Trump has been ramping up his “Deep State” rhetoric again. He’s back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats, and “enemies of the people” in the mainstream media, for conspiring to remove him from office in order to allow the denizens of foreign shi*tholes to overrun America.
But with each passing day it’s becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn’t Trump’s Deep State. It’s Trump’s Corrupt State.
Not since Warren G. Harding’s sordid administration have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.
Trump has installed a Star Wars Cantina of former lobbyists and con artists, including several whose exploits have already forced them to resign, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, and Michael Flynn. Many others remain.
When he was in Congress, the current White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders, then proposed loosening regulations on them. Trump appointed Mulvaney acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of all things.
When he was Trump’s special adviser on regulatory reform, Wall Street billionaire Carl Icahn sought to gut EPA’s rule on ethanol credits which was harming his oil refinery investments.
Last week, it was reported that a real estate company partly owned by Trump son-in-law and foreign policy advisor, Jared Kushner, has raked in $90 million from foreign investors since Kushner entered the White House, through a secret tax haven run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands. Kushner’s stake is some $50 million.
All this takes conflict-of-interest to a new level of shamelessness.
What are Republicans doing about it? Participating in it.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who also happens to be the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has approved $78 million in grants for her husband’s home state of Kentucky, including a highway-improvement project that had been twice rejected in the past. Chao has even appointed a special liaison to coordinate grants with McConnell’s office.
Oh, did I say, McConnell is up for reelection next year?
News that a cabinet secretary is streamlining federal funding for her husband’s pet projects would be a giant scandal under normal circumstances. But in the age of Trump, ethics are out the window.
Congressman Greg Pence, who just happens to be the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, has spent more than $7,600 of his campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in Washington since he was elected in November, although federal election law forbids politicians from using campaigns dollars to cover housing costs.
The Corrupt State starts with Trump himself, giving new meaning to the old adage about a fish rotting from the head down.
When foreign governments aren’t currying favor with Trump by staying at his Washington hotel, they’re using state-owned companies to finance projects that will line Trump’s pocket, like China’s $500 million entertainment complex in Indonesia that includes a Trump-branded hotel.
Trump claims the Deep State allows foreigners to take advantage of America. The reality is Trump’s Corrupt State allows Vladimir Putin and his goon squad to continue undermining American democracy.
“I’d take it” if Russia again offered campaign help, Trump crowed last week, adding that he wouldn’t necessarily tell the FBI about it. Just days before, Trump acknowledged “Russia helping me get elected” the first time.
Despite evidence that Russia is back hacking and trolling its way toward the 2020 election, Republican defenders of Trump’s Corrupt State won’t lift a finger.
Mitch McConnell refuses to consider any legislation on election security. He and Senate Republicans even killed a bill requiring campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI and federal authorities.
The charitable interpretation is McConnell and his ilk don’t want to offend Trump by doing anything that might appear to question the legitimacy of his 2016 win.
The less charitable view is Republicans oppose more secure elections because they’d be less likely to win them.
Trump and his Republican enablers are playing magicians who distract us by shouting “look here!” at the paranoid fantasy of a Deep State, while creating a Corrupt State under our noses.
But it’s not a party trick. It’s the dirtiest trick of our time, enabled by the most corrupt party in living memory.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.