Donald Trump has been defying the rules and norms that had governed past presidencies from even before he was elected. There has been a longstanding tradition in U.S. politics that candidates for president disclose their tax returns. This allows the public to see potential conflicts of interest and also to assess a candidate's past behavior to determine if they have acted ethically in acquiring the wealth they have.
Throughout the campaign, Trump refused to release his tax returns claiming that he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He indicated that he would disclose his returns once the audit was completed. This claim made no sense since there is nothing about an audit which would preclude public disclosure. The IRS already has his returns, so it wouldn't be getting new information that would be harmful to Trump if the returns were made public.
In any case, this excuse seems to have disappeared on Election Day, with Trump adopting the new position that the public had voted and decided they didn't care if Trump shared his returns. Instead of committing to the release of his tax returns after the audit, he committed never to release his returns.
But this was just beginning of the Trump administration's contempt for the law and long-established practices. Unlike past presidents, he refused to either disinvest from his business empire or even have it placed in a blind trust. Instead, he had his holdings placed in a revocable trust, which allows him to retake control at any time. His children maintain day-to-day responsibility for running the business.
He quite openly uses his office to profit from his business. He routinely spends weekends at his various resorts where he forces the government to run up large bills paying for accommodations for his Secret Service protection, as well as for aides who accompany him on his trip.
Major lobbying organizations, like the National Rifle Association, have made a point of scheduling events at Trump properties, presumably with the idea of currying favor. (On the other side, some prominent charities have cancelled events at Trump properties, presumably because many contributors would be offended.)
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There are also reports that State Department officials have recommended that foreign governments make a point of using Trump hotels to stay on the administration's good side. This would seem to run directly counter to a provision placed in the U.S. constitution that explicitly prohibits the president from taking payments from foreign governments.
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Dr. Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
in Washington, D.C. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University. (more...