A Gold Meddle for Russia: This Week in Trumpland Corruption
From (more) news on Russia’s 2016 election interference to a suspect Oracle settlement, it was another standout week of delinquency
Is there enough graft, double-dealing, and self-interested chicanery in the Trump administration to publish this column every week? Only time — and Trump — will tell. (But we feel pretty confident.) Presenting this week’s installment of the Trump Corruption Index.
Russia’s 2016 election interference: The final chapter
A report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday confirms there was a sprawling web of contacts between Trump’s campaign advisers and Russian officials who were connected to the Kremlin. Among the nearly 1,000-page report’s findings: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was in cahoots with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” and a Russian lawyer who met with Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had “significant connections to Russian government.” Much of the report echoes what Robert Mueller found in his special investigation — including its refusal to conclude that documented collusion amounts to a coordinated plot between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Still, even acting chairman Sen. Marco Rubio had to acknowledge that the committee’s findings were “very troubling” and showed “irrefutable evidence of Russian meddling.”
- Corrupt-o-meter (out of a possible five emojis): 🇷🇺🇷🇺🇷🇺🇺🇸🇺🇸
Courting the inexperienced
Last week, Trump nominated Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an early-career associate at Jones Day, to a federal judgeship in Florida. Mizelle, who graduated college in 2009 and law school in 2012 before clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas, Judge Greg Katsas, and Judge Bill Pryor, appears to be Trump’s youngest judicial nominee. She’s also the wife of Chad Mizelle, the acting general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security — furthering, as Lawfare executive editor Susan Hennessey pointed out, the trend of Trump administration officials’ spouses earning nominations to the federal bench.
- Corrupt-o-meter: ⚖️⚖️
A cease and desist for Trump’s Beach boy
A cease and desist letter from July sent by 3M, America’s biggest mask maker, to a major Trump booster, was uncovered by the New York Times last week. 3M accused Eric Beach, co-founder of the Great America PAC, which has raised over $43 million for Trump, of “false representation of affiliation with 3M and price gouging of 3M branded N95 masks.” Early on during the pandemic, 3M feuded with the White House over the dwindling supply of N95 masks: In April, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order 3M to prioritize the federal government’s mask orders even though 3M had orders coming in from Canada and Latin America. Beach’s company, Colt International, Inc., was formed that same month and said it would “work directly with the 3M Corporation” to bring their masks to buyers, all for a 93-cent markup.
- Corrupt-o-meter: 😷😷
Scalia’s suspect Oracle settlement
Labor Department attorney Janet Harold claimed in a complaint filed earlier this month that she was removed from her role after voicing her objections to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s involvement in a pay discrimination lawsuit with the tech company Oracle. According to Herald, Scalia broke from standard practice by pushing for a settlement of less than $40 million in the case in which the Labor Department said Oracle underpaid some 6,000 female and minority employees. The case originated in the Obama years and could lead to those employees receiving hundreds of millions in back pay. But Oracle has deep ties with the White House: Larry Ellison, the company’s chairman, hosted a fundraiser for the president earlier this year, and company CEO Safra Catz has been a significant donor to his reelection campaign.
- Corrupt-o-meter: 💰💰💰🤢
Welcome to the grift life
White House adviser Jared Kushner and presidential hopeful Kanye West met earlier this month, according to the New York Times, providing further evidence to claims (which West himself does not dispute) that the rapper is running a spoiler campaign intended to syphon votes from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Ethics watchdog group Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint last week alleging that both West and Trump’s campaigns share an employee, attorney Lane Ruhland.
- Corrupt-o-meter: 🎤🎤🇺🇸
Trump has pushed an extract from the oleander plant as a potential cure for Covid-19 despite any lack of proof it helps and substantial concerns over the potentially toxic effects of oleander even in healthy people. Among those who own a stake in the company that produces the extract: My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, a major Trump donor who was reportedly very aggressive in his promotion of the product to the president.
- Corrupt-o-meter: 🌿🌿💵💵
Payday lenders are having a field day
The California State Assembly is trying to create a new financial protection watchdog agency because, state lawmakers say, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been totally defanged under Trump. “We are now as states left to do the work ourselves,” California Assembly member Monique Limón told NPR last week. To her point, research shows that the CFPB’s enforcement activity has dropped 80% since 2015, and money returned to consumers has plummeted by 96%. Given the CFPB’s dormancy and that millions of Americans now find themselves in desperate financial situations due to the pandemic, the door is wide open for predatory lenders to exploit vulnerable Americans.
- Corrupt-o-meter: 💸💸🏦