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Why Trump's Private Transactions are Terrifying

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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From Robert Reich Blog

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Trump has described the payments his bag man, Michael Cohen, made to two women during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't discuss their alleged affairs with him, as "a simple private transaction."

Last Saturday, when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump knew the payments were wrong and were made to help his election, Cohen replied "Of course... He was very concerned about how this would affect the election."

Even if Trump intended that the payments aid his presidential bid, it doesn't necessarily follow that he knew they were wrong.

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Trump might have reasoned that a deal is a deal: The women got hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for agreeing not to talk about his affairs with them. So where's the harm?

After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn't comprehend the public interest.

Private transactions can't be wrong or immoral because, by definition, they require that every party to them be satisfied. Otherwise there wouldn't be a deal.

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Viewed this way, everything else falls into place.

For example, absent a public interest, there can't be conflicts of interest.

So when lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for an estimated 500 nights at Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel within a month of his election, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rented so many rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan that its revenues rose in 2018 after years of decline, Trump saw it as half of a private transaction.

The other half: Trump would continually go to bat for Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince, even after the Senate passed a resolution blaming the Crown Prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million," Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally in August 2015. "Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

Ethics smethics. Without a public interest, no deals can be ethical violations. All are just private transactions.

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So someone donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee and subsequently received a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department. What's the problem? Both parties got what they wanted. (Federal prosecutors are now investigating this.)

Trump aide and former Fox News executive Bill Shine continues to rake in millions each year from Fox News, and Fox News continues to give Trump the positive coverage he wants. What's the worry? It's a good deal for both sides.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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His private deals shouldn't actually raise any more concern than the dealings we know are going on with many of the rest in the swamp. Seems they've all got their hands pretty dirty.

The question is not whether anyone's okay with that, but rather is any part of American society willing to do anything meaningful about it?


Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 at 9:18:18 PM

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