Don’t Lose Focus: Here Is Every Scandal Plaguing Donald Trump
“Teflon Don” some call him, a reference that evokes a combination of Ronald Reagan and John Gotti, the original Teflon men. Polytetrafluoroethylene, was registered under the “Teflon” trademark in 1945 by DuPont and became popular for having the third-lowest coefficient of friction of any known substance, i.e. as the covering for “non-stick” pans. President Trump shares many traits with his fellow Teflon men including the baffling fact that accusations, criticisms, and scandal seem to slide off him without leaving a mark.
The repeated presence of scandal in the Trump administration has driven approval ratings down into the 30s for most of this year. With harassment and ethics lawsuits followed by Robert Mueller investigating Russian connections, perhaps these scandals left more of a mark than it first appears.
Despite the near constant presence of scandals which would be presidency-derailing for any other administration, Trump appears to sail onward maintaining the approval of his base. Some of his staff have departed, chased out of D.C. for behaving in ways that mimic President Trump, yet no scandal has stuck enough to force the President to reform his behavior yet.
Donald J. Trump has led a confrontational social and business life that often landed him in the tabloids. In both his personal and professional life he has been notoriously litigious and has been mired in many scandals over the years. The press mostly emphasized President Trump’s controversies while on the campaign trail, but a brighter light has shown on his actions since taking office.
Several books could be written on the events plaguing this administration, but these are the most egregious scandals.
I do respect [Putin]… There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent. You think our country’s so innocent?
-Donald J. Trump
It has become clear since the election that Russian media and intelligence agencies used complex espionage as well as targeted advertising on social media to inflame fault lines and tribal tendencies within the U.S. electorate in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Democratic presidential campaign. Many questions remain unanswered including the central one of how closely this Russia effort was linked with the Trump campaign. Attention to these issues surged after the election culminating in the firing of FBI director James Comey and revelations about Donald Jr. meeting with Russian nationals in an attempt to get damaging info on Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower NY over the summer of 2016.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the participation of Russia in the election and how closely the Trump campaign worked with them. As the first round of indictments were handed out, the course of this investigation becomes clearer in two important ways. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign manager was indicted both for crimes committed before the campaign as well as those during it. Between the potential Russian help on the campaign, lying and obstructing justice, and concerns over money laundering using real estate, President Trump and his administration have a lot of exposure to worry about.
Nepotism And Swamp Creatures
I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people. We want top of the line professionals.
-Donald J. Trump
As a staff member, you are a team player and work with others to pursue a common goal. You create the story; you are not the story. Some of President Trump’s staff seem to understand this — Hope Hicks for example — but many, many more do not. Again and again, staff hired or nominated by Trump make headlines…and not in a good way.
Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Stephen Bannon, Steven Miller, Katrina Pierson, Corey Lewdanowski, Michael Flynn, Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Sebastian Gorka, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Wilbur Ross, Jason Miller, Carl Icahn, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, Michael Cohen, Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin, Rex Tillerson, Ezra Watnick, Linda McMahon, Mike Pompeo, Neil Gorsuch, Tom Price, Andrew Puzder, and Gary Cohn.
Each and every one of the above Trump hires have managed to generate headlines in the press for their conduct beyond controversial beliefs and comments. Lying, swearing, private jets, “moron,” inappropriate meetings with Russians, love children, inappropriate influence and conflicts of interest, hiding in bushes, wearing a Nazi collaborator medal, promoting white supremacy, plugging Ivanka Trump products on TV, and undisclosed assets just to name a few of their transgressions.
Perhaps the most controversial of the President’s hires remain his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Nepotism, while common in monarchies and dictatorships has been a far more limited occurrence in recent American politics. Questions concerning Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner’s qualifications abound as do those about their ethical conflicts from large asset portfolios. In addition, Jared Kushner has managed to retain both his job and security clearance despite what may now be the most updated disclosure forms in White House history.
These are President Trump’s people and his decision to hire them reflects upon him and his judgment. A White House, and administration as a whole, comes to resemble its leader and the current iteration is no exception. The inability of staff to stay out of the news continues to plague Trump and will not change as it mirrors President Trump’s own driving need to always be the center of the story.
Dog Whistling Dixie
You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides
Donald Trump being called a racist is nothing new. From housing discrimination lawsuits to demanding the death penalty for young men later found to be innocent, such racial allegations have long accompanied President Trump and his actions. It was his restless pushing of the birther conspiracy, the insistence that President Obama was not an American, that truly brought attention to this aspect of Donald Trump. Such views of Mr. Trump were further fueled by the incendiary rhetoric he employed against Latinos, Muslims, African Americans, immigrants, and generally American minority populations as a whole.
It was not until President Trump began bringing on Breitbart staff to his campaign and then into the White House that the term “white supremacist” began to be commonly used. This is not surprising given Breitbart’s close relationship with the “alt-right” and the position they occupy in the right-wing media landscape. Writing pieces neo-Nazis and the KKK approves of tends to elicit disapproval. It was not Breitbart however, but President Trump’s own words that won him the label of “white supremacist.”
Whatever claims are made about the intention behind the “Unite the Right” rally, it was a celebration of hate that left one woman dead and many more injured. Torch-lit night rallies, Confederate Flags, Nazi Salutes, all the miasma of the master race floated through Charlottesville that day, much to our national shame. It took the President far too long to make a statement on the violence and when he did, he cited the “very fine people on both sides.”
Although the wording would change, President Trump stuck to his message that all the parties present at Charlottesville were equally to blame and worthy of censure. President Trump’s interactions with minorities subject him to censure and harsh criticism, which can be expected to continue as his behavior shows no signs of changing.
I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.
-Donald J. Trump
Our current President likes his name on buildings in large gold letters. His business, in which President Trump appears to take great pride, is built around his brand. Hotels, TV shows, ties, steaks, schools, whatever new Trump business he is selling, his name is what makes people buy it. But money and politics exist in an often scummy symbiosis and business only makes this relationship more likely to be unethical. Buying favors or influence comes in many forms and ethics rules and traditions exist in politics to keep these interactions transparent and help civil servants maintain the trust of the public that elected them.
A president owning a business is nothing new, Jimmy Carter owned a peanut farm after all. President Carter put his farm into a blind trust, an action that while not required by law, is required by custom. Even this distance did not prevent a six-month investigation by a special prosecutor and 239-page report on every little detail when some irregularities with a loan made to the farm surfaced. President Trump, however, has retained ownership of his business despite transferring day-to-day management to his children, all the while insisting that conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president.
President Trump enjoys patronizing his own businesses, spending one day in three at various locations that bear his name over the course of his presidency so far. Thanks to the detailed reporting of David Fahrenthold we know taxpayer money has indeed been paid to President Trump through his businesses. Mostly this money comes from Secret Service payments for lodging, air-fares, and the ever-growing amount spent on golf cart rentals. President Trump has indeed personally profited off the presidency.
More concerning than directly profiting is the issue of buying influence by patrons at Trump properties. These are the very concerns that the Emoluments Clauses (yes there are two) of the Constitution seek to prevent. Since the election, the increasing role of political groups as clients of President Trump’s businesses has become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Driven by his divisive rhetoric and actions, charities and other high profile clients who traditionally make up the core of Trump’s business are canceling events in droves.
Harder to document but still clear is that revenue from political groups and foreign governments is now providing a larger and larger portion especially at venues like Trump’s hotel in Washington DC. Just as being elected president has politicized Trump as a person, so too has it politicized the business that bears his name.
The Harvey Weinstein Of Politics
Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
-Donald J. Trump
To mark the one year anniversary of this tape, an advocacy group played it on loop in front of the White House for 24 hours straight. At the same time, The New York Times released a report detailing the decades of sexual abuse and harassment of producer Harvey Weinstein. Many prominent men have made headlines lately for harassment and sexual assault including Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Riley and now a score of others in the recent weeks. The high profile nature of these allegations has served to inspire social media campaigns such as #MeToo but also to remind Americans that our current president was elected despite similar habits.
In the last forty years, 15 different women have come forward to say President Trump assaulted them sexually with another 12 insisting he engaged in inappropriate and unwanted sexual behavior from kissing to grabbing various items of their anatomy. In most cases, all the victims have for support are their stories, but in President Trump’s case, there was also recorded evidence of conversations. Despite such evidence of President Trump’s attitudes towards women, the incident was dismissed as locker room talk thereby proving his point. When you are a star, they just let you do it.
Yet the tide of public harassment indictments is far from finished and every time another victim steps forward, it invariably invites comparison to our commander-in-chief. The personal allegations against President Trump have continued to simmer and the President’s character all but guarantees fresh allegations of inappropriate conduct.
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140 Character Insights Into Ineptitude
A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
— Hillary R. Clinton
Surprisingly, President Trump’s temperament and character are two aspects that even irk his supporters. All across America people really do wish he would quit it with the tweeting. Being President is a stressful job. Sometimes you want to let loose a bit, maybe wear a tan suit, but President Trump’s issues go beyond merely letting loose. Our president does not take criticism well, and he has an astounding ability to make himself the center of any situation.
When Ms. Clinton first made the above statement, it seemed a tad hyperbolic. President Trump does have thin skin but nobody would respond to a twitter argument by threatening nuclear war…right?
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
President Trump’s seeming inability to respond in a dignified, appropriate, or proportional manner has already significantly impacted our allies’ trust in us and our shared endeavors.
You would not think a need to be the center of attention would negatively impact a man who is generally the focus wherever he goes, but President Trump has proved this is not so. He managed to ruin the Boy Scout Jamboree, forcing the Scouts to actually apologize to members for inviting the President of the United States to speak. Such need for the spotlight hurts when it results in lobbing paper towels at Puerto Ricans seeking hurricane aid. This behavior comes off as vain and petty. Case and point:
Large and small, these character flaws reveal startling concerns about President Trump’s competency that have drawn criticism from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Like Snowshoes, But For The Swamp
With all these scandals it seems amazing that the White House and the Trump administration as a whole gets from week to week. As one scandal recedes from the headlines, another rises to take its place. It boggles the mind, and you would think something would stick to Trump. It turns out all the various scandals may be the very reason consequences roll off of Trump like water.
Like a snowshoe, spreading the criticism of Trump over a wider area reduces the impact of any one piece. It appears far more effective to focus on single aspects such as how a person is “corrupt” or “manipulative” when seeking to develop a narrative that sticks. As each new scandal and character defect are highlighted, those previously focused on fade into the background and leave little mark on President Trump.
Such a broad, scattershot approach to criticism and outrage is exacerbated by the flighty and ephemeral nature of our social media-based news cycles. Headlines are what top our feeds with emphasis placed on what is new over what is significant. The temptation to take a scattershot approach is also a weakness of the political left resulting from its strength as a diverse coalition of various groups directing attention to and calling for action on a host of issues. Too much criticism gets tuned out or stereotyped as “liberal hysteria”, but how do you prioritize a single house when your entire street is on fire?
Bridges, businesses, the Soviet Union; all of these appear fine from the outside until collapsing suddenly inward their foundations eroded subtly over the years. So too do the myriad of scandals erode the Trump presidency without defining it or more accurately the Trump administration is defined by the presence of scandal but not any particular one.
As scandals erode his support President Trump will face a reckoning for one of the above issues, but that will only represent the tip of the iceberg. Al Capone went down for tax evasion and the President could assuredly face a similar situation convicted for but a small provable part of the actions he is considered guilty of in the court of public opinion. President “Teflon” Don may be non-stick for now, but Teflon is merely a coating, easily scratched, and once broken deteriorates rapidly.