Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Daughtergate: Rampant Nepotism at 1600

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wondering why
Ivanka is seated next to her at a WH meeting
Given the troubling tendency of the current president to place loyalty over competency and professional experience regardless of the consequences, the news that his oldest daughter will now have an office in the West Wing and have access to classified information probably shouldn't come as a surprise.

But as NPR reported on Tuesday, presidential historians and experts on government ethics both agree that it raises questions about lax ethical standards at the White House.

For Trump's critics, it also tosses wood on the fire of controversy over the flagrant and unprecedented conflicts of interest that have dogged his administration since back in December when he resisted calls to place his murky tangle of global business interests into a blind trust for the duration of his presidency.

But the former reality TV show host's penchant for intentionally making impulsive and inflammatory statements and decisions to distract media attention away from the larger issues threatening his presidency is well known.

So seen in that context, Trump elevating an adult child with no government or foreign policy experience (whose chief claim to fame is being given money by her father to start a fashion line), to a roll as senior White House advisor makes perfect sense - in Trumpland.

Just consider the timing.

Trump high-fives Japanese PM Shinzo Abe as
North Korea test fires a ballistic missile 
Just a day after the heads of the NSA and FBI testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI has been conducting an ongoing investigation into ties between senior members of the Trump administration and Russia, the White House suddenly announces that Ivanka Trump will now have her own office in the West Wing.

Where presumably, her high-profile position will help boost sales of her struggling fashion line; which we now know is a serious priority for America's Golfer-in-Chief.

Especially considering that Trump was fussily tweeting about Nordstrom's decision to drop his daughter's clothing line from their stores on February 8th when he was supposedly in a White House meeting.

Three days later he was on the golf course with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured above) while North Korea was test firing a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan back on February 11th.

Look, it was one thing when Ivanka Trump was stumping for her father on the campaign trail when he was down double digits with women in the polls; but being seated next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a White House meeting?

It got decidedly weirder when her wealthy New York real estate scion-husband Jared Kushner took a role as a senior White House advisor and they moved to D.C where she began appearing in the role of some kind of surrogate first lady in place of the rarely-seen Melania Trump - who largely remains ensconced in the comfy confines of Trump Tower in New York City at a cost of millions of dollars a month to the American taxpayer.

But it's another thing entirely for Ivanka Trump to take on any kind of official role in the White House where she will supposedly have access to sensitive classified information; particularly given the glaring conflict of interest her ownership of her fashion line and her husband's family's vast real estate interests presents.

Nepotism at 1600: Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner 
A husband and wife both acting as senior advisors to the president?

Both of whom control significant private business interests with a global reach that could be affected in innumerable ways by political decisions made by Donald Trump?

As St. Louis-based journalist and writer Sarah Kendzior observed on Twitter Tuesday morning:

"Kleptocratic dynasty continues apace. There is no reason Ivanka Trump should get a security clearance allowing her access to govt. data."      

Exactly what function is Ivanka Trump going to serve in the White House?

According to Jamie Gorelick, the Washington, D.C.-based attorney she's retained to advise her on ethics, her role will ostensibly be to serve as her misogynistic daddy's "eyes and ears" and be on hand to give him her "candid advice."

Given the huge volume of classified information her father has access to on a 24-7 basis, including the CIA, FBI, NSA and Pentagon to name a few, the idea that he requires a 35-year-old former fashion model, reality TV personality and socialite to be on hand to act as his "eyes and ears" strains the limits of credulity.

Or it's a really sad statement about Donald Trump's ability to govern.

Gorelick also claims Ivanka Trump will also be in the West Wing to focus on what Trumpland likes to call "women's issues."

Good luck getting either of these two to pass a piece
of legislation supporting "women's issues
Now, the idea that the current Republican party under the leadership of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell is going to suddenly reverse course and pick up the mantle of women's rights is laughable.

These are the same two guys trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood, both of which are responsible for providing access to critical healthcare services for millions of American women.

To say nothing of the fact that the Republican-majority Congress has consistently voted against minimum wage wage increases and are already moving to slash federal funds for schools and child nutrition programs.

Maybe Ivanka doesn't realize that the Republican Senate opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act three times when President Obama repeatedly tried to get it passed to help tackle the gender gap in work compensation - paying women the same as men, yup, Republicans opposed that.

So given that her passion for "women's issues" is essentially meaningless under the Republican Congress, it's clear that her presence in the White House is little more than a transparent way to further enrich the Trump family at the expense of the American tax payers.

Her being photographed at official functions is little more than a free ad for her fashion accessories - like when she appeared on 60 Minutes then created an ad the next day about the bracelet she was wearing during the interview which (surprise!) was available to purchase.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday, a small upscale boutique in San Francisco filed a class action lawsuit against her alleging that her leveraging her White House ties and proximity to the president creates an unfair business advantage.

But as far as her White House role is concerned, whether she's willingly being used, or wants to be used (she is the sole owner of her fashion line), or her father is so bat-shit crazy at this point that other advisers begged her to take an office to try and reason with him, I don't know.

Andronico Luksic, Ivanka & Jared's landlord
She went to Wharton so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and saying she knows exactly what she's doing.

But the whole thing about her not taking a salary for her "adviser role" is laughable.

The money she'll make surreptitiously promoting her fashion brand dwarfs what she'd make as a White House adviser.

Frankly, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Did you read the story about her and her husband's new D.C. landlord?

As Jen Hayden reported in her Daily Kos article back on March 9th, Andronico Luksic is a member of one of Chile's wealthiest families, he owns a company called Twin Metals Minnesota.

He's suing the U.S. government after the Obama administration blocked the renewal of mining rights that are essential to his company's $2.8 billion dollar project located 250 miles north of Minneapolis.

Luksic bought the D.C. mansion that Ivanka and Jared now rent AFTER the November election; they're billionaires, so why that couple would rent a home is questionable enough.

How much do you want to bet that Andronico Luksic's company gets it's mineral rights renewed?

British journalist / writer Louise Mensch
So don't be fooled by Ivanka.

If, as Trump has said publicly, she "always pushes" him "to do the right thing", then she's doing a pretty crappy job.

Last night while trolling through Twitter feeds to gauge reactions to Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, I read a term that effectively encapsulates the creeping controversy surrounding Ivanka Trump and the precise nature of her role in the White House.


As far as I know, credit for that brilliant play on the historic scandal that shook the foundations of American democracy and eventually led to Richard Nixon's resignation goes to Louise Mensch, the conservative former member of British Parliament.

Back on March 4th she tweeted: "By the time we get through with Jared and Ivanka it's going to be "Daughtergate".

Mensch is going to be one of the guests on Bill Maher this Friday where I'm sure she'll be sharing her thoughts on Ivanka's new role and the unprecedented nepotism at the White House if you want to hear her thoughts live.

As Steven Perlberg reported for on Sunday, Mensch is making headlines of her own this week over claims she made in an Op-Ed published in the New York Times last Friday where she credited herself with being the one to break the story back in November "that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court had issued a warrant that enabled the F.B.I. to examine communications between 'U.S. persons' in the Trump campaign relating to Russia-linked banks." 

Mensch is quite clever, and a good writer.

But she has been partial to some rather questionable conspiracy theories in the past that have been widely disproven.
New York Times reporter Charlie Savage
New York Times national security reporter Charlie Savage publicly refuted her claims that a FISA court had issued such an order so it's a bit of a media kerfuffle - I'm, sure Bill Maher will get the skinny on that this Friday.

From a political standpoint, if there was any one single aspect of Trump's toxic presidential campaign that could be considered even remotely positive, it was arguably his oldest daughter Ivanka.

Given the mounting ethical questions surrounding Donald Trump, including Russia-gate, the decision to appoint his son-in-law as a senior White Houser adviser was questionable enough.

But elevating his own daughter to a position within the White House?

That gives a whole new meaning to the word nepotism.

And when things begin to unravel for her father, the ethical issues surrounding a potential "Daughtergate" could be far more problematic legally for the embattled POTUS than he even he could imagine.

And as we know, his imagination is vast.

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