Gage Skidmore / Flickr sherrif clarke...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Hurricane Harvey is continuing to hammer Texas and is causing catastrophic flooding in Houston. The nation is holding its breath and hoping for the safety and a quick recovery for their fellow citizens. But Donald Trump is not among them. He woke up on Sunday morning and the first tweet to hit the Internet was a crass promotion for a cheesy book.

Trump’s good friend and alt-right confederate, Sheriff David Clarke, has a new book. “Cop Under Fire” appears to be a chronicle of his victimhood as a conservative African-American and Trump supporter. The President thought that this would be a good time to help sell this brazenly biased pile of literary trash. Ironically, he’s also helping Amazon, a company he has vocally disparaged, to make more money. Trump wrote this to begin his morning Twitter Tantrum:

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To be fair, Trump followed that up with some tweets about Harvey, but in in every instance he focused on praising the government response. He didn’t bother to address the concerns of those affected or provide information they would find useful. And it’s important to note that the people managing the response are mainly holdovers from the Obama administration. Trump still hasn’t appointed many of his own people to the relevant agencies.

But by elevating Clarke’s book promotion to the top of his list, Trump demonstrated what he regards as his priorities. He thinks that the nation should drop what they’re doing and buy his buddy’s book. The residents of Texas are not going to be able to comply. Which may be to their benefit. They won’t be wasting money on a political screed that contributes nothing to their current circumstances. And speaking of contributions, it might have been better if Trump had appealed for some to help Texans, rather than seeking to enrich Sheriff Clarke.

The spectacle of a president hawking books for his friends is more than just ethically smarmy. There are legal issues that need to be taken into consideration. The “Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch Employees” addresses this directly:

§2635.702   Use of public office for private gain.
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

That’s an explicit prohibition of improper conduct that anyone with common sense can grasp. It’s a policy that holds those in government to a standard of ethics that protects the American people from political crooks. There is just one problem. The regulation exempts the president and the vice-president:

§2635.102   Definitions.
For purposes other than subparts B and C of this part, it does not include the President or Vice President.

For some reason it is improper for a cabinet secretary or an assistant bookkeeper to do infomercials for diet pills, but the president can pitch whatever garbage he wants. However, the fact that there is such an exemption in the rules doesn’t make it any less ethically sleazy. And such behavior should be avoided whether or not there is an applicable rule. If our president had any morals he wouldn’t be acting as Clarke’s personal huckster. But then again, if Trump had any morals he would resign, confess his treasonous acts, and report to prison.

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


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