Donald Trump’s shaky start

Anti-Trump protest in New York City, Nov. 12, 2016

Anti-Trump protest in New York City, Nov. 12, 2016

Donald Trump was able to get away with pretty much anything while campaigning for president, from admissions of sexually predatory behavior to numerous false statements. Now that he’s the president-elect, however, Trump is discovering that preparing to govern is something very different from campaigning. Trump has already gotten into a bunch of sticky or questionable situations just days after the election:

First, Trump is facing massive demonstrations by people who don’t want to accept his presidency, or who believe that Trump won the election by illegal means. It doesn’t help that Trump is losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by over one million votes.

Second, Trump is facing a firestorm of protest over his appointment of Stephen Bannon as senior White House counsel. Bannon was Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, which is deemed a racist, anti-Semitic, white nationalist site. Although Trump tends to be stubborn and would not likely jettison Bannon, who ran Trump’s presidential campaign, Bannon is already a lightning rod for criticism of Trump’s policies well before Inauguration Day.

Third, Trump has effected what some media outlets are calling a “Stalinist purge” of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his cohorts from the Trump transition team. Christie was originally the Chair of the transition, and has now been demoted to Vice Chair. Likewise, former Congressman Mike Rogers, a Christie ally, has been removed from the transition team altogether. The stated reason for this “shakeup” is that Christie didn’t defend Trump sufficiently on the campaign trail. However, that’s not news. Christie barely even mentioned Trump at all during his speech at the Republican National Convention back in July, and appeared to be promoting only himself. Perhaps a more immediate reason for Christie’s demotion is that Christie’s top aide and his top appointee each recently got convicted in the Bridgegate scandal, and there’s a chance that one or both of them could turn state’s evidence against Christie.

Fourth, Trump’s Vice Presidential pick Michael Pence faces an email scandal. Pence is trying to keep emails from his time as Indiana Governor secret, despite a state law requiring that they be made part of the public records. Considering that Hillary Clinton was raked over the coals for a year, including by Pence, about using a private email server as Secretary of State to accomplish essentially the same purpose, Pence’s efforts seem wildly hypocritical at best.

Fifth, Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, “has built questionable ties to Russiasince retiring from the U.S. military. These ties including being a contributor to RT, Russia’s news outlet that broadcasts in the U.S. This comes at a time when Trump himself is accused of having financial ties to Russia, such as loans, that could create conflicts of interest when it comes time to make crucial foreign policy decisions. Moreover, Russia’s government, via Wikileaks, is accused of meddling in the U.S. election on behalf of Trump, and has admitted having contacts with the Trump campaign during the election run-up.

Sixth, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who runs some of Trump’s businesses and is expected to do so even more when Trump is president, sat in on Trump’s meeting this week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This raises further questions about Trump’s possible conflicts of interests between his family businesses and his upcoming duties as president. It doesn’t help that Trump is the first presidential nominee, and non president-elect, in decades not to release his tax returns, which could answer nagging questions about his international business ties that raise potential conflicts of interest.

There are also other issues, such as the allegedly racist views of Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, whom Trump just picked to be his nominee for U.S. Attorney General. Sessions must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and he was previously rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship based at least in part on these troubling allegations.

President Barack Obama and his White House team got through two presidential terms without any major scandal, and, regardless of whether one disagrees with their political philosophy, they demonstrated a level of thoughtfulness on a regular basis, with few glaring conflicts of interest. Thus far, it is questionable whether Donald Trump and his team will be able to do the same. At minimum, a number of lawyers and investigative reporters are likely to be kept quite busy during the next few months and years.

Photo by mathiaswasik, used under Creative Commons license.

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