If you are not personal friends with Donald Trump, be glad. Be very glad.
Because it is dangerous. Very dangerous.
The first member of the US House of Representatives to endorse Trump for president, Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, was indicted for insider trading while at a White House picnic.
The second member of the House to endorse Trump, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, has been indicted for alleged misuse of campaign funds along with his wife (including spending donated funds on a $600 airplane trip for a pet rabbit).
The president’s campaign manager during the Republican convention in 2016, Paul Manafort, has been found guilty in federal court of eight felony crimes.
The president’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to two federal crimes.
The president’s personal lawyer and “fixer” for many years, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in federal court to eight felony crimes, including two he said were directed by Trump seeking to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Cohen bribed two women, violating campaign finance laws, not to talk about alleged sexual affairs with Trump during his marriage to Melania.
The president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI.
A former foreign affairs adviser to Trump, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia.
How does Trump attract so many people willing to commit crimes?
Trump has created a culture of corruption around himself for decades. It is not insignificant that Trump’s mentor as a young real estate businessman was Roy Cohn, henchman to Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wisconsin, who ruined many lives with his communist witch hunts in the 1950s.
It’s not insignificant that Trump ignored federal laws, refused to pay contractors or settlements, developed close ties with mobsters, and insisted only stupid people pay taxes. Roy Cohn guided him along, drumming into Trump that being “nice” was idiotic while being effective was all that mattered. That meant playing the news media (particularly tabloids), lying, being a demagogue, saying anything people want to hear, relentlessly attacking opponents, and denying every allegation despite irrefutable evidence.
Does any of this matter to one-third of the population? No, it does not. At a political rally in West Virginia as Cohen and Manafort were staring at years of prison time, Trump’s supporters were still chanting their ridiculous mantra of “lock her up,” a reference to Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Trump won; Clinton lost. But she got 3 million more votes, and because of Michael Cohen’s implication of Trump in a crime, there will always be a question about whether Trump won honestly. Hence, the insecurity on his part that is wrecking the country.
(After Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, a third of Americans still supported him. Apparently, a third of Americans simply don’t care about the character of their political leaders.)
Trump on the stump keeps saying “no collusion,” that the “witch hunt continues.” Conspiring with your lawyer to bribe women while trying to win an election sounds like collusion. At any rate, special counsel Robert Mueller has not finished investigating whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to win the election; we know without doubt Russia did interfere.
As for the “witch hunt,” a whole lot of witches have been found, including many Russians. We have not yet heard a word from Mueller himself about that infamous meeting in Trump Tower called to discuss possible Russian “dirt” on Clinton. It is illegal for candidates to accept help from foreign governments.
Before Cohn was eventually disbarred and died in 1986, he got Trump out of one scrape after another. With his hooks in New York politicians, he helped Trump put together real estate deals the perennially bankrupt tycoon could not afford. Despite being a pariah after the McCarthy hearings, Cohn fought his way back to a top spot in New York society showing Trump that he, too, could get away with anything. As Trump obnoxiously said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose supporters.
Nevertheless, he wishes he still had Cohn in his corner. (Although as Cohn was dying of AIDS, Trump distanced himself from his mentor.)
Trump demands absolute loyalty but has not one shred of loyalty to anyone or anything. He even calls the once-sycophantic New York press, which he courted and which made him a star, “fake news.”
Sooner or later, everyone associated with Trump gets hurt or, more often, ruined.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for the Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.