Editorial, March 4, 2018: Trump Lashes Out

Trump and the mansion he sold to a Russian oligarch. (Jeffrey Langlois -- Palm Beach Daily News)

Trump has never believed that the law applies to him.

There is increasing evidence that, prior to his presidency, Trump was engaged in money laundering.  During testimony in November to the House Intelligence Committee, Glenn Simpson, founder of GPS Fusion, the firm that commissioned the Steele Dossier, provided testimony indicating that the Trump organization engaged in major money laundering with Russian nationals.  We know that in 2008 Trump sold a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch for almost $100 million, nearly twice what Trump had paid for it just four years earlier.

More recently, news articles have alleged that Trump made millions during the early 2000’s laundering money from drug cartels and others through a Trump-affiliated hotel in Panama.

In the book Fire and Fury former Trump campaign aide Steve Bannon commented that “This is all about money laundering.”  We now know that one of the current focuses of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is money laundering.

Since taking office, Trump has had no misgivings about using the government for his personal ends.  He gave his family members major positions in the White House.  He tried to derail the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election by first firing James Comey, then coming close to firing Jeff Sessions.  He routinely complains that the Department of Justice will not investigate the persons he considers to be his political enemies.  He refuses to apply sanctions to the Russians despite those sanctions being passed by near-unanimous votes in the Senate and the House.

This week we learned that the United States decided to support a boycott of Qatar created by Saudi Arabia and the UAE after Qatar turned down a request for money by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Kushner needs the money to avoid defaulting on a large debt secured by his 666 Fifth Avenue property in Manhattan.

In just the last day, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent attempts to become President for life, saying that perhaps the U.S. should try that as well.

We also know that Special Counsel Mueller has been trying to arrange an interview with Trump under oath, and that Trump’s attorneys are working to avoid that because they believe Trump will commit perjury.

Without involving White House staff or federal attorneys, on Thursday Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the U.S., including on those by friends and allies such as Canada and Europe.

According to news reports, Trump acted due to anger over Hope Hicks’ Congressional testimony that she has told “white lies” in her work for Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ refusal to investigate others as Trump wishes, and Jared Kushner’s loss of his top-secret security clearance.   The real reason, though, may be that Trump knows Mueller is closing in.  Even Trump allies expressed concern that Trump is out of control, with one calling it “pure madness”.

What we can be sure of is that as Trump feels increasingly trapped, he will look for additional ways to lash out.  It is not reassuring that this week there were reports that Trump may fire his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and perhaps replace him with someone eager to start military action against North Korea.

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