It’s difficult to determine whether the Trump administration’s decision to award the contract to hold the annual G7 conference at the president’s own Miami Doral golf resort was a case of unbridled arrogance by a leader so drunk on power that he believes that he can get away with anything or was a desperate act by a man so mired in the muck of scandal that he figured that one more egregious act would get lost in the avalanche of malfeasance and could provide at least a temporary distraction from the other impeachable offenses now under investigation by the House of Representatives.
Either way, Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administration, sees Trump’s self-serving move as the very height of blatant corruption run amok.
Appearing on MSNBC‘s Hardball, Schaub dismissed yesterday’s defense of the president’s decision by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — who claimed that Trump wouldn’t be personally profiting from the choice of his resort as the G7 venue — as “ridiculous,” given the clear prohibitions against this type of conflict of interest in the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
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Shaub gave a vivid explanation for why he believes that Trump violated the law with his self-dealing.
“Essentially, it boils down to this, the president in the United States participated in a contract awarded to his own business,” Shaub began his comments.
“This is the figurative equivalent of: he reaches into the treasury, grabs a chunk of money and says ‘don’t worry, I’m not taking more than I’m spending,’” Shaub continued. “That’s no defense at all and certainly, if it had been Mick Mulvaney who owned this property, he’d be prosecuted and convicted of a felony and wouldn’t be able to say ‘don’t worry, I broke even.’”
The former ethics director provided a cautionary analysis of the president’s motives in attempting to steer the lucrative business to his own pockets.
“There is no definition of corruption that would not cover the president participating in a contract awarded to himself. So, if this is not corrupt, nothing is corrupt,” he said. “And that’s exactly what he wants and it seems to be exactly what the United States Senate is determined to have be the case.”
In an earlier comment made a day earlier, Schaub painted a picture of a president using ever more transgressive attempts to test the limits of what Congress and the American people will allow, calling the G7 decision “so overtly corrupt that it can’t be viewed as anything but a loyalty test for Senators.”
“If they are corrupt enough to look the other way, Trump will know he can do anything. In that case, he will do everything,” he added.
Shaub’s analysis certainly makes perfect sense, except for one aspect. Give all of the outrageously transgressive things that Trump has already tried to pull, it seems that the president already believes that he can do anything.
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Original reporting by Lee Moran at Huffington Post.