Fresh from his acquittal by the U.S. Senate, President Trump is on an I-am-exonerated victory tour, touting his integrity along with that of his cronies, advisors and appointees, and castigating the supposed witch-hunters of the Democratic Party.
But the sentencing later this month of Trump’s longtime friend and political advisor — the self-proclaimed “dirty tricks” operative Roger Stone — offers a timely reminder of the scope of scandalous, and in some cases criminal, behavior by the president’s associates and underlings.
No fewer than six people in the president’s near orbit — including Stone — have been convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges including fraud, lying to federal investigators and lying to Congress. Four Cabinet-level appointees left amid allegations of misusing tax dollars or other misdeeds. More investigations continue into Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and Trump’s inaugural committee. There’s nothing “fake” about those controversies.
Perhaps that’s to be expected, given the president’s own character. He lies, he bullies, he interferes with investigations and exudes disdain for the rule of law. As we’ve seen again in just the last week, he meddles with the Justice Department, attacks judges and generally encourages American cynicism toward crucial institutions.
Trump promised in 2016 to drain “the swamp” in Washington. If anything, though, he has expanded it through his own petty graft — every one of his scores of golf outings and stays at his own properties uses tax dollars to support his businesses — and by putting industry lobbyists in charge of crafting policy and enforcing regulations on the industries they formerly worked for.
The revolving door in Washington between government offices and special interests has long been a problem, but the Trump administration has made it turn more freely. Shortly after his election Trump announced rules that his aides said would limit the role of lobbyists in government, but which in reality weakened groundbreaking Obama administration restrictions; then Trump granted waivers to some top appointees who couldn’t meet even those weakened limits. ProPublica reported that in his first two years, Trump appointed at least 281 lobbyists to government positions, four times the number President Obama had appointed.
That has led to a former coal industry lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, running the Environmental Protection Agency; an activist who urged that federal lands be turned over to the states, William Perry Pendley, running the Bureau of Land Management, which controls those lands; and a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist, David Bernhardt, running the Department of Interior, which has significant influence over those industries. And on it goes.
Trump and his supporters say that the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the refusal of the Republican-controlled Senate to remove Trump from office exonerated the president. They did nothing of the sort. The Mueller report offered numerous examples of the president actively seeking to obstruct justice, the kind of behavior that led President Nixon to resign as he faced impeachment. And the impeachment record amassed by the House establishes persuasively that the president sought to use the power of his office to compel a foreign power to interfere with the 2020 election, and then obstructed Congress’ efforts to investigate.
We concluded in early 2016, as Trump’s campaign was gaining traction, that he was unfit to be president, and he has proved it time and again. Corruption is only one of the clouds hanging over this administration, but it is a dark and thick one that won’t go away until voters remove Trump from office.