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Weekend Reads Trump's unmatched sleaze: Grifters, women, trampling Constitution and now G-7 at Doral

18:01  18 october  2019
18:01  18 october  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

We’ve had presidents who were used by members of their own family for personal gain, like Ulysses S. Grant.

We’ve had presidents who stocked their Cabinet with greedy, self-serving mediocrities who took advantage of the public trust, like Warren G. Harding.

We’ve had presidents who swore to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution, only to then abuse it, like Richard Nixon.

And we’ve had presidents who, thanks to a presumptive sense of entitlement, lived slimy private lives, using countless women before tossing them aside — Harding again, plus John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

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President Donald Trump falls into every single sleazy category, squarely and shamelessly. Just Thursday, we learned that he'll hold next year's Group of Seven meeting (with leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom) at his own Doral golf resort in Miami.

a close up of a flower garden in front of a building: Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami© Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami

It’s the latest example of how Trump, who never divested from his businesses, continues to make millions from them. It’s also the latest reminder that he constantly violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which is supposed to ban presidents from accepting money from foreign governments. This while the House is in the middle of an impeachment inquiry and there are two lawsuits pending over the emoluments clause.

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"This is unbelievable," said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed one of those suits, speaking for much of America.

Grifters through the ages

Grant was an honest man, yet under his nose, his own brother-in-law and two other grifters tried to corner the gold market. The financial panic that followed was called “Black Friday.” Then there was the “Whiskey Ring Scandal,” in which the president’s own secretary played a role in attempting to defraud the government of millions.

And Trump? Unlike other presidents, he never bothered to place his assets in a blind trust. Instead he allows his family to run his trust, and he remains its one and only beneficiary.

Unconstitutional: G-7 at Trump's Doral resort? The original sin of this presidency is failure to divest

And the emoluments clause hasn’t stopped diplomats, representatives of government-owned businesses and other foreign visitors from buying his properties and running up big tabs at his resorts and hotels. That's stuffing cash, albeit indirectly, into Trump's pocket.

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Meantime, finger-pointing at Hunter Biden diverts media attention — a time-honored Trump tactic — from his own children's brazen exploitation of their father’s office. As Bloomberg's Stephanie Baker notes, they "have continued working with foreign business partners from Dubai to Indonesia and India while their father sits in the White House." First daughter Ivanka and hubby Jared Kushner raked in an estimated $82 million in 2017 alone, records show.

“Time and again,” notes the Los Angeles Times, “Trump’s children have blurred the lines of family, nation and business — essentially the charge the president makes against the Bidens.”

Fleecing the taxpayers

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Teapot Dome,” a huge oil reserve scandal involving Warren G. Harding’s Interior secretary, Albert Fall. Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe and went to prison. Meanwhile, Harding’s Veterans secretary, Charles Forbes, looted the 2019 equivalent of $2.8 billion in a string of shady deals; he, too, was convicted of bribery and went to prison.

No one in Trump’s revolving-door Cabinet has ripped off taxpayers on that scale, but many have fleeced we the people for everything from private air travel (former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin), running up big tabs in Europe for spouses (former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin), and ripoffs for everything from new office doors (ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke), dining room furniture (Housing Secretary Ben Carson) and more. Then there is fellow swamp monster Scott Pruitt, whose list of grifting while he headed the Environmental Protection Agency was almost as long as the list of clean water and clean air regulations he helped the president gut.

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And need I mention that Trump’s campaign chief (Paul Manafort) and first national security adviser (Michael Flynn) are now convicted felons? And that one of his top Oval Office aides (Rob Porter) had to leave after it became known that not one but both of his former spouses accused Porter of physical and verbal abuse.

Even a president as shameless as Trump has had to ditch many of these let-them-eat-cake mediocrities to appease critics. Isn't this the guy who bragged that he hires only the very best? And his base still buys this claptrap.

Trampling the Constitution

We all know what Nixon did. And Trump? It goes well beyond ignoring the emoluments clause to monetize the presidency.

Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But just this month he publicly invited an adversary, China, to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. He has attacked the First Amendment by trying to ban reporters who ask unpleasant questions from the White House and suggesting that TV networks he dislikes lose their broadcast licenses. He has suggested cutting corners on due process for illegal immigrants, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. He has suggested ending birthright citizenship, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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“Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?” Rubbish. Trump only wants to bother with the parts that are convenient to him.

All those women, all that sex

Harding was so sleazy that — as president — he once had sex with one of his mistresses in Central Park. He had an illegitimate daughter with one woman, a long affair with another who was suspected of being a German agent during World War I, and trysts in the Oval Office itself. Kennedy's voluminous affairs were beyond sleazy. One with the girlfriend of a Mafia kingpin, and another with a woman believed to be an East German spy, even exposed him to potential blackmail.

Then there is our most recent philanderer in chief, Bill Clinton, whose lies about an affair with a White House intern got him impeached. Clinton’s liaisons showed him to be impulsive and sexually reckless in way that left a stain (literally and figuratively) on the presidency.

Making Nixon look good: Donald Trump is much worse than Richard Nixon. He may even have committed treason.

Trump’s infidelities fall short of Harding and Kennedy. But sleaze is sleaze: He has cheated on all three wives and, in the case of porn star Stormy Daniels, did it right after his third wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. And at last count, no fewer than 25 women accuse him of either “misconduct” or flat-out assault. It's certainly obvious why evangelicals continue to call Trump a good, God-fearing Christian, isn't it?

Trump, who even lies about the weather, says every single one of these women is making it all up. Trump, as you know, is a Boy Scout and would never lay so much as an orange finger on anyone. And that “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced in 2016, in which he bragged about assaulting women? Fake. Sure.

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A grifting family. A sleazy what’s-in-it-for-me Cabinet. Trampling on our beloved Constitution. And all these women. All the boxes, checked.

Paul Brandus, founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports, is the author of "Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency" and is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReport

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump's unmatched sleaze: Grifters, women, trampling Constitution and now G-7 at Doral

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