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Dealing With The Dealing President

By  |  January 12, 2017, 04:00am  |  @stevengberman

Two things emerged from yesterday’s press conference with President-elect Donald Trump. The first is that any news Trump doesn’t like is “fake news.” The second is that this president will make deals in office that will benefit him personally, and he will likely make that information available to those who run his businesses.

As for the “fake news,” blame the press. They went along with Buzzfeed and chose sides, preferring to get ahead of the “news” with stories of how Trump was briefed on the completely outlandish and unverified “dossier.” Only problem was, Trump wasn’t briefed on the most salacious parts.

Like Star Wars fans found out what Darth Vader does with those he doesn’t care about in Rogue One, CNN found out what soon-to-be President Trump does with news he cares not for. We’re less than 10 days from the inauguration. This is what we get for the next four years. Get used to it.

And soon-to-be President Trump sees no reason to exceed legal requirements for things like transparency, or ethics. What was Congress thinking when they exempted the President and Vice President from the federal employee conflict of interest law in 18 U.S.C. § 202? Trump will offer a challenge to Congress–almost daring them to try to nail him on Emoluments Clause violations.

It might not be Trump they go after. I expect the Democrats to make a special case out of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He is the conduit through which any privileged information could flow in either direction. He is also one of the beneficiaries of Trump administration deals that results in good fortune for the Trump Organization, since he’s married to one of the proprietors.

Kushner needs to be very, very careful and mind his P’s and Q’s. If anyone ends up the Scooter Libby of the Trump administration, it very well could be Kushner, who saw his own father sent to prison on federal charges.

Trump plans to avoid the Emoluments Clause by turning over any foreign-government profits to the U.S. Treasury. He also pledged not to make any foreign deals while he is in the White House. But he refused to completely divest his business holdings. This drew fire from the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub, who called the arrangement wholly inadequate.

“We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit,” said Mr. Shaub, whose office establishes ethical standards for 2.7 million civilian employees in the White House and more than 130 executive branch agencies. “I appreciate that divestiture can be costly. But the president-elect would not be alone in making that sacrifice.”

What Trump plans to do doesn’t appear to be illegal, at least not on its face. And who will investigate him to see if it is?

Everyone in the executive branch of the government will work for him. Everyone at the top of the Trump Organization is related to him. He refuses to release his tax returns or other sensitive business documents. And he dismisses the press as either lying, or faking when they report something he doesn’t like (again, that’s the press’s fault).

It appears we have no choice, at least at first, but to just deal with the dealing President. Self-dealing, wheeling-dealing, wall-building and all. All I can say is that we better hope Trump meant it when he said he wants to Make America Great Again™. Because if he didn’t mean it, there’s literally nothing standing between him and all the benefits the Clintons could only dream of.