You have to have patience to peel an onion and Robert Mueller, the independent counsel on the “did Russia muck in our election” probe, may be the best onion peeler in history.
The Trump Organization has long operated as a marketing company, selling the “Trump brand,” putting it on alcohol, beef, buildings and anything else that would pay it a buck for many years.
As a marketer, as we’re learning now, the Organization put its toe in many lakes around the world including Russia. But they never got their whole foot in — in spite of aggressive efforts by many on its behalf including Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, who was along for the ride but jumped off when it was clear the Trump Organization leadership was not behind him when the going got tough.
The drive for money by the Organization appears to have put Donald J. Trump and his children on a very decent ride for years and they envisioned would be even more worthwhile while Dad ran for President.
Trump’s foreign policy has been confusing to those of us who looked at foreign policy as something good for our country but became dominated by what was best for the Trumps. Thus countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia were given prominence in Trump’s campaign and his presidency and the rest of us had to scratch our heads wondering why he was building up Vladimir Putin and defending the Saudi Arabian crown prince who ordered the murder of a journalist.
There also were Cohen’s discussions with Russia about a Trump branded building in Moscow, an endeavor that lingered on for many months beyond what was known publicly. So, Trump was negotiating or trying to with the Russians as he promised other things to his potential voters, who were clueless as to Trump’s personal goals. He swore to the high heavens that he had nothing to do with Russia, that the lives of average Americans were his sole concern.
If anyone doubted it before, it is now clear that Donald J. Trump never expected to win the presidency but he leveraged his candidacy to mine potential deals in Russia and other places while standing as a candidate for the Republican nomination. The President admitted that as he headed to his helicopter to fly to the G-20 meeting yesterday. He said he could have lost the election and thus did not want to cut off his personal opportunities to make money. It likely didn’t stop there since Trump, like the rest of us, never anticipated a Trump presidency.
And now, here he is — up to his armpits in lies to cover his attempts at leveraging his candidacy for business. Shockingly to most of us, and Trump himself, he won the election and now is buried in a pile of lies over his greedy efforts to make money off his candidacy and, probably, off his presidency. It’s gotta be hard to put that greed on hold while you sit in the most powerful chair in the world. Talk about temptation.
Now you can see a few of the reasons he doesn’t want to unveil his tax returns — they would show what deals or loans are in his background that might take some luster off his presidency even in the eyes of his strongest supporters. One thing the President is about to learn is that politicians have no loyalty at all once they see your ship sinking. He’ll learn they have about as much loyalty as he does. Not good timing as the Democrats prepare to take over the House and have subpoena power.
The independent counsel investigation, especially under the watchful and steady eye of Robert Mueller, is like watching that onion being peeled. Paul Manafort may be running from the deal he’d made with Mueller but you can count on the fact that Mueller has evidence to prove whatever Manafort would have testified to anyway.
Comparisons are being made of the Trump Organization to an organized crime enterprise and those will be legitimate comparisons as this goes on. While not the same, Trump clearly sees himself as the King of at least his own Universe, impervious to the rules and laws that others of us must abide.
His children are about to see that dad’s universe truly doesn’t exist on its own, but within laws and rules and mores of this country. Had Trump but stayed a private citizen a lot of what he’s done throughout his career likely would never have come to light. Much of it doesn’t really matter, but those things he has done as a candidate and our President do matter.
You can also clearly see now why he continues to strike out at the media and judiciary, trying to delegitimize both so he can seem more credible to his followers. He will say he is a victim of the media and judges. The Donald is always The Victim.
The presidency clearly has cut into the Trump Organization’s ability to strike huge deals. In fact, the Trump brand is suffering hits not just in this country but, probably more importantly, in other countries the Organization has targeted for years. And Trump did himself no favors by treating his global peers like fleas itching him as he continued sucking up to folks like Putin, Kim and the Crown Prince. He’ll also learn that Putin and the others have no loyalty to him.
Those who have watched Robert Mueller over the years know he’s a standup guy. So stand up that if there was nothing to “get” Trump on, then Mueller wouldn’t try to get him.
Meantime, the onion, though, is still being peeled.
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B. Jay Cooper
B. Jay is a former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also headed the communications offices at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He is a former reporter and is the retired deputy managing director of APCO Worldwide’s Washington, D.C., office.
He is the father of three daughters and