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Government of, by and for Trump

Donald Trump. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
Robert Reich
Contributor
Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten…
Robert Reich

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.org

Donald Trump. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Trump told then FBI Director
James Comey in January – even though FBI directors are supposed to be
independent of a president, and Comey was only 4 years into a 10 year term.

Comey testified before the Senate that Trump tried to
“create some sort of patronage relationship,” based on personal loyalty.

After Comey refused and continued to investigate possible
connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Trump fired him.

Preet
Bharara, who had been the United States Attorney for the Southern District of
New York, said Trump tried to create the same sort of patronage
relationship with him that he did with Comey.

Bharara’s office had been investigating
Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, and also looking into Russian money-laundering allegations against
Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender.

When Bharara didn’t play along, Trump fired him.

Bharara said Comey’s testimony “felt a little bit like déjà vu.”

In
his first and best-known book, “The Art of
the Deal,” Trump distinguished between
integrity and loyalty – and made clear he preferred loyalty.

Trump
compared attorney Roy Cohn – Senator Joe McCarthy’s attack dog who became Trump’s
mentor – to “all the
hundreds of ‘respectable’ guys who
make careers out of boasting about their uncompromising integrity but have
absolutely no loyalty … What I
liked most about Roy Cohn was that he would do just the opposite.”

As
president, Trump continues to prefer loyalty over integrity.

Although most of his Cabinet still don’t have top deputies in
place, the White House has installed senior aides to monitor their
loyalty. As Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, explained to the
Washington Post, “they’re functioning as the White House’s voice and ears in
these departments.” 

Last Monday, the White House invited reporters in to watch
what was billed as a meeting of Trump’s Cabinet. After Trump
spoke, he asked each of the Cabinet members around the table to briefly comment.  

Their statements were what you might expect from toadies surrounding a two-bit
dictator.

“We
thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda,” said Chief of
Staff Reince Priebus. “Greatest privilege of my life, to serve as vice
president to a president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” said
Vice President Mike Pence. “You’ve set the exact right message,” said Attorney
General Jeff Sessions, adding, “The response is fabulous around the country.” 

When I was sworn in
as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, I took an oath to
“support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic.” I didn’t pledge
loyalty to Bill Clinton, and I wouldn’t have participated in such a fawning display.

That oath is a
pledge of loyalty to our system of government – not to a powerful individual. It
puts integrity before personal loyalty. It’s what it means to have a government
of laws.

But
Trump has filled
his administration with people more loyal to him than they are to America.

His top advisers are his
daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

To run his legal defense and be his spokesman on the
investigation into collusion with Russian operatives, Trump has hired Marc
Kasowitz.

Kasowitz is not an expert in criminal
or constitutional law. His only apparent qualification is his utter loyal to
Trump.

He’s  been Trump’s personal legal fixer for almost
two decades – representing him in his failed libel lawsuit against a journalist, the Trump
University fraud case that ended in January with a $25 million settlement
from Trump, and candidate
Trump’s response to allegations of sexual assault by
multiple women last year.

Kasowitz called the New York Times article
containing interviews with the women “per
se libel
” and demanded “a full and immediate retraction and
apology” (which the Times refused). 

Kasowitz
has said he played a central role in the
firing of Preet Bharara. Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you,”
according to a person familiar with Kasowitz’s account.

Now, Kasowitz is taking on a public role. Bypassing
the White House Counsel, he instructed White House aides to discuss the
investigation as little as possible, and advised them about whether they should
hire private lawyers.

The
horrifying reality is that in Trumpworld, there is no real “public” role. It’s all
about protecting and benefiting Trump.

When
loyalty trumps integrity, we no longer have a government of laws. We have a
government by and for Trump.

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