On November 17, 1973, four months before the IRS billed him $400,000 in back taxes and for improper deductions, Richard Nixon held a press conference in which he famously stated

“I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service — I earned every cent,” he said. “And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I could say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”

And while it is unlikely that Melania Trump owns a “respectable Republican cloth coat,” the American people are still entitled to “know whether or not their president is a crook.”

We do need to know whether or not our president is a crook. We also need to know if he can possibly stop himself from revealing nuclear launch codes in order to show what a big man he is.

Donald Trump, by persistently and arrogantly refusing to either reveal his tax returns or to divest himself of his international financial holdings, has done nothing to dispute the suspicion that he is a crook. His business record is no more reassuring, which includes a casino repeatedly fined for money laundering violations, according to CNN:

According to a dozen anti-money laundering experts, casinos often run into these problems. But getting caught with 106 violations in the casino’s opening years is an indicator of a serious problem, they said.
The violations date back to a time when the Taj Mahal was the preferred gambling spot for Russian mobsters living in Brooklyn, according to federal investigators who tracked organized crime in New York City. They also occurred at a time when the Taj Mahal casino was short on cash and on the verge of bankruptcy.

Nor did the $25 million settlement of the fraud claims against his Trump University provide any evidence of honest or ethical business dealings.

The suits contended that Trump University students had been cheated out of thousands of dollars in tuition through high-pressure sales techniques and false claims about what they would learn. Mr. Trump and his lawyers continued to deny those claims, even after the settlement was first announced in November, soon after his election.

Trump’s past is littered with the lives he has destroyed by refusing payment for work done.

… USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Yes, the American people need to know whether or not their president is a crook. Fortunately, Donald Trump has made it fairly easy to determine. Whether it is the Russian connections that bring him down, or his repeated violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, or revealing classified information that will cause harm to an American submariner, it is entirely possible that he will not complete his first term in office.

Not to worry, though: the Koch brothers are fully prepared with their minions in place should that situation arise. Beginning of course, with Mike Pence, whom Stephen Rodrick profiled for Rolling Stone.

During my travels across the self-proclaimed Crossroads of America, I learned that Mike Pence had once paid his mortgage with campaign funds, dragged his feet during an HIV epidemic and a lead-poisoning outbreak, signed an anti-gay-rights bill that nearly cost Indiana millions of dollars, lost his mind on national TV with George Stephanopoulos, and turned away Syrian refugees in an unconstitutional ploy laughed out of federal court. And he ended his gubernatorial term unpopular enough that his re-election bid in a Republican state seemed dicey at best.

Obviously incompetent, Mike Pence has a long road to travel before he can be considered a crook of the same caliber as his boss. On the other hand, as far back as 2014, Kellyanne Conway was singing his praises as a Republican free market defender:

“Indiana is one big free market, [and] much like Koch Industries, Mike Pence … picks the right fights,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist who has polled for Pence and at least one Koch-backed group. “He doesn’t pick a fight for fighting’s sake, but he engages on the front lines when it’s a matter of principle or when something of great consequence is on the line,” said Conway, who also has appeared at Americans for Prosperity events.

A former talk show host who led a crusade to defund Planned Parenthood in the House, Pence has worked to spotlight the fiscal issues that animate the Kochs’ political giving. People close to the brothers say he first earned their network’s admiration during the George W. Bush years, when he opposed what he deemed Big Government policies backed by his own party, including No Child Left Behind and a Medicare expansion, and repeatedly warned that the GOP was veering off course.

According to a Time profile last summer, Pence fought for the Koch agenda while a congressman and chairman of the House Republican Conference before becoming Indiana’s governor and fighting the same battles there.

Pence’s signature effort to date is a rollback in corporate tax rates that Americans for Prosperity’s leadership holds up as a model for other governors. The group’s president, Tim Phillips, likes to refer to Pence as “one of our favorite governors.”

But, more important, several key former Pence aides on his personal and conference staff from his House days ran the financial and political efforts at the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

One of those aides, Marc Short, served the Koch brothers as the president of Freedom Partners, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to push the conservative/libertarian agenda forward. From a TPM report in 2013:

At the head of the organization is Marc Short, who serves as Freedom Partners’ president and on its board of directors. A longtime political operative who has worked for various conservative organizations and Republican politicians over the past 20 years, Short assumed his role at Freedom Partners in March 2013. A former “Koch operative,” Short is now running an organization that Koch Industries maintains operates “independently of Koch Industries

In 2008, Short worked for Congressman Pence, who then appointed him as chief of staff for the House Republican Conference where he worked from 2009 to 2011, when he left to join the Koch cabal. He currently serves as Donald Trump’s director of legislative affairs, where he has been very, very busy.

Right after the November election, Marc Short began working on an Excel spreadsheet that outlined the federal regulations instituted by the outgoing Obama administration that could be eliminated under a little-known, rarely used law: the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Passed as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the CRA allows a new Congress – by majority vote in both chambers, with limited debate, no possibility of a filibuster and the president’s signature – to roll back public protections issued in the final six months of a previous administration. The CRA also blocks agencies from issuing rules that are “substantially the same” as those repealed without express authorization from Congress.

So far, Trump’s Congress has used the CRA to pay back their corporate donors by rolling back 14 regulations covering issues from workplace safety and environmental protections to broadband privacy and education. Prior to this, it has been used only once in the previous 20 years. While Democrats are attempting to slow down and even reverse some of these actions, the odds of success are not very high as long as we remain the minority party. According to Sen. Corey Booker, who has introduced legislation to kill the CRA:

“Abuse of the CRA has allowed Congressional Republicans to fast track the repeal of a host of protections that benefit everyday Americans with little notice or public debate,” Booker said. “President Trump and Republicans are misusing this legislative mechanism to reward special interests and big corporations at the expense of consumers, working families, and the environment.”

Richard Nixon was right when he proclaimed that “the people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.” Donald Trump is a shameless, flagrant crook who blames the Senate for allowing him to not pay his fair share of our tax burden. But if Mike Pence is a crook, he is a back-channel crook—one whose cruelty and dishonesty are hidden behind a curtain of religious morality.

While Trump only wants our money, Pence wants our government. Pence is willing, as he has shown us in Indiana, to ignore the needs of the citizens in order to satisfy the desires of the donor class. It is clear that the Republican congressional leadership is in happy compliance—no longer even pretending to serve their country, but openly siding with the corporate donors.

Speaking of which, the Koch brothers have already begun their multimillion dollar campaign to get Trump’s tax cut through Congress this year. 

Crooks, indeed.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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