Monday, June 4, 2018

Serious case of parasitism in executive branch

John Dean famously warned Richard Nixon of a "cancer on the presidency."

The diagnosis today would be that the presidency has a tapeworm.

That would seem to be assessment of Adam Serwer, senior editor of The Atlantic. He writes to empathize with those flustered as they attempt to connect the dots between the varied outrages and scandals associated with this president.

Russian collusion? Sexploits and hush money? Pay for play? Financial crimes and conflicts? Which thread merits our attention? All of them, writes Serwer.

"There are not many Trump scandals," Serwer writes. "There is one Trump scandal. Singular."

That singular scandal, he writes, is general corruption by many people -- individuals whose DNA compels them to use power "for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people."

Spin the wheel of corruption. Team Trump hits on every stroke:

Budget director Mick Mulvaney admits that as congressman he met only with representatives of entities that contributed to his re-election.

Trump's choices for Cabinet have made like contestants on "Supermarket Sweep," their shopping carts stacked to the ceiling at taxpayers' expense.

The Trump children have picked up overseas favors like daisies in the spring.

Trump International Hotel has entertained foreign emissaries despite the clear conflict.

Trump's attorneys say it's legal, but a federal judge says attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia can proceed with a lawsuit alleging that such conflicts violate the emoluments clause – prohibiting a sitting president from accepting payments from foreign governments.

So, in practical matters, which of these above might serve the function of removal?

Maybe none of the above.

Face it. If removal by impeachment is your pleasure, it takes two to tango – two houses of Congress, and a supermajority in one. Out of the question.

I've always said that the remedy for Trump (before 2020, that is) is not the political system (Congress) but the criminal justice system. Clearly, with how Trump has comported himself in business, and who's now investigating him, criminal indictments are hardly out of the question.

This notion didn't come from my small brain but from an enormous noggin – that of Steve Bannon. Of the Mueller probe, he told author Michael Wolff, "It's all about money laundering."

You don't say, Mr. Bannon.

Mueller has enlisted some of the nation's top investigators of financial crimes. Otherwise, Paul Manafort might not be a household name.

State attorneys in the New York and Washington regions are on the vine as well about these very matters.

An illuminating article by business writer Garrett Graff explains what this is about. Money laundering is the means of shuffling around illegal earnings and playing keep-away from the government when it comes to tax time.

A trademark of money laundering is massive in-cash transactions. Cash is hard to trace, hard to track, Graff writes in Wired.

For that reason, investigators would be highly interested in Citizen Trump's buying a $12.6 million Scottish estate and a $16.2 million Virginia winery – all in cash.

Similar activities have been attributed to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who, Graff quotes an expert in tracking the financing of terrorism, has shown a pattern of "atypical financial transactions."

Wait – did someone say "terrorism"?

No law enforcement entity is probing Team Trump for that – as of today.

The terror connection is this: Post-9/11 the Patriot Act gave investigators new tools to get a handle on financial activities that stretched across oceans.

Graff says such tools could come into play in determining if Russian money has helped and is helping keep the Trump empire afloat.

What an irony it would be if a GOP political cudgel in the "war on terror" became the device that ushered this president into civilian life -- and into the world of corrections.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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