Robert Reich evaluates the newly inaugurated president of the United States on the 25th day of his rule:
Donald Trump sold himself to voters as a successful businessman who knew how to get things done, a no-nonsense manager who’d whip government into shape.
But he’s showing himself to be about the most inept, disorganized, sloppy, incompetent president in recent memory, whose White House is nearly dysfunctional.
He allowed Michael Flynn to hang on until the last minute. In any halfway competent administration Flynn would have been gone the moment it became clear he lied to the vice president about his contacts with Russia.
Sean Spicer is a joke, literally. His vituperative, vindictive press conferences are already rich food for late-night comedy. In a White House that had any idea what it means to be an effective press secretary, Spicer would be out the door.
The Muslim travel ban was totally bungled—unclear, haphazard, badly thought out. Trump complains that “his people didn’t give him good advice,” but the people most directly responsible for it—Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller—have only gained more power in the White House.
Meanwhile, Trump’s White House has sprung more leaks than any in memory. Aides are leaking news about other aides. They’re leaking examples of Trump’s incompetence and weirdness. They’re leaking the contents of telephone calls to other heads of state in which Trump was unprepared, didn’t know basic facts, and berated foreign leaders.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus seems to have no idea what’s going on. A White House official complained to The Washington Post, “We have to get Reince to relax into the job and become more competent, because he’s seeing shadows where there are no shadows.” Trump’s buddy Chris Ruddy described Priebus as being “in way over his head.”
Infighting is wild. Rumors are swirling that Kellyanne Conway wants Priebus’ job, that Stephen Miller is eyeing Spicer’s job, that no one trusts anyone else.
The New York Times reports “chaotic and anxious days inside the White House’s National Security Council.” Council staff read Trump’s tweets, and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.
Trump himself is remarkably sloppy with sensitive national security information. For example, on Saturday night he discussed North Korea’s latest missile launch on a mobile phone at his table in the middle of Mar-a-Lago’s private club’s dining area, within earshot of private club members. A guest at the club even posed with the military aide who carries “the football” (the briefcase containing instructions for authorizing a nuclear attack).
The U.S. intelligence community is so convinced that Trump and his administration have been compromised by Russia that they’re no longer giving the White House all of their most sensitive information, lest it end up in Putin’s hands.
A senior National Security Agency official says the National Security Agency is systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, fearing Trump and his staff can’t keep secrets. The intelligence community is concerned that even the Situation Room—the room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings—has been compromised by Russia.
The White House mess is Trump’s own fault. He’s supposed to be in charge, but it turns out he’s not a tough manager. He’s not even a good manager. He seems not to have any interest in managing at all.
Instead of whipping government into shape, he’s whipping it into a cauldron of dysfunction and intrigue.
Just like his promises to “drain the Washington swamp” and limit the influence of big money, get Wall Street out of policy making, and turn government back to the people, Trump’s promise of an efficient government is another giant bait-and-switch.
[Note from blogger: Although I oppose getting rid of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) because Mike Pence is likely a far worse choice for president, it may have to be done. Impeachment, one method, won’t work with this administration because the GOP will keep him as long as he’s useful so that he can sign their bills into law. To sue DDT requires that the person or group has the right to sue—in short, “standing.” A private party must show that it has been injured and is not filing merely a “generalized grievance.”
Jed Shugerman, professor at Fordham University Law School, suggests another method, a Quo Warranto proceeding mandating that business be done legally by corporations within individual states. If states determine that corporations are used for illegal activities, they can bring actions to revoke corporate status in a Quo Warranto proceeding accusing the companies of acting “ultra vires” or beyond its legal authority. The question would be whether DDT’s corporate entries are used for illegal emoluments to DDT.
A public official (state attorney general) would need to sue a private entity (the Trump Organization). New York can do this under New York Business Corporation Law § 1101. If the case is successful, the corporate charter could stop the illegal activity by enjoining the Trump Organization from doing business with foreign governments, requiring DDT to divest from specific assets, or completely dissolving the entire corporation. A proceeding would also require disclosures from DDT, including revealing his tax returns and the extent of his business with foreign governments.
The U.S. Constitution has two emoluments clauses: Article 1, Section 9 deals with payments from foreign governments, for example the state-owned Bank of China renting office space in one of DDT’s buildings; and Article II, Section 1. This clause states that the salary for the president won’t be adjusted during his term and “he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” The issue here is the DOJ’s rental of space in Trump Tower. The proceeding in New York would be decided by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who has already brought a successful case against DDT related to Trump University.
The Quo Warranto proceeding can also be used to challenge any other illegal activity such as DDT violating his lease with the government for his new Washington, D.C. hotel that prohibits federal officials from controlling the hotel. In this case, the city’s attorney general, Karl A. Racine, could bring this proceeding against the Trump Organization. A win for the people would require DDT to divest himself from the hotel or take other steps.
New York would be a good venue because the Trump Organization has officially incorporated there. Other states without the incorporation but where the Trump Organization does business could do this proceeding, but it would be more complex. California, guaranteed to suffer from DDT’s ire, grants the ability to “any county or city” to bring a Quo Warranto action against a corporation acting outside the law.
An internet search shows increasing interest in Quo Warranto.