SCANDALS THAT SHOULD TAKE DOWN ANY PRESIDENT
Trump has been involved in multiple major scandals in his short presidency that merit impeachment and removal from office. He is a scandal-generating machine.
The American political system is historically ripe with scandal and corruption. The combination of money, power, and influence has always led astray elected men and women who choose to put personal enrichment over their vows to the country and Constitution.
Our system of checks and balances usually operates, though in fits and stutters, well enough to weed out the most egregious violators of our moral code. Countless politicians have fallen to ethics violations, actual criminal convictions, or to losing the trust, and incurring the ire, of the voters.
To remove a president, however, he/she must first be impeached. That process starts with the House introducing impeachment resolutions like an ordinary bill, or by passing a resolution authorizing an inquiry.
The House Judiciary Committee oversees impeachment proceedings, and a simple majority vote is needed to move an impeachment resolution out of the committee, at which point it is up to the House majority leader whether to put the measure to a vote by the full chamber.
The House can approve the articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote. The House Impeachment is like an indictment, while the Senate performs the “trial.” A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required for conviction, which would result in removal from office.
Here are Trump’s major scandals, any one of which is worthy of impeachment proceedings:
1. Trump’s Deal To Rescue Chinese Telecom Giant ZTE
After the United States announced punitive measures against ZTE in response to the company violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea, the Chinese telecom giant announced it would shut down.
But in a shocking reversal, on May 13, 2018, Trump ordered (by tweet) Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to save ZTE from collapse, saying the failure of ZTE would cost China too many jobs.
Coincidentally, on May 14, 2018, it was revealed China committed $500 million to an Indonesian development that will include Trump hotels, residences, and a Trump golf course.
Norm Eisen, the top ethics official under President Obama, has accused Trump of directly violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which is designed to prevent an office holder from “receiving special consideration in business transactions with a foreign state (or with a corporation owned or managed by a foreign state).”
The clause, according to legal scholars, is meant to prevent “profit accruing to the officeholder . . . because such arrangements would threaten exactly the kind of improper influence that the clause was intended to prevent.”
The punishment for violating the Emoluments Clause, according to Edmund Jennings Randolph, one of the Framers of the Constitution, is impeachment.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Bloomberg, posits, “While there is no single best metric for assessing the size of a presidential scandal, we know the key factors. One is indictments and convictions. Another is the rank of those guilty and the proximity of the president to the crimes and abuses of power.”
Bloomberg places the Trump-Russia scandal as the “biggest since at least 1986, when Iran-Contra was ravaging the Reagan administration.”
All U.S. Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election in an attempt to sway the election in favor of Trump.
In April of 2016, George Papadopoulos, a member of Trump’s national security advisory group, reached out to Russian contacts to try and organize a meeting between Trump and Putin.
Russian hackers stole information linked to the Clinton campaign and passed it to WikiLeaks, so it could be released to undermine the Clinton campaign. When informed by U.S. Intelligence officials that they believed “with high confidence” that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Trump refused to accept the findings, and instead invited Russia to find more emails.
At the same time as the hacking scandal, Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort was accused of accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in the Ukraine, and for secretly working with a Russian oligarch to aid Putin.
During this time, the GOP changed the language in its official position on the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian wording.
July 2016, the famous Trump Tower meeting becomes the first confirmed meeting between a Russian national and members of Trump’s inner circle. Donald Trump Jr. admitted meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after being told that she had damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Also present at the meeting were Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.
In January 2017, Buzzfeed publishes the Steele Dossier that alleges Russia had compromising material on Trump, making him susceptible to blackmail.
Jeff Sessions is accused of lying at his confirmation hearing when he claimed he had “no communications with the Russians” during the election campaign, only to have it revealed later that he had met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak privately. Sessions recuses himself from the FBI investigation.
In February 2017, it is revealed that General Flynn discussed the potential lifting of Obama sanctions against Russia with Kislyak, before Trump took office, which is highly illegal: private citizens cannot conduct U.S. diplomacy.
Trump fires James Comey in May of 2017 over “this Russia thing.”
May 10, 2017, Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a private meeting in the Oval Office that no American press was allowed to attend. This was the same meeting where Trump told the Russians that firing James Comey relieved “great pressure” from the Russia investigation.
Facebook reveals in September 2017 that Russians with links to the Kremlin had paid for politically charged advertising that targeted American voters during the 2016 campaign.
October 2017, Paul Manafort is charged with 12 counts, including conspiring to defraud the United States in his dealings with Ukraine. George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to Federal agents. Rick Gates, a Trump campaign aide, is charged with 12 counts including conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements.
In December 2017, Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI.
In February 2018, the Justice Department announces charges against 13 Russians and 3 companies with conspiring to subvert the 2016 election and support the Trump campaign. Among the crimes: stealing the identities of American citizens, posing as political activists, and using immigration, religion and race to manipulate the campaign and public opinion in a divisive manner.
All in all, the Mueller investigation has already resulted in indictments on 19 people, including Trump’s first national security advisor, and a campaign chairman. Multiple Trump administration people have been caught lying about contacts with Russia or Russians, and Trump has repeatedly attempted to derail the investigation in multiple ways, including firing the FBI director.
The Trump-Russia scandal directly implicates Trump, and members of his inner circle and family, in collusion and conspiracy to cooperate with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. In the process of this, multiple actions had occurred that would qualify easily for Obstruction of Justice.
Conspiracy, collusion, and Obstruction of Justice are all crimes that can result in the impeachment of a President.
3. Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen
Having an affair while president can produce a major scandal that can result in impeachment. See Bill Clinton.
Having an affair with a porn star a year after he married Melania and just months after she gave birth to his son Barron, would normally, and quickly, spell the end of Trump’s presidency.
Having your personal lawyer Michael Cohen pay the porn star $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair, then lying about knowing about the hush money while talking to reporters on Air Force One should be enough to seal the deal.
Disclosing in required federal financial disclosure forms that Trump did indeed reimburse Michael Cohen for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, proving that he actually was aware of the transaction the entire time he was denying any knowledge of it, would be the coup de grace in any prosecutor’s actions. And that doesn’t even broach the payment violating federal campaign election finance law.
But now, Daniel’s attorney Michael Avenatti has released banking information that showed Cohen accepted more than $1.2 million in payments from the Russian-connected investment firm Columbus Nova, and funneled that money through his shell company Essential Consultants, LLC.
This is the same shell company that Cohen formed to pay Daniels the $130,000 in hush money to prevent that information coming out during the 2016 presidential election. (Business Insider)
It would be reasonable to assume that the Russian oligarch connected to the Columbus Nova payment would likely expect “access or influence in exchange” for the $1.2 million investment.
According to Allan Smith and Sonam Sheth writing for Business Insider, this crossing paths of two seemingly unrelated scandals, could spell big trouble for Trump and his team of defense lawyers.
“If a factual connection emerges between the Daniels case and the Russia investigation, it may be possible for prosecutors to tie both investigations — and the evidence attached to them — into one case.”
Smith and Sheth propose that these links between Mueller’s probe and the federal investigation into Cohen, prompted by the original Stormy Daniels payment, may cause prosecutors to approach these cases like they do with ones involving organized crime and the mafia.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in prosecuting organized crime cases at the Justice Department, said that the mafia likes to centralize certain functions, like its financial dealings.
“So the analogy here is if the Cohen accounts turn out to have been used for that type of purpose, it’s the organizational bank account. And if you’re putting money in and paying money out to various sources for different purposes that are all seemingly unrelated but involve, in one way or another, the President of the United States, that begins to paint the full picture.” (Business Insider)
4. Trump Scandals From Within the Administration
The members of a president’s administration directly reflect on the values and ideals of the man who hired them. Past presidencies often have a high rate of turnover, in order to install the person who they feel best represents them in the position.
Trump’s administration is filled with people who, like Trump, consistently and blatantly cross ethical and moral lines by violating rules and profiting from their offices. Just a couple of these would be enough to bring down a president, but Trump has many.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has faithfully executed his marching orders to oversee a rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. But along the way, he has racked up controversy. When he took over the post, he was already known as the Oklahoma attorney general who sued the EPA over regulations, and suggested that the global warming debate was “far from settled.”
Pruitt spent $43,000 to purchase and install a soundproof booth in his office. Federal spending law requires that the EPA notify Congress before spending more than $5,000.
Pruitt also replaced the head of his security detail with Pasaquale Perrotta, who operates a private security firm. Perotta oversaw a rapid expansion of Pruitt’s security, approaching $3 million in total costs. A spokesman said these costs were justified because of death threats against him and his family, but an AP nationwide search found “no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt.”
He gave large raises to close aides, and then claimed he was unaware of the raises and planned to reverse them, but no such action has been taken.
Pruitt and his staffers used both private planes and military jets to travel multiple times instead of flying commercial, including trips to Rome, resulting in costs over $120,000.
Pruitt lived for months in a Capitol Hill condo for way below market rate ($50/night, and only the nights he was there), provided by a health care lobbyist whose husband, J. Steven Hart, had lobbied the EPA in the past. Mr. Hart is the CEO of a firm that specifically lobbied on “issues related to the export of liquefied natural gas, approval of LNG exports and export facilities.” (Center For Responsive Politics)
One of Pruitt’s first class trips was to Morocco to promote liquefied natural gas exports.
According to Time, at least five officials at the EPA have been demoted, removed, reassigned, put on leave, or asked for new jobs after voicing concerns about Scott Pruitt’s actions and behavior, and by last count is in the middle of 13 separate investigations, and is very close to a 14th by advancing a financial hardship waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, the former adviser to Trump.
HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned because of growing criticism of his use of private and government planes for travel, at a cost to taxpayers of over $1 million. Many of his trips mixed official business with leisure.
Dr. Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has ignited a firestorm of ethics violations after he was accused of multiple stories of extravagant spending for redecorating his office, including the purchase of a $31,000 dining room set.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been accused of wasting taxpayer money on extravagant travel, failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest with former donors and the fossil fuel industry, having an inappropriately close relationship to a top energy lobbyist, and lying about his professional credentials.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also has been accused of inappropriate use of taxpayer money for travel on military jets, including the now famous trip to Fort Knox in Kentucky with his wife where they posed for photos with sheets of newly minted money.
Trump’s special adviser on regulatory reform, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, immediately went to war with the EPA over a program that he said cost his refineries hundreds of millions of dollars. (Bloomberg) His efforts were later rewarded by Scott Pruitt (see above).
Icahn also is the Trump administration member who dumped $31.8 million worth of stock in a steel-dependent company in the weeks before Trump announced his tariffs on steel imports. This is the classic definition of insider trading.
Icahn stepped down after Congressional scrutiny over whether he was influencing regulations to benefit his financial investments, and companies that he owns. Federal prosecutors are currently looking into these actions.
Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to resign when it was discovered that she had traded in tobacco stocks, food and drug companies, as well has failed to divest other holdings that kept her from working on key health issues, while she was serving as the nation’s top public health official.
This list of officials leaves out several other repugnant members or former members of his administration who, though not classified as involved in direct scandals, should be:
Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s White House Chief Strategist for the first seven months, was the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, has long advocated for the systematic dismantling of the American government, and has “done more than any other person to introduce the…alt-right into mainstream American life,” according to conservative commentator David French.
Stephen Miller, senior advisor for policy, is a renowned white supremacist who became a conservative after reading Wayne LaPierre’s book, helped white supremacist Richard Spencer with fundraising while at Duke, and who once accused poet Maya Angelou of “racial paranoia.” He is still considered, besides the bedtime stories from Sean Hannity, to be the voice in Trump’s ear.
Jared Kushner, senior advisor to his father-in-law Trump, has filed false documents with New York City, partnered in a company that has been under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI over acquisition of foreign mineral rights to build a luxury tower in New Jersey financed through loans from Chinese nationals, and retained his interests in that building after becoming senior advisor.
Larry Kudlow, appointed Director of the national Economic Council under Trump, once said that the wealthy “have no need to steal or engage in corruption” because “they know how to achieve goals…” Kudlow was addicted to drinking and cocaine, at one point causing him to lose an $800,000/year job at Bear Sterns in 1984. On the “The Larry Kudlow Show,” he ridiculed people predicting the 2008 crash by calling them “bubbleheads.” After the collapse, he told his listeners there was nothing to worry about, and by as late as 2011, was saying that Obama’s stimulus program would “create 1970’s style stagflation.”
The country saw the lowest inflation in two generations, and the lowest interest rates in history.
There are so many more players that are crises waiting to explode: Kellyanne Conway, Betsy DeVos, Naved Jafry, Ken Isaacs, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Susan Combs, Wilbur Ross, and on and on.
5. Some “Very Fine People” In Charlottesville
A far-right rally called “Unite the Right” occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11 and 12, 2017, at which Richard Spencer, a leader of the far-right nationalists, was scheduled to be the headline speaker.
Their stated goal was to oppose the removal of a Confederate statue, but the organizer said the rally was really intended to unify the white nationalist movement in the United States.
The rally attracted white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-confederates, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and various militias. The event turned violent when protesters clashed with counter-protesters. After the Virginia State police declared the assembly to be unlawful, James Alex Fields Jr., a known white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19.
Trump’s remarks on the violence in Charlottesville were shocking because they did not include a denunciation of white nationalists, Nazis, or the Klansman, nor did they acknowledge the hate and intolerance at the core of the Unite the Right Rally.
Instead, Trump issued a rambling statement that seemed to place the white supremacists on the same moral footing as the protesters by claiming that left wing groups were just as violent as the white supremacists.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
Later, Trump claimed that he couldn’t make a condemnation of the right-wing hate groups because he didn’t “know all the facts” about the white nationalist who drove his car into the crowd of protesters.
On August 15, 2017, Trump defended his inability to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis, by saying they included “some very fine people.” He went on to say “You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists . . . the press has treated them absolutely unfairly . . . You also had some very fine people on both sides.”
6. “Grab Them by the Pussy” and Multiple Sexual Abuse Allegations
Of all the things that should have prevented someone from becoming President of the United States in the first place, the infamous Access Hollywood tape from 2005 would be it. In it, Donald Trump discusses women with TV host Billy Bush on their way to a taping of Access Hollywood.
In the tape, Trump described his attempt to seduce a married woman:
“I moved on her very heavily…I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”
Then, he indicated that he might start kissing a woman that he and Bush were about to meet.
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In November 2017, Trump attempted to claim that the leaked tape was a fabrication, prompting Access Hollywood host Natalie Morales to say on the show at the time, “Let us make this perfectly clear — the tape is very real. Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”
As previously reported in this series, Trump: He Is Who He Appears To Be, 22 women have come forward publicly to allege sexual abuse, sexual assault, or inappropriate sexual conduct against Trump. The misconduct dates back to 1989, and includes a range of women from his former wife Ivanka, to participants in his beauty pageants, to women hoping to secure jobs, and even Playboy playmates and porn stars.
Their names are: Ivanka Trump, Maria Billado, Victoria Hughes, Bridget Sullivan, Tasha Dixon, Samantha Holvey, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Temple Taggart McDowell, Cathy Heller, Lisa Boyne, Karena Virginia, Mindy McGillivray, Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Summer Zervos, Nikki Laaksonene, Cassandra Searles, Jane Doe, Jessica Drake, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal.
It is striking how similar the sexual assaults are, when examined over the period of several decades. A introduction, either by chance or a business meeting, results in a handshake which is then forcibly pulled closer so that Trump can aggressively kiss and physically assault women who think they are just being introduced to him, or perhaps having a legitimate business meeting.
He considers women his property, as is the case in several instances of abuse of beauty pageant contestants, and as demonstrated in the Access Hollywood tapes, he feels he has a right to sexual congress with any women because he is famous.
Trump’s position to this day is that every single one of these women is lying.
Most fallen or disgraced Presidents had one major scandal that proved to be their undoing. Watergate brought down Nixon. Burglars connected to his campaign staff were caught breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to wiretap phones and steal documents, and it was his conspiracy to cover up the crime that led to his impeachment and subsequent resignation.
Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, during the prosecution of the case for his sexual harassment of Paula Jones.
Reagan’s legacy was tainted by the Iran Contra Affair, in which the U.S. sold missiles to Iran, in violation of its own embargo, in order to free some hostages. It was later revealed that Oliver North, an aid to Reagan’s National Security Council (and now the President of the NRA), diverted those funds to bankroll the right-wing militant group, the Contras, who opposed the government of Nicaragua. Fourteen Reagan administration figures were charged, but Congress found no direct evidence of Reagan involvement. (US News)
The list goes on: The Teapot Dome oil field scandal that smeared the Harding presidency and resulted in the first former Cabinet member going to prison (Albert Fall), Ulysses Grant’s Whiskey Ring scandal (238 indictments and 110 convictions), Andrew Johnson’s impeachment which fell one vote short of removing him from office, and the corrupt bargain between House Speaker Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams to steal an election from Andrew Jackson who won the popular and electoral vote.
The problem with Trump’s many scandals appears to be that the press cannot focus their attention on any one; they appear at such a furious rate that the press is incapable of pursuing them in their normal, investigatory fashion. One falls away as the next takes over the headlines, so each scandal seems to disappear into the background, not by lack of merit, but by fatigue. But each scandal is extremely serious. Individually, they would be enough to take a president down; collectively it should be a slam-dunk.
Trump has always claimed to be the very best at whatever he does. In the case of scandals, he appears to be the very best at producing them, and avoiding their prosecution.