Hi there, America. Donald Trump is taking bribes while president.
That feels like something we ought to point out yet again, since the Republican House and Senate have professed complete indifference to a sitting president pocketing cash from foreign governments, personal allies, and ideological groups that want to reward him—in dollars—for having certain policy stances.
Not by donating to a political campaign, mind you, but by giving Donald Trump cash directly.
In the olden days of Any Other Time Until This Garbage Fire Showed Up, this was not only unacceptable but considered a dealbreaker. We have certain ethical guidelines in this country for being crooked, meaning you can largely get away with funneling as much cash to a politician as you want so long as you call it a “campaign” donation. But you couldn’t accept gifts while in public office. This was out. You couldn’t have someone hand you a wad of bills and get away with it.
All Trump had to do, once in office, was not fully divest from his private businesses. Boom: a ready-made avenue for supplicants, allies, and the Republican Party itself to pay Donald Trump’s companies private cash and rest assured the money will find its way to Trump’s own pocket.
Florida conservative activist Steven M. Alembik, for instance, is planning a 700-person “Truth About Israel Gala” at Mar-a-Lago in February. He plans to charge $600 a seat. He says he expects Mar-a-Lago will keep most of it, and that’s fine.
“We’re supporting our president, who supports Israel,” Alembik said.
The “Trumpettes USA” — they add the “USA” because “Trumpette” is a brand of baby socks — are led by Toni Holt Kramer, a Mar-a-Lago member who has turned part of her home into a sort of shrine to Trump.
She has planned a dinner for Jan. 18. First, it was 700 people. Now, it’s 800, she says. Two ballrooms and $300 per seat.
Both of these events are being held largely as fundraisers for Mar-a-Lago itself. Donald Trump has certain policies as president; as reward, his backers will be paying him cash.
Trump keeps those profits. Anything Mar-a-Lago makes that doesn’t go back out as expenses, he keeps. He nobly has purported to sign documents making sure he can’t dip his hand back in those tills until his presidency is over, or until he changes his mind, whichever comes first.
Since Trump gained the presidency, his so-called “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago, has gotten increasingly toxic. They lost numerous big-event bookings over Trump’s incessant bungles, scandals, and oh-by-the-way racism, but as the Washington Post documents, they’ve made up those bookings largely with the help of allied conservative and Republican groups stepping in to make sure the presidential cash cow doesn’t suffer. This includes events like the above, invented by backers for the primary purpose of giving Donald’s business cash.
No other modern president could get away with this. President Jimmy Carter had to sell his family farm because his policy decisions might, for example, affect the price of peanuts. Obama could at no point have opened up a new Washington hotel bearing his name, in which he himself kept the profits, and expected Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell to go along with the scheme. He would have been impeached, full stop.
This garbage fire? This garbage fire can, apparently, do anything he wants. Paul Ryan don’t care.