Deep Politics Forum

Full Version: USA under presidency of a know-nothing, neo-fascist, racist, sexist, mobbed-up narcissist!!
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
We spend the rest of the hour with Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. Reich, who now teaches at University of California, Berkeley, has emerged as one of Donald Trump's most vocal critics. He recently wrote a piece headlined "Trump's Seven Techniques to Control the Media." I interviewed him yesterday and began by asking him what he thinks Donald Trump represents.
ROBERT REICH: Well, Donald Trump, besides, in my view, not being qualified to be president and, actually, on the campaign trail and even after the campaign was over advocating, legitimizing and enabling people to be quite hateful in America, if they were already leaning in that direction, Donald Trump also does not have any understanding of a democracy. And if anything, his leanings are toward tyranny. And by "tyranny," I simply mean someone who absorbs the trappings of power but doesn't understand that he, in a democracy, is a public servant. He is working for us; we are not working for him. And in many ways, Donald Trump seems to be indifferent, at best, to the democratic process. He, for example, treats the pressand we need a free and independent press. Every democracy requires a free and independent press to report on what the powerful are doing. Trump continues to denigrate the press and to bypass it whenever he has any opportunity.
AMY GOODMAN: So, specifically get into this issue of the press. You wrote a fascinating piece saying, as you've said now, "Democracy depends on an independent press, which is why all tyrants try to squelch it. They use seven techniques that, worryingly, President-elect Donald Trump already employs." Go in detail into these seven techniques, beginning with berating the media.
ROBERT REICH: Donald Trump has, almost from the beginning of his campaign, and certainly in theand he's continued itin the post-election period, to denigrate and berate the media. He holds rallies, and he talks about the dishonest media. He uses adjectives like "scum" and "scoundrel" to describe the media. He picks out individual members of the press who have criticized him, and talks about them in very critical terms or mocks them. This is not the habit of a democraticdemocratically elected president. We've had presidents who have been upset by particular reports. Harry Truman, for example, was very upset when hiswhen the media reporteda particular reporter criticized his daughter's singing, and he had some quite stern words about that reporter. But we've never before had a president or president-elect who has taken the media on so directly and so negatively and tried to plant in the public's mindand I think this is the real danger, Amytrying to plant in the public's mind the notion that the press is the enemy itself. If the public doesn't believe in a free and independent press, then we're in a kind of fact-free universe, becauseand also a president is immune from criticism. And I think that's, consciously or not, what Donald Trump is seeking.
AMY GOODMAN: Your number two point of techniques that Trump has used to control the media, "Blacklist critical media." During the campaign, he blacklisted news outlets, like pulling The Washington Post's credentials. I was surprised at the time that other reporters on the campaign trail covering Trump didn't jointly say, "If they are not allowed in, we will not report on you. We will not go in, either."
ROBERT REICH: I was surprised, as well. And what the media certainly needs to do is stand up for itself and stand up for other members of the media. Now, I understand mediayou know, the situation today is very competitive, and there are a lot of media outlets that are worried about losing readership and so forth. But it is very important for the media to stand for a free and independent media. He's announced, for example, that his White House press room, when and if he ever has a news conference, will beno longer be assigned. The media will no longer be assigned of seats. They will bethey will actually be assignedthose seats will be assigned by the White House press room, not by the media who cover the White House. This may seem like a small detail.
AMY GOODMAN: You're saying by Trump's people. No, it's not a small detail at all, but you're saying by Trump's detail
AMY GOODMAN: and not the White House Press Association.
ROBERT REICH: Exactly. Instead the White House Press Association, Trump's own office, his own detail, will be assigning those seats. And there, again, is a dangerous precedent, in terms of undermining the freedom and the independence of the press. Donald Trump looks at the press the same way he looks at everything else, "the art of the deal." If he can strike a deal that will give the press something, or a particular member of the press or particular newspaper or news outlet an advantage, then he expects something in return, in terms of favorable coverage. But that's not the way it's supposed to work in the United States or in any democracy. That's why we have a strict demarcation between the press and those in power.
AMY GOODMAN: Number three in your list of seven techniques to control the media, "Turning the public against the media." I want to go to a clip of Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: You know my opinion of the media. It's very low. ... The press are liars. They're terrible people. ... And the medialook at all those people back there: scavengers. They're like scavengers. ... Show 'em the crowd, press. Show 'em the crowd. Show 'em the crowd. Look, they're not turning the cameras. They don't even turn the cameras. They don't even turn the cameras, because, you know what, they're very dishonest people. ... Disgusting reporters, horrible people. Sure, some are nice. ... They're scum, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.
AMY GOODMAN: So you have Trump referring to the media as "lying," "dishonest," "disgusting," "scum." And then you point out, for example, questioning the press's motives, like talking about The Washington Post's publisher, Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon. Talk about that.
ROBERT REICH: Again, this is unprecedented. We have a president-elect of the United States who comes up with ulterior motives for why a major news outlet, like The Washington Post, might be critical of him. He says Jeff Bezos, who is the publisher of The Washington Post, also from Amazon, is somehow worried about an antitrust action and therefore doesn't want Trump to be president or didn't want Trump to be president, is worried about Trump. This finding of ulterior motives, of assigning particular strange and irrelevant reasons why an outpost of the press might actually be criticizing Donald Trump is an effort, it seems to me, to undermine the credibility of the press, to cause the public to doubt what they are reading.
And Donald Trump, remember, lives in a fact-free universe. This is somebody who, even after the election, has said that, for example, he won by a landslide, when we know that he wonhe didn't win by a landslide; in fact, Hillary Clinton came out with almost 3 million more votes, popular votes, than Donald Trump. He says there was massive voter fraud. We know therethere was no evidence of massive voter fraud. He says that the homicide rate is up 45 percent. We know that the homicide rate is actually down 50 percent. But if in a fact-free world, unless the free press, unless we have a media that is capable of correcting the record, then we have a president who can say almost anything to justify whatever he wants to do. That, again, is a very, very dangerous situation in a democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: As you point out, you said that Jeffrey Bezos, the publisher of The Washington Post, the founder of AmazonDonald Trump said The Washington Post wrote negative things about him because Bezos, quote, "thinks I would go after him for antitrust."
ROBERT REICH: When Donald Trump goes after Jeffrey Bezos, the publisher of The Washington Post, because of somesome notion that Amazon and Bezos are worried about a possible antitrust action that Trump might inspire, that is designed to undermine the credibility, in the public's mind, of anything that The Washington Post might publish. It is an absurd allegation. There is no reason to believe that the Post's reporting turns upon Jeff Bezos's concern about Amazon and any antitrust issues. But, you see, by creating this kind of conspiracy theory or this kind of paranoid notion about the press and planting it in the public's mind, the public, or at least a portion of the public, is led to think that anything that The Washington Post, or another paper whose credibility the president-elect tries to undermine, says is [not] justified or is [not] true. And again, that is terribly dangerous in a democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Or he might be threatening the reverse. By saying that, he's saying, "I could go after him on issues of antitrust."
ROBERT REICH: Absolutely. He's signaling to the press that he also has the power, whether it's antitrust or it is the IRS or the FBI or whatever, whatever he is going to be directly or indirectly in command of, he is also signaling to the press that he has that kind of power.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read to you something from Politico. It says, "Donald Trump's campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives Friday in Manhattan. Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks. In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said." Your concerns about this, Robert Reich?
ROBERT REICH: Well, every president in every press room in every White House does make tacithas tacit understandings with the press. You know, you get this interview with the president ifand it will be an exclusive interview, butand we're not going to allow anybody else to have that interview, but you've got toyou've got to give him that time to say his piece. That's not unusual. What's very unusual, though, is when a White House strikes a deal with a news outlet not to comment on what the president might be saying at a rally or any other event. That basically is a gag order. I mean, that is an agreement by the press not to have an opinion, not to express itself, not to point out to the public anything, not to even provide any facts to the public that might be important in terms of understanding the context of a presidential event or what a president says. That, again, is terribly dangerous in a democracy. It actually createsit undermines the independence and the freedom of the press.
AMY GOODMAN: In number four of "Trump's Seven Techniques to Control the Media," you talk about condemning satirical or critical comments. I wanted to go to a clip of Saturday Night Live.
DONALD TRUMP: [played by Alec Baldwin] Kellyanne, I just retweeted the best tweet. I mean, wow, what a great, smart tweet.
SECURITY ADVISER 1: [played by Kenan Thompson] Mr. Trump, we're in a security briefing.
DONALD TRUMP: I know, but this could not wait. It was from a young man named Seth. He's 16. He's in high school, and I really did retweet him. Seriously, this is real.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: [played by Kate McKinnon] He really did do this.
SECURITY ADVISER 1: Well, sir, you're the president-elect, so I guess you can do whatever you want, but we'd really like to fill you in on Syria.
DONALD TRUMP: God, Seth seems so cool. His Twitter bio says he wants to make America great again.
SECURITY ADVISER 2: [played by Alex Moffat] That is cool, sir.
DONALD TRUMP: It also says he loves the Anaheim Ducks.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: OK, see, there is a reason, actually, that Donald tweets so much. He does it to distract the media from his business conflicts and all the very scary people in his Cabinet.
SECURITY ADVISER 1: Oh, that does make sense.
SECURITY ADVISER 2: Very clever, sir.
DONALD TRUMP: Actually, that's not why I do it. I do it because my brain is bad.
AMY GOODMAN: That, of course, Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump, as he continues to do now after the election, as he did before. There are many who felt if this had started earlier on, that Trump never would have made it to this point, or perhaps if Jon Stewart was still doing The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert still on Comedy Central. But this issue of satire and Donald Trump tweeting, after thatafter the scene we just played, Trump tweeting, "It is a totally one-sided, biased shownothing funny at all. Equal time for us?" How serious this is, Robert Reich.
ROBERT REICH: Well, on one level, it simply reveals a very thin-skinned and vindictive person on the part of Donald Trump, who doesn't have any sense of humor. But on a deeper level, there are some real dangers here, because a president, an administration, particularly when the administration and Congress are of the same party, does have some power, in terms of the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies, that could make it difficult for a particular broadcaster to function. And by saying "equal time for our side," that's a kind of ironic comment, because the equal time rule by the FCC is gone. Donald Trump really dominated all of the news coverage during the campaign, was given free time by the media.
Satire also is probably one of the most effective means of criticizing anyany person in power, whether that person is elected or is ajust takes power. Traditionally, through time, satire has been incredibly useful and important. To criticize people who are using satire, again, in a very, very fundamental way, turns the publicpotentially turns the public against these individuals. Donald Trump has tweeted against Alec Baldwin specifically and personally. And those personal tweets could potentially have some damage. I do know that people who have criticized Donald Trump in various ways, and then Donald Trump has tweeted against them, have, in turn, received threats, including death threats, from some of Trump's followers. We don't want to have in this country that kind of chilling effect on free speech or on satire or any form of free speech.
AMY GOODMAN: We'll be back with UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton, in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "Natural Blue" by Julie Byrne, here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We are speaking to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who recently wrote a piece headlined "Trump's Seven Techniques to Control the Media." I asked him about Donald Trump's response to what happened when Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the Broadway hit Hamilton shortly after the election. At the end of the show, actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, read a message for Pence from the stage.
BRANDON VICTOR DIXON: Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir, we, are of the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump responded to the Hamilton message by tweeting, "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!" I asked former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to respond.
ROBERT REICH: There was nothing about that note, as I read about it and read the content of that note, that was harassing. In fact, it was very dignified, very modest. It simply expressed the cast's hope, because the cast of that Broadway show is very diverse, multiracial, multiethnic, their hope that the Trump administration would be sensitive to their concerns about not being hateful and not promoting racism. And for Donald Trump to jump on that cast and to say that they owe Michael Pence an apology and that this was in some way inappropriate also has a potential to chill freedom of speech.
If any other set of performers want to say something that is slightly critical, or at least signal their discontent in some way with the Trump administration, are they going to be faced with a deluge of similar tweets or similar criticisms? And what is the consequence of those tweets and criticisms not only in terms of audiences in the futureI don't think there's any problem of Hamilton getting a very, very large audience, but what about playwrights and casts and producers that are struggling to attract audiences or are worried abouteven about threats that may come back to them because of Donald Trump's outrage? You see how delicate this all is, Amy.
Our freedom of the press depends on a lot of tacit norms and understandings between people in powerthe president, a president-electand the public at large and the press itself. The press is called the fourth estate. It's called the fourth estate because it has almost governmental functions, in terms of being outside the government but being able to criticize what is happening in the government, so the public is aware of potential problems. Without that freedom of the press, as the framers of the Constitution understood, we cannot have a fully functioning democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Your number five in "Trump's Seven Techniques to Control the Media" is threatening the media directly, threatening to sue. For example, what The New York Times wrote about him when it came to his tax returns and when it came, as well, to accusations that women made of him directly assaulting them.
ROBERT REICH: Donald Trump's mentor for many years, when he was a younger man, was a fellow named Roy Cohn, a lawyer in New York who was also an assistanthad been an assistant to Senator Joe McCarthy during theMcCarthy's witch hunts, communist witch hunts, in the 1950s. What Roy Cohn did always, over and over again, was sue people, issued lawsuits, libelous lawsuits often, when there was anything in the paper that was critical of Roy Cohn or his clients. Donald Trump apparently internalized it and has a history of mounting lawsuits.
But when you are a president-elect or when you're a candidate, and certainly when you're president, you cannot go around trying to intimidate the press and issuing lawsuits or threatening lawsuits because they say something that you don't like about them. And this is what Trump did during the campaign. He also has threatened to expand the libel laws, making it easier, he says, for somebody like him to sue the media. And you, againpresumably, that lawsuit would be based upon something that the media reported that he did not like to be reported, didn't want to be reported. Again, a very, very dangerous threat.
AMY GOODMAN: Number six is limiting media access. You point out Trump hasn't had a news conference since July, when he famously called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's email. Let's take a listen.
DONALD TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
AMY GOODMAN: So that's Donald Trump at his last news conference, and he hasn't held one since. He's also said that, as president, he won't necessarily be having daily press briefingsyou know, his press secretary. But you talk outabout how he's blocked the media from traveling with him. You talk about his first conversation with Putin, where it actually first was reported. It wasn't in the United States.
ROBERT REICH: Yes, it's interesting and indicative that that first conversation with Putin, which took place right after he was elected, was reported by the Kremlin first, not by any United States media. Donald Trump doesn't like the media. He doesn't want to be confronted by the media. He doesn't want to have news conferences. Three days after he was elected, Barack Obama had his first news conference. Three days after he was elected and the Supreme Court decided that election, George W. Bush had his first news conference. Donald Trump has not had a news conference since July. He hasn't had any news conference since he was elected.
You see, what he wants to avoid here is being ganged up on. He is desperately afraid that there might be a variety of questions coming from various news organizations about the same set of issues, and that would make him look and feel less powerful. And so, like manyand I use this word advisedlymany dictators or tyrants in history, who don't want to have news conferences, they don't want to be bombarded with questions from the press, Donald Trump is avoiding the possibility that he will have many different news outlets asking him and pummeling him with questions. He doesn't want that possibility.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, you talk about bypassing the media and communicating with the public directly, as he does with tweets, as he does with his rallies, which he seems to be continuingin fact, just this past weekend, another victory rally. I wanted to play a clip.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there's no hope. But I assume she was talking about the past, not the future, because, I'm telling you, we have tremendous hope.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump this weekend at yet another victory rally, which he used to attack Michelle Obama, the first lady. Robert Reich?
ROBERT REICH: Donald Trump's modus operandi seems to be to communicate directly with followers and with the public through tweets and through rallies. And he's signaled that he wants to continue to use rallies even after January 20th, when he becomes president. The problem for the free press is that the more you have a president who is communicating directly through tweets and rallies, the less able are the press or is the media to be able to intermediate. I mean, the word "media" comes from the term "intermediation," which is speaking truth to power. It's actually intermediating between the powerful and the public, so that the powerful can be held accountable, so that they can be asked questions on behalf of the public, so that there can be criticism voiced, where individual members of the public don't have the power to do that. They are just sort of a very, very large group of individuals whonone of whom has the power to talk back. That's why the intermediaries, the media, are so important.
But if you have a president who is communicating absolutely directly with the public, bypassing all of those intermediaries, then you have potentially a situation in which what that president says cannot be questioned. The truth cannot get out. And the fear is that that's ultimately what Donald Trump wants, to be able to continue to state things that are simply not true, you know, thatdoubting climate change, for example, or saying that the CIA report on Russian hacking was not trueand have a larger and larger number of his followers, and, indirectly, their friends and their associates and families, believe him and not believe science and not believe the media, not believe policy analysts and not believe people who are investigative reporters and not believe the actual facts out there, believe this counter-universe that is of Donald Trump's creation.

pssst! This is VERY GOOD!.....all about how the elections/votes/machines/etc. are rigged.
Worth listening to. No doubt the Republicans are the ones who rigged the system.

Senate Democrats Should Block All Trump Supreme Court Nominees

Posted on Dec 21, 2016
By Juan Cole / Informed Comment
We don't need a Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice. We desperately don't need such a person. And there is no reason to have one. The Democrats in the Senate should just filibuster any nomination for the next four years. Now, you may say that a president deserves to have the nominee of his choice voted on. But those were the old rules before we saw how the Republican Party treated Barack Obama. They just told him no, no, no on everything. Everything. They even threatened the home mortgages of government employees by closing down the government. Twice. They vilified Obama, shouted disrespectfully at him from the floor of Congress, and then they refused even to let his Supreme Court nominee, a centrist, come up for a vote. They declared President Obama a lame duck when he had 11 months left in his presidency.
I declare Donald Trump a lame duck now. Four years out. Here are the reasons the Senate should block his nominee:
1. Republicans did not let Garland Merrick come up for a vote. Why should Democrats allow someone else to?
2. Republicans declared Barack Obama a lame duck beginning in February of 2016, when he had 11 months in office. I declare Donald Trump a lame duck, four years out. 11 months, 48 months what's the difference among friends? If presidents aren't really presidents for 23% of their terms, why not make it an even 100%? After all, the next election isn't far away. We can just wait till then, the way the GOP wanted us to wait till Obama was out of office to do anything at all.
3. Nearly 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump, even with substantial voter suppression in states like North Carolina. They did so because they cared about women's reproductive rights, labor rights, the environment, civil liberties, and other issues decided by the Supreme Court. It would be an extreme insult to popular sovereignty to thwart their voices, the majority of the country, and have a minority president appoint some far right patriarchal demagogue to injure their constitutional rights.
4. The issue transcends ideology. Many of Trump's appointees have been loony as the day is long. His national security adviser, Mike Flynn, thinks that Hillary Clinton secretly practices voodoo and he just met with the head of a far right party founded by ex-Nazis in Austria. The Supreme Court interprets the constitution for our country and we can't afford Trump's affirmative action for the Tinfoil Hat Brigade to extend into that august body.
5. The 8-person Supreme Court we now have is just fine. They don't need another colleague. Without Antonin Scalia, they have been making reasonable decisions. Let them go on doing so. You might argue that they need to have an odd number of members so that ties can be broken. But, why? If they can't decide a case because they're deadlocked, it can just be returned to the district court it came from. Besides, maybe Clarence Thomas will retire and we can suffice with 7 justices.
You might say that if the Dems act in this way, the Republicans will just change the Senate rules so that things are done by a simple majority. Let them. Sooner or later the Democrats will get a simple majority in the senate along with a Democratic president, and no one ever again will be able to constrain them the way the GOP put President Obama into a straight jacket.
We're watching you, Senate Democrats. Remember: No Trump appointee should be seated. Ever.

Imagine the difference between RFK Jr being elected in 2016 vs Trump...
[Image: image00-6-700x467.jpg]Emperor Trump Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mitt Romney said in a letter to the editor published in the Salt Lake Tribune that he was "more than a little surprised" that President-elect Donald Trump reached out to him to discuss the possibility of the 2012 GOP nominee becoming Secretary of State. Romney believed this to be "a welcome sign that he will be open to alternative views and even to critics."
If only there were any indication of that being the case. Instead, all signs point to Trump surrounding himself with people who agree with him or whose opinions he can easily disregard if they conflict with his own.
While we could make a lot of quips about Trump being a mere puppet of Vladimir Putin, the fact is that he will be the world's most powerful person on January 20th even though Forbes magazine recently bestowed that honor on the Russian leader.
The question now is how Trump, who will be the least experienced White House occupant in generations, will wield that immense power.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned. Of Trump's top six appointments, only one, prospective Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has more civilian government experience than Trump, who has none. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus lost the only race for state office he ever ran, Rex Tillerson (State) is an oil executive, James Mattis (Defense) and Michael Flynn (National Security Adviser) are retired generals and Steven Mnuchin (Treasury) is an investment banker and executive.
Other appointments have gone to big donors and early supporters, such as wrestling executive Linda McMahon (Small Business Administration), restaurant chain executive Andrew Puzder (Labor), Amway billionaire Betsy DeVos (Education), and investor Wilbur Ross (Commerce).
Of course, Trump's real inner circle seems to consist mainly of his children and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In other words, Trump has largely surrounded himself with loyalists with no government experience. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with either. Trump has to rely on his cabinet and advisers to help him run the country, so he needs to trust them. And government outsiders, such as executives, generals, scientists, doctors, etc., can play a valuable role in providing new perspectives.
But it is entirely unclear whether anybody will dare to speak truth to power in the new administration. And even if somebody did, there is no indication that Trump will listen.
Last week, he dismissed the findings of the entire intelligence community that Russia had influenced the US elections and said because he is "smart"he will not need daily intelligence briefings. On the campaign trail, Trump announced that heknows more than the generals about ISIS.
Famously thin-skinned, Trump also has a long history of going after critics and dissenters as well as real and perceived adversaries either by threatening to take them to court or, most recently, by tweeting about them and unleashing a horde of alt-right trolls to go after such enemies.
There is lots of evidence that Trump will only listen to Trump. And "truth" is not his strong suit. There has never been a candidate who has said as many demonstrably false things as he has. Appallingly, this barrage of untruths helped get him elected.
World affairs, however, is not an election or a reality TV show. Facts matter when dealing with international partners, adversaries and crises. Somebody needs to tell Trump that he won't be able to bullshit his way through the situation in Syria, an economic crisis or a trade war with China.
But who would risk that? Instead, it seems as though his advisers, such as Steve Bannon or Kellyanne Conway, are simply trying to steer and manipulate Trump to do their bidding.
As to what Romney called a "welcome sign," sometime Trump adviser Roger Stone hasa different take on what transpired:"Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in order to torture him."
Quote:They declared President Obama a lame duck when he had 11 months left in his presidency. I declare Donald Trump a lame duck now.

I think Juan Cole is mistaken. The Democrats cannot block the nominee because they used what was called the "nuclear option" allowing the filibuster to be broken with only a majority vote and not the 2/3rds formally required. And second, the Democrats are a well bribed and blackmailed bunch. They won't fight.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you start off by explaining what are the laws, rules and norms that govern the issue of conflict of interest?
Prof. RICHARD PAINTER: Well, there are several laws. I think the most important, for purposes of President-elect Trump, is the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which is one of the most critical conflict of interest provisions for all U.S. government officials. Nobody holding a position of trust with the United States government can receive payments from foreign governments, whether gifts or a salary or profits. And that's what emoluments are, profits or benefits. It comes from the Latin root emolumentum, which refers to profits and benefits.
And so, if you have somebody who's making profits from dealing with foreign governments or companies controlled by foreign governments, that person must dispense with those profits, cannot receive that money, while holding any position of trust with the United States government. That applies to every U.S. government employee, including the president. And so, what this means is that, for Donald Trump, if he's going to hold onto these business enterprises, which present a whole range of other conflict of interest problems, to satisfy the Constitution, at a bare minimum, what he's going to have to do is get the foreign government money and money from foreign government-controlled corporations out of his business enterprise. And this includes foreign diplomats staying at the hotels at government expense, foreign governments having big parties in his hotels and canceling reservations at the Four Seasons, going over to the Trump Hotel, to curry favor. All of that is unconstitutional. Also, he has bank loans outstanding, I believe, from the Bank of China, which is controlled by the government of China. And some foreign government-owned banks are leasing space in Trump office buildings. All that has to be dealt with before January 20, or we could have a violation of the Constitution.
And that's a very important provision, because the founders did not want U.S. government officials to be beholden to foreign powers. France and England, Russia, Austria, Hungarythey were the most powerful countries at the time of the founding of the United States. Their governments were a lot richer than ours. There's no point having a revolution and fighting for American independence if European powers, through payments to U.S. government officials, could accomplish that which they cannot accomplish militarily on the ground, which is to subjugate the United States to foreign domination. So, the founders were very cognizant of this problem of foreign governments trying to manipulate our political system. And lo and behold, here in 2016, we have concerns about foreign governments intermeddling in American politics. And at least the Emoluments Clause is there. Bottom line: no payments from foreign governments to United States government officials.
And now we have a whole range of other conflict of interest rules, ranging from bribery and gratuity statutes, which are criminal, and that would come into play if anyone started mixing discussion of Trump business with U.S. government business in a way that implied, "Well, if you do this, I'll do that." And the problem is, the president is going to be responsible not just for his own conduct, but all the people working for him in the U.S. government and, if he chooses to keep these business enterprises, over in the Trump Organization. And anybody starts going around the world trying to cut deals for the Trump Organization, implying that they might get some favor for somebody from the U.S. government if the deal gets done, that's exactly the type of thing that could lead to an investigation of bribery, a solicitation of a bribe and an accusation that someone is soliciting a bribe on behalf of the president of the United States, even if the president didn't want any of that going on at all. And that's going to be one of the risks if he holds on to these business enterprises.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, ProfessorProfessor Painter, what if theif Donald Trump divests, but maintains the ownership of his current empire under one of his children, who does not get appointed to some kind of government position? Would that be sufficient, in your eyes, to eliminate the legal requirements in terms of any potential conflicts of interest or the Emoluments Clause?
RICHARD PAINTER: Well, by "divest," if you mean giving it to his children or selling ownership to his children, I believe that would solve the Emoluments Clause issue. I mean, there's some debate about whether the government official could receive the emolument through his children. But if it's really his children's business, and they own it, and they operate it, and they are receiving the payments from dealing with foreign governments, probably the Emoluments Clause would not apply. But they need to own the business, not just operate the business while he retains ownership. And that's critically important. In order to give it to them, he'd have to pay to the gift tax. I'm not sure he wants to pay the tax. And he could sell it to them, but that might have to be done through a leveraged buyout. So there are a range of different options that could be explored with the children, particularly for the hotels. Or he could sell the hotels to a third party and then simply keep the cash and put it in conflict-free assets. I do think he needs to turn a lot of this business enterprise, if not all of it, over to an independent trustee, who would function as a blind trustee, under the Office of Government Ethics rules. That's whatpast presidents have done it, and I think that would be very effective here.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's talk about his children. And when you say "his children," I think it sounds very innocent. But, I mean, very clearly, his children are adults who are his business partners. As you talked about, well, if he handed things over to his children, but arehis children are playing a key role in the government. You know, he has said that Ivanka Trump would take over the first lady's quarters in the West Wing, and then said the first family would take over those quarters. A lot of controversy around Trump's children attending a meeting Trump held with tech executives. And it's not only tech executives. They are attending and vetting Cabinet picks, Professor Painter.
RICHARD PAINTER: Yes. I think they need to figure out who in the Trump family, who on Team Trump, is going to be playing for the U.S. government side and who is going to be involved in business enterprises. Those who are going to be with the U.S. government need to be subject to the ethics rules that are bonding on all other people in the United States government. They should be appointed to formal positions. Now, there's an issue under the nepotism statute as to whether the president can do that. And the problem is, if the president decides to allow them to carry out governmental functions without a formal appointment, that is much worse than a violation of the anti-nepotism statute, as I interpret it. The problem is, you cannot have people who aren't government employees, who don't have the conflict of interest requirements of government employees, running around setting policy, influencing other people in the United States government. I have the same concern, by the way, about Carl Icahn and some other people, who may be advising this administration without becoming government employees. And that's an end run around the ethics rules and the conflict of interest statutes. That should not be permitted. So, with respect to the children, figure it out: Who's going to play on the U.S. government side and be subject to the same rules as everyone else, and who's going to be involved in the business world, doing business deals, whether for the Trump Organization or anything else? But it's one way or the other. And there's been a lot of confusion on that. I don't think that's helpful.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, one of theit's shocking to me that, given the amount of time that Donald Trump spent running for president, that nobody in hisin his campaign thought to think these things out before the election, because this is a very complicated entanglement of this empire that they now have to figure out what to do with in just a few weeks.
RICHARD PAINTER: Well, I think most of us thought he was going to lose this election. And I don't know how confident he was he was going to win the election. I believe they made some preparations for a transition. But I think it's starting to dawn on him and on the family that he will indeed be president of the United States on January 20. And this is a fundamental change in his life. He's been a businessman, a successful businessman, all his life. He's 70 years old. He is now going to have to walk away from much of that success. He can keep the money, but there's going to have to be some divestment and other major changes so he could become president of the United States. He's got a new job to do. It's a career transition at age 70. But he, like many other Americans, can go ahead and do it. But he needs to make absolutely sure that he divests himself from the businesses that create conflicts of interest, or we're going have four years of controversy surrounding all these businesses, whether it's these types of investigations I'm talking about, the bribery and gratuity laws. Plaintiffs' lawyers are going to be nipping at his heels, and state attorneys general. We've seen, even in New York, he wants to close down the foundation, and the state attorney general is saying, "Well, not until I finish my investigation." And we're going to have more and more of that type of thing, unless he divests of businesses. I think he did absolutely the right thing on the foundation and the charitable solicitation. Shut that down. Focus on being president.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Painter, just in our headlines today, Donald Trump tapped his company's top lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, to fill the newly created position of special representative for international negotiations. He is an expert in real estate law. He has little foreign policy experience. And he'll be advising on all international negotiations. Does that raise concern for you?
RICHARD PAINTER: Well, we'll see how he does in that. We've had many people coming out of the business world go into government positions that are really unrelated to what they've done in business, and have been quite successful. We'll see how that works out.
AMY GOODMAN: But this goes to him being the lawyer for his real estate empire, now dealing with trade. So, in the lede into this, we said that Kuwait, for example, recently moved its National Celebration Day from the Four Seasons in Georgetown to the Trump International Hotel in D.C. instead. According to ThinkProgress, Kuwait faced political pressure from the Trump camp to move the location. Other diplomats have reportedly been urged to hold events at Trump's hotel. And then, of course, on the international front, a number of different examplesfor example, that first conversation he had with the Taiwanese president, as the Trump Organization wants to build one of the largest development projects in Taiwan.
RICHARD PAINTER: All that's got to stop. It's going to create lots of conflicts of interest, lots of controversy, big distractions for the president for the next four years. That has to stop. And Mr. Greenblatt and anyone else working for the United States government is going to be subject to the conflict of interest rules, which means complete divestment of any interest that he might have in the Trump Organization, any client relationships with the Trump Organization and any other client relationships that create conflicts of interest. But those types of transactions with foreignwhether they're foreign business leaders or foreign government officials, all of that has to stop, or these businesses need to be sold to somebody else who could engage in those transactions and not have to focus on the duties of being president. But you can't have the president of the United States or other people on behalf of the president of the United States running around, trying to cut deals all over the place. Imagine if in World War II, in 1941, President Roosevelt had had a Roosevelt Tower in Berlin and Frankfurt and several hundred million dollars outstanding from Deutsche Bank. How would we have responded to the crisis in Europe? We cannot have a president who is conflicted by his own holdings outside the United States. Critically important. And that's the point of the Emoluments Clause. At least the foreign government payments are unconstitutional. But the rest of it also creates serious conflicts of interest, and prompt steps need to be taken to deal with that. And maybe Mr. Greenblatt and others can help President-elect Trump, when he becomes president, quickly move toward divestment, so he can focus on being president.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Painter, we do not knowwe don't have Donald Trump's tax returns. The significance of thisI mean, breaking with 40 years of tradition of releasing these tax returns, where he's getting his money from, even knowing the basics?
RICHARD PAINTER: We need to get theI think the president should disclose his tax returns. Every other president has disclosed tax returns. And if he hasn't paid a lot of tax because of a tax loophole, just come on out and say, "Well, look, here's a loophole. I took advantage of it this way." And it's fair, it's not; if it's not fair, let's close it. But let's be up front about it. He needs to disclose his taxes so the American people could see where he's been making money around the world or in the United States. That's critically important. We do not see, from the financial disclosure form that the president files and other government officials file, the geographic source of the income. It may flow into, for example, in New York, a limited liability partnership that has dealings inyou know, in Turkey or some other country. We need to have that information. He should disclose the tax returns. And I hope he will.
AMY GOODMAN: And even the Trump name on buildings around the worlddoes the U.S. government now have to protect those buildings?
RICHARD PAINTER: Well, I think we should take the Trump name off of buildings, at least in those countries that have a significant terrorism risk. But we've seen significant terrorism risk in Paris and in many Western cities, as well. So, it's of serious concern. You don't put the name "President Obama"you don't put "Obama" on top of a tower in downtown Johannesburg or Paris or someplace, and then worry about protecting it. And the problem is, the foreign governments might have to protect it. And that brings back in the issue of the Emoluments Clause. Is this a subsidy of a Trump business by a foreign government that has to protect the building? But, of course, if they don't protect the building, we could have a tragedy on our hands, and we don't want that. So, that is a very important step, to get the Trump name off of these buildings outside the United States where there's a terrorism risk.
AMY GOODMAN: And Donald Trump's relationship with banks, what's owed, where his debt is?
RICHARD PAINTER: Well, many real estate people have significant debt on the buildings that they own. And I don't think Donald Trump is an exception to that. Some of the debt you're going to see on the financial disclosure form. That's the debt he personally owes. But there's going to be a lot more debt at the corporate level that you do not see on the financial disclosure form, because he doesn't owe it, it's owed by a corporation which owns a building. And the problem here is, it's going to be difficult for the president to regulate and supervise the regulation of the financial services sector and the banking, the lending practicesmuch of the lending is secured by real estate. It's going to be very difficult for him to deal with those issues if he, himself, is indebted to the large banks. So I think it's going to be very important for him to try to deleverage, sell off the buildings, pay down debt, or figure out some other way where he's not going to be carrying large loans from the banks while his administration is supposed to be regulating the banks.
AMY GOODMAN: And his hotel in Washington, D.C., it violates the lease that he is both the landlord and the tenant, and it says that cannot be. You cannot be a public official and have the lease to this hotel, which is a government building.
RICHARD PAINTER: Yeah, I think he's got another place to live in Washington, D.C., for the next four years, so it's a good idea for him to give that hotel to his children or, better yet, find a buyer for the hotel. The president of the United States is not an innkeeper. He doesn't need to hold onto that hotel. He's got plenty of other things to do. And it's unnecessary. It's going to create a lot of problems with respect to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution because of the foreign diplomats. We have the problem under the lease with the GSA and all sorts of other problems. So, I think he should just sell the hotel or give it to his children or somebody. He really shouldn't be holding onto that property.

Richard Painter, professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota. He was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from February 2005 to July 2007