Who doesn’t love charming con artists? Sure, people who’ve been scammed by them, but let’s not nitpick.
Check forger and fake airline pilot Frank Abagnale was immortalized in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” Charles Ponzi tricked investors out of millions in the early 1900s by transferring money from new investors to existing ones. And of course, Bernie Madoff, who took the Ponzi scheme to dizzying levels.
During the presidential primaries, Sen. Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a con artist. Was he right? After Trump launched his tax code initiative last week, which would balloon his bank account and our deficit, more than a few people squirmed. The New York Times’s editorial board labeled it “President Trump’s Laughable Plan to Cut His Own Taxes.”
But is this fair? Is Trump using our nation’s highest office to enrich himself? As the Trump team says about its Russian connections, is there any evidence?
Good question. For starters, Trump has virtually ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits him from accepting gifts or other benefits from foreign leaders.
“That’s money from foreign governments going into our president’s pocket while he is making decisions that affect those countries,” Zephyr Teachout, an associate law professor at Fordham University, told National Public Radio.
While China has granted Ivanka Trump trademarks, the Trump family brand has been promoted in numerous and often dubious ways. Trump has jetted down to a Trump property at least nine times since becoming president, and the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago has doubled to $200,000. Meanwhile, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway hawked Ivanka’s products on Fox News.
“It’s very possible I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump told Forbes in 2000. Any evidence his thinking has changed? To dodge complaints over conflict-of-interest rules, Trump has supposedly turned over his businesses to sons, vowing that he wouldn’t even discuss it with them. Hmm . . .
But as son Eric Trump told the Times, “The stars have all aligned. I think our brand’s the hottest it’s ever been.”
I wonder why?