Many people like me who strongly opposed Donald Trump are desperately looking for silver linings that his presidency will not be the disaster for the US and the world that his campaign rhetoric suggested it would be. Those hopes seem increasingly desperate since Trump’s election has created major openings for a lot of people and groups who have all manner of regressive agendas, even while Trump himself has, as usual, been saying all manner of contradictory things, causing people to wonder what his agenda is and if he has even got a coherent one.
Donald Trump tweaked the script of his transition again Tuesday, appearing to shift his stance on at least three major issues in the course of an afternoon but defending his right to continue involvement in his worldwide businesses despite the potential for conflicts of interest.
What seemed to be Trump’s ironclad belief that America must withdraw from the international climate change accord reached last year suddenly wasn’t so ironclad. He demurred when pressed on whether he would pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton — a signature promise of his campaign. And he backed off on his commitment to torturing enemies of state, saying a single conversation with a retired Marine general changed his mind.
The one thing he seems to be clear about is that he thinks ethics are a waste of time and do not apply to him anyway. He does not see any need to avoid any conflict of interests between his job as president and his personal business interests, and even with having his children be involved in the government while also running his business.
There are few written rules on conflicts of interest for the president and we know that Trump thinks nothing of using every possible loophole for his own advantage. The only real check is the potential for impeachment and conviction by Congress for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” under Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution but this Republican Congress is never going to launch such a move unless Trump does something that directly and adversely affects them.
We know that Trump really cares about being rich. So perhaps the best we can hope for is that he will be so busy focused on using the office of the presidency to loot the US treasury to enrich and aggrandize himself and his family, and then have to deal with the resulting controversies, that he will not have the time to create chaos elsewhere.