Last week gave us a delicious and whirlwind preview of all the great things that lie ahead under the reign of Trump, including white supremacists, nepotism, possible violations of federal law, a settlement in a fraud case, and, uh, an attempt at warring with the cast of a hit Broadway show. Even my dad heard about that last one, and my dad's primary source of news is weird short wave radio broadcasts from the depths of the Balkans. (No really.) But while the Hamilton thing drew some major ink, Trump got up to some pretty shady stuff last week that we should probably talk about.
1) Starting with white supremacists
Given the tenor of Trump's campaign, it's singularly unsurprising that the campaign, and later victory, emboldened white nationalists across the U.S. Like these nice gentlemen, who needed a safe space where they could talk about white power without fear of being photographed, but were happy to talk to the media about white power with little prompting.
People have been calling white nationalists the "alt-right," borrowing a term allegedly coined by Richard Spencer, who is a white nationalist. If I sound like I'm using the words "white nationalist" a lot, it is because I don't believe in using softened speech carefully targeted for optics when referring to white nationalists, and I am certainly not going to allow them to define themselves.
It's bad enough having these vipers cruising the great highways and byways of the U.S. of A., leaving slime and swastika graffiti in their wake. Donald Trump wants to go a step further and invite them into the bosom of the White House, in the form of Steve Bannon, who landed a plum job as the president-elect's "Chief Strategist." Bannon is a popular white nationalist figure thanks to his tenure at Breitbart, in which he turned a wildly biased rightwing media site with a loose interpretation of the truth into a white nationalist incubation chamber. Congrats on the promotion, Steve!
Making America great again will presumably involve more brownshirts, fewer taco trucks.
2) And how about that fraud case?
Donald Trump, great businessman that he is, likes to claim that he "never settles" (he does). But for the last few months, a pesky fraud case has been looming over his head. It was originally scheduled for trial after the election to avoid interfering with it (remember when we cared about things that might interfere with the election?), and when he was elected, his staff pulled the countermove of trying to ease him out of the limelight altogether.
That didn't work, so they did the next best thing: They settled, for $25 million. Trump claimed he totally would have won the case, in which the plaintiffs were charging that while Trump U advertised his close involvement with the organization, he played no such role. They argued that they paid for that personal attention, and when their "education" didn't deliver, they wanted some compensation. The news of the settlement blipped by, which was exactly the point: Had the case gone to trial, it would have been a PR nightmare.
3) Holy nepotism, Batman
It's kind of hard to know where to begin with the growing nepotism problem, but let's be clear here: This isn't just about how it's gross for a president to enrich himself through the power of the White House. It's also about the fact that there are serious ethical conflicts going on here that could compromise the safety, security, and integrity of the United States.
Starting with the fact that Trump has yet to put his assets in a blind trust, as repeatedly advised by nearly everyone on Earth. He says his kids will handle the business and he'll stay out of it. So why is his daughter sitting in on high-level meetings with prominent foreign leaders? What about the news that diplomats are already feeling pressured to stay in Donald Trump's Washington hotel — something that could run afoul of a federal law barring the acceptance of gifts from foreign agents? (If you're thinking "what about all the weird crap foreign governments present the president with at official state visits?," the answer is found here.) And what is the scoopage with Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, who is right in the middle of the bakery with his finger in every possible pie?
4) Delete your nominee
Incoming presidents have a lot of hires to make and appointments to take care of, and as Trump's transition team starts rolling out names, we're learning a lot about what kind of president he wants to be. The Attorney General is a critical role; while an executive appointee, the AG is charged with enforcing the laws that Congress passes and the Supreme Court affirms (or overturns). A good Attorney General, like Loretta Lynch, works on programs like fighting police killings and defending disability rights.
A bad attorney general can turn the Department of Justice from an organization with tremendous integrity and value to a living nightmare. I think we can guess which route the Trump Administration plans to go with its pick of Senator Jeff Sessions — a man so racist that the Congress of the 1980s, not exactly known for its woke nature, refused to confirm him when Saint Reagan tried to appoint him as a judge. I think these two headlines sum up the Jeff Sessions situation perfectly.
From the New York Times: "Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: An Insult to Justice."
From Fox News: "Here's why Jeff Sessions is the perfect pick for Attorney General."
Sessions enjoys activities like persecuting people of color, threatening to continue the apparently endless trend of harassing Secretary Hillary Clinton about her email, and, presumably, throwing rocks at baby bunnies. Fox News assures us that he will get busy "reversing the unprofessionalism and downright unethical conduct" of the DOJ under the Obama years, reminding us that the Attorney General enjoys considerable latitude and can opt to enforce the spirit, rather than letter, of the law. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, decided to make marijuana a states' rights issue, while Sessions has indicated that he will not (funny how Republicans scream about states' rights until a state does something they don't like). Similarly, the DOJ under Obama has done its best to mitigate extreme drug sentences and engage in other discretionary actions to make the justice system more, er, just.
Bonus: Michael Flynn, who could become the National Security Advisor, is alarmingly hawkish, super-duper racist, and snuggly with the Kremlin.
5) Planes, trains, and automotive lies
Fake news has been a perennial problem throughout this election cycle, and both Facebook and Google finally admitted that maybe they should be doing something about it. Alongside this day late and a dollar short confession, the Donald has been busy making some fake news of his own, mainly crowing on Twitter that he'd saved a Lincoln plant in Kentucky from a move to Mexico. For a man who campaigned on trade protectionism and the promise to rebuild the American economy, it was a total coup.
Except for how it didn't actually happen. Ford is planning on shifting some production activities, but no factories are closing, nor will jobs be lost. One reason why? Trade unions, which have negotiated extremely robust agreements with automakers. Trump, it should be noted, is notoriously anti-union. The industry, meanwhile, is concerned about the potential for protectionism to gut the U.S. market by feeding trade wars, thus ravaging what's left of the auto industry's domestic manufacturing.
6) Nearly set Trump Tower on fire with hypocrisy
Repeat after me: Using a personal server for email merits years of persecution despite repeated findings of no wrongdoing (though some poor life choices). Using unsecured phone lines to make sensitive calls to world leaders, however, is fine.