In his big interview with The New York Times, Trump made it clear that he understands that serving as president while continuing to be involved with the Trump Organization will create the potential for numerous conflicts of interest. He also made clear that he doesn’t much care. “Now, according to the law, see I figured there’s something where you put something in this massive trust and there’s also — nothing is written,” he said. “In other words, in theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent.”
I think about that because Abramoff, for all his infamy and the political destruction he caused, was still just a lobbyist. He didn’t make the rules and didn’t have any official authority. His capacity to be corrupt depended largely on the complicity of people in power and his ability to game the rules that were in place. I think about that, and then I think about the vastly greater corruption potential President-elect Donald Trump represents, and I shudder.
His guilty pleas set in motion what eventually became the “culture of corruption” narrative that Democrats used to withering effect in the midterm elections, sweeping the GOP out of power in both houses of Congress.
Much of my thinking these days goes back to the early months of 2006 when lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and bribery. Abramoff had been a largely obscure political player and palm greaser, but his grandiose villainy and tight connections to powerful lawmakers turned him into the mascot of Washington graft.