TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS IN 10 BULLET POINTS

On June-15-16, I’ll be appearing at the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Annual Convention. The title of my June 16 plenary address is The Role of the Legal Profession in the Trump Era. I’ll also be participating in a June 15 panel discussion on the future of legal education.

While we’re on the subject of Trump, and everyone is talking about his First 100 Days, consider this list of 10 achievements:

  • Lowest presidential job approval rating since polling began (1953)
  • Most executive orders found to be unconstitutional (2)
  • Most attacks on the federal judiciary
  • Most days at properties that a president owns (31 through 4/27 – per Wall Street Journal)
  • Most taxpayer dollars spent days at properties that a president owns
  • Most criticism of America’s staunchest allies
  • Most reversals of campaign positions
  • Least diverse cabinet since Ronald Reagan
  • Wealthiest cabinet in history
  • Fewest nominations to positions requiring Senate confirmation (60 out of 556)

There’s so much more: “100 Days of Deconstruction, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.”

Only 1,360 days to go.

THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE: APRIL 24, 2017 UPDATE

In this week’s updates to my Bill Moyers & Company Timeline, Roger Stone has another “turn in the barrel.” He gets there with his comments and tweets about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks — the vehicles by which Russian intelligence interfered with the U.S. election and helped Stone’s candidate Donald Trump win.

And there’s new information about how documents that Russians had stolen when they hacked the DNC might have influenced FBI Director James Comey to make his highly unusual pre-election announcements relating to the Clinton email investigation.

To see how the latest entries continue to fill out the sordid Trump/Russia saga, review the entire Timeline.

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  • July 5, 2016: FBI Director James Comey holds a press conference announcing that the bureau has closed its yearlong investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Comey says that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in handling “very sensitive, highly classified information,” but does not recommend prosecution. Typically, when the FBI recommends closing a case, the Justice Department agrees and no public statement follows. One possible reason for Comey’s unusual announcement could be a document that the FBI knew Russians had stolen when they hacked the DNC. In it, a Democratic operative suggested that Attorney General Lynch would not let the Clinton email investigation go too far. Comey may have worried that if Lynch announced end of the case, and Russia later leaked the document, doubts would arise about the investigation’s independence. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • By the end of July 2016: The FBI has opened an investigation into possible collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Aug. 10, 2016: Roger Stone addresses a Broward County Florida Republican Party group. An audience member asks (near the 46-minute mark of the video) about his predictions for an “October surprise” based on materials in the possession of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange. In response, Stone says,“I actually have communicated with Assange.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]
  • Aug. 12, 2016: On a #MAGA podcast (around the 7-minute mark), Stone says, “I believe Julian Assange — who I think is a hero fighting the police state — has all of the emails that Huma [Abedin] and Cheryl Mills, the two Clinton aides, thought they had erased….I think Assange has them. I know he has them. And I believe he will expose the American people to this information, you know, in the next 90 days.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]
  • Also on Aug. 12, 2016: Stone tells Alex Stone that says he was “in communication with Julian Assange.” Later, Stone continues, “I am not at liberty to discuss what I have.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Also on Aug. 16, 2016: With “TRUMP 2000” posters in the background from what appears to he Stone’s home office, he again tells radio host Alex Jones (around the 6-1/2-minute mark of the interview) that he has had “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange who have “political dynamite” on the Clintons. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]
  • Also on Aug. 16, 2016: In an interview on The Blaze, Stone says he has “communicated” with Julian Assange through a “mutual acquaintance.” He continues, “I think that Assange is going to be very influential in this election….” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Aug. 18, 2016: In a C-SPAN interview, Stone says (around the 48-minute mark of the broadcast) that he’s never met Julian Assange, but he has been in touch with him “through an intermediary—somebody who is a mutual friend.” He continues, “I expect you’re going to see more from Mr. Assange.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Also on Aug. 21, 2016: On a local Maryland radio program, Stone denies (around the 6-minute mark of the broadcast) that Guccifer 2.0 is connected to the Russians on local Maryland radio: “The DNC leaks that nailed Deborah Wasserman Schultz in the heist against Bernie Sanders was not leaked by the Russians, it was leaked by Cruccifer [sic] 2, I should say hacked and leaked first by Cruccifer 2, well known hacker who is not in the employment of the Russians, and then WikiLeaks. So that whole claim is a canard.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Aug. 26, 2016: In an interview with Breitbart Radio, Stone says (near the ten-minute mark of the interview), “I’m almost confident Mr. Assange has virtually every one of the emails that the Clinton henchwomen, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, thought that they had deleted, and I suspect that he’s going to drop them at strategic times in the run up to the rest of this race.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]
  • Aug. 29, 2016: Stone tells a local Florida radio interviewer (around the seven-minute mark of the interview), “We’re going to, I think, from WikiLeaks and other leakers see the nexus between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.” About Assange, he says, “Perhaps he has the smoking gun that makes this handcuff time.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Sept. 16, 2016: Stone says on Boston Herald Radio (around the 12-minute mark), “I expect Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary on a weekly basis fairly soon. And that of course will answer the question of exactly what was erased on that email server.” He says he’s in touch with Assange “through an intermediary.” He also says that Hillary Clinton’s association with Putin and Russia’s oligarchs was “far more troubling to me than Donald Trump’s.” [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Oct. 28, 2016: In a letter to key leaders in the House and Senate, FBI Director Comey says that in connection with the bureau’s closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, it was reviewing emails on a computer belonging to Clinton adviser Huma Abedin. Comey says nothing about the ongoing FBI investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Nov. 5, 2016: In a letter to key leaders in Congress, Comey confirms that the FBI’s has completed its review of the additional Abedin emails and, as a result, has not changed its earlier recommendation not to recommend prosecuting Clinton for her use of a private email server. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

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  • Also on March 4, 2017: Stone tweets – then deletes – about his communications with Assange: “[N]ever denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.” Forty minutes later, the tweet was gone. [Supplemented on April 24, 2017]

100 DAYS OF DECONSTRUCTION — PART 3

[This post first appeared on Bill Moyers & Company on April 21, 2017.]

100 Days of Deconstruction – Part 3

Trump promised to be a transformational leader. It wasn’t an idle threat. He has assembled an unprecedented governmental wrecking crew. This is the third installment on Trump’s unique combination of kleptocracy and kakistocracy that is reshaping America in ways that most of voters won’t like.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Don’t let the symbolic American missile strike on a Syrian airfield, dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” on tunnels in Afghanistan, or threats directed at North Korea distract from a central fact: Trump is Putin’s President. Former Exxon Mobil Chairman Rex Tillerson is a player in the resulting saga. After Trump announced his choice for secretary of state, former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov said that Tillerson was a “gift for Putin.” Indeed he is.

First, Tillerson announced that he’d miss his initial meeting with all NATO ministers and see Putin before visiting America’s staunchest allies. That move exacerbated strains that Trump had created within the Western alliance. After NATO ministers changed the meeting dates to suit Tillerson’s schedule, he reiterated Trump’s demand that participating countries pay a greater share of NATO’s costs. At a Group of Seven (G-7) foreign ministers meeting of European allies on April 11, Tillerson posed this unsettling question: “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” That was only days after America’s ineffectual missile strike on Syria and tough talk about Russia’s failure to prevent Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Perhaps Tillerson knew when he took the job that he would preside over the marginalization of the State Department so Trump’s son-in law Jared Kushner could run American foreign policy. In December, Kushner met at Trump Tower with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and, at Kislyak’s request, an executive at a Russian bank subject to U.S. sanctions over Ukraine. In February, he orchestrated a call with China’s president to smooth Trump’s diplomatic blunder in speaking with Taiwan’s president. In April, Kushner met with Iraq’s prime minister to discuss the future of ISIS battles.

In fact, Tillerson is presiding over the decimation of the State Department. He spoke no public word of resistance to Trump’s proposal to cut its budget by 30 percent. He has accepted Trump’s rules: Trump can overrule Tillerson’s staffing proposals for key positions, including deputy secretary of state. As career policy personnel have departed en masse, replacements have not been forthcoming. Heading into March, the list of openings at the deputy, undersecretary, and assistant secretary of state level was stunning. As of April 12, 2017, Trump had yet to nominate anyone for 478 out of more than 533 crucial appointments across the entire executive branch.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson

During the campaign, Trump accused Ben Carson of having a “pathological temper.” After the election, Carson put out the word that he wasn’t qualified to run a federal agency. Now he presides over HUD.

Trump’s proposed budget would reduce the department’s funding by 13 percent, in part by eliminating the Community Development Block Grant Program that funds Meals on Wheels, housing assistance, and other community assistance efforts. When asked during his confirmation hearing about the department’s housing programs, Carson couldn’t rule out the possibility that money would go to the Trump Organization, which owns a stake in an enormous government-subsidized housing project in Brooklyn.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

The person who runs the department charged with preserving federal lands for future generations has sided consistently with coal, oil, and natural gas industry efforts to exploit them. Zinke’s lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters is four percent (out of 100). On his first day in office, he signed an order creating more access to public land for hunters. Within two weeks of his confirmation, Ryan Zinke opened 73 million offshore acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil exploration leasing.

Zinke’s professed desire to improve conservation efforts and national park infrastructure is impossible to square with Trump’s proposed budget, which would cut Interior Department funding by more than 10 percent. But Donald Trump Jr. likes Zinke, and that’s what matters most.

Other Notables

Who better to craft a Trump tax reform plan and frame national economic policy than billionaire Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s former national campaign finance chair? He’s a former Goldman Sachs partner who made a fortune from his purchase of a predatory lender that foreclosed on homeowners during the financial crisis. As nominee for Treasury secretary, he failed to disclose nearly $100 million of his assets on Senate Finance Committee disclosure documents, while forgetting to mention his role as a director of an investment fund located in a tax haven.

Over at the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry caused Harvard Professor Daniel Carpenter to describe “the least problematic of a very sorry pool of candidates” as “the most interest-conflicted commissioner in American history, by far.”

Another key Trump appointee, former congressman Mick Mulvaney, rode into office on the 2010 Tea Party wave and became a charter member of the radical “House Freedom Caucus.” The anti-government ideologue dedicated his career to sabotaging the nation’s ability to govern. Now he’s the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Here’s a list of agencies that would disappear immediately under the proposed budget he and Trump crafted:

It Will Get Worse

The current Trump rogue’s gallery is only the beginning. Legal scholars Eric Posner and Emily Bazelon observe that Trump’s first U.S. Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, “embraces a judicial philosophy that would do nothing less than undermine the structure of modern government – including the rules that keep our water clean, regulate the financial markets and protect workers and consumers. In strongly opposing the administrative state, Gorsuch is in the company of incendiary figures like the White House adviser Steve Bannon, who has called for its ‘deconstruction.’”

Trump’s lifetime appointments to the judiciary could inflict the most lasting damage on the country. During the final year of the Obama administration, the intransigence of Senate Republicans gave Trump 124 federal judgeships to fill, including 19 appellate positions. In his first term, retirements and other departures could give Trump the opportunity to name 40 percent of the nation’s federal bench – more than any president in nearly 50 years. Think about that as he rails against the federal judges who have dared to cross him on his unconstitutional travel ban.

Across the federal government, Trump is determining the country’s fate. The first 100 days of deconstruction set the stage for 1,360 that will follow. Make no mistake: he and his minions are playing for keeps.

100 DAYS OF DECONSTRUCTION — PART TWO

[This post first appeared on Bill Moyers & Company on April 19, 2017.]

100 Days of Destruction – Part Two

“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Steve Bannon to historian Ron Radosh on Nov. 12, 2013 (according to Radosh)

Beware of the enemy within. With respect to the US government, the ultimate inside job is well underway. Through key cabinet appointments, Trump is gutting federal agencies that have improved citizens’ daily lives in ways that most Americans will no longer take for granted.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

In her confirmation hearing, billionaire Betsy DeVos made the world painfully aware that she isn’t an educator or expert in curriculum. She’s not familiar with the decades-old Individuals with Disabilities Act, or the fraudulent for-profit colleges and graduate schools that exploit their students. She seems unconcerned about the funding crisis that confronts public education in America. But she has all of the credentials required to serve in the Trump administration: she’s a billionaire with a mission to destroy the federal department she now heads.

Keeping Trump controversies in the family, DeVos’ brother Erik Prince is founder of the infamous Blackwater private security firm and was a $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign. In January, Prince met secretly in the Seychelles Islands with a Russian close to Putin. Russia’s goal in the meeting, according to the Washington Post, was to establish a back-channel line of communication with the Trump administration.

As a lobbyist through her organization – the nonprofit American Federation for Children – DeVos led the effort to privatize public education in Michigan. The result: widespread abuses, dismal performance, and no accountability for taxpayer funds flowing into the coffers of for-profit charter schools and management companies. In Michigan, DeVos helped to create a system that “leads the nation in the number of schools operated for profit, while other states have moved to curb the expansion of for-profit charters, or banned them outright,” the Detroit Free Press observes. “[Michigan is] a laughingstock in national education circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of the educational landscape here.”

Likewise, the Obama administration put pressure on for-profit colleges that exploit students and leave them burdened with debt. Trump, on the other hand, promised to reduce government intrusions and allow schools like Trump University to thrive. After November 8, the stock of for-profit schools soared. DeVos is now fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises.

Among her advisers is Robert S. Eitel, a lawyer on unpaid leave of absence from his job at Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Bridgepoint, a for-profit college operator whose stock is up 40 percent since November 9, faces multiple government investigations. One ended recently in a $30 million settlement with the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau over deceptive student lending.

Another DeVos adviser is Taylor Hansen, a former lobbyist for the for-profit sector’s trade association that fought Obama’s “gainful employment” rule, which imposes minimal accountability on for-profit colleges. On March 6, 2017, the Education Department delayed the gainful employment rule deadline. Ten days later, DeVos rescinded an Obama administration rule that prevented student guaranty agencies from charging exorbitant interest rates. Until January 1, the largest such guaranty agency was United Student Aid Funds Inc., whose president and chief executive officer is William Hansen, Taylor’s father. In a letter to DeVos, Sen. Elizabeth Warren cited ProPublica’s report on Taylor’s conflicts. On March 17, he resigned.

On April 11, DeVos reversed Obama administration guidelines aimed at protecting student borrowers and penalizing abusive loan servicing companies. Meanwhile, DeVos’ agenda to clear the field for private education profiteers revealed itself in Trump’s proposed budget: it would reduce Department of Education funding by 14 percent. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers lamented, “This budget takes a meat cleaver to public education.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price

Tom Price is an orthopedic surgeon who seems to have forgotten his profession’s seminal creed, “First, do no harm.” As a Georgia congressman, Price was among the most prominent critics of Obamacare, which has provided more than 20 million citizens with health insurance that they otherwise would not have. As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he is now working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

On March 7, Price wrote Congress to express support for the Republican repeal effort. By then, Trump’s campaign promise of “health insurance for all” had devolved into Rep. Paul Ryan’s notion of “universal access” in the form of subsidies that would cover only a fraction of the premium cost for those most in need. (But it did have a nice tax break for the wealthy.) The Congressional Budget Office estimated that under the Ryan/Trump/Price plan, 14 million Americans would lose coverage immediately; by 2026, the total would rise to 24 million.

Trump, Price, and Ryan failed in their first assault on the Affordable Care Act, but they’ll be back. Watch for Price to issue rules and regulations that try to push Obamacare over a cliff. He’ll work at accomplishing administratively what Trump and Ryan could not achieve legislatively. Meanwhile, they and fellow Trump Party members push false narratives about “exploding premiums” when only three percent of Americans experience the individual rate increases they cite. They talk about Obamacare’s “implosion” due to insurers are leaving markets, but don’t mention that the Republicans – especially Sen. Marco Rubio – sabotaged the “risk corridor” program that reimbursed insurer losses for high-risk citizens. And they don’t acknowledge the latest studies showing that their “death spiral” rhetoric is simply a lie – unless Trump’s policies make it happen.

The Trump/Price impact on women’s health issues is becoming clear. On April 13, Trump signed a law aimed at eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood (after Vice President Mike Pence had cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate). As for medical research, forget it. Trump’s proposed budget would cut HHS funding (and its National Institutes of Health) by almost 20 percent.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions is just the person to send the federal agency charged with the pursuit of justice on a one-way ride back to a time of unspeakable injustice. In 1985 he led the prosecution of three African-American voter rights activists for voter fraud. As the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Alabama, Sessions lost that case. Ruling that his theory was contrary to election law and the Constitution, the judge threw out many of the counts and a jury acquitted the defendants of everything else. A year later, even the Republican-controlled Senate considered Jeff Sessions too racist to become a federal judge after President Reagan nominated him.

In December 2016, a Trump transition team member told The New York Times that if Sessions had it to do over, he’d bring the 1985 voter rights case again. In his January 2017 confirmation hearing, he echoed that sentiment in response to Sen. Al Franken questions about Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims about millions of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton. Sessions equivocated, but the “voter fraud” mantra has now become an excuse for a new round of voter suppression efforts.

Once confirmed, Sessions went to work quickly on his mission to turn back the clock. On February 22, his department coordinated with Devos’ to rescind the Obama administration’s restroom rule protecting transgender students. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision to hear a case on transgender rights and returned it to the lower courts in light of the Trump administration’s new guidance.

On February 23, Sessions issued a memo reversing the Obama administration’s directive to phase out privately run prisons. Obama’s order had come after a scathing government audit highlighting safety and security problems in private prisons. Sessions’ move was good news for the corporations that run those institutions, which have been reliable Republican campaign donors.

On February 27, the Department of Justice reversed the Obama administration’s six-year challenge to Texas’s voter-ID law. In 2016, a federal appeals court had ruled that the law discriminated against minority voters. But under Sessions, the Justice Department did a 180-degree about-face.

On March 17, the Justice Department filed a brief seeking to restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which secured a $30 million settlement against for-profit college operator Bridgepoint (the same firm whose chief compliance officer is now on unpaid leave as a Betsy DeVos adviser). Trump now seeks unrestricted power to fire the CFPB director.

On April 3, Sessions ordered a review of all reform agreements with troubled police departments nationwide. The Justice Department’s former chief of special litigation, who oversaw investigations into 23 police departments including New Orleans, Cleveland, and Ferguson, Missouri, called Sessions’ announcement “terrifying” because it raised “the question of whether, under the current attorney general, the Department of Justice is going to walk away from its obligation to ensure that law enforcement across the country is following the Constitution.”

On April 11, Sessions declared the dawn of “the Trump era” in immigration. In addition his earlier threat to deprive sanctuary cities of federal funds, he has ordered the hiring of “border security coordinators” for all 94 U.S. attorneys offices, emphasized deportation for non-violent offenses, and promised a surge in the appointment of immigration judges to accelerate the flow of immigrants out of the country. Never mind that fewer than three percent of the undocumented have committed felonies – less than the six percent for the overall population.

The final installment in this series looks at the accomplishments of the Secretaries of State, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Treasury, and the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during Trump’s first 100 days.

100 DAYS OF DECONSTRUCTION — PART ONE

[This post first appeared on Bill Moyers & Company on April 17, 2017.]

Editor’s Note

Donald Trump may be a racist, misogynist, sexual predator, liar and bully, but he is still president of the United States, and we underestimate him at the nation’s peril. Viewed in isolation, his policies seem idiosyncratic and incoherent. Viewed in context, they reveal a strategy to plunder the government of what is profitable to Trump’s family and minions and leave what remains smoldering in the ruins. This series — “100 Days of Deconstruction” — seeks to provide that context.

If Trump succeeds, little of what makes America great survives. But knowledge is power, so read these essays and keep fighting in this decisive battle for our country’s heart and soul. Their author, Steven J. Harper, produced our recent Trump/Russia Timeline. He is a former litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis, adjunct professor at Northwestern University and the author of several books, including The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis.

–Bill Moyers

100 Days of Deconstruction – Part One

by Steven Harper

“If you look at these cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason. And that is for the deconstruction [of the administrative state].”

— Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist and senior counselor at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 23, 2017

At its best, government saves the environment from polluters, prevents companies from exploiting consumers, safeguards individuals against invidious discrimination and other forms of injustice, and lends a helping hand to those in need. None of those principles guides the Trump/Bannon government.

Two months into Trump’s presidency, historian Douglas Brinkley said it would be “the most failed 100 days of any president.” David Gergen, a seasoned adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, agreed. But they’re using a traditional scorecard. With the help of Trump Party senators and loyalists, Steve Bannon and his boss are remaking America. Future generations won’t judge kindly those who let it happen. Then again, if Trump’s trajectory continues, maybe there won’t be many more future generations anyway.

After losing his seat on the National Security Council, Bannon’s influence over U.S. foreign policy may have waned. But regardless of his future, he has already had an indelible impact on the country. At CPAC, he declared that key members of Trump’s cabinet were “selected for a reason.” In the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, that reason has become clear. They have demonstrated a collective determination to deconstruct not only the administrative state, but also the essence of America itself. They hold views that are anathema to the missions of the federal agencies they now lead. They blend kleptocracy – government by leaders who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed – and kakistocracy – government by the worst people.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

Anyone who lived through the 1960s – or observes China and India today – knows what happens when polluters get a pass. Bill Moyers’ January 31, 2017 video essay previewed how Scott Pruitt was poised to return the nation to the darkest chapter in its environmental history: contaminated water unfit for drinking or swimming; smog-filled air unfit for breathing; a deteriorating planet careening toward a time when it will be unfit for human habitation. In 1970, President Richard Nixon created the EPA for a reason. Now it’s the victim of a hostile takeover.

After the election, Trump asked one of his billionaire friends, Carl Icahn, to screen candidates for the job of EPA administrator. As an unpaid adviser, Icahn wasn’t subject to the stringent ethics and conflict of interest reviews facing cabinet appointees. During his interview of Pruitt, Icahn asked specifically about an ethanol rule that was costing one of Icahn’s oil refineries more than $200 million a year. Pruitt said he opposed the rule; Icahn then supported Pruitt for the EPA job.

Along with Icahn’s blessing, Pruitt had other uniquely Trump qualifications for the position. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he sued the EPA 14 times; 13 of the lawsuits included co-parties that had contributed to Pruitt or Pruitt-affiliated campaign committees. He sided consistently with his state’s poultry farms, energy producers, and other polluters. Explaining why for the first time in its 50-year history the Environmental Defense Fund opposed Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA, the EDF’s president said, “[A]t some point when the nominee has spent his entire career attempting to dismantle environmental protections, it becomes unacceptable.”

On February 16, 2017, an Oklahoma state court judge gave Pruitt five calendar days to release his email exchanges with the fossil fuels industry. But before another 24 hours passed, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and fellow Trump Party senators gave America the bum’s rush and confirmed Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA. A few days later, the release of 6,000 pages of Pruitt emails provided more proof of his cozy relationship with the industries he now regulates.

Once in office, Pruitt wasted no time. On March 9, 2017, he dismissed the impact of human activity on climate change: “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” That put him at odds with the EPA’s findings and contrary to international scientific consensus. But he’s in line with Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax.”

Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney labeled climate science expenditures a “waste of money… I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore.” And they aren’t. Trump’s proposed budget would slash EPA funding by more than 30 percent – to its lowest level in more than 40 years. It would reduce by half the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. It would cut civil and criminal enforcement personnel by 60 percent. It would eliminate regional water cleanup programs from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, from San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes, and from Long Island Sound to South Florida. Superfund money for cleaning up contaminated sites would decline by 30 percent. Appropriations for vehicle emissions and certifications would all but disappear.

While endangering the planet, Trump and his minions stage photo-ops to support an ongoing disinformation campaign about illusory benefits from their unprecedented environmental destruction. At the EPA on March 28, Pruitt, Vice President Pence, and group of coal miners surrounded Trump as he signed a sweeping executive order aimed at reversing President Obama’s signature initiatives. His actions, which included rolling back emissions standards and lifting the moratorium on mining federal lands, won’t bring back coal jobs that were lost to technology, cheaper sources of cleaner energy, and competitive market forces. But the Trump/Pruitt agenda will provide short-term profit incentives that encourage American companies to cede leadership in the development of innovative solutions to China, which has been doubling down on clean energy research for the long-term.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry

Rick Perry’s appointment to head the Department of Energy is a perfect complement to Scott Pruitt’s selection for the EPA. During a 2011 Republican presidential debate, Perry had such disdain for the Department of Energy that he vowed to eliminate as president. Now he heads it. In April, he replaced Steve Bannon on the National Security Council.

In Secretary Perry’s first address to his department, he said that Trump had told him to “do with American energy what you did for Texas.” But an approach that might work for one state competing with others doesn’t work for the zero-sum game that is the country as a whole. Even worse, there was a dark side to Governor Perry’s lower taxes, less regulation approach. Texas public schools are among the worst in the nation; rates of teen moms and uninsured kids are among the highest, as is its rate of uninsured citizens: 27 percent. Residents of the state’s two largest cities, Dallas and Houston, are the least health-insured of any major metropolitan area in the country.

Perry’s agenda is consistent with his oil industry connections. Until December 31, 2016, Perry served as a board member of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, which jointly developed the Dakota Access Pipeline that the Army Corps of Engineers had stopped before Trump took office. Four days after the inauguration, Trump blew past protesters carrying “No DAPL” signs and issued an executive order approving it. After the temporary employment of construction labor to build the controversial pipeline ends, it will create approximately 40 permanent operating jobs.

Two months later, Perry stood nearby as Trump announced his approval of the Keystone Pipeline that President Obama had stopped in 2015. Obama had said approving the project “would have undercut” America’s global leadership on fighting climate change. Reversing Obama’s order, Trump called it “the first of many infrastructure projects” and “a great day for jobs.” The pipeline will produce 35 permanent jobs.

The next installment in this series looks at what the secretary of education, the secretary of health and human services, and the Attorney General have done during Trump’s first 100 days.

THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE: APRIL 17 UPDATE

Paul Manafort and Carter Page dominate this week’s set of updates to my Timeline for Moyers & Company. To see how the latest pieces fit, take a few minutes to review the entire Timeline. The growing challenge for the country is to prevent Trump’s ongoing military adventures from diverting attention from his deepening Russia election problems. The use of force against another nation is the ultimate distraction. And distraction from a topic it finds unpleasant is what Team Trump does best.

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  • April 8, 2013: Three Russians whom the FBI later accused of spying on the United States discuss efforts to recruit American businessman Carter Page. According to The Washington Post, “[T]he government’s application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow.” [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • Late 2015: The British spy agency GCHQ alerts its American counterparts in Washington to suspicious interactions between members of the Trump campaign and known or suspected Russian agents. The GCHQ provides the information as part of a routine exchange of intelligence information. [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • Also on Aug. 5, 2016: Carter Page’s ongoing public criticism of U.S. sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine and his praise for Putin generate increasing attention and concern. In response, Trump campaign spokesman Hope Hicks describes Page as an “informal policy adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Later that month, after the FBI believed that Page was no longer part of the Trump campaign, it obtains a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) warrant to monitor his communications. The initial 90-day warrant is reissued more than once. [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • Also on Aug. 17, 2016: The Associated Press reports that in 2012 Paul Manafort had secretly routed more than $2 million from Ukraine President Yanukovych’s governing pro-Russia governing party to two U.S. lobbying firms working to influence American policy toward Ukraine. [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • Also on Sept. 23, 2016: Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reports that U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page had opened up private communications with senior Russian officials, including talks about the possibility of lifting economic sanctions if Trump became president. [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • Also on Dec. 9, 2016: Paul Manafort tells CBS News that he is not active in the Trump transition. Asked if he was talking to President-elect Trump, Manafort says, “I don’t really want to talk about who I’m speaking to, but I’m aware of what’s going on.” Interviewers also question him about the appearance of his name among the handwritten entries in the Ukraine Party of Regions’ Black Ledger from 2007 to 2012 (purporting to show more than $12 million in dollar payments to him). Manafort responds that the ledger was fabricated. [Added April 17, 2017]

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  • April 12, 2017: The Associated Press confirms that newly obtained financial records show Paul Manafort’s firm had received two wire transfers – one in 2007 and another in 2009 – corresponding to two of the 22 entries next to Manafort’s name in Ukraine’s Party of Regions Black Ledger. Manafort’s spokesman says that Manafort intended to register retroactively with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he had done on behalf of political interests in Ukraine through 2014. [Added April 17, 2017]
  • April 13, 2017: Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page tells ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he wouldn’t reveal who brought him into the Trump campaign. Page also says that he doesn’t recall discussing the subject of easing Russian sanctions in conversations with Russian officials during his July 2016 trip to Moscow. “We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript,” Page says, referring to surveillance collected after the FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor him under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Something may have come up in a conversation… I have no recollection.” And later he continues, “Someone may have brought it up. I have no recollection. And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.” Page says that from the time of his departure as an adviser to the Trump campaign through Inauguration Day, he maintained “light contact” with some campaign members. [Added April 17, 2017]

TRUMP AND THE MORGAN LEWIS MESS

On January 11, 2017, Sheri Dillon and Fred Fielding sullied themselves and imperiled the reputation of their firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. They shilled for a plainly insufficient plan to deal with Donald Trump’s massive business conflicts of interest. In doing so, they traversed far beyond the principle that an attorney should advocate zealously on a client’s behalf. I predicted that Dillon, Fielding, and the firm would regret their roles in the charade. If they haven’t seen the light by now, they never will.

Lawyers Without Boundaries; Clients Without Shame

When it comes to dealing with Trump, ignorance of his tendencies affords his attorneys no excuse. Throughout his life, he has destroyed reputations whenever it helped him fulfill an agenda item of the moment. Once his allies outlive their usefulness — or whenever Trump needs a scapegoat — they become expendable. Remember the rumors about cabinet positions for Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich? And how quickly Mike Flynn went from loyal patriot to dishonest traitor!

Trump’s January 11, 2017 press conference made for great theater as he claimed yet another victim. “President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests,” Dillon explained amid a mountain of paper. Some of the documents appeared to be blank and some of the folders lacked labels. Substantively, attorneys knew immediately that the Dillon/Fielding/Morgan Lewis plan was a joke. Every day, it becomes less humorous.

Trump Still Owns Everything

Dillon assured the public that Trump would put his business holdings in a revocable trust — meaningless window dressing. She didn’t mention he still owned and benefited from every Trump asset in his portfolio. And he wasn’t selling any of his most valuable ones involving the family business. Still, she explained, no one should worry because his sons, Eric and Don Jr., would run the company. Trump even joked that he’d return to management in eight years, hoping that they’d done a good job and saying that he’d fire them if they didn’t.

Har-dee-har-har-har.

Six weeks later, Eric Trump told Forbes that he would continue to update his father on the family business: “’Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it.’ How often will those reports be, every quarter? ‘Depending, yeah, depending.’ Could be more, could be less? ‘Yeah, probably quarterly.’ One thing is clear: ‘My father and I are very close. I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.’”

It Gets Worse

On April 4, ProPublica reported — and Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten confirmed — that a February 10 version of the revocable trust agreement states: “The Trustees shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request, as the Trustees deem necessary for his maintenance, support or uninsured medical expenses, or as the Trustees otherwise deem appropriate.”

The Trustees are Don Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, who started his career working for Donald Trump’s father Fred in the 1970s. In other words, Trump can watch his wealth grow and get at his money whenever he wants.

Fallout

At the time of the press conference, self-proclaimed law firm public relations experts urged that mere proximity to Trump would make Morgan Lewis a client magnet. At least one prominent client went the other way. The co-chair of the Wallace Global Fund expressed outrage over the firm’s willingness to aid and abet Trump’s undermining of democracy.

On March 28, H. Scott Wallace sent a blistering termination letter to Morgan Lewis chair Jami Wintz McKeon: “We believe that the legal advice given to [Trump] by your partner Sheri Dillon, in the January 11 press conference and background ‘white paper,’ is not just simplistic and ill-founded, but that it empowers and even encourages impeachable offenses and undetectable conflicts of interest by America’s highest official, and thus is an unprecedented invitation to corruption and an assault on our democracy.”

Wallace, a Villanova Law grad, walked McKeon through the patent defects in the Dillon/Fielding/Morgan Lewis conflicts plan. In great detail, he covered issues that I outlined in my three-part series on the plan’s inadequacies. And he added a few zingers:

  • “Ms. Dillon has legitimized a complete non-solution to Trump’s manifold conflicts of interest….”
  • “She adds a few window-dressing safeguards….”
  • “She absolutely denied the existence of any Emoluments Clause problems….”
  • “The result is an illusion of protection against the President using his office for personal gain. Trump’s entire life has been devoted to personal gain, not a moment to public service.”

Presidential corruption matters, and the Dillon/Fielding/Morgan Lewis plan facilitates it. As Wallace observed, “the ethical carnage is mounting”:

  • Just days after Trump reaffirmed the “one China” policy, it granted 38 new Trump trademarks.
  • Trump’s newly hired director of diplomatic sales at his DC hotel has enjoyed tremendous success in foreign bookings, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
  • Trump’s bans on Muslin-majority nations excluded countries where Trump has business interests.
  • China’s government-owned bank is the single largest tenant in Trump Tower and the lease will come up for renewal during Trump’s presidency.
  • Since Trump’s election, initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago have doubled to $200,000.

Wallace could have added that Trump has yet to make good on Dillon’s promise to donate all Trump hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. And his organization’s post-election success in registering Trump trademarks around the world has been phenomenal.

“It is painfully obvious that Trump is using his office for personal gain,” Wallace continued. “And Morgan Lewis is enabling and legitimizing this… Americans deserve a president of undivided loyalty. Your firm has denied them that.”

What’s Next? Nothing Good for Morgan Lewis

Here is my next prediction: more clients will fire Morgan Lewis. Corporate boards and CEOs will shun a firm willing to tolerate Dillon’s unprofessional performance on January 11. They’ll act on their belief that preserving critical norms of democracy should outweigh a firm’s desire to do almost anything for a client’s billable hour.

But the most discerning of general counsels will leave Morgan Lewis for an entirely different reason that has nothing to do with Trump, politics, the appropriate limits of a lawyer’s role as client advocate, or every attorney’s sworn duty to protect the U.S. Constitution. Substantively, the Trump conflicts plan is embarrassingly bad lawyering.