November 20, 2016

Trump in Transition (v2)

Reuters photo
So, how are things going out there in Transition-land? Well, let's get caught up.

Trump has named three more officials so far, in addition to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon: for National Security Advisor, the foreign-client-lobbying-while-receiving-US-security-briefings-challenged, angry retired General Mike Flynn, and Kansas tea-partier Mike Pompeo for CIA director. One can only guess that there were no guys named Mike who could fill the role of the so-racially-compromised-that-even-Republicans-didn't-confirm-him-for-a-federal-judgeship, so Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions got tapped for Attorney General. Maybe they'll call him Mike.

Other than that?  Well, New Gingrich supposedly doesn't want a government job. Rudy Giuliani wanted one so badly that he made a fool of himself, and Trump doesn't like people who make fools of themselves. Ask Chris Christie. And, we're not sure whether Mitt Romney went to meet with Trump because he's that decent a guy, or because he wants a role in the administration, or if, as one Trump insider said, it was time for Mitt to kiss the Donald's ring. This is something Trump is quite fond of doing, summoning people to his altar, from whence there emanates a giant smooching sound.

We're waiting for more appointments and whatnot, but we did have news that the Trump Organization is exploring anything and everything to figure out how they're going to keep the business separate from the POTUS. The complicated Trump businesses, with real estate and golf and wine and roses (oh wait, sorry, made that roses part up) and the Trump Foundation and the made-out-of-the-USA fashion empires and all of the foreign loans and the Russian connections -- it's a big old hot mess of a conflicts.

And it gets hotter when you remember that the three most favored children are now officially part of the transition team, just as they are, with their dad, the top management of the company. So how are they doing with that separation thing?

Not bigly well, that's for sure.

Reuters/Cabinet PR Office photo
Ivanka was included in the meeting with the Japanese prime minister the other day; so was her husband, Jared Kushner. So, for a few minutes, was Broadway aficionado and Veep-elect Mike Pence - for a few minutes, anyway.

Now, I'm sure Ivanka's role there was only to observe - after all, she was sitting off to the side in the official picture, as you can see. But what is one really to make of her being there?

Did the Japanese officials walk away wondering why that tall blond woman was in the room with the guy wearing the dark suit and brown shoes? Or did they leave with the understanding that the POTUS would smile on them if they helped the First Daughter expand the company's real estate holdings in Japan?

Or, what about the Indian businessmen who visited with Trump and his kids?
Economic Times photo

Was this meeting to congratulate him on his victory, as Trump's camp said, or was it to expand their partnership? And what about Trump praising the Indian Prime Minister during the meeting - was that the businessman speaking or the POTUS speaking?

And remember the old Post Office a stone's throw down Pennsylvania Ave from the White House, the building he turned into a luxury hotel? Yeah, it seems that the Trump International Hotel is the place to be if you're a foreign visitor here to meet with the POTUS.  After all, as one Asian diplomat noted,
Why wouldn't I stay at this hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, 'I love your new hotel!' Isn't it rude to come to his city and say, 'I'm staying at your competitor?'
No conflict there, though -- right? But what happens if someone is not staying there, and the POTUS asks innocently, 'Hey, how do you like my new hotel?' What answer does the person give, and what do they get from their visit to the White House? Is it going to be an honest exchange, or will it be more like what happens when Trump gets mad at an apprentice?

And that's not to mention the fact that the lease on the building is between Trump's business and the General Services Administration (GSA), and GSA leases don't allow any elected official to benefit from the leases in any way. And it's also not to mention that the POTUS appoints the head of the GSA. And that the GSA would be negotiating with the POTUS offspring.

Priebus, trying to calm the fears, said today in an interview on CNN that
Obviously we will comply with all of those laws and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things We will have every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed, and I can assure the American people that there won't be any wrongdoing or any sort of undue influence over any decision-making.
I'm not resting easy, over Trump's personnel decisions to date, or over the lack of action on getting the businesses into a true conflict-free zone. Particularly given that Trump and his minions spent an inordinate amount of time barking about the alleged pay-to-play with the Clinton Foundation (which is an actual foundation, giving money to actual causes, as opposed to Trump's foundation, which merely pays his bills), I can only surmise they thought they weren't going to win and so didn't do any thinking in advance of how to separate Trump the President from Trump the business. And he clearly can't seem to separate himself from Ivanka and her husband.

Until we hear something concrete on how he plans on making the break, I won't be assured, no matter how much Reince Priebus wants me to be.