Damanpreet Singh / Flickr World News White House is said...
Damanpreet Singh / Flickr

It is not commonly known, but the president’s favorite phrase, “Make America Great Again,” comes with a wee little asterisk on the tail end of it. The asterisk, which on hats is rendered in a font so tiny as to be effectively invisible, leads to an even smaller disclaimer rendered in teeny-tiny letters on a single red thread: “But Not On My Dime.”

Across the country, the Trump Organization is suing local governments, claiming it owes much less in property taxes than government assessors say because its properties are worth much less than they’ve been valued at. […]

Since becoming president, Trump’s companies have filed at least nine new lawsuits against municipalities in Florida, New York and Illinois, arguing for lower tax bills, ProPublica has found. Some of those lawsuits have been previously reported. At stake is millions of dollars that communities use to fund roads, schools and police departments.

Claiming he is worth ten bajillionty dollars while sending his lawyers off to battle property taxes by claiming his properties are worth far less than those lofty amounts has been a standard Trump tactic throughout his business career. It becomes more awkward when the man is president—or it would be, if anyone involved had any shame.

No president in modern times has owned a business involved in legal battles with local governments.

No president in modern times has attempted to profit from his own private business while in office. Considering that Trump is happily pocketing checks from groups seeking government favors for events they hold at his own private venues, trying to skirt local tax obligations is positively genteel. It’s the sort of small-ball cheapness that the Trump brand is known for. By all means, Trump blusters, America needs to build new roads and hire more police officers and all the rest of it—but not on my dime.

It’s not just a matter of what might happen to a local government if Trump’s company does not get its way. The threat is implicit either way: This is not any real estate company you are dealing with, this is the president’s personal real estate company.

The pressure on local officials to acquiesce to the Trump Organization’s demands, lest they face unspecified retaliation from either the presidential podium or from Trump’s many installed allies in the federal government, is inevitable.

This is the precise sort of conflict that federal ethics rules were intended to head off. Unfortunately, Donald Trump simply announced he wouldn’t be abiding by those rules—and Republican lawmakers defended his choice, and continue to do so to this day.

And here we are.

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