Trump’s Dark Cloud of Illegitimacy

Trump appointments are causing concerns amongst Democrats and Republicans alike

Trump appointments are causing concerns amongst Democrats and Republicans alike
Trump appointments are causing concerns amongst Democrats and Republicans alike

A dark cloud of illegitimacy hangs over the pending presidency of Donald Trump. Consider:

  1. Trump was defeated in the actual voting by a startling—and still growing—2.84 million votes. Clinton’s popular vote victory margin is now over 2 percent, thus handing Trump the largest defeat suffered by a candidate elevated to the presidency by the Electoral College in modern history.

  2. Yet Trump continues to blatantly lie about this. He claimed in a tweet that “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” There is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally. Appearing Dec.11 on Fox News Sunday, he continued to describe his win as “one of the great victories of all time,” arguing that Democrats “suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country” and that “we had a massive landslide victory.”

  3. The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump become president. The secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory.

  4. Trump rejects the CIA report, saying “I don’t believe it,” calling it “ridiculous” and “just another excuse.” Yet political leaders from both sides of the aisle are taking the report deeply seriously. Republican John McCain, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is surprised Trump has repudiated intelligence claims. “I don’t know what to make of it because it’s clear the Russians interfered,” McCain said.

  5. Trump has close business ties to Russian oligarchs, friends of Putin, who have financed his projects and, presumably, also lent billions of dollars to Trump’s enterprises.

  6. Trump continues to refuse to disclose his tax returns, on the faulty logic that he cannot disclose them when the Internal Revenue Service is auditing them. Every other presidential candidate in recent history has submitted tax returns for public scrutiny. One likely reason Trump won’t disclose them is that they show evidence of his deals with Russian oligarchs surrounding Putin.

  7. Several of Trump’s key campaign aides have close ties to Putin – including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort was a longtime consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014 and who has done multi-million-dollar business deals with Russian oligarchs. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort received some $12.7 million in cash payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Trump’s foreign policy advisor, Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.

  8. During the campaign, Trump said he admired Putin, questioned whether the U.S. should continue to support NATO, and said Putin was “not going into Ukraine.” Trump made this preposterous assertion two years after Russian troops entered eastern Ukraine and took over Crimea.

  9. Trump has picked for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, who is also close to Putin. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. Tillerson came up through the ranks at Exxon by managing the company’s Russia account. After becoming CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast oil resources through a partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft, owned partly by the Kremlin. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal. Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat.

None of these points taken separately undermines the legitimacy of the Trump presidency, but taken together they suggest a troubling pattern of deceitfulness about the election, Putin’s role in helping Trump get elected, and motivations for both men to collude in it.

The dark cloud of illegitimacy continues to grow darker.

ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

His new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," is now in bookstores. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on iTunes and Amazon streaming.
Robert Reich
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