The Naked Kleptocracy Taking Place in the White House
The presidency thus far is looking like it is going to be quite lucrative for the president and his family.
Are Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner turning a profit from their new positions in the administration? The fact that they are both own assets totaling an estimated 740 million dollars, and have not fully divested from all of their many business holdings would seem to indicate so. This situation creates major potential conflicts of interest directly relating to the White House.
Here are some of the ways that the Kushners are pushing us ever closer to kleptocracy:
- Ivanka has far reaching business interests in China. The Associated Press is reporting that on April 6, her company was granted 3 exclusive trademarks, giving the brand monopoly rights to sell luxury items in the world’s second largest economy. This came on the same day that Chinese President Xi Jinping had dinner with the first family at Mar-a-Lago. She says she no longer plays an active role in running the company, but is still the owner, and the “independent” board of trustees includes members of her family.
- Real Estate is now and has always been primarily family business, according to Vicky Ward, who wrote a book on the subject. Just as with Ivanka, the supposed trust that is responsible for managing his assets are controlled by his siblings. There is absolutely zero chance that a real estate tycoon such as Jared Kushner would relinquish control to any entity outside of his family.
- Kushner maintains ties with Beny Steinmetz, a shadowy Israeli businessman who is under investigation by the FBI due to his association with a bribery scheme involving diamond mining in New Guinea.
- Josh Kushner, Jared’s brother, is the owner of the insurance company Oscar, who relies heavily on Obamacare. The company is valued at around 2.7 billion dollars, and counts Trump surrogate Peter Thiel as an investor. They depend heavily on government subsidies, which could mean a huge potential for influence peddling.
- Sales of Ivanka branded merchandise are way up. This despite several major retailers severing ties with Mrs. Trump. White House spokeswoman Kellyane Conway went on cable TV and told viewers to “buy Ivanka’s stuff,” a clear violation of her role.
- The president and his family continue to flaunt their disregard of anti-nepotism laws, pushing the boundaries to the limit and well beyond in the case of his daughter and son in law. The elevation of close family members to the highest levels of power and the associated closing off of outside voices, are reminiscent of a third world dictatorship.
- By occupying their positions in government, and the associated media attention granted them, they gain a distinct advantage in building their respective brands. Remember, they are still vested in the companies they own, and will regain control after their stints in government end.
Sultans of Swag
The Trump family is incorporating a form of Sultan-ism in the Oval Office writes Henry F. Carey of The Conversation. Sultans operate with absolute authority, and value discretion over all other traits, often trusting only family members to run daily operations. The president has, until now, operated under the rules of a CEO, with total autonomy, and is guided by a self-reinforcing loop of principles that affirm his leadership style:
His past record as CEO and his outsider status make Trump self-reliant and assured that most of the world is misguided and only he and his few trusted advisers, including his family, have the answers.
The presidency has been prone to these types of tendencies in the past, but never quite to the levels we are seeing now. Many are making the case that the president listening to his family over nationalists like Steve Bannon is a win for the country, which is a fair point. But we are far from in the clear here…
Not So Fast
The idea that the Kushners would be a moderating force in the Trump administration is laughable, according to John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. He sites how Ivanka publicly takes liberal positions on social issues only to quietly sit by while her father espouses a radically rightward policy shift on social issues.
He also raises serious concerns about Jared’s ability to carry out his myriad of responsibilities, from peace in the Middle East to curing the opioid addiction in rural America. “If they are the reason you are sleeping at night, you should probably still be awake,” says Oliver.
Jared and Ivanka now hold unprecedented levels of power and access for not only family members, but unelcted individuals as well. The American public chose a brash, unapologetic billionaire for the highest office in the land. They were okay with his vicious, incendiary messaging, as long as he made populist promises to restore America to greatness and “drain the swamp.”
What they are getting, at least in part, is a pair of wealthy, globalist Manhattan socialites with tremendous opportunity to profit from their newfound positions. It is up to us to ensure that do not they use these positions to turn the White House into the Trump/Kushner personal slush fund.