We know that the Philippines, Kuwait, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are among the foreign governments booking large blocks of rooms at the Trump International Hotel with the hopes and intents of currying favor with the President. And we know that foreign lobbyists, particularly from Saudi Arabia, are doing the same.
And we know that Trump’s Mar a Lago resort is raking in American taxpayer dollars by the boatload every time he vacations and holds official government dinners and events there. He flaunts this practice shamelessly and flagrantly, making no bones about it.
These facts have motivated Senator Richard Blumenthal, among 200 democrats, to sue Trump for violating the Constitution’s Domestic and Foreign Emoluments clause. Most basically, these clauses are designed to prevent anyone occupying the Presidency from exploiting the power and influence the accompanying the office to enrich oneself.
And, of course, Trump’s conversations with Russia regarding his pursuit of a vainly self-named tower in Moscow continued, he purportedly acknowledged, through his presidential campaign up until the November 2019 election day.
I worry there’s a lot we don’t know, though, in terms of the extent to which Trump is really abusing his office to accumulate wealth at the expense of the nation’s population he is supposed to serve.
Let me explain what I’m talking about by presenting the following incidents:
*A Bloomberg headline from May 6 reads: “Trump Trade Tweets Send Grain Markets Driving to 42-Year Low.” In the tweet, Trump threatened to escalate the trade war he is waging with China.
*On April 26, CNBC published a story with the following headline: “Top OPEC, Saudi officials didn’t discuss lowering oil prices with Trump: report.” Trump had tweeted earlier that day, “Spoke to Saudi Arabia and others about increasing oil flow. All are in agreement.” This tweet caused oil prices to tumble—and oil stocks with them.
Consider Trump’s power to influence the market just through his tweets. The stock market, we all know, is a sensitive and volatile instrument that swiftly and strongly responds to rumors, whispers, and reports without taking time to verify the truth of any utterances. Elon Musk was fined $20 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for tweeting about the possibility of taking his company, Tesla, private.
There is no such sanction for the President, who could very well be using the Presidency not so much as a bully pulpit but as a market-moving pulpit from which he, his businesses, and his circle of cronies could easily benefit.
Trump has without question showcased his tendency to use the Presidency to further his interests, even at the expense of our nation’s population and security.
Indeed, the expense to people in the United States clear. While Trump, for example, sees “no rush” to ink a trade deal with China, U.S. farmers in the meantime are experiencing their lowest incomes ever and declaring bankruptcies in record numbers.
That he is manipulating markets to enrich himself and those around him must be considered a distinct possibility. And that he is formulating policy with this agenda is a possibility we must also entertain.
Here’s a scenario:
Trump’s family members and others ensconced in his inner circle short the oil or soybean markets knowing the President is about to announce a policy direction that will certainly impact those commodities on the market, sending prices lower.
These are quick millions, maybe billions.
That he seemingly lied about his conversation with officials in Saudi Arabia and “others,” who were never identified, distinctly raises this possibility.
It’s certainly not rocket science to figure out how to profit from the Presidency’s power and influence to move markets and acquire wealth.
Did anybody see Vice? Dick Cheney and his cronies sure knew how to exploit positions in the White House to craft policies, pass legislation, and conduct massive wars to accumulate personal wealth at the expense of taxpayers in the United States.
And if the person in the office lacks an ethical discipline . . . ay caramba!
How much more than we know is Trump abusing his office to accumulate wealth for himself at taxpayer expense? I just don’t think we really know.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.