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Donald J. Trump Administration Scandals and Corruption

"Seeking liberty and truth above suppression and mendacity!"
"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech," said Benjamin Franklin.
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The Donald J. Trump administration will go down as the worse, most corrupt, comprised and dishonest administration in American history. This page is dedicated to tracking that corruption.

Donald Trump promised to drain the Washington swamp. Instead, he has  surrounded himself with family members, appointees and advisers who’ve  been accused of conflicts of interest , misuse of public funds , influence peddling , self-enrichment , working for foreign governments , failure to disclose information  and violating ethics rules . Some are under investigation  or facing lawsuits , others have resigned  and five have either been convicted or pleaded guilty , including three for lying to government officials . Scandals plague all administrations, but Trump’s is only two years old and the allegations keep on coming.

A relentless focus on Russia allowed many other controversies to escape the glare of legislative oversight. The allegations at the center of Robert Mueller’s just-completed investigation,  electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian  government and obstruction of justice, were rightly considered the  biggest presidential scandal in a generation, and perhaps in all of  United States history. They were also, for the purposes of congressional oversight, a monumental distraction. Consider  the following: The president promotes his corporate brands regularly  and in plain sight, while a hotel he owns mere blocks from the White  House rakes in profits from patrons, including foreign leaders,  with business before the federal government. Cabinet secretaries  reportedly violate ethical guidelines and conflict-of-interest rules left and right by spending lavishly on office furniture and official travel, or by failing to properly divest their business holdings. The president’s son-in-law obtains a security clearance over the objections of senior officials, and then—along with other top White House aides—conducts official government business using personal, unsecured devices and accounts. The president himself refuses to relinquish his personal cellphone, raising concerns that he is having conversations vulnerable to interception by hackers or foreign governments.

By Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen
(Axios) Even without seeing Robert Mueller's report, or knowing what prosecutors with the Southern District of New York have unearthed, or what congressional investigators will find, we already have witnessed the biggest political scandal in American history. Historians tell Axios that the only two scandals that come close to Trump-Russia are Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s, in which oil barons bribed a corrupt aide to President Warren Harding for petroleum leases. Mueller has already delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in U.S. history, author Garrett Graff points out — up there with Aldrich Ames (a former CIA officer convicted in 1994 of being a KGB double agent), or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets). Watergate yielded more charges than Mueller has so far: A total of 69 people were charged in Watergate; 48 people and 20 corporations pleaded guilty. Mueller so far has indicted 27 people; seven have been convicted or pleaded guilty. But historians say that both Watergate and Teapot Dome were more limited because a foreign power wasn't a central player, and a much narrower band of potential offenses was under investigation. A fourth notable scandal, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s — in which arms were traded for hostages held by Iran, with the money used to fund rebels in Nicaragua — also involved a more limited range of issues. The "biggest" realization might strike Trump supporters as overblown or plain wrong. But consider what we already know about actions of Trump and his associates:

Scandal 1: Trump secretly paid hush money to two mistresses on the eve of his presidential victory, and lied about it. His longtime personal lawyer is going to prison after carrying out the scheme on his behalf. The historical parallel: Bill Clinton was impeached (but acquitted by the Senate) for lying under oath about an affair with a White House intern. Clinton impeachment Article 3, passed by the House, was obstruction of justice. Earlier presidents, or their friends, had also been known to pay off mistresses.

Scandal 2: During the presidential campaign, Trump confidantes continued negotiating for a tower in Moscow, potentially one of Trump's most lucrative deals ever. He hid this from the public and lied about it. His lawyer is going to prison for making false statements to Congress about the deal. The historical parallel: None. Scandal 3: Russian officials had more than 100 contacts with Trump associates during the campaign and transition, including his son, his closest adviser, his lawyer, and his campaign manager. The Russians offered assistance in undermining Hillary Clinton. The FBI and other government authorities weren't alerted about this effort to subvert our election. The historical parallel: None.

Scandal 4: Michael Flynn was national security adviser at the same time U.S. intelligence officials believed he was compromised by the Kremlin. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. The historical parallel: None.

Scandal 5: Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and told NBC's Lester Holt it was at least in part because of the Russia investigation: "[T]his Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story." The historical parallel: In the "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973, Nixon tried to stop the Watergate investigation by abolishing the office of Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox; and accepting the resignation of Attorney General Elliot Richardson, and firing Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, when they refused to fire Cox.

Scandal 6: Trump overruled the advice of his lawyers and intelligence experts, and granted his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret clearance. This so alarmed his White House chief of staff John Kelly that he recorded his opposition in a memo. Trump and his family repeatedly denied he had interfered. The historical parallel: None. The big picture: Presidential historian Jon Meacham tells us that this "transcends scandal — it’s a national crisis in the sense of a period of elevated stakes, high passions, and possibly permanent consequences." "We’re in the midst of making history more than we are reflecting it." Be smart: Trump himself might survive all of this — and even more. Republican voters seem basically unmoved by the mounting evidence.

From hand jobs to grip and grins with Donald Trump, the scandal is fraught with potential for blackmail.
By David Rothkopf
If the president of the United States is letting a Chinese madam sell access at Mar-a-Lago to Chinese business people while his friends are getting serviced at businesses she started, he is making himself and the country vulnerable to massive blackmail risk. It is a textbook story of how foreign actors gain leverage over senior officials. That point should not be lost amid the eye-popping prurience that runs through this tale, tempting though that might be. We’re talking about Florida, right? It has long been established that Florida is where the crazy goes to happen in America. It is where the rich go to play, the old go to die, political candidates claim they have been abducted by aliens, and everyone seems to want to rob the local convenience store with the aid of their pet alligator. So, when a story about a billionaire being arrested at a Jupiter, Florida strip mall sex spa breaks, our reflex is to snicker and write it off as another case of too many Sunshine State UV rays. And if that story were soon to develop to reveal that the billionaire was a friend of the President of the United States and that the founder of the spa also was a Mar-a-Lago regular who actually ran a business selling Chinese business people access to the president and his family, we might say, “Well, take Florida and add our zany, sleazemonster of a president and what do you expect?” Set aside the gut-wrenchingly horrific details of the sex trafficking that is at the heart of this story for a moment, and you might even see a choice irony in a madam who moved on from selling hand jobs to selling grip-and-grins with a president who himself has made pimping out his high office a signature part of his job.

The strange, swampy saga of Trump donor Li Yang.
By David Corn, Dan Friedman and Daniel Schulman
The latest Trump political donor to draw controversy is Li Yang, a 45-year-old Florida entrepreneur from China who founded a chain of spas and massage parlors that included the one where New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was recently busted for soliciting prostitution. She made the news this week when the Miami Herald reported that last month she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event. Though Yang no longer owns the spa Kraft allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” (She told the newspaper she has never violated the law.) Beyond this sordid tale, there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the business—which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach—suggests she had some success in doing so. Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.” But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.” (The same day the Herald story about Yang broke, the website stopped functioning.)

Rachel Maddow reports on the evidence suggesting that Donald Trump, to the detriment of taxpayers, interfered in plans for a new FBI headquarters to protect his hotel from potential competition from a new neighboring development.

At least six entities linked to President Donald Trump are the focus of investigations, with the possibility of others that have not been made public. CNN's Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul take a closer look.

Six White House officials have violated the Hatch Act, according to a letter from the Office of the Special Counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. The six officials are White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, White House deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto, executive assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout, former special assistant to the President and director of media affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré, press secretary for the Vice President Alyssa Farah and Office of Management and Budget deputy communications Director Jacob Wood. The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees in an attempt to prevent the federal government from affecting elections or operating in a partisan manner. This includes sending partisan messages from social media accounts used for official government business. All six violated the Hatch Act by using their Twitter accounts, which they use for official purposes, to tweet messages considered partisan by OSC. Four of the six tweeted messages that included "#MAGA" or the slogan "Make America Great Again!" Shah tweeted a message from his account citing research from the Republican National Committee. Ditto retweeted Shah's message with RNC research.
The Justice Department is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke  for possibly using his office for personal gain, following a referral  from Interior's inspector general, two sources familiar with the  investigation say. Zinke has faced multiple ethics questions during his time at Interior,  and the inspector general's office has multiple public inquiries into  the secretary including the department's handling of a Connecticut  casino project, whether the boundaries for Grand Staircase Escalante  National Monument were redrawn to benefit a state lawmaker and  conversations between Zinke and Halliburton Chairman David Lesar about a  Montana land development project.
It’s party time for grifters in today’s GOP. The ethical and moral standards inside the White House have dropped so  low that even on the way out the door, conservatives are painting the  comically corrupt former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt as a martyred hero victimized by the hysterical liberal media. But inside the Donald Trump White House, grifters, abusers, racists, and  harassers still get hired; they lurk around the Oval Office after  they’ve been found out; and even in the rare instance where they’re  forced out, it’s only grudgingly.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, citing "the unrelenting attacks" on himself and his family, which "have taken a sizable toll on all of us." Pruitt's resignation follows months during which the EPA administrator has been embroiled in one ethics controversy after the next. It also comes two days after an exclusive CNN investigation revealed a former top aide alleged Pruitt and his staffers held regular meetings to "scrub," alter or remove controversial events from his calendar. An ethics cloud hung over Pruitt for months, as lawmakers from both parties, environmental groups and government watchdogs raised questions about his spending, housing arrangements, security team and raises for political appointees.

Price resigned on Friday afternoon, shortly after Donald Trump hinted that a decision to fire the Health and Human Services Secretary was imminent. Price’s time as secretary was brutish and short. It began with Price’s confirmation hearing, which uncovered evidence of possible insider trading while in Congress. Price was ultimately undone by the corruption that appears to have characterized his time as a public servant. In his short reign at Health and Human Services, Price spent over $1 million on private planes and military aircraft for himself and his family. When he finally admitted wrongdoing yesterday, he did so in the most weaselly way possible, refusing to fully own up and pay the entirety of the taxpayer money he had spent.

"Politicians lie, but this is different." “Politicians lie, but this is different,” says a  historian who studies presidential history and estimates the Trump  administration easily ranks among the most corrupt in American history. Robert Dallek is a presidential historian and the author of several books, including his latest about FDR titled Franklin Roosevelt: A Political Life. Writing recently for the Guardian,  Dallek lamented the “disaster” that is the Trump presidency but also  reminded readers that American democracy is surprisingly resilient and  has survived far worse. Despite Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp,” the first year of his administration has been plagued by resignations, investigations, and scandals.  Dallek estimates that historical examples of corruption, like that of  the Warren G. Harding administration, don’t hold a candle to how Trump  and his people have conducted themselves in the White House.
History will judge Trump, and it will not be kind.

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. A former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

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