Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tracking Trump

Contents
Updated Daily
Introduction: Why Track Trump?

Issues (an outline of categories in weekly compilations)

Week 1 -- November 9-15, 2016

Week 2 -- November 16-22, 2016

Week 3 -- November 23-29, 2016
Highlights and Trends
Week 4 -- November 30-December 6, 2016

Week 5 -- December 7-December 13, 2016

Week 6 -- December 14-December 20, 2016

Week 7 -- December 21-December 27, 2016

Week 8 -- December 28-January 3, 2017

Week 9 -- January 4-January 10, 2017

Week 10 -- January 11-January 17, 2017

[Note: Because of the physical volume of entries, beginning with Week 3 the blog post you are now on will remain the opening post for this series, and the links in its "Contents" section at the top of this post will take you to the new blog pages for subsequent weeks.]

Introduction: Why Track Trump?

Of the 1200 or so blog essays in FromDC2Iowa, most stand alone -- they treat a single subject, or event.

Occasionally a thread emerges, as a single, ongoing subject is dealt with over a period of months. For example, the Board of Regents' selection of University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld (someone with as little experience with higher education administration as Trump has had with the administration of government), was an ongoing subject of blog essays over a period of months.
See, e.g., "Business Background: Enough for University President?" September 2-October 31, 2015 (with links to 20 collections of material and comments); "UI President Harreld - Nov. 2015," November 1-30, 2015 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Dec. 2015," December 1-31, 2015 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Jan. 2016," January 1-31, 2016 (with links to 10 collections); "UI President Harreld - Feb. 2016," February 1-29, 2016 (with links to 11 collections).
The election of Donald J. Trump cries out even louder for such ongoing attention.

Every new U.S. president brings some measure of uncertainty as to what he will say and do. However, most have arrived with a package of clues as to what that might be, based on some sort of track record in the public sector.

President-elect Donald Trump brings no such record. Moreover, his unprecedented refusal to reveal his tax returns, and the sketchy, largely unproven assertions about his business record -- whether praise or criticism -- means we have even less solid information about his behavior in the private sector. [President-Elect Donald J. Trump; photo credit: Wikipedia]

In this, and succeeding, blog posts we will attempt to identify the issues requiring attention, and begin the process of finding and revealing the clues that may emerge regarding how a Trump Administration might deal with them. Where available, we will provide media reports with more detail. Our principal sources will be The New York Times and The Washington Post. For a full collection of New York Times' stories, see generally, "The Trump White House; Stories on the Presidential Transition and the Forthcoming Trump Administration," New York Times undated/updated.

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The Issues

Transition. Regardless of agendas and intentions, a functioning executive branch of our federal government requires some 4,000 presidential appointees, and supporting civil service staff, who are experienced and knowledgeable. Those resources are now in place. Most of those folks will be gone by, or soon after, the inauguration of Donald Trump, January 20, 2017. Have their replacements been found? Are they being brought up to speed by their predecessors?

Leaders. One of the most significant subsets of an administration's staffing are those chosen by a president as his closest advisers. This is particularly significant for a president, like Trump, who has no experience and very little knowledge of what is required of a president. Who are those individuals? What do their experience, knowledge, ties to special interests, and ideological orientation tell us about the advice they'll be providing?

International. The president of the United States wears many hats, among them CEO of the executive branch, commander-in-chief of the military, leader of his or her political party, cheerleader in chief for the American people in times of trouble. But none is more important than the president's role as America's face for the 7 billion people living elsewhere (sometimes referred to as "leader of the free world"). Every one of these roles can benefit from a depth of knowledge and a breadth of experience -- for which Trump has neither. Will he reach out to America's (and the world's) "best and the brightest"? Or will he continue to rely on his questionable confidence that he "knows more than the generals" -- and the diplomatic corps?

Conflicts. For the last 40 years, every president coming into the office with investments has put them in a "blind trust" -- a separate legal entity, managed by an independent wealth manager during the president's term in office, during which time the president has neither control nor even knowledge of how the assets are being managed. During the campaign Trump did not agree to do this, saying that his business interests would be managed by his children. If that turns out to be the arrangement it would be an unprecedented conflict of interest.

Temperament. During the campaign, Donald Trump often engaged in behavior and speech that many, perhaps most, Americans (including many of his supporters) found unacceptably divisive, hateful, disrespectful of others -- and potentially dangerous in international relations. Will this continue from time to time, or was Trump's campaign performance merely that: a "performance"? Will he successfully transition into a new role as a responsible president?

Media. During the campaign Trump was unrestrained in his attacks on both individual journalists and "the media" in general. Since winning the election this seems to have toned down a little. An intimidated media cannot well serve a self-governing democracy, and there are many ways a president can intimidate -- especially when the media is a part of a much larger conglomerate with a diverse range of relationships with the federal government (e.g., proposed mergers, defense contracts).

Divisions. As the exit polls on election day confirmed, rarely have Americans been as deeply divided as they are now -- the economic 1% and the rest of us, urban and rural, old and young, college educated and high school, professionals and working class, whites and minorities, male and female, American-born and immigrants, religious and not so much, fact-driven and ideologues. Tragically, this has carried over into increases in everything from offensive speech to physical attacks. Regardless of the extent to which it is a consequence of the campaign Trump conducted, it seems to be a reality. He can choose to help with the healing, or simply pour more salt in the wounds.

Policy. There will be, potentially, a very long list of law and public policy areas to watch. There are many things he advocated during the campaign that he has already backed off from somewhat, may never have intended to do, or may discover he can't do. Meanwhile, those who would be adversely affected by the execution of his campaign rhetoric are understandably anxious. Here are some obvious matters with which to begin, starting with what Trump has identified as his top three. There will be more to come.
Immigration. Millions of individuals now living in America, Hispanics and Muslims immediately come to mind, will be impacted by whatever a Trump Administration decides to do.

Healthcare. "Repealing Obamacare" has been a Republican mantra since it was introduced. It never was a universal single-payer healthcare plan (like Medicare or Veterans' healthcare), it was a health insurance plan. But it was better than what many Americans had previously. Will it be replaced before it is repealed or afterwards? If it's only modified, how will Americans then be better or worse off?

Infrastructure. A central question -- aside from how much will be spent, and over what period of time -- is who will most benefit? Will the projects, and jobs, go to the most vulnerable Americans -- a rising tide to benefit those who don't yet even have a boat? Or will it go to upgrading the luxurious airline lounges and other airport facilities for the one-third of Americans who fly at least once each year? Will the money go to wealthy contractors and those with the skills to earn the median American wage (or more)? Or will it (like FDR's WPA and CCC) help those living in neighborhoods with 50 percent unemployment?

Energy. During the campaign Trump aligned himself with the climate change deniers, urged maximum development of U.S. oil, and indicated support for a return to coal as a source of energy and jobs for those in coal country. Whatever these policies prove to be will also have an impact on America's participation and cooperation with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Clues to policy will come from Trump's appointments in the executive branch agencies and his White House staff.

Education. Many education policy proposals were put forward during the campaign -- including a nod from Trump in favor of the general idea of making college "more affordable." Others' proposals have included tuition-free community college, our following the European policy of tuition-free higher education (either for all, or for those below a set income cap), tying payback on student loans to a percentage of income, and ideas regarding an expanded opportunity for pre-K education.
Week 1 -- November 9-15, 2016

Transition. Transitions are always difficult -- 60 plus days to put an executive branch federal government together. Trump's meeting with President Obama was a good sign, as was what was reported about what both of them said during and after the meeting. Somewhat troubling is that the designated leader of the transition, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, has indicated he'd like to go on being governor of Indiana until a week or so before the inauguration. There have been questions about the formal role of Trump's children (discussed under "conflicts"). Governor Chris Christie has already been replaced as Chief of Staff-designate by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. And apparently whoever is in charge has been somewhat slow in responding to offers of assistance from current office holders (including those in the CIA, Departments of State and Defense). Ben Carson has indicated he is not interested in a cabinet appointment because he lacks the experience and knowledge to do the job. The designated security adviser, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, has announced he will not be serving. But this is only one week in; there will be changes to come -- whether more stabilizing or chaotic.

See the detailed report in Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Habermannov, "Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray," The New York Times, November 16, 2016, p. A1 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world."); and Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, "Key figures purged from Trump transition team," Washington Post, November 15, 2016 ("'“It became clear to me that they view jobs as lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls, instead of the sense that actually what you’re trying to do is recruit the best possible talent to fill the most important, demanding, lowest-paying executive jobs in the world,' [Eliot] Cohen ["a leading voice of opposition to Trump during the campaign who had advised those interested in administration jobs to take them, abruptly changed his mind, saying the transition 'will be ugly.'] said.").

Leaders. During the campaign Trump and his followers shouted out that he would "drain the swamp" -- meaning that he would rid Washington of special interests and their lobbyists. What he found when he drained the swamp were the creatures that lived there: lobbyists looking for jobs and contacts in a new administration. The Trump team was willing to take them on board. The Times detailed the process and named the individuals and their conflicts: Eric Lipton, "With Trump's Election, a Bonanza for Washington Lobbyists," New York Times, November 11, 2016, p. P1 (an inside look into who they are and how they do what they do); and Eric Lipton, "Trump Campaigned Against Lobbyists, but Now They're on His Transition Team," New York Times, November 12, 2016, p. A1 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump, who campaigned against the corrupt power of special interests, is filling his transition team with some of the very sort of people who he has complained have too much clout in Washington: corporate consultants and lobbyists.")

Later into the first week the headlines involved Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, a position he's characterized as equal to that of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. The controversy involves Bannon's prior role as CEO of Breitbart. (You can examine for yourself its Web site here and its Facebook page here.)

See David Weigel, "Is Trump’s new chief strategist a racist? Critics say so," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 ("some of the highest praise for Bannon’s appointment came from white nationalists and white supremacists. . . . [C]omments celebrating the news have posted on Stormfront, a website for the 'White Nationalist Community,' including this one from a reader called Pheonix1993: 'Stephen Bannon: racist, anti-homo, anti-immigrant, anti-jewish, anti-establishment. Declared war on (((Paul Ryan))) Sounds perfect. The man who will have Trump’s ear more than anyone else. Being anti-jewish is not illegal.'”); and David A. Fahrenthold and Frances Stead Sellers, "How Bannon flattered and coaxed Trump on policies key to the alt-right," Washington Post, September 15, 2016 ("[W]hat policies Bannon may try to push can be gleaned from a series of one-on-one interviews on Bannon’s radio show between November 2015 and June of this year. In those exchanges, a dynamic emerged, with Bannon often coaxing Trump to agree to his viewpoint, whether on climate change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in Congress.") Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, "Critics See Stephen Bannon, Trump's Pick for Strategist, as Voice of Racism," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A1 ("A fierce chorus of critics denounced President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday for appointing Stephen K. Bannon, a nationalist media mogul, to a top White House position . . ..")

Katie Zezima, "Trump pits establishment against populism at the top of his White House team," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 (" Trump named his top two advisers [Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus] on Sunday [Nov. 13] . . . setting up what could be a battle within the White House between the populist, outsider forces that propelled his winning campaign and the party establishment that dominates Washington."); Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport, "Donald Trump Picks Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and Stephen Bannon as Strategist," New York Times, November 14, 2016, p. A1.

International.

Conflicts. The Trump children hold formal positions in the transition, as well as responsibility for running the Trump companies. The request (it's not known from whom) that they all receive top security clearances was apparently blocked by someone. But here's a story of one specific example of private profit from public position, along with ethics advisers general concerns: Drew Harwell, "With Ivanka’s jewelry ad, Trump companies begin to seek profit off election result," Washington Post, November 15, 2016 (Ivanka Trump's company using her family's appearance on "60 Minutes," with Ivanka wearing her company's $8800 bracelet, "marked one of the first moments since the election during which the Trump companies have sought to use Trump's presidential prominence to boost their private fortunes. But it may not be the last. Ethics advisers have increasingly voiced concerns over the unprecedented conflicts of interest that could arise from the soon-to-be first family's empire of real estate, luxury goods and licensing deals.").

Eric Lipton and Susanne Craig, "Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A1 ("The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Mr. Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.").

Temperament. After his election it was like someone threw a switch on Donald Trump -- he had kind words praising Hillary Clinton in his acceptance speech, and was deferential and praising of President Obama in the Oval Office. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump and Obama Hold Cordial 90-Minute Meeting in Oval Office," New York Times, November 11, 2016, p. A1.

For one of the more detailed descriptions of Trump's executive "style" by those who have worked with him and know him best, see Marc Fisher, "Trump’s huge transition will start with his tight inner circle," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 (e.g., "He reads little and rules by his gut. He picks people by first impressions, sometimes without even talking to them. He is laser-focused on how he is perceived and what people say about him.")

Media. Given the importance of an independent, First Amendment-protected media, it is unsettling when Trump says he wants to dilute the First Amendment. Marc Fisher, "Trump’s huge transition will start with his tight inner circle," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 ("Trump has also used the threat of lawsuits as a cudgel against those who block his way or criticize him in public; that’s an avenue he won’t have as president, though he has said he wants to dilute First Amendment protections of free speech.")

Divisions. Many commentators seem to believe what is intuitive: that Trump's hateful campaign rhetoric has in fact contributed to a deepening divide in America. Abigail Hauslohner, Sandhya Somashekhar and Susan Svrluga, "Vitriol only intensifies after bitter election," Washington Post, November 11, 2016 ("Three days since businessman Donald Trump won the presidency, it is clear that the animosity wrought by a historically divisive election did not simply die in its wake, but may have intensified. U.S. cities have been convulsed by anti-Trump protests. Swastikas, racial slurs and personal threats have appeared on public buildings and dorm room doors. And online, the vicious word-slinging between supporters of the two candidates has escalated to include videotaped accounts of personal confrontation and retribution."); Matt Zkapotosky, "Hate crimes against Muslims hit highest mark since 2001," Washington Post, November 14, 2016 ("Hate crimes against Muslims spiked last year to their highest level in more than a decade — an increase that experts and advocates say was fueled by anger over terrorist attacks and anti-Islam rhetoric on the campaign trail.") Eric Lichtblau, "U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims," New York Times, November 15, 2016, p. A13 ("[A]ttacks against American Muslims surged last year . . .. The data . . . is the most comprehensive look at hate crime . . . by researchers and outside monitors, who have noted an alarming rise in some types of crimes tied to the vitriol of this year's presidential campaign . . ..")

Immigration. Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Donald Trump Appears to Soften Stance on Immigration, but Not on Abortion," New York Times, November 14, 2016, p. A1 ("On immigration, he [Trump] said the wall that he has been promising to build on the nation’s southern border might end up being a fence in places. But he said his priority was to deport two million to three million immigrants he characterized as dangerous or as having criminal records . . . [not] all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.")

Policy. There is a variation in many political campaigns between what the candidate says before and after election, once in office. Because so many of Trump's campaign assertions were frightening to many Americans, there's more interest than usual in what he's actually going to do. Some are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, that "of course, he'd never really do that." Others warn, "Don't be so sure. He's told you what he's going to do." So far it appears that he is backing off on some of his promises. There are other promises it will be hard to keep even if he'd like to: Sean Sullivan and Dana Priest, "Many of Trump's sweeping promises will be hard, if not impossible, to fulfill," Washington Post, November 10, 2016 ("Some of Trump’s most dramatic undertakings — such as canceling Obama’s “illegal” executive actions — can be done in his first hours as president. Other priorities, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, will require the approval of Congress, which will be controlled by Republicans but could still squabble over details. Others still could run into political or legal obstacles that may be difficult to overcome." The story includes a detailed run-through of many categories and detailed examples.)
Immigration. Jose A. DelReal, "Trump and advisers hedge on major pledges, including Obamacare and the wall," Washington Post, November 11, 2016 ("Trump built his campaign message around bold vows to, among other things, force Mexico to pay for a massive border wall, fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and ban Muslims from entering the United States. But in the days since his upset election victory, he or his advisers have suggested that those proposals and others may be subject to revision. . . . 'I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform,' he [Trump] said.")

Healthcare. After meeting with President Obama, Trump backed away from total repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Reed Abelson, "Donald Trump Says He May Keep Parts of Obama Health Care Act," New York Times, November 12, 2016, p. A1 ("Just days after a national campaign in which he vowed repeatedly to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law . . . Mr. Trump even indicated that he would like to keep two of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act [preexisting conditions; children on parents' plans].")

Infrastructure.

Energy.

Education.

Week 2 -- November 16-22, 2016

Transition. Michael D. Shear, "Trump Says Transition's Going 'Smoothly,' Disputing Disarray Reports," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A14

Leaders. Here's a useful description from the Washington Post of "who's on first" during this second week -- the players and the plays inside the transition team: Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, "In Trump's Washington, rival powers and whispers in the president's ear," Washington Post, November 17, 2016; Karen DeYoung, "Trump defends pace of transition work as process remains opaque," Washington Post, November 17, 2016 ("The 'landing teams' for the State Department, the Justice Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council will be announced and begin interacting with the Obama administration Thursday [Nov. 17], Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer said late Wednesday. Economic policy landing teams will be announced next week, followed by teams devoted to domestic policy and independent federal agencies.").

The role of Trump's children and their partners continues to be an issue. Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, "Donald Trump's Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner, Tests Legal Path to White House Job," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A1 (This thorough review of the legal, ethical and conflict of interest issues surrounding Trump's son-in-law's involvement begins, "Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald J. Trump, has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration, a move that could violate federal anti-nepotism law and risk legal challenges and political backlash.") And let us not overlook Jared's wife: Monica Hesse, "To understand the Trump presidency, we must decipher Ivanka," Washington Post, November 17, 2016.

National Security Adviser: Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Is Said to Offer National Security Post to Michael Flynn, Retired General," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A1 (this detailed critique of Flynn leads with, "President-elect Donald J. Trump has offered the post of national security adviser to Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, . . . who believes Islamist militancy poses an existential threat [and who] will be a critical gatekeeper for a president with little experience in military or foreign policy issues. . . . [T]hey [Trump and Flynn] have both at times crossed the line into outright Islamophobia [and] exhibit a loose relationship with facts: General Flynn['s] . . . subordinates . . . called them “Flynn facts.”) Editorial, "Michael Flynn: An Alarming Pick for National Security Adviser," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A22 ("It's likely, given his record, that he will encourage Mr. Trump’s worst impulses, fuel suspicions of Muslims and bring to the job conflicts of interest from his international consulting work.")

Attorney General: Eric Lichtblau, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, "Donald Trump Selects Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General," New York Times (online edition), September 18, 2016 ("Mr. Sessions, a former prosecutor . . . has opposed immigration reform as well as . . . proposals to cut mandatory minimum prison sentences. . . . [H]is nomination [to judgeship, by President Reagan] was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee because of racially charged comments and actions. . . . Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P. . . . as 'un-American' and 'Communist inspired.' . . . [He's] also accused of speaking disparagingly of the Voting Rights Act . . ..") Editorial, "Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: An Insult to Justice," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A22 ("Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign that stoked white racial resentment. His choice for attorney general — which, like his other early choices, has been praised by white supremacists — embodies that worldview. We expect today’s senators, like their predecessors in 1986 [who rejected President Reagan's appointment of Sessions to a federal judgeship], to examine Mr. Sessions’s views and record with bipartisan rigor. If they do, it is hard to imagine that they will endorse a man once rejected for a low-level judgeship to safeguard justice for all Americans as attorney general.") Thomas J. Sugrue, "Jeff Sessions' Other Civil Rights Problem," New York Times (online edition), September 21, 2016 ("Mr. Sessions [as] Alabama’s attorney general . . . left an indelible mark. He used the power of his office to fight to preserve Alabama’s long history of separate and unequal education.")

C.I.A. Director: Mark Mazzetti and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Mike Pompeo Is Trump's Choice as C.I.A. Director," New York Times (online edition), November 18, 2016 (Pompeo is a graduate of West Point (first in class) and Harvard Law School with three Congressional terms, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee who was especially critical of Hillary Clinton during the investigation of the 2012 Benghazi attack).

Secretary of Treasury: Ylan Q. Mui and Renae Merle, "With Treasury candidate come possible conflicts," Washington Post, November 18, 2016 (Steven T. Mnuchin, formerly with Goldman Sachs, is "A leading candidate to be ­President-elect Donald Trump’s treasury secretary [who] was deeply involved in running a bank that has received $900 million in federal bailout money and that has been accused of discrimination — examples of the potentially thorny conflicts of interest that could plague Trump’s nascent administration.")

Secretary of State: Phillip Rucker, "Trump mulls a secretary of state: Clone, crusader, statesman or clean slate?" Washington Post, November 19, 2016 (no indication of choice when this story ran, but South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and former Governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Mitt Romney are in the running for Secretary of State, along with those who bring ideological baggage and other concerns). Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump Meets With Romney as He Starts to Look Outside His Inner Circle," New York Times, November 20, 2016, p. A1.

Editorial, "Donald Trump's Swamp Gets Murkier," New York Times, November 21, 2016, p. A 22 ("Now that he is president-elect, Donald Trump’s anti-corruption promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington lobbyists and powerful insiders seems to be rapidly dissolving in the swamp itself. An untold number of lobbyists and special interest players have been helping the Trump team’s transition to the White House, their path made easier, according to news reports, by vague and porous ethical standards. The most mischievous of these is a rule by which applicants merely have to de-register as government lobbyists one day to be ready the next for transition and administration jobs.")

Not only does the Trump team seem to be favoring lobbyists and other corporate representatives to head agencies that are supposed to regulate the appointees' former employers, but some of their investments, like Trump's, raise potential conflict of interest problems both here and abroad. Matthew Goldstein and Alexandra Stevenson, "Trump Adviser Takes Stake in China Ride-Sharing Company," November 19, 2016, p. B2 ("A hedge fund billionaire ["John Paulson, who made $15 billion betting against the housing market before the financial crisis"] who was an economic adviser to [Trump] . . . has taken a position in a fast-growing Chinese ride-sharing company that recently signed a deal to acquire Uber Technologies’ operations in China.")

International. Among many concerns one might have about Trump's first two weeks, his and the Transition Team's handling of international relations for our next president rank near the top. It can only be described as "reckless." They have rebuffed the Department of State's willingness to help. Global leaders have been left on their own to figure out how to reach Trump, or know who they should contact. The first face-to-face meeting is to be with the Japanese prime minister -- seemingly without thought to how this "decision" (to the extent there was one) might be received by those nations with which we are said to have "a special relationship." Here is a little lengthier excerpt than usual from the Times' take:
It has been noticed at the State Department that since his victory Mr. Trump has been talking with foreign leaders without any consultation on the often complex protocol involved. “We stand ready to support him and his team with any information that they might require,” said John Kirby, the State Department spokesman. “We are ready and able to provide context if it is desired.” “There has been no outreach to date,” Mr. Kirby added. Japan has been scrambling to find Republican foreign policy experts to advise Tokyo on Mr. Abe’s meeting with Mr. Trump, but have had little luck, according to Japanese officials. Nor, the officials said, have they been able to find anyone in Mr. Trump’s transition team to discuss talking points for the meeting. One official said that the planning for the meeting had been largely limited to logistics, and that was primarily handled by Matthew Freedman, the lobbyist and transition team member who was working on national security issues. But Mr. Freedman was fired on Monday.
Carl Hulse and Helene Cooper, "Donald Trump and Japan's Leader to Meet, With Plenty to Sort Out," New York Times, November 17, 2016, 4:00 a.m. update version.

Conflicts. Donald Trump's seeming refusal to follow the usual presidential protocol of selling his properties and putting the assets in a blind trust, managed in his interest by independent wealth managers who do not report to him, creates uncounted and uncountable conflicts of interest both at home and abroad. Numerous U.S. state and federal agencies, and foreign governments, impact his 500 LLC corporations, other interests, their operations and profits. The New York Times' Editorial Board provides some examples: Editorial, "Donald Trump's Tangled Web," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A30 ("Donald Trump refused to release his income tax returns during the campaign and now seems determined to lug every piece of financial baggage connected to his hotels, golf courses and other businesses into the White House.") Jonathan O'Connell and Mary Jordan, "For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be," Washington Post, November 18, 2016 ("About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel. . . . Now, those venues offer the prospect of something else: a chance to curry favor or access with the next president. Perhaps nowhere is that possibility more obvious than Trump’s newly renovated hotel a few blocks from the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rooms sold out quickly for the inauguration, many for five-night minimums priced at five times the normal rate, according to the hotel’s manager.")

Like gravity ("it's not just a good idea, it's the law"), Trump's global businesses may pose serious constitutional challenges as well as violating ethical norms regarding a president's conflict of interests. Adam Liptak, "Donald Trump's Business Dealings Test a Constitutional Limit," New York Times, November 22, 2016, p. A1 ("[T]he Emoluments Clause [of the U.S. Constitution; "no person holding . . . office [shall] accept any . . . emolument . . . of any kind whatever, from any . . . foreign state"] . . . now poses risks for [Trump] should he continue to reap benefits from . . . companies controlled by foreign governments.")

So long as Trump has even a general notion of what and where his business interests are, the only trust that could be truly "blind" would be one following his sale of all of his interests, and turning over the cash to an independent wealth manager to invest on his behalf -- but without his participation or knowledge. Regardless of how "independent" the manager may be, so long as Trump knows what he owns he will have both the appearance, and the reality, of a conflict of interest whenever a federal administrative agency, its proposed regulation, legislation, or the position taken in litigation by the Department of Justice, or hundreds of other examples, could have an impact on the profits or net worth of his investments. This is made even worse, of course, if (as he has proposed) his children will be continuing to run the businesses.

A recent example of his conflicts is illustrated by this double whammy quote from a Times' story: "Mr. Trump, as he used his golf resort as the backdrop for his official activities, gave no indication that he was concerned about news reports over the weekend that he had held meetings last week with three Indian business partners even as he was starting to assemble his administration." Michael S. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear, "Trump Turns Staid Process Into Spectacle as Aspirants Parade to His Door," New York Times, November 21, 2016, p. A1. (1) Whenever he selects a Trump-branded property (Trump Towers, or golf courses) for meetings he's promoting his business. (2) And he obviously sees no problem with continuing to manage his businesses abroad (the meeting with business partners from India) while considering the possibility of appointing Nikki Haley (born of immigrants to the U.S. from India) as his Secretary of State.

Drew Harwell and Anu Narayanswamy, "A scramble to assess the dangers of President-elect Donald Trump's global business empire," Washington Post, September 21, 2016 ("Donald Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million [for his "brand"/name] by . . . one of Turkey’s biggest oil and media conglomerates, [that] has become an influential megaphone for the country’s increasingly repressive regime. That, ethics advisers said, forces the Trump complex into an unprecedented nexus: as both a potential channel for dealmakers seeking to curry favor with the Trump White House and a potential target for attacks or security risks overseas. . . . [They warn] of many others . . .. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East.")

The problems are also illustrated by the unsavory and unprecedented spectacle of a president-elect having to take time to deal with a lawsuit regarding his prior fraudulent business practices, practices of sufficient significance and breadth to produce a settlement of $25,000,000. Steve Eder, "Donald Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million in Trump University Settlement," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A1 ("[Trump] reversed course and agreed on Friday to pay $25 million to settle a series of lawsuits stemming from his defunct for-profit education venture, Trump University, finally putting to rest fraud allegations by former students, which have dogged him for years and hampered his presidential campaign. . . . [T]the allegations in the case . . .: Students paid up to $35,000 in tuition for a programs that . . . used high-pressure sales tactics and employed unqualified instructors.")

Temperament. Will Trump, as president, continue his campaign instinct to strike back against and and all -- and especially the media -- whenever others are not entirely to his liking? The continuing middle-of-the-night tweets are not reassuring. Michael D. Shear, "Trump Says Transition's Going 'Smoothly,' Disputing Disarray Reports," New York Times, November 17, 2016, p. A14 ("President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that his transition was not in disarray, assailing news media reports about firings and infighting and insisting in an early-morning Twitter burst that everything was going 'so smoothly.'”)

He's continuing his disparaging adjectives (as in, during the campaign, "crooked Hillary"). Prior to a first meeting with the New York Times he refers to it as "the failing nytimes." Michael D. Shear and Carl Hulse, "Trump Reinstates New York Times Meeting While Pulling Back on Pursuing Case Against Clinton," New York Times (online editiion), November 22, 2016, 10:37 a.m. version (the widely publicized scheduled meeting Tuesday [Nov. 22] between Trump and the New York Times was abruptly cancelled by Trump with a 5:16 a.m. tweet: "I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice." Fifteen minutes later it was back on again: "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!")

Nor are his tweets limited to public and media figures; he's monitoring entertainment as well: Andrew R. Chow, "Alec Baldwin Returns to 'S.N.L.' as President-Elect Trump," New York Times, November 20, 2016 ("Alec Baldwin's return to 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend prompted another fiery response from President-elect Donald J. Trump on Twitter." The tweet read, "I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided biased show - nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?" [Nov. 20] Two hours earlier [5:22 a.m.] he tweeted about the cast of "Hamilton" statement to Mike Pence requesting a protection of their rights, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior." Pence has made no public statement objecting to the cast's message. "Mr. Pence, who was greeted by a smattering of boos as he entered the theater, got it right when he said later, 'I nudged my kids and reminded them that’s what freedom sounds like.'” [Editorial, "Can Trump Tolerate Dissent?" Washington Post, November 22, 2016])

Media. Probably there will always be tension between the White House press corps and the sitting president and his or her staff. So far the focus has been on Trump's savage attacks on individual journalists and "the media" in general. But an equal, and perhaps even more significant aspect of president-press relations are the protocols regarding press presence and access, as the Times has editorialized: Editorial, "Trump Shouldn't Ditch the Press," Washington Post, November 17, 2016 ("In case of an emergency, it [the press pool] is on hand to provide timely and important information. Think, for example, of 9/11 and how the country was helped by knowing where the president was . . .. Equally important is the day-to-day information . . . about where the president is . . . and whom he is meeting with. Mr. Trump is not yet president, but the information protocols of the office still apply. His spokeswoman . . . said that the next administration intends 'to follow precedent in regards to access as soon as possible.' That commitment is reassuring. It should take effect now.")

He seems to be avoiding news conferences (although, in fairness, it should be noted that Hillary Clinton was also faulted for doing so during the campaign, as have previous presidents). Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump, on YouTube, Pledges to Create Jobs," New York Times, September 22, 2016, p. A1 ("The brief YouTube video offered one of the few opportunities for the public to hear from Mr. Trump directly since he was elected two weeks ago. The president-elect has declined to hold a news conference since his victory, and instead has used early-morning Twitter bursts to communicate.")

He called TV network executives and news anchors together for what could have been a conciliatory session between two major institutions (the presidency and the media) that need each other, and turned it into another attack. Michael M. Grynbaum and Sydney Ember, "Trump Summons TV Figures for Private Meeting, and Lets Them Have It," New York Times, November 22, 2016, p. A18 ("Mr. Trump, whose antagonism toward the news media was unusual even for a modern presidential candidate, described the television networks as dishonest in their reporting and . . . criticized some in the room by name . . ..")

He's continuing his disparaging adjectives (as in, during the campaign, "crooked Hillary"). Prior to a first meeting with the New York Times he refers to it as "the failing nytimes." Michael D. Shear and Carl Hulse, "Trump Reinstates New York Times Meeting While Pulling Back on Pursuing Case Against Clinton," New York Times (online editiion), November 22, 2016, 10:37 a.m. version (the widely publicized scheduled meeting Tuesday [Nov. 22] between Trump and the New York Times was abruptly cancelled by Trump with a 5:16 a.m. tweet: "I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice." Fifteen minutes later it was back on again: "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!")

Trump demonstrated during the campaign his ability to manipulate media to his ends, picking up an estimated $2 billion of free TV time in the process. He's continuing with one of his techniques: Paul Farhi, "Were Trump's 'Hamilton' tweets 'weapons of mass distraction'?" Washington Post, November 22, 2016 ("As he illustrated with tweets about the musical “Hamilton” over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump knows how to change the subject — and the entire news cycle. Just as questions were mounting about Trump’s appointments, his business conflicts, his $25 million fraud-case settlement — bam! — Trump had everyone talking about something else.")

Divisions. Here's a post-election report worth reading whether you're concerned, or merely curious, about what appear to be increasing divides among Americans. William Wan, Tanya Sichynsky and Sandhya Somashekhar, "After Trump's Election: 'There are two Americas now,'" Washington Post, November 22, 2016 ("Two weeks after the election of Donald Trump, this is how divided America has become: People have moved beyond staring at the vast gulf that divides them and proceeded to arguing over who is to blame for it, what to do about it and even whether it exists at all.")

Samantha Schmidt, "‘Hijab grab’ defense: As reports of hate crimes spike postelection, Muslim women turn to self-defense," Washington Post, November 21, 2016.

Policy. Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump, on YouTube, Pledges to Create Jobs," New York Times, September 22, 2016, p. A1 ([In Trump's YouTube video, "he vowed to create jobs, renegotiate trade agreements, end restrictions on energy production and impose bans on lobbying. . . . [H]e steered clear of his most inflammatory campaign promises to deport immigrants and track Muslims and his pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act.")
Immigration. Early reports indicate that Trump's promises to get tough on immigration, and "build a wall," have brought more immigrants and associated chaos rather than less: Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, "Fearing Trump’s wall, Central Americans rush to cross the U.S. border," Washington Post, November 19, 2016 ("President-elect Donald Trump has promised major change to the U.S. immigration system at a time when Central American families are flowing into the United States in growing numbers, many fleeing warlike conditions and poverty back home. . . . By winning the election, Trump may have inadvertently made his job even harder. His plans have become a selling point for the smugglers urging people to cross the border before a wall goes up, . . ..")

Healthcare.

Infrastructure.

Energy.

Education. Trump's election has already had a negative impact on U.S. colleges' enrollment of international students. Nida Najar and Stephanie Saul, "Is It Safe? Foreign Students Consider College in Donald Trump's U.S.," New York Times, November 18, 2016, p. A12 ("This year, the number of international students in United States colleges surpassed one million for the first time, bringing more than $32 billion a year . . .. College admissions officials in the United States . . . are worried that Mr. Trump’s election as president could portend a drop in international candidates. Canadian universities have already detected a postelection surge in interest from overseas.")

Lands. National parks, forests and other public lands are not the product of a mapmaker's whim. An even greater political battle than at the time of their creation is the continuous fight for their preservation. We are coming into a time of such a fight. Jack Healy and Kirk Johnson, "Battle Lines Over Trump's Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres," New York Times, November 19, 2016, p. A9 ("Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.")
[Note: Because of the physical volume of entries, beginning with Week 3 the blog post you are now on will remain the opening post for this series, and the links in its "Contents" section at the top of this post will take you to the new blog pages for subsequent weeks.]

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2 comments:

drew shaffer said...

GOOD JOB NICK!

Nick said...

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-- Nick